Tiny Houses Suck!

by Kent Griswold on February 11th, 2010. 160 Comments
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This is a guest post and reprint from a fairly new blog in the Tiny House Community. The blog is called the Tiny House Life and brings a new angle to our growing community. This is very interesting read and provokes some thoughts. What is your reaction? What do you think? Please comment below. Here is the article…

No the website hasn’t been taken over by Russian Hackers, they are trying though, No you haven’t entered into the twilight zone or some rift in the Space-Time continuum. But I was answering an email of a reader who asked about Tiny Houses and hurricanes. It got me thinking….

I am a very opinionated person, I love debate; What I love even more is debating an indefensible position. I like to indulge the opposing view on strongly held beliefs, so that I can see if my stance needs adjustment or potentially, I could be wrong about it all. The point is, I try not to only listen to people who agree with me on things. It is like a Christian (let’s not get bogged down by the topic of religion on this example) talking with an Atheist about God, it allows both parties to test their views, to adjust their idea and bring new thoughts to both sides. So here it goes!

Tiny Houses are completely impractical! They are too small to be a viable option for a normal person’s needs. From the get-go, you instantly outcast yourself because of social norms and influences. Social norms, regardless of if they are right or wrong, still exist and to go against them, will be to your disadvantage.

There are tons of examples of how going against the grain with your tiny house can impact you in a negative way. With your tiny house, you often have to live under the radar of building code and tax assessors. This poses a big risk if you are discovered and turned in. Potentially you could be removed from your own land; you could be charged fines/back taxes or at the very least, your neighbors could begrudge you.

Since you have to build your house and keep it on land where building codes prohibit it being there and you don’t pay your taxes because you haven’t been assessed, you are, by law, illegal. You are no longer a law abiding citizen. Your neighbors will never appreciate someone who doesn’t pay thousands of dollars in taxes, like they have to, but still uses all the services of the town/city.

Speaking of money, many people will see a tiny house as a cheapskate’s way to live. In this world, unfortunately money talks, you have to have it and without it, you can’t do much in this world. Let’s say you are a single male, you met this great girl. After a few dates, things are going well, which leads to you bringing her home. What the hell is she going to think when your car is bigger then the house you live in? Even if she goes with it, it’s possible at this point that you might have been drinking on your date, but now – as you make your way to the bed – you somehow have to navigate a tiny ladder and hope not to break your neck.

Even if she goes for it, even if she has a good time, what is she going to do the next morning? Go tell her friends. Now if you are in a hippy town, you might be able to capitalize on this, but for the majority of you, this will not be the case. That girl is going to tell her friends who will then make a comment like “so he lives in a mobile home?” or “is he so cheap he can’t afford a house?” or “he sounds immature, he needs to get his life in order”. Regardless of how great of a time she had social norms will force her to never talk to you again.

Bigger IS better, bigger house, bigger bank account, more space to store things you just have to have, and a bigger rock on your fiancés finger. If you can’t do all these things, your social and professional life will suffer. If people at work find out that you live in a house on wheels, they will think of you as homeless, a transient, and most likely think that you live the way you do because you managed your money so poorly.

Why would a person making $70k a year live in a 100 square foot house unless they were so broke that they had to? This will come back on you; your boss starts to wonder how well you can actually handle a budget, because in your personal life your finances are managed so you seem “poor”. Even if you explain it, that it was a choice, it is from so far left field that no one will believe you.

Lacking of space for key things is a huge issue. There are some things you simply have to have which take up a lot of space: a washer and Dryer, a real toilet, regular fridge. All these things take up allot of space. They are necessities and not having them is not practical. Doing laundry at a laundry mat is a pain in the ass, it costs a chunk of change and undoubtedly there is that one really sketchy person who feels the need to talk your ear off! A small fridge and no pantry means you have to make extra trips to the store for things you can’t fit, here’s to saving the environment.

