Tiny Houses, are They a Good Idea?

Yesterday I asked how small a home you thought you could live with and still be comfortable and what you thought you could give up to live in that smaller home.  EcoCatLady turned the tables on me and asked me about my impression of the tiny houses such as these. I have to admit I have mixed feelings about the tiny house movement.

Dee William's tiny house

Dee William’s tiny house

If you aren’t familiar with the tiny houses, these are generally under 150 square feet,built on trailer beds (with wheels) to get around zoning laws and  involves a ladder to access loft sleeping spaces.  Many do not have indoor plumbing and most use composting toilets.

I first became aware of the tiny house idea after Hurricane Katrina hit and builders were coming up with a small home that could be added on to later as a quick and affordable way to put families back in homes.  These homes were aesthetically pleasing and didn’t come with the health hazards of the FEMA trailers, and they had indoor plumbing.

Would I live in a tiny home of under 150 sq ft?  No, I can’t see myself going quite that small.  The reason being that I don’t live in a tropical geographic area where I could entertain outdoors year round and I would need one floor living. Small is one thing, but too small to entertain, too small to  host Christmas with my family…that’s too small for me.

What is too little?

I grew up loving camping and could pack one half-trunk to fill all my needs for 8 weeks of continuous camping, so I’m very comfortable with living with less, that said there are a few things that if I were to live without today it would decrease my contentment.

  1. Indoor Plumbing:  I have no interest in hauling water daily as some in tiny houses do
  2. Loft sleeping space:  First I have no interest in, or ability to climb a ladder every night to access my bed.  Most of these loft spaces have very little head room which would bother me. I enjoy sitting up in bed reading before drifting off to sleep.

Environmental questions about tiny houses

Very few of the tiny homes are being built with reclaimed materials. While most purchase the trailer used to build their home on that seems to be the extent of the reclaimed materials.  I should say not all the tiny home owners chose environmental issues as their reason to build tiny, but the price of materials adds up when they choose top of the line building materials.  I struggled with this question myself and decided for me the greenest possible way of having a home was to live in an existing structure.  I hear you, if you want to live in less than 200 square feet there are no homes around my area, and probably not in yours, that small.  But if your concern is the environment wouldn’t it be greener to buy an existing home?  You could even create an apartment in the home and rent the rest of it out.

Hauling water takes gas for your vehicle unless you have your home parked on private property such as in another person’s back yard and can get just a jug or two of water from your neighbor, or use a hose from their home to yours.  What I constantly question is why more tiny home dwellers aren’t collecting rainwater and filtering it.  Sure a tiny house doesn’t have a large roof to collect massive amounts of water but it can be done and will offset, possibly even eliminate the need to haul water.

Heating costs are another consideration.  The location of the home featured in Tiny, The Movie is the mountainous area of Colorado.  This area, like my home state see some really cold temperatures in the winter months.  After living in a mobile home I know all about frozen water pipes and floors too cold to comfortably put your feet on.  So I question whether these tiny homes will save on fossil fuel use to heat them. I would think a better solution would be to build an earthship, or use earthbags, cordwood  or even straw bale method to add mass to the walls and eliminate the cold drafts from under the home.  Most earthship homes in  and around the Rocky Mountains report being able to heat their homes with one cord of wood or less for an entire season, a fraction of what a typical home in the same area needs.

The vast majority of tiny homes are built with composting toilets. Most of these composting toilets are self built using a 5 gallon container and a box with a toilet seat on for ease of use.   Sounds good right?  I thought so until I heard an interview with Dee Williams about her composting toilet.  Dee uses the plastic bucket method but wanting to live in Olympia,Washington she admits she had to follow regulations in the city that concerned her toilet.  Humanure, (composted human waste) use is banned in Olympia, so Dee bags up her toilet waste and sends it off to the landfill.  I don’t know how many others do this but I would have problems with this disposal method.

In many of these tiny homes owners who live in urban areas have opted not to include a shower in their design (read the comments where Tammy states she would be showering at the gym), even when adding indoor plumbing, and choose to shower at their local gym. I don’t know about you, but I prefer my own bathroom service all my needs.

So I guess my answer is tiny homes are an interesting alternative to standard homes but not for me. If I wanted a home on wheels I think it would be easier and better use of natural resources to purchase an old RV and make it into my home than build one of the tiny homes. If I didn’t want my home to be movable, then I would choose another building method better suited to my climate.  If zoning hadn’t been an issue I would be living in an earthship as my son’s and I designed one we wanted to build when they were teens but no area near where we were living permitted them. I still question the loft with ladder access only.  What if you were in an accident, crutches wouldn’t enable you to climb to your bed and what about age? At what age would you not want to climb a ladder, although I have seen newer tiny homes with staircases that also serve as storage underneath which makes more sense to me.

What are your thoughts on the tiny homes? If you were going to build a home what method would you use?

 

 

74 thoughts on “Tiny Houses, are They a Good Idea?

