My Tiny House Obsession
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Anyone who knows me knows I have a not-so-secret obsession with tiny houses. And no, I don't mean "small, quaint cottage in the rolling English countryside" kinda tiny but I mean tiny houses! Like 200 square foot kinda tiny. Think tiny like "just enough room for McCrae, Ryder and me to pack together like sardines with my running/backpacking/hiking/soccer/climbing/yoga/biking/photography equipment and barely be able to turn around" kinda tiny. Possibly even unreasonably tiny.
Just to give you an idea of my obsession, my mom bought me this Mini House Style* book for Christmas which McCrae hid on the highest shelf of our floor-to-ceiling bookshelves (oh yeah, my love of books is just one obstacle to tiny house living) with the hope that "out of sight, out of mind" might come true (nope! Sorry love!). Half the DVR is all Tiny House Nation* episodes, and YouTube officially thinks my only interests are photography tutorials and tiny house tours. I have downloaded and drafted an unspeakable number of tiny house floor plans.
When I was searching for a house this summer the real estate coordinator I was working with did a preliminary interview with me in which they asked me the basics - city, price range, detached single family home, fenced in yard, etc. - and at the end they said, "Okay, so we'll say 3 bedroom, 2 bath, minimum of 1000 square feet..." and I cut them off right there.
"Uhm, excuse me. I'd rather not set a minimum requirement for square feet." I could feel their look of horror and shock through the phone.
"I'm sorry, what??" the woman asked, trying to sound kindly and not at all incredulous.
"Yes, I'd prefer not to set a minimum for the size of the house. See, eventually, one day, I would love to have a tiny house. Like a 400 square foot kinda tiny house on wheels. So I don't mind getting a very small house for a starter home. That way I don't have to downsize that much in five years."
Fast forward a few house tours and I fell in love with this beautifully renovated 1920s bungalow that was 800 square feet with original hardwood floors. It was love at first sight and if it had been close to anything - ANYTHING - I would have bought it. But a 30 minute commute to work, no grocery store within a 20 minute radius, and a tiny, unfenced (and too small to reasonably fence in) backyard meant it had to be nixed.
Okay, so the 800 square foot historic home didn't work out and I still bought a full-sized house that is over 1000 square feet, but it's still a small home - about 1400 square feet, quaint Cape Cod cottage style in the rolling countryside with ivy in the back (okay, wait, am I talking about my dream English cottage again or my actual house? No, it's my actual house, sorry, back on topic again...). But just because I bought a full-sized house for my first house doesn't mean I'm not secretly scheming for a tiny house on wheels in a few years.
But why am I so obsessed with tiny houses when I literally could fill an entire garage with outdoorsy and photography gear? (And on top of the gear I already have I want to buy a kayak - two actually! One for whitewater kayaking and one for ocean touring! Plus one each for McCrae so that's four kayaks! And I'm supposed to get my parent's old vintage canoe and fix it up this summer! And I want my own mountain bike! And next I need big studio lights for bigger and better portraits!) McCrae has joked that I just want a tiny house for living which doesn't require any maintenance and then I want a huge warehouse for all my gear, and I've got to admit his joke is pretty accurate.
Okay, so why why why would I still want a tiny house?? It defies reason!
First of all, I hate cleaning. And I hate cooking. And I hate sewing (with one very vulgar cross-stitching* exception). I know these are selfish reasons and I'm that horrible feminist cliche, but it is a running joke that I am a disaster in the kitchen. (In my defense, that one 600 square foot apartment 4 years ago was stupid to have the smoke alarm DIRECTLY ABOVE THE STOVE, and that other time I really did not intend to set the microwave on five minutes and light my pizza on fire while I was absent-mindedly getting ready for soccer. And no, I have no idea why Ryder runs out the back door or buries himself in the sofa whenever I putz around the kitchen hangrily.) So of course if I hate cooking and I hate cleaning, then the obvious answer is get a tiny house that doesn't require any of that, right?? Well, maybe it's flawed logic, but okay.
Second, I am not-so-secretly a hippie-liberal-crunchy-granola-treehugger kinda gal. I might not have any tie-dye in my closet, but when given the chance to get on a soapbox for the environment I WILL DO SO EVERY TIME! I recycle everything, I have a composting bin, I try to grow my own veggies, and I totally want solar panels and a composting toilet. I want to advocate for the environment and emphasize that we really can live a more active and sustainable lifestyle.