The biggest concern is safety/liability. Living in a tiny house means that it is very susceptible to high winds, severe weather and if a tree fall on your roof, you’re dead! Fires can rip through the entire house in no time flat and being that it’s on a trailer; people can steal your whole house! Take this and compound it with the fact that you can not insure it, you essentially have a $20k-$50k liability.

Of course all these things don’t matter unless you have a fat bank account, because you can’t get a loan to build it. No bank will take on this loan; it is an unsecured loan because the house, in a normal market has literally no value.

So to sum it up. Living in a tiny house means several things: You are cheap, you social and professional life will suffer, which means you seemed “poor” but you are now actually are poor. Forget about getting married, because her family will never approve, and her friends will call you cheap. Your house will be swept away in a flash flood and you didn’t have insurance on it so you are out 10’s of thousands of dollars. All in all it doesn’t make a strong case for tiny houses.

Guest post from:

February 11th, 2010and filed in Tiny House Articles
Tags: Guest Post, Tiny House Articles
160 Comments

160 Responses to “Tiny Houses Suck!”

  1. john b says:

    I was going to say that all the things society believes you should have, are all shackles, or downright albatrosses. A spendy house compels you to spend time in a job you hate, making money to pay for a house that’s more house than you need. I myself lived very well in corporate Seattle, out of a 1980 Toyota Dolphin, a ‘house’ I could park almost anywhere. My boss actually loved the fact that I was invariably on-site in the off hours. It was an artificial freedom though, I still had enormous amounts of stuff in my parent’s house in Spokane. I expect the most free I ever was, was in late September of 1989 when I came home, and found that my house had burned down to the foundation due to a gas explosion. In hindsight I had been handed ultimate freedom. I could have taken my few possessions, climbed into my car, and went wherever I desired.

    I instead opted to act like a victim of a great tragedy, gratefully accepted all donations of stuff. Now perched upon the precipice of my 50th year, I am surrounded by clutter. I’m laboring to de-clutter my life. One computer, all the others donated to good causes. My electronics pared down to what I can support. My firearms collection may be tricky. my tiny house might look a little lopsided if it housed a gun safe the size of a largish refrigerator. That too can be pared down, but it wont make me happy. I suppose I should attack that first as that is going to be the most unpleasant task!

    • marie says:

      Loved reading your comments on living in a smaller house. I’m sure you’ll feel a lot better when you get rid of all your stuff being store at your parents’ home.
      I just came back to NJ after 4 years of living in CA, OR & AZ. I only took whatever fit in my 1989 Honda. I loved the freedom of not having so much stuff! Unfortunately now that I’m back, I have to now go through all that “stuff” I left behind and start donating & throwing out what I haven’t needed during my absence.

  2. Laura says:

    I too wanted a smaller home, so I bought a piece of land in the country. I, as a single woman built an 800 sq. ft. home. Latter I got married and had pleanty of space. Then his son moved in and took up the basement. I have had plenty of space and never looked back. Being tiny does not mean you have to cram yourself in 100 sq ft. I consider tiny to be under 1000 sq. ft., and it all depends on the size of the family. It means not weighing yourself down with all unnessary things that don’t make you happy. Relationships with those you love is much more important.

    • Sarah says:

      I may be a year late in this reply, but I have just began researching tiny homes. I totally agree with you. Tiny doesn’t have to mean under 100sq ft. But living in apartment that is 850 sq foot with just my husband and dog, this feels like too much for us. I find it best now to move into a 1 bedroom apartment that is only 500 sq feet, that would be better for us, and it will force us to simplify our lives. (though he is a technology guy, this is going to be tough).

  3. Susan says:

    I also wanted to live with land around me, so I purchased a small farmhouse on several acres. It’s a bit over 900 square feet. I have a second bedroom for a craft room/guest bedroom, since I live two states away from family and friends. When I was married, we raised five kids in an 1100 square foot house. It has been my experience that the more space you have, the more clutter you can accumulate. I never wanted a big house. With acres around me and a tiny barn, I have all the space I could want outside for exploring, for chickens, for fruit trees, and for a vegetable garden. And I have space for those I love who come visit. I don’t need more than that.