  1. Lois,
    I completely agree with you that the greenest homes are the homes that are already there. I love tiny homes in theory and have enjoyed Rowdy Kittens for several years. My husband and I are looking at full-time RV living for a couple of years so that we can travel around and decide where we want to settle next so I’ll get a chance to try living in a downsized environment before I decide where to invest.

    There is one thing that strikes me oddly when I read about tiny houses or uber-minimalists in general and that is the reliance on other people’s generosity. Whether it’s the use of someone’s backyard, or sewage or internet … I look forward to a society that more easily supports asset-sharing where these types of minimalist choices wouldn’t make me feel like a leech. I’m thrilled to see the increase in sites like airbnb where we can share homes, or spaces in homes in a way that benefits both parties.

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    • I so didn’t want to say it, but YES! I can’t imagine hooking up to someone elses electric (which Rowdy Kittens doesn’t last I knew) or their water.

      I wonder, what do you think of the situation where because of regulations bag up their waste from a composting toilet and add it to the landfill? I just don’t get that being much better than having a sewer hook up.

      I look forward to hearing about your RV adventures when you head out. I thought about an RV, not so much to move around but because I could find one cheaply and wouldn’t be using new resources. But to live year round in my climate would have taken a real toll in trying to heat it in the winter months.

      I’ve been hearing some bad news about airbnb, some municipalities are trying to put a stop to it. They don’t want people renting out rooms, even if they were taxed which some areas are going to do. I love when a new way of sharing that involves building relationships, but someone always has to try and mess it up. ;-(

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  2. While I am all for downsizing and reducing our footprints, some of those little homes are very tiny!!! Where would I put my freezers in that tiny kitchen LOL… :-) speaking of which I froze Peas and strawberris :-) bumper crops all at once.. :-)

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    • You know if I lived in a warmer climate, say something like Hawaii, I would build something really small but have the entire kitchen outdoors. I’d use an awning of some sort to shade the freezer. I would probably also have an outhouse which by removing both the bathroom and kitchen (I’d want a sink for washing up though) the house would be airy and feel spacious. Plus in that climate I’d have fresh food year round so wouldn’t need to put up so much and could even eliminate the freezer. ;-) Here, no I need my freezer and indoor bathroom. ;-)

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  3. Hi Lois, as you probably saw on the comment on your previous blog I saw Tiny on the weekend, and headed straight over to your blog to find your thoughts on Tiny Homes (I know you’ve mentioned them a few times before) and what do I find?! Two posts about small spaces and Tiny Houses! Now I don’t need to ask your opinion about it, I already know! I found the movie quite inspiring, but most of the people I went with we’re less convinced. They had too many questions- what about refrigeration? Water? Food? You’ve addressed most of them here. I found a link on the Tiny website that they don’t actually live in the house, but use it as temporary accommodation, and it’s parked on someone’s land who has a house with water etc.

    I think small is good, but practical is important too! Not having water and land filling my waste are too things I wouldn’t like at all.

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    • Lindsay, I think the most important outcome of people trying new things is they introduce others to new concepts such as no refrigeration. Your friends will probably have that thought floating around in their heads and at some point if the need arises it will come back to them and they will then research how you live without what ever the item is.

      I mentioned before that I almost didn’t take a look at my apartment when I was told there were no stoves or hookups for one. I sat on it overnight considering how often I used the oven and whether I could live without it.

      I think EcoCatLady might be right, and my suspicion, in that the building of this tiny house, from the movie, was his way to get into film making and was never intended to be his residence. I mean why would you have filmed so much of it as you built it, including family dinner conversations unless that was forefront in your mind?

      The only thing that I think deters from the tiny home movement through this movie is that they lived it in for so short a period of time. It might make people question the practicality rather than thinking it through for themselves.

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      • I think you’re right. I’m going to post my review of it today, but I don’t go into too much depth – I want people to see it for themselves without too much bias from me! When I looked at the website I found out the guy studied filmmaking – I got the impression he was just some guy with a dream, but maybe not! When I read what they were up to two years later and it said they realised they could only tow the house to that land for weekends, I thought that would have been pretty obvious. Why didn’t they realise that in the first place?

        I think you’re right, there needs to be another movie with a focus on practicalities – living without water, power, coping with small space – and not just the idea. I’d love to hear the stories from all these people – not they “why” but the “how”.

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        • The whole thing seems off to me although he stated in the movie he bought the land first so maybe I’m reading more into this than there is. You might enjoy viewing this instead.

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          • I saw this (well, I didn’t watch it, I just saw the link) when I was looking for the trailer link for Tiny to attach to my blog post. I want to watch it, but I think it would eat up my internet! Hopefully, if I have spare at the end of the month I’ll watch it : )

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          • What a shame you have limited internet that would drive me crazy having to watch my minutes. This one was much better because it covers why people downsized to such small homes and gave a look into the lifestyle.

