Condo Blues: Tiny House Living Lies

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Tiny House Living Lies

I think tiny houses are twee and adorable. I have dozens pinned to my Pinterest boards (follow me @condoblues on Pinterest, pretty please?) I applaud living in a small ecological footprint. There positive financial aspects too. I understand how freeing that can be.


I find it hard to believe that living tiny is nothing but utopia.

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We never hear about the downside of living in a tiny home. Sure, there is talk of how difficult it can be to decide what to keep and what needs to go. However the elephant in the itty bitty room no one will openly admit or discuss especially on tiny house TV shows is this:
  • It is illegal to park and live full time in a tiny house on wheels in most parts of the United States. Legally parking a tiny house is the most problematic issue and absolutely not addressed. Most camp grounds and mobile home parks forbid tiny houses - which is their right - as they are privately owned. Buying or renting land and plopping a tiny house on it may not solve the problem either. Local zoning laws often include minimum square footing for a house on a foundation and prohibit full time camping in a RV which is how tiny houses on wheels are classified. And sometimes what must be done to make a tiny house legal makes living in it all but impossible as Rowdy Kittens discusses here in her post On the Road Again…

I don’t want to paint a picture that all tiny house builders and dwellers are shifty people who want to break the law (although there are some who knowingly do.) As a condo owner, I appreciate living in a nontraditional house that allows us to do things we want to do sooner rather than later. Some of our best adventures have been when Husband and I dove into something head first with nothing but a borrowed tent and a road map. I get it.

Since living tiny houses is a fairly new concept (unless you are an apartment dweller in a major city like New York were tiny living has been the general rule forever,) it often falls outside the current local housing laws and RV building codes. Sure, some of those laws are antiquated and should be changed. Others are there so, for example, you don’t depose of household grey water by watering your backyard. That may not be a big deal if one family does it. When you have a whole neighborhood doing it, that’s a lot of untreated plant based cleaners and dishwater finding its way into storm drains which can cause algae blooms in the local water supply. Then everyone suffers.

I  get sucked into cute and twee designs on Tiny House Nation too. Have you seen the show? The plot goes like this:
  • The show presents a family as incredibly na├»ve, unprepared, and a little bit stupid for choosing  to live in a tiny house. The “You know nothing! NOTHING!” attitude of the show is thing that really burns my cookies

  • The host yells at the family for wanting to keep too much stuff which again, is most likely a set up given some of the items the family pretends they want to keep.  In one show they kept shaming a homeowner about how many tools he kept that he needs for his small business instead of the large amount of tools he willingly let go. Apparently you don’t need work supplies in Tiny House Utopia. 

  • They present the family’s tiny house takes two weeks for their builder to build with a budget that barely covers the cost of materials. The reality is all of the homes featured have a much longer build time and buy price.

  • The family pretends to make an “outrageous” design change for the tiny house builder while the house in under construction and the host freaks out about it. “You want two sleeping areas? Loft stairs instead of a ladder? A closet? A large bed? Do you realize this is a tiny house you silly, silly people?!”  It dries me nuts. Part of the point is to live in a customized space that they are paying someone to design and build for them. Which more often than not, is the host’s tiny house company.
Look host dude, if I’m paying you to design and built me a custom tiny house, I expect to treated like a customer not an idiot. If you want to give me flack and talk smack about me because I want a second loft or whatever that I saw in other builds you’ve done, then Bye Felicia. I’ll find someone else to build what I want.

  • Apparently the tiny houses are built in Narnia because the “last minute” changes don’t affect the schedule or budget and are pulled off perfectly by the builder “on the fly” instead of, you know, planned for as part of the custom designed tiny house. 

  • They never discuss where or how the family can legally park the tiny house. They don’t talk about how road worthy they are, or how many of them are so wide or tall they are classified as an oversized load. Never. Ever. Or situations where builders like Tiny House Family researched and built and tried to do everything right only to find My Worst Tiny House Fear: Being Told I Can’t Legally Live Here.

  • They never discuss how most of these tiny houses are more labor intensive because they are off grid. You may have to haul all your water in as well as cooking and heating fuel. They never talk about electricity. Solar panels? Generator? Battery?  Plug it in like an RV and if so – where and how to do you pay for it? Where and how do you legally dispose of waste water? What do you have to be conscious of when you live this way?

  • The family always freaks out about the composting toilet. They never discuss why they build their tiny houses without a flush toilet and black water tank like an RV (since the build will hopefully be classified as an RV but only if it passes inspection.) Later they interview the family after they’ve been living in the tiny house for a few weeks. They family says the composting toilet is sunshine and roses but none of them have had to empty it yet. They don’t talk about the regulations regarding disposing composted human waste like farms have to follow for animal waste (all of that nitrogen will eventually make its way into the local water supply and could help create algae blooms.) Apparently composted human poop disappears on fairy wings into the void.

  • And here’s something I didn’t consider until I started research for this post: Security. As a kid my family had a camper we took all over the country on vacation. The door locked as well as the outside storage doors to keep the stuff inside from walking away. I never thought someone would up and steal it in the middle of the night! I was shocked to read  End of an Era – Our Tiny House Was Stolen because the horrible experience left them disillusioned. I don’t blame them.

Of course Tiny House Nation isn’t the only tiny house reality show that warps reality (Hi Tiny House Hunters but why should that be any different from the other House Hunters shows?). Most, if not all, realty shows are set up to show a fake version of “reality”.

I just wish that with all of the shows and articles extolling the virtues of small low impact living featuring clever design that they’d also let people know the tiny house life may not always be perfect peaches and cream so readers can make a more informed choice when it comes to moving into a small home.

What do you think?

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