That’s right — we’re talking 200-400 square feet.
I had heard about these tiny houses a few years ago as an extension of the larger movement toward simplicity. One I specifically remember is the one that was built to squeeze in between two other row houses in England. It was about as wide as the front door.
Last night, I watched a program where a young couple with a 2-year-old had decided to go in this direction and have a tiny house built to their specific needs. There was a bedroom with a play loft above it for their daughter. Her twin mattress was wall to wall in her bedroom. She had a ladder to climb up to her play loft — but as time went on, they would move out her mattress, putting it in their bedroom so she could have more play area. Their bedroom was almost wall-to-wall mattress, except for a small nook that held their clothing, which was not much. Each bedroom was a wing of the house, with the kitchen spanning between them.
The kitchen had one wall of cabinets and appliances, and the opposite wall was a set of sliders which served as their front door. There was a kitchen table that folded flat against the wall and a little bench for seating, which was the only seating in the tiny house. The bathroom had a composting toilet, shower stall and small sink.
The outside of the house was beautifully landscaped with a garden and hanging baskets of herbs. The garden hose doubled as the water source for the hand-cranked clothes washer that was about the size of a large beach ball. It looked like about four pieces of clothing fit in it at a time.
They did have the luxury of a flat-screen television, which hung from a ceiling pivot device that allowed them to watch it in their bedroom or from the kitchen, and then push it up flat against the ceiling to get it out of the way.
Now the couple was definitely excited to see their new home and move in. Then the reality of living in a tiny house started to sink in. The daughter and wife had no problems moving around in this small space. However, the husband was a big guy. He tried to put on his shirt for work and couldn’t quite stretch out his arms to get it on. Then he wanted to find his belt in the closet and he had to ask his wife to step out of the bedroom so he could get to the closet.
One night, they invited another couple over for dinner to celebrate their new home and had to use their bed for extra seating during dinner. Hmmm.
They were still smiling and having a good time, so only time will tell if they continue to enjoy their tiny house.
I just don’t think I would be smiling to start out with, or ordering a “tiny house” custom-built for my husband and me. It’s not that I wouldn’t want to down-size a little bit — maybe even more than a little bit — but this just seems too extreme for me.
When I look at the size of these houses, I think what would I be willing to get rid of. I’ve been pitching for a while, trying to prune my belongings down to those I feel are the most important things that I want to keep. I have boxes of pictures — my own, my parents and my in-laws. I have treasured figurines, Christmas village pieces, lighthouse figures, painted horse statues, dolls, holiday decorations, and on and on. Oh, I forgot to mention books, books, books and more books.
I guess I’m not ready to be this simple. I like my full-size washer and dryer. I like my kitchen table, sofas, tables, queen bed and full-size bathroom.
I think for me, this is like the “Mountain Men” program I love to watch. I enjoy seeing all that they can do to survive on their own in the wilderness and I honor them for that, but it’s just not something I would want to do. Likewise, I think those who can simplify their lives far more than I can, I’ll give a high five to.
I’ve never been one to go to extremes, so I guess I will continue to go to the grocery store for my food and live in a full-size house with my cherished possessions.
Maybe I could build a tiny house for each of my collections or groups of possessions — and then, when I want to downsize, I could invite the “American Pickers” to pay me a visit. Now that will be a whole other story. I wonder if I’ll ever write it?
— By Janice Beuschel, Tribune community columnist