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          • Yes, it is very annoying. In the UK pretty much everyone has unlimited wifi, but here in Australia it’s uber expensive and not even always possible. Most people I know seem to run out before the end of the month and have to put up with dial-up speed connections. At least with the one I’ve got we CAN top it up, but we have to pay extra. Luckily my phone is so useless it barely uses any internet.

            I will probably pay more though so I can watch it. I’m super intrigued…

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          • That’s crazy. Here I can get internet through the cable company (I don’t get cable) for $45 a month and and extra $5 for wi-fi. The cell company I have, T-Mobile allows you to use wi-fi for internet without it counting against your minutes. I’m on a family plan with my son so my phone costs another $10 each month.

            A little background on the documentary, before you spend the money, in case you don’t know…A filmmaker and her family took a road trip to interview tiny home owners. The family rented an RV type home so they too were living in a small home during this period.

            While they met with tiny home owners, they also document their experiences that summer from finding places to park at night to how they slept and how it affected the children. All in all I thought it was a great documentary.

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          • My Internet actually ran out whilst I was replying to your comments yesterday, so I paid an extra $10 for 5gb more to last me until the end of the billing period. So if there’s spare, I’ll check out the doco.

            Sounds really interesting. My boyfriend is also intrigued to know more – he wants answers!, he says – so I think we’ll watch it. : )

            I’ll let you know what I think when I’ve seen it!

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          • Haha, I think we both have! I told him I was going to build a Tiny House (I even looked to see how much trailers cost!!!) and he didn’t say no! I think he prefers the idea of a Tiny Home not on wheels though. And he’d definitely prefer plumbing!

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          • Do you ever look at the tiny house listings? There is one the state over from me that is being sold for $4,000. although it has to be moved. I wish I had a place to put it. It doesn’t have wheels and has a glass addition that could be a lovely greenhouse. Oh and it already comes with the wood stove for winter too. I’ll keep dreaming.

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          • Tiny Houses really aren’t on the scale for having listings here. There’s not much info available at all. No wonder people build their own! I don’t even know of any in our State! But I’ve only just started researching…

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          • I don’t know about the tiny homes, you are in Australia right? There was an earthship built there. I found it on youtube, they did it differently than the original introduced in the US but it was interesting to watch.

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          • I realized I combined two documentaries in one when I gave you a description of We the Tiny House.. We the Tiny House People is just interviews and thoughts about tiny homes, many are not on wheels. The same woman who made that documentary made one called Summer of Family Love where she and her husband travel in a small camper van and film what it is like.

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  4. Thank you for making these points. When I saw the film “Tiny,” I was romanticized by the concept of a compact home for a few days. I do agree that living in existing structures is more eco-friendly. I favor apartments over houses, though. The convenience and privacy is ideal, but the shared “entertainment” areas, and amenities, also. For me it is more difficult to share a kitchen and bathroom with many people than it is to share a pool, a beach spot, a park, a grill area, a community garden, or a gym – things I am accustomed to sharing already.

    Apartments, like tiny homes, are also much more affordable to own free and clear than houses as well. Apartment complexes also follow stricter building codes against disasters.

    What are your thoughts about apartments, in general? Or, what would your idea apartment complex include?

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    • Yvonne, Thank you for your thoughts. I agree with everything you said. I don’t want to share a bathroom with anyone but family. I’m even so strange about it that I don’t like to keep a bar of soap at the bathroom sink because I don’t like thinking about what the person just used their hands for prior to picking up the bar.

      That was a good question. First I think apartments are a great alternative and better than a stand alone house. Fist there is the potential for a stronger community than in a house. Hardly anyone talks or knows their neighbors on those streets.

      Apartments also win out for me because there are shared walls which reduce the energy needs to heat and cool the spaces.

      I wish I could own my apartment but that isn’t an option because I truly do love my studio.

      If I could own the entire building I live in I would make a few changes to make this the ideal complex. First we don’t have stoves in our apartments so I would leave one apartment to turn into a kitchen/gathering spot. We do have one apartment that is left vacant and can be used free of charge by tenants for overnight guests, we just have to ask to pick up the key. This too I would keep.

      My building was at one time a hotel that was built of quality materials. The rooms are quite soundproof and as a result we hear very little of our neighbors. All the walls (exterior and between apartments) were built with concrete blocks which is nice.

      I wouldn’t put in a pool here as we have the lake directly across the street but I would put in a playground for the children and add a bike rack and benches for people to gather in that area.

      We already have a community garden and outdoor seating area that we got permission to put in a field of just over an acre and that I would leave for residents to use as they wish. The only other change I would make would be to have windows that actually opened for the first floor apartments. We currently have a solid window, I guess that was for security but this area is so safe we don’t fear anything.

      As you can see with the exception of a few things such as the play area for children and a kitchen/gathering spot I do feel my apartment building is ideal.

      What would you want in your ideal apartment complex?