Third, I love to travel! I want to see the world and I love the idea of living on the road. My dream lifestyle is seeing something new every day and a tiny house on wheels embodies this wonderful, dirty, tiring, overly-romanticized, perfectly imperfect hobo sort of dream.
Finally, I grew up with a couple of pack rats. Hoarding is in my blood! I must have all the material things surrounding me all the time - books, camera gear, backpacking gear, multiple yoga mats, ALL THE THINGS! But maybe it was going to boarding school for high school and all the years of living in a space the size of a broom cupboard through junior year of college, or maybe it was the frustration of having a packed clothes closet but nothing to wear, or maybe it was just starting to value the few essential items that I use every day - whatever it was, something changed. I really value the idea of essentialism - that activities and material items have to earn their place in your life in order for you to keep them. This all ties back to the idea of reducing your carbon footprint and being more sustainable, and a tiny house embodies this essentialism perfectly.
Even so, there is a long list of obstacles related to tiny house living. Where does the gear go? How do you manage two adults and a Siberian Husky in that small space? Where do you even park the darn thing?? So of course I had the brilliant idea that whenever we travel we should first look online and see if we can rent a tiny house and try it out. If you're going to downsize to tiny living then you need to know how every inch of your house will be utilized, and you won't know how you use that small space until you've spent time in that small space. How do you spend time in a small space other than moving to New York City and renting a one bedroom apartment with 4 awkward acquaintances? Rent similar spaces, of course!
Tiny Houseboat in Charleston
After hurricanes ruined our plans multiple times we finally made it down to Charleston, South Carolina over the holiday break, and found this fabulous little houseboat in a marina. With the first line of the description saying "Featured on Tiny House Hunters" I knew I found my preferred accommodations!
The houseboat was cute as a button - a dreamboat! Beadboard siding and ceiling inside, and grey quatrefoil curtains and baby blue and white decor. It rolled gently whenever McCrae moved, whenever I moved, or whenever something in the marina moved. I liked the snugness of it all, though I could hope for something toastier on the record low Charleston evenings out on the water with the bridge bright and white across the river. McCrae didn't like the doorways or the edging in the ceiling between the beadboard; he ducked his head around every corner, but the boat fit me to a tee, skimming just inches above my crown like a smooth stone skipping across the river water.
The boat had a funny smell though - especially down below around the bed where the boat gapes open on all three sides to the water except when the thick blinds are drawn. The smell was a musty, stagnant smell - not like fresh fish and saltwater but more like barnacles and brine. It was alright. You'd get used to it. Noseblind, they say. You'd get sea legs and go marine noseblind.
I woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of banging and I instantly assumed someone was trying to break into our little houseboat. I tumbled out of bed drunk with sleep and pushed past the galley and up to the living area only to discover the entire house was pitching hard against its moorings and all the boats on the slip were bumping and groaning against the floating docks. It's an adjustment being on a houseboat with different smells, different noises, different quirks. And it was cold on the water. We bundled up under the blankets and slept warm enough but just barely so with the little space heaters and two blankets and me running a fever. I always seem to get sick when I travel - England, Italy, Kentucky, OBX, and now Charleston.
The next night we set the space heaters on full blast in our tiny little houseboat while I curled up reading about tiny houses in a book left on a shelf in the houseboat. I felt terrible that day - definitely a bad cold or the flu or something that burned in my lungs when I coughed but left me chilled and shivering. Between hurricanes and being sick and the horrible cold snap in a houseboat Charleston seems to hate me.
But there was something about this living that appealed to me. Sure I was miserable because I was sick, but I loved the compactness of the space. Maybe a houseboat isn't my best fit, but I was delighted in every way by the layout of the home.
I've got a few other tiny houses on my radar and am plotting ways to try them out. Anyone want to go to Nashville? (Though it's worth noting the Music City Tiny House folks are shutting down their rental, which seriously depresses me.) Until then, I'll keep plowing through my book collection and downsizing here and there, and I might even have a few (or rather fifty) posts up my sleeve on sustainable living. Check back for more info later!
Have you ever been interested in a tiny house, or have you ever spent time in one? Let me know in the comments!