  4. Fred Collins says:

    I think I’d rather live in a tiny house with all those implied negatives than ask around publicly where the closest “laundry mat” is. I would definitely allot enough space for a washer and dryer..

  5. I don’t know. I’m torn on this one. I think having the right lifestyle, family or spouse, you could be very successful in a small house, but I do see your point in how it could be miserable for some. Still, a small house is better than no house!

  6. robin yates says:

    thank god I will never have the displeasure to meet such an opinionated bigot as the author of this piece.Small minded city dweller, more worried about what others think than their own happiness. Life is for living and not worrying about the guy next door. Get a life and learn to smile

    • Anne says:

      I think you’ve missed the point, Robin. This author doesn’t embrace this viewpoint — he (she?) is arguing the other side of the tiny house debate in order to give people an opportunity to frankly discuss the difficulties of and social impediments to tiny living. It’s called being a devil’s advocate — you purposefully argue for a cause you don’t believe in, in order to better understand and forward your own cause.

  7. Jaemy says:

    I can see how this would affect the people in the most commonly referred to “tiny houses,” which are, as stated, on trailers and probably trying to occupy suburbs or other densely residential urban areas. I, however, have the benefit of living on almost 2 acres in front of 300 acres with pond, woods, and stream which is partially farmed every year. I am also in a township with 500 residents. All of this means that nobody really cares. My roommate/best friend owns the house/land outright as part of his inheritance. There are already 2 permanent structures on the property and plenty of space for me to have a concrete slab poured to build a sturdy, tiny house. I’d almost prefer to go cob/straw bale instead! I will not have any of the problems noted in the above article as 1) I don’t have a social life since I live in the middle of nowhere. If I want one, I will drive 2 hours to get one! 2) I am the girl in this dating situation and, therefore, do not have to worry about fictional idiot friends thinking my guy is poor, or being influenced by them and 3) if my cob/straw dreams come true, my house will be largely non-flammable.

    It’s, obviously, not the lifestyle for everyone. I guess the most important thing this article shows is that you have to determine how much you care about what other people think of you.

  8. Ellen says:

    I liked this ‘devil’s advocate’ argument. All his points are valid, although many people don’t care about some of them, and the rest can be overcome. I have a plan to build a Vardo-like house to travel with. It needs to be very small to be economical to tow. It would not be illegal, since it is essentially a travel trailer. I’m pretty sure you can insure travel trailers, although it would be more like car insurance than house insurance. I don’t know if I could live in it full time or not. I am, middle aged, female, and not interested in dating, anyway. My job as a bus driver does not require me to have a big house to show off. I’ve known drivers who lived (temporarily) in the parking structure in a van, or outside on the street in an RV using the company’s shower facilities. Laundromats are not that bad, especially if you shop around for a good one. Yes, they cost money, but how much are you saving in other ways? I currently live in a four-bedroom house with tons of clutter. My youngest daughter is going to college soon, and I will be down-sizing by moving to the 1-bedroom apartment in my back alley, and using the patio there to begin construction on my little 5′ x 10′ trailer. By the time it is done I will be close to retirement, and I plan to take a long trip! I will probably keep the home base, though.

  9. Joanne says:

    You know what’s sexy? A foreword thinking man who doesn’t care what other people think and has a good debt to income ratio!

    • Keith says:

      Thank you Joanne for saying this. I am detecting a trend in reading the comments. I see lots more women commenting and tracking the tiny home movement. There is something terribly attractive about having whatever simple dwelling you live in paid for. Its really about security. I think we all want security. With the uncertain job situation in our economy who really feels comfortable that you will be continuously employed long enough to pay off a 30 or even 15 year mortgage. Forward thinking, debt free, secure living is cool.

    • Deirdre says:

      I have one of those guys and he sure is sexy. He lives in a tiny house in Missouri, off grid and I live in a small farm house in NH, 1200 sq. Ft. But, when he visits he hates the fact that we have to run up and down stairs to do anything…use the bathroom, do laundry, etc. Much of my living space is a big farmers porch where we spend most of our time anyway. In the early part of the century, small was intimate as families were closer and more energy efficient. My heating bill, even in the depth of the winter months was only $60 a month. A small house is great if everyone likes being around each other…no hang-ups allowed, that’s for sure.