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      • I love hearing that where you live is already so close to your ideal! :) That is wonderful. Our above garage apartment is close to ideal for us too. Here’s a list of what I love about it:
        – It’s 600 square feet, which is ample space for 3 of us.
        – My wood “workshop” is in the garage, so I sort of live above one of my “workplaces.”
        – We live in a separate unit, but my mom and two brothers are just a stairwell and mudroom passage away.
        – We have a space-saving corner shower that is like a little water-conserving kiddie pool for my 4 year old.
        – We have strategically placed counter top appliances instead of a stove, so we have lots of space to cook, even though our kitchen is apartment-sized. On our L shaped counter, we have a single burner for hot water (teapot, rice/pasta, soup), a convection toaster oven in the corner, and a double burner cooktop on the other side of the L. Though they are a year old (I’m updating what our kitchen looks like now at the end of the month) I hope these photos help explain: http://sunnysideup-stairs.blogspot.com/2013/08/kitchen-august-2013.html
        – Our living room is a home theater. It was part of my husband’s “dream home” wishlist. Again, I hope this photo helps explain our set up: http://sunnysideup-stairs.blogspot.com/2013/07/living-room-500-furnishing-challenge.html
        – Our neighbors share their garden with us and we share our mangoes with them (smooth textured, less fibrous, juicy, sweet mangoes – favorite mangoes I’ve ever tried!) :) Their garden also features animals from time to time (goats, chickens, dogs, cats, turtles).
        – Our electric bill is now $16 a month for up-stairs and downstairs combined (connection fee to help power the grid, since we invested in the next 25 years of our energy needs with PV panels)

        We used to have a community play area, but a new owner fenced it off with their property, and eventually let it become overgrown with weeds. It’s sad to see it not being put to use, but the owner rents out that house and we get new neighbors in that lot every 2-3 years or so. I’d love to see a play area restored! There is so much owned property gone to waste behind our home. If ever we are able to purchase it, I would look into turning it it into a community park, with walking paths, a pond, and safe spaces for children of our community to play! I’d even build everything myself, if I had to. :)

        Thank you for asking in kind. It gave me an opportunity to reflect on what a great situation we are in already!

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        • Yvonne, I adore your home! Your kitchen is amazing, and that light shade I’m drooling over.I’ve been looking for a small oven like yours. I used to have one that my grandmother gave me so I could turn an oven on in the summer without heating up the entire house. I’ve jotted down the information, so thank you.

          Looking at your breakdown of costs you did an awful lot of work for little money and you are very talented with tools. ;-)

          I’m sorry you lost the community play area I hope you get the opportunity to do something with the land that has been closed off for what sounds like way too long. It’s funny but I’d rather have more outdoor space than in. I can’t imagine living in a populated urban area where you have to leave home to have natural outdoor spaces.

          I am impressed with the cost of your electric. I have heard many share just how expensive it is in Hawaii for everything, especially utilities.

          I had to laugh when I read your husband wanted the papasan chair, that’s usually a female thing around here. ;-) For me the home entertainment system would be wasted but it’s nice to see that your husband got his wishes fulfilled too..

          It’s great having family so close, isn’t it? Thank you for sharing your home and your thoughts on what the ideal home is to you.

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          • Thank you, Lois! I enjoy the thoughtfulness of our conversations.

            Utilities in Hawai’i are expensive, but we paid $30,000 (for 25 years) to have a photovoltaic system installed on our roof. I believe we got $6,000 back in tax returns, though, so we paid $24,000 for 25 years of electricity. We used to pay $300-$400 a month, on average.

            Ahaha, now I can laugh at my husband’s desire for a papasan too. :)

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          • So you have a lease on your solar system for 25 years? What will you have to pay at the end of that period of time? That’s quite a savings, I would have invested in solar if my bills were that high. Your electric bills before your system are equal to what I pay for rent and utilities combined!

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          • We paid for our PV panels in full upon installation. We paid $30,000 (like the price of a new car), got $6,000 back in taxes (so far, we can continue to claim the PV system on our taxes until the credit runs out.) The projections stated that over 25 years, we would save $200,000 in future electricity.

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  5. I too enjoy looking at pictures of tiny homes from a design viewpoint, I actually could imagine myself living in one if I was on my own, I know lots of people who have lived in caravans and buses and they have always seemed very relaxed spaces – however every time Roger and I have thought about it in regards to temporary living if we bought a piece of land there are alot of very real issues that arise… Most importantly we have to grow our food in summer to last a year, that takes alot of room in storage alone..it would need another building!! There is security for all our family should they ever need shelter, food etc living where we are.
    But different people have different priorities and I can see the value in these wee places. The men that visit us from Vanuatu live with their families in houses the size of our lounge, that puts things in perspective for us – we are used to big houses and filling it with stuff, hobby and personal interest things etc. They have only the basics, food, shelter, community and are very uncomplicated and contented people.

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    • Wendy you could always dig out a root cellar. :-) I know what you mean about food storage. I had to get really creative with the squashes last winter. I saw where one family stores their squashes under the beds and that would be a great idea if I could get down there to pull them back out. I’m looking to start drying more of my food to save on space.