  10. John Green says:

    This is hilarious.

  11. JH says:

    Tiny house living isn’t much different from apartment living, when it comes to space and social implications. If someone looks down their nose at you for living in an apartment, is that someone you want around? Just sayin’.

    We have 4 people living in an 800 square foot apartment. not ideal, we could really use one more bedroom, but we make it work.

  12. Eric S. says:

    This is satire, right?

  13. Penelope says:

    After reading this post, I realized how important it is to question societal norms. When you make decisions based on what is in your heart, rather than basing your decisions on what others will think, you are truly free. Hasn’t anyone else noticed that the nay-sayers are really just defending their position to conform rather than admitting that they may have made the easy choice, instead of the best choice?

    Choose not to live in fear. You can live outside the box… it’s so much roomier.

    By the way, there are some great, space saving washing machines out there, and there is an upside to a laundromat – you can do all your laundry at once, rather than one load at a time.

  14. Donatella says:

    I’ve lived in a 1700 SF suburban house, a tepee, slightly under a dozen apartments, a 700 SF urban 100 yo house, a 1700 SF suburban (fancier neighborhood)house, a 1000 SF condo with vaulted ceilings bordering a stream, lovely place, an ‘intentional community housing apartment (not good, don’t get me started, attempt only if you’re an extrovert), a 500 SF wee cottage, a yurt, and now a 110 yo house in a very rural area of southern Oregon on 1.5 acres. I still dream of smaller, of portable, of rose-covered trellises, ancient peonies, brick pathways and window flower boxes dripping with blooms. I want paid off, tiny kitchen, and a man around only sometimes. With a beard and a Captain’s laugh.

    Warm winters, cool summers and an arbor of blooming wisteria. Handmade quilts that smell of sunshine from drying on the clothesline, a small cat sunning herself in the wee window.

    Is that too much to ask? Or too little?

    • Anastasiya says:

      Too little!!! Dream bigger! We can have anything we want! We’re God’s children and everything is possible and up for grabs for us.

      I think this movement is awesome. I’m blessed to not be in too much debt at the moment (just 2 terms of student loans) and I would like to continue the trend without any mortgages or obscene utility charges. I just had to wash all the walls of my 2-bedroom apartment and after 2 days of slaving away, my shoulders still hurt a week later. Smaller is better. And the city rent is horrendous.

      The way the majority of our society thinks is illogical, irrational, and… really mean! lol We should all stop caring what others think about us and be true to our own light, our own heart. That is what will make us happy. Not stuff.

  15. timgray says:

    All of those reasons are exactly WHY I want a tiny house. If it drives away the vain and shallow people in life than that is great.

    You also forget one more problem. People will get outright angry because you spend so little on your home you can afford to drive to work in your BMW 725i. so now you own a car that is nicer than the bosses and can dress nicer. You end up upsetting him because you are out of balance with your income to appearances and stepping outside your box you are supposed to be in. How dare you.

  16. jpatti says:

    The overall argument seems to be I should live the way other people approve of whether I want to or not.

    Life is WAY too short to care what other people think.

  17. Gigi says:

    Hahaha..thanks Kent for sharing, this made me laugh. :)) But yeah, I wonder how my parents, sisters and friends will react when they see our tiny house on wheels in the near future. I can’t wait. LOL But to live debt-free, spend more quality time with my family, and being able to do what’s more important in life outweigh whatever social impediments we might encounter in the future.

    I think men should learn the art of persuasion. Two years ago, when my husband first showed me a tiny house on wheels, I don’t like it one bit. I don’t like the wheels and the loft. I really thought I will break my neck climbing the stairs and its claustrophobic. But as time goes by I see the wisdom of tiny living. It makes so much sense. Whenever we discuss it, I am so hyped about it. We even search for tiny house on wheels and we exchange ideas. We wish we can have our tiny house tomorrow but we are still saving for it. It’s just funny how my husband talked me into it. LOL

  18. Me'chelle says:

    All of the sudden when my dad’s bad girlfriend moved in and wants me gone, I wanted a small house 250 sqft – 400 sqft some people think I’m crazy for wanting it that small.

    Buy hey at least it would be mine, where I live at now isn’t a good place, I worry about my possessions which I hardly have any.

    I can’t even bring my best friend over due to an incident with my dad’s girlfriend, so I’m going to get my little space built just for me.

    No one should tell you how to live, just to make themselves feel better.

    It may be a small house as the norm want bigger and better, but is it truly better?, to pay so much money for a house you’ll never be in as you’ll always be at work paying for a house you’re never at?!

    Why?!!!

    I’ll never get some people you know.

    My house may cost me $7,000 when finished and a little more for decore and homegoods but at least it will be mine and I will never lose it to a bank demanding money.

    I won’t be like my dad and pay $800 a month for a 1,500 sqft double-wide mobile home or my neighbor $1,200 for his double wide that’s absurd!!!

    Let Me Be Free!, and leave me alone!!!

  19. Paula says:

    You are so wrong. My husband and I went into the nightly cabin rental business, buying small cabins under 400 sq. ft., all designed by me and put in place on the side of our mountain. We moved into one. The house we lived in before this was 6000 sq. ft.. There were places in the house we had not seen in months. Now we have 400 sq. ft., with a bonus double loft to store all kinds of stuff. I have learned to love it. It cleans in about 20 minutes, top to bottom, We added a deck that we spend all of our time on in the summer, and in the winter, the cabin is absolutely cozy and darling. We intend to spend the rest of our time in this cabin running the other cabins in our nightly cabin business. And we don’t spend all of our time fixing, painting, you name it. Open up your mind and realize that this is the future. Like it or not. Think of all the time you have for recreation when you don’t have to waste time working for something you probably will never pay for.

    • Monica Berbert says:

      What state do you live in that you can put down multiple dwellings? We have been looking for land that we can put multiple tiny houses on wheels and rent them out? Anyone out there that can point us in the right direction? I did enjoy the article, it was hilarious, but still insightful. Am looking forward to finding the land, since I have a great brother and nephew who are willing to build a tiny house for me.

  20. eli curtis says:

    all the negatives on the negative check list hold true to any structure!fires,floods, hurricanes all of it.basically if you are a careless and very negative person all these things will wipe out any of your earthly possessions.I find this negative stance very one sided from someone who possibly does not know how to live!the comment about banks not lending on them leads me to believe that this person just does not listen to anything and just runs there mouth! blah blah blah negativity blah blah!

  21. Cat C. says:

    I look forward to small home living some day…so long as it’s legal.

    • Robert says:

      Put it on a trailer register it as a travel trailer or even a loaded cargo trailer. As long as you are under the max allowed dimensions for road travel without a permit you are legal.
      You can rent land,I am on 5 acres for $100 a month in my 130 sq ft Tiny Bungalow
      You can live on someones land in the family or your own land.You can live in someones backyard see Dee Williams 84sq ft house on youtube.
      Stop saying someday otherwise that day may never arrive.Just do it!!!
      Robert
      “The Tiny Bungalow” on youtube
      Just do it.

  22. Trish says:

    We have decided to turn our outside building into a 120 sq foot tiny home as a experiment. we currently live in a 3000 sq foot house with our children. My husband and I are planning for the future. With trying to build this tiny home and spend time in it we are going to find if it works for us. If it works for us then we plan to build one on some land on the coast we bought for retirement. I think this is the perfect idea for a solid future that is affordable to us now. I dont want to rely on the stock market or 401 k’s that tanked to find out if I will have a home that I own when I choose to retire. I am sorry that this style of living didnt work for this author but kuddos to all of us who are trying to think outside the social”norms” and living the life we do to make ourselves happy.