      There are days I regret my decision to downsize so much and that comes up when my boys and their families hit hard times. I worry that they will need a roof over their heads and I won’t be able to help them. Of course, if push came to shove I could put a set of bunk beds in here for the children and have the futon which would give at least one son and his family a place to stay. Not sure how that would go over with the regulations here. In renting we are only allowed to have 2 persons per bedroom, and if you have a boy and a girl you have to have them separated.

      You mentioned your friends from Vanuatu before, their life intrigues me you should write about them.

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      • Yes, we have thought of root cellars….I would love one even here.

        If, NEED BE, could you move into one of your sons houses and pool resources? It’s a terrible thing to have to even think this way, I can’t ever remember another time when things like this sat at the back of my mind for a “just in case” time!

        Yes, maybe I will write about them, I have thought of that. Having never been there though and just knowing what they tell me I fear I couldn’t do their lives justice. They aspire to becoming more Westernised, we tell them to appreciate just what they have because they really have it right.

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        • No I really couldn’t move to their home. My youngest lives in a hilly area a distance from the town I love. I can’t get my wheelchair into his back yard because it is so steep and would be lost without nature. My oldest has to leave his house, it’s being foreclosed on this month, he will be my neighbor in a few days.

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          • Oh Lois :( That’s going to be so hard for him, I am really sorry to hear that….hard for you too to see him go through all that. You will have them close and will help all you can, I know. I feel terribly sad about that, we never know what the future is going to bring us, do we?

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          • Thank you, Wendy. He is looking at this as a blessing in disguise. he got behind when he was let go from his job as a corrections officer, a job he hated. The home was the only one in his price range in this area with the required bedrooms he needed but he didn’t have the outdoor space he desired. As a result they are here most of the time because even the children want to have more space. He is using his GI bill (military payments for schooling) to train for a job he will enjoy and is adjusting better than I would have imagined. Of course he is still writing too.

            Yes, he will be closer, right next door and of course I will do all I can to help.

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          • Ah ok. I hope everything works out well for him then :) It will be nice to have them there :)

            My son sold his home 2 1/2 years ago when his marriage broke down – he let his ex have most of the money even though they should’ve gone halves. They had been there 17 years and I very much doubt he will ever own another, its too hard now. a shame but life does go on, he is happier now :)

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          • I’m sorry for your son, things are so hard today.

            Yes, my son too is experiencing a split with his wife. It’s sad but it’s been coming for a long time. It’s going to be hardest on the children but I think it’s best for them too as the tensions have been high in the home.

            I don’t know if he will ever own another home but if he’s happy that’s all I want for him.

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          • Oh dear! It can be such a difficult time, even when it seems the best thing to do it can be sad. My ex daughter in law just spent two years being very awful, just alot of bitterness and anger when it was actually her doing. Access problems with my granddaughter etc, it was quite heartbreaking. I hope things go much better with your son’s separation!
            Life goes on, things get easier and they do find happiness again.

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          • I remember your problems having access to your granddaughter. I’m glad that has finally been worked out. I don’t envision problems. They are splitting as amicably as possible. He’s in school in the mornings so she will have the children and she works second shift so he will have the children then. As for my relationship with her it has always been good and she works for me which will continue so I am confident there won’t be any problems for me.

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          • That’s really good Lois….the absolute ideal and just how it should be between mature adults, what you expect. My son expected a far different outcome sand wasn’t prepared for what he got at all. He has just remarried a lovely girl from Indiana and couldn’t possibly be any happier :)

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          • I’m glad for your son that things have worked out for him. I do hope the arrangement between my son and his wife does work out as they hope. They have talked out all the tiny details including medical coverage and such for her so it sounds good so far.

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  6. I currently live in a 3400 square foot home – however, my husband and two boys live in 2200 square feet and my mother-in-law lives in 1100 square feet with 100 feet extra we use for storage etc. I struggle with the desire to live in a smaller space – however, living with two teenage boys and a mother-in-law – we really need more space. My mother-in-law is very mobile and likes the privacy of her suite we have built for her. I agree with Elaine in that although I am fascinated with smaller spaces – the reality is I have a family and we support one-another. My children will always have a home here while they are students etc working and on there way to becoming independent – no free-loaders but it’s hard to establish yourself with the cost of rent now-a-days – so having the space is very necessary. I would love to put one of those little homes in my backyard for a guest house! One of our neighbours has done that because they have many guest travelling to stay with them – so many options for people and I think that is great.

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    • I think what you are doing is fantastic in many ways. It’s important for children, even in their teens to be so close to their grandparents. I believe things were better when multi-generational homes were the norm rather than the exception.

      Here in the town we adopted as our home my son had a paper route, he had elderly customers who looked forward to him stopping by and visiting with them but told me they went indoors when school let out because the children were so cruel. They had no respect for their elders. I thought it was because the vast majority have no close grandparents to learn to appreciate the wisdom that comes from age.

      When my oldest son was looking to purchase his home I considered giving up my apartment and renting space in his home. It didn’t make sense to me to pay rent to a stranger when I could be helping family to get by. In the end the home he found wasn’t conducive and his loan prohibited in-law apartments (VA loan). So now they visit me every day instead. crazy.

      As for space, I see no point in downsizing if the home you have fits your needs and should you not need all the space you could close off part of the home until you needed it.

      Speaking of teenage boys, I noticed when mine were teens it felt as if the home became smaller as their energy was so expansive it filled the rooms, if that makes sense to you. Of course when they moved out I felt like I was living in this huge space.

      So keep your home and never feel guilty for having more space than someone else.

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      • So true – my boys are wonderful with their grandmother and my mother-in-law is very good to my boys. It’s a relationship that I have not nurtured – I’ve never talked to the boys about being good to their grandmother – their relationship is something that has just happened – it really has been an interesting experience to sit back and just watch the whole relationship from the side-lines and I love the fact that my husband and I have the opportunity to provide the environment to make it happen. It is funny that they will say certain things to me and lip off at times – but never would they do that to their grandmother! You hit it right on the money – I can’t get over as the boys become teenagers how much space and energy they consume!

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        • Same with my boys. I was very close to my grandparents being that they raised me and took my boys to visit couple of times a week. They in turn visited us often. Like your boys mine would never talk back or in any way be disrespectful to them. My oldest was and is a history buff and would pick my grandfather’s brain about his war experiences (he was drafted for WWII) and even asked to accompany him to the VA hospital so he could talk to the other veterans.

          My grandmother belonged to several organizations and would routinely take my boys with her, senior groups would have grandparents day where they would take the children to the zoo and other places. So my boys knew the value of the wisdom that comes with aging.

          I thought you might know what I meant about their energy filling a room. ;-)

          I should mention that my boys valued their time with their grandparents so much that now that they have children of their own they want their kids to have an opportunity to have that relationship with me. So by providing this to your sons it will come back to you when they have children. ;-) It’s a wonderful circular path we can create.

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          • that’s very funny because my oldest is a history buff! I never thought about the circle of life – I’m just happy that the boys have such a great relationship with their grandmother but you’re right it all comes around in circles – love your insight Lois and so glad I’ve met you through blogging!

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          • That’s great that your son is a history buff too. Yes, he will want his children to have that relationship he valued and will be around often so his children can have it with you.

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  7. I admit being fascinated about this topic and follow a blog or two devoted to the tiny house movement. It is sort of like slowing down to rubber neck an accident scene. Curiosity mostly. I would not choose that small a space for myself.

    But my current town home has 2200 square feet – and at times we have used most of it – but never all of it. It has been too big for a long time. But moving will be more expensive – as we own this structure outright. I will say that this large space provided us the option of bringing both our mothers into our home at different times – at the end of their lives. And both of our children “bounced” back home after leaving … before finally becoming fully independent. If extra living space allows us to support our family during times of need … then the extra space is good! It serves a function.

    But now we are retired and family need doesn’t seem likely. Ift it was just me, I could live with 700 or 800 square feet. With a spouse I would prefer 1000 to 1100 square feet. Sometimes I just need to have my own space. It would have to be an open floor plan so that I could have guests.

    And plumbing would be a requirement. No ladders for me. And a bed where I don’t feel like I am sleeping on the floor would also be a requirement. I support the minimalist life style idea and continue to move in that direction, But I live in the 21st century and have enough resources to live with comfort – so 150 square foot living space would be a hardship for me.

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    • Hello Elaine! I am of the thought that if you have a larger home areas can be closed off like in winter to reduce heating costs but you can open them back up when needed. In a small home you don’t have that option.

      I too follow a couple tiny house blogs they still intrigue me but mostly from a design function. Some people have some really interesting ideas that inspire me in my space. The simple fact that I need a wheel chair completely eliminates the possibility of my living in a tiny home even if I wanted too. ;-)

      I’m with you,no ladders, definitely need indoor plumbing.and no I don’t like my bed on the floor either.

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  8. Gosh… a whole blog post in response to my blathering comment. I’m honored!

    It sounds like you and I are on the same page with this one. I really think that so much of my reaction to the tiny home in the movie was where they were going to put it. I’ve been to Hartesl, Colorado – although “to” probably is a misnomer. It’s the sort of place that you’ll miss if you blink, literally! I think there’s a tackle shop there where you can buy a few very basic necessities, and one or two other out buildings, and that’s about it! It’s in the middle of South Park which is basically a large, high prairie surrounded by high mountain passes on all sides.

    I mentioned it to CatMan and he burst out laughing with a response something like this: “They’ve been trying pawn those parcels of land off on naive city dwellers for over 25 years now! Guess they finally found a sucker. On the bright side, there are no trees in South Park so you wouldn’t have to worry about forest fires, and there’s no water, so floods wouldn’t be an issue. You might be able to sink a well, but I’m not sure the water would be potable with all the barium deposits nearby. But hey, if you wanted to study ancient meandering stream geology, Hartsel is your place!” Oh, he cracks me up!