    And we bought a RV plot of land so it is perfectly legal to place a tiny home on a trailer on it with out breaking any laws or paying any special housing tax’s bc it is considered a RV not a stick built house.
    Just a side note for those thinking about those things.

  23. Thank you for this thought-provoking article. It has provoked a ton of great comments for sure. As you point out, looking at things from different viewpoints can result in more intelligent design, and thus more successful outcomes. This method also highlights a certain amount of tunnel vision that naturally occurs in all of us. Here’s my tunnel…

    I have a bit of an advantage. At 64 years, I have already undergone several bouts of “paring down” over the last ten years, AND am not going to get married again, and kids are out of the question. One discovers what’s important and not. Wants and needs become un-entangled. You stop giving a crap what other people think about most things. Sweet freedom!

    Another advantage: I live in the wilds of southern New Mexico at 5,994′ elevation with mild winters, cool summers, outdoors very comfortable 8 months of the year, in an un-incorporated, un-restricted rural location.

    From that standpoint it is an extremely easy place to avoid all of the irritating limitations of zoning, while being close enough to town to easily access city amenities in 14 minutes, so I have to remind myself that only 16% of our population lives in “rural” circumstances. I designed my not-so-tiny home on wheels, which gives me a free pass on 95% of the normal interactions with building codes and inspectors. The only thing they get to say about my home is “Nice place..”

    Most of the tiny homes that have gotten attention from publications or internet exposure are, quite frankly, unnecessarily “radical” in their smallness. “Cuteness” too frequently substitutes for intelligent design and space planning. AND as an architectural, interior, and custom furnishings designer for my entire life, I place huge importance on aesthetics in perfect balance with functionality.

    The question arises…Why in God’s name would you live in 100 sq.ft. when you could live in 200 sq.ft. for $700 more in materials and maybe 5 more days of labor??? Makes no sense.
    WHY would you devote 16 sq.ft. of your frame or ground footprint to a cute porch that is too damn small for a chair to sit on??? Lots of idiosyncratic nonsense occurring in a movement that is all about sustainability, practicality and economics….

    Designing my personal house on wheels (192 sq. ft.) morphed into a new business and a new design adding a sleeping loft for guests and a fold-out greenhouse/ solar collector room, which jacks up the livable space to 337 sq.ft. We will be manufacturing these units starting this summer and most likely offering a “Build it Yourself” package of construction drawings, materials specs and an online construction support service shortly thereafter. They will be plumbed and wired for an optional off-grid package of solar w/h, PV elec. panels, battery pack and freshwater tank and Sat TV and Internet.

    If curious, look up “Eco~Smart Mobile Dwellings” on Facebook, for design drawing jpegs. The – is actually a ~~~~. For some reason that matters…

  24. This made me snicker.

    The worst thing that happened to me in regards to my tiny house was this:

    I let a couple friends stay in it for the past few months on a beautiful farm in rural Washington. When I went to pick it up, there was 1/2 gal of maple syrup waiting there for me. It was a gorgeous day, and this made it perfect.

    I carefully wedged the syrup bottle in my back seat and went about hitching up. In doing so, i switched out hitch bars and put the extra one on the back seat.

    After the whole rig bounced down the driveway, i hopped out to check lights before hitting the road. When i got back in, i noticed something dripping out of my truck door. Yes, the hitch bar had fallen off the seat and broke open the whole jar of syrup.

    Never has anything been so sweet … But so sad… As it relates to my tiny house.

    Other than that, i have never looked back at building my tiny house (or any of the others) and regretted a thing!

  25. Craig Rose says:

    This the most ridiculous and absurd form of habitation. Yes,everyone can choose, but living like that as a first choice is not being honest with us and yourself. This is a way to obtain the amerrican dream. A home and a piece of property.but it is one step up from welfare living. You are not being thrifty, this is all you can afford. Don’t be ashamed, be honest with yourself.

  26. Joe says:

    Fine, waste your money and judge me as a hippie or whatever. You have a narrow view of life, but I know that you are far from being alone in that view. There are plenty of miserable people like you everywhere. Kind of sad..

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