    But even if you were located in a place where you could go to the gym to shower, and had ready access to groceries etc, I still doubt that I would like it. I, like you, am a real homebody, and the thought of having to do so much of my living in a place other than my home is really distasteful for me. Guess it sort of makes my priorities come to light… I want space to be, I want freedom from automobiles (as much as feasible), and I want my privacy – which, for me, means having space that is mine (like not living in someone else’s back yard.)

    Thanks so much for addressing my comment in such a thorough way!
    xoxoxo,
    Cat

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    • I noticed in the film that unlike the mountainous areas I had visited that looked really barren but I had no idea the details of Hartsel. So my first impression was correct, there is nothing close where he could get fresh food?

      Yes, Cat, we do want a lot of the same things. I moved here because of the location as I wanted to let go of car ownership. I don’t have complete freedom here as I rent but it’s pretty close, and no I’m not using a gym shower each day, I can’t even imagine that.

      I’m glad you asked your question because it made me realize I had more to say on the subject. ;-)

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      • Yup… Hartsel is pretty darned close to the middle of nowhere. Actually, I think it’s in the geographic center of the state of Colorado… which would imply that Colorado = nowhere, which isn’t exactly what I meant. But here’s a picture, if you’re curious:

        Actually… it looks like there’s a gas station there, I didn’t remember that part – that makes it a bit more doable, though still not really practical, as they soon discovered. Apparently, they lived there for only a few weeks – then they went off to NY to work on production of their film. The guy then moved the house back to Boulder and managed to live in it for about 6 months before concluding that it was too impractical. Hmmm… Anyhow, here’s a link with info on what became of their tiny house:

        http://tiny-themovie.com/and-house-now-tiny-update-years-later/#more-1692

        I dunno… I mean, I don’t really want to rain on their parade or anything, because part of me thinks it’s sort of cool… and I do believe that we need people willing to live out on the fringe because it helps to “move the center” closer to where I would like to see it. But it does sorta seem like a waste of resources to me. Of course, if the film inspires even one person not to build a McMansion, perhaps it will all even out in the end.

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        • Wow, he really thought that one out didn’t he? I would never put my heart, sweat and money into a home until I tried living in something similar. He could have rented a small home, or a small RV to see how he liked it and saved himself a lot of money if he found he didn’t like it.

          I know he was 30 when he started the build and had bought the land before that, but he should have put more thought into what he wanted from the land before purchasing it. I guess it’s the practical side of me that sees the short life of the home as a waste of his time, although he did learn a lot about carpentry I guess along the way.

          As I’ve said a tiny home like that isn’t practical for my situation but I do think there is a place for it and zoning should be rewritten to allow many more ideas from tiny homes to those who want to be off-grid. The story of the woman who completely disconnected from the grid in Florida and almost lot her home because of it http://www.pakalertpress.com/2014/02/25/update-florida-woman-who-lives-off-grid-forced-to-connect-to-public-water/

          I hope their story doesn’t put people off from trying something new.

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          • I totally agree. People should have the freedom to build all sorts of different dwellings as long as they’re safe. That case of the woman in Florida just sorta makes me want to shake my head in dismay. I think I saw something about a couple who built an earthship that was so efficient with its passive solar design that it needed no backup heating, except for maybe an occasional fire in the wood burning stove. But the zoning laws required them to install a furnace! Crazy!

            In terms of the wasted time and energy on the tiny house, the more I think about it, the more I wonder if the whole building a tiny house thing wasn’t just something they did so they could make a movie out of it. Perhaps that’s cynical of me, but that would at least make a bit more sense. I think land in that area is pretty darned cheap (for good reason) as in you could buy 5 acres for under $10K. I suppose if their actual plan was to produce a film rather than to build something to live in, it could be looked at as more of an investment in the film rather than a flop of a housing idea.

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          • I thought I was cynical. ;-) The same thought went through my head when I read he is living in LA to work on a film career. I guess it he makes it in his chosen field of film making and can give the tiny house to someone who needs or really wants it then it was maybe worth it?

            Yep, the zoning on the earthships has been harsh. Reynolds, who designed them, even lost his architecture license over them. The first approved earthships were required to have back up heat sources so the first community in Taos had these electric heaters they would pass around for inspections. As you can see I have followed the eatthships for a long time. ;-)

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  9. I think that money comes into play here. Many people could sell off property and scrape together $15,000 or so for a tiny home without taking out a mortgage. I don’t think an existing home would be available in that price range unless it was in wrecking condition(I speak from experience here). The matter of property taxes and insurance for the existing property are also going to be a continuing drain of finances along with more repair and maintence costs,. Granted, a tiny house has to be put somewhere and the land where you will do that (either a rented space, purchased lot or other option) must be figured in the overall cost in order for the comparison to be fair. Now to your your point on trouble accessing the upper portion due to age and/or health issues- I get that. I have a child that sleepwalks. Would she ever be able to safely sleep in a loft? Never! I have sudden onset vertigo due to miagraine. Safe for me? Probably not ,so alternative designs would have to be employed to customize the home to the needs of the individuals. I think the concern of heating costs could possibly be countered with heavier insulation up front. I too have memories of frozen feet on trailer floors-not good! As to the question of use of new resources vs. reclaimed, I think the overall small materials list is green in and of itself when compared to the amount needed for.an “average” sized home. The interior, exterior,trim, doors, windows and furnishings could be salvaged/repurposed to make construction less wasteful. I love your blog and it always gets me to thinking. Thank you for your focus on such important subjects!

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    • Hi Lorraine Cee, I appreciate your points of view on this subject. I agree if I were going to build a house the smaller the home the less materials needed to build it along with lower heating bills. My point on the heating bills was comparing my 300 sq ft apartment that has only one exposed exterior wall to that of the tiny house that has all it’s walls and a draft from underneath using more resources.

      There are a few tiny homes that have an extra sleeping space on the first level and I know of one plan in existence for no loft at all so there are probably more out there.

      The problem with some of these tiny homes is that the people are paying upwards of $35,000 to build them. The home featured in Tiny the Movie cost $26,000 and the home built for Tammy Strobel and her husband See Rowdy Kittens for more details. cost $35,000 using a builder. If you can find free or inexpensive land to park them on then the cost would be only that of the home, but if you are buying land that pushes the price up considerably.

      Another consideration, using my home town, is that I would have to find someone with land outside the town limits to be able to park a tiny home which would mean I still needed transportation to reach any amenities.

      Again it depends on the climate where you live as to how comfortable you would feel in one. The idea of a tiny home still intrigues me but I wouldn’t want it on wheels here.

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      • Hi Lois. I didn’t realize people were spending THAT much on a tiny home! At that price I think I would go another route. Yes, a tiny multiplex sharing fewer outside walls should be definitely more energy efficient, as well as being safer in areas of high wind. Cheers!

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  10. There is small and then there is *small*! No thank you. I like the idea of minimalism and smaller spaces but I don’t foresee myself making that “big” a leap any time soon.
    I now live in a cottage that is too big and want to move back to a small bungalow (ranch) – main floor and a basement. We just got back from camping and saw a really small trailer – basically just a bed: I was claustrophobic just looking at it! I think if I had to choose between that and a tent, the tent would win. ;)

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    • Dale, that’s the thing for me too. I am a homebody, I like to be home so my space has to be comfortable and accommodate guests whether overnight or just for a short visit. I’ve seen a few trailers that only hold a bed and can’t imagine living in them.

      You can find some really nice tents with rooms in them now. ;-)

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      • Yeah. No. !! I have upgraded from the tent to the trailer… there ain’t no going back! (We actually had a “3-bedroom tent”. I feel that I have earned the right to sleep off the floor now! ;-)

        And, I cook for a living so there’s no dealing with an itty-bitty kitchen either…. Plus, I love to entertain so need some space. Need the extra bedroom for my mother (or any other sleep-over guest).

        I don’t judge those who prefer a big-ass house, nor do I judge those who prefer the shoe box. To each his own, I say. For all we know, those in the big house do other things for the environment. We have to do what WE feel is right and leave others to their choices.

        I do love that you have opened my eyes to quite a few good ideas/tricks/tips/etc! Thank you!

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        • Exactly, Dale. We each have our needs that we want and require filled by our homes. Me, I don’t care to spend much time in the kitchen, unless it is visiting over a cup of tea, so the kitchen can be really small but not so much for you.

          I don’t judge either, I may question though. ;-) When I question it’s usually about the family that raised their children in a smaller home then when the children moved out build a huge home, I wonder why now.

          Enjoy that trailer, you deserve a bed to sleep on. I used to sleep on the ground outside ever day I could, preferring that to being indoors, today there is no way I could sleep on the ground.

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  11. I think they are a wonderful alternative…for someone else. I think that’s why we get so many choices. Everyone has different needs and wants. I’m claustrophobic, needing a feeling of openness. Even my indoor rooms have their doors always open. I tend to always have someone coming to stay for extended periods. My sister will be here for several months this time. I do other things to take care of my planet in the best way I can but living cramped when it’s not necessary doesn’t win a gold star in my book. Many of the homes here have had ramps built for easy scooter access. That may be important one day soon and many of my friends have a hard time with any stairs. I’m with you, I want a place to welcome guests, comfortably. I will always have a larger home for that reason. When I can’t, well on to plan B. I figure there is a time and place for everything and variety is the spice of life. They sure are cute for the kids to play in though. Hugs.

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    • Marlene, I think the tiny homes are great for those just starting out on their own and if one level nice for a single or retired couple as well, if that’s what they want. It’s a shame the zoning in so many areas are so restrictive because I could see more people building smaller homes on a lot, say 300-500 sq ft which is a good size for me and allows me to entertain.

      I agree with you, being cramped and not being comfortable in your own home shouldn’t happen, it’s our oasis from the rest of the world.

      Yes, the kids would have a blast playing in one of those homes. ;-)

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