Based on Alton Brown’s revisiting of his own show, Good Eats, I have been looking back at old blog posts to see what has changed and what might I might do differently. Brown calls his show Good Eats: Reloaded and he challenges himself on his old techniques and recipes. He even sometimes admits he was wrong. Based on that, here is the next installment of Life in 120 Square Feet: Reloaded where I take a closer look at my original blog post (flaws and all) and the concept that moving out of a tiny house must mean failure. You’ll find my new thoughts on the subject in italics throughout.
This post originally appeared online all the way back in 2013 and the post no longer exists. The subject continues to be an essential one, so I thought revisiting it may be a good idea now in 2020.
Tiny House Tours, Private Homes,and Etiquette
“We’re in town for today only. Can we come to see your house?” I glanced at my watch. It was already 3:00 pm and Matt and I wasn’t at home. In fact, we had several more errands to run and weren’t expecting to be home until well after dark. “I’m sorry, no,” I said.
They were gracious but I could hear the disappointment in their voices. Even if we could, or would, our house wasn’t exactly showplace-ready. We live in our home just like anyone. There were dirty socks on the floor and the bed wasn’t made.
This is my home.
Look at me using non-fiction storytelling to draw the reader in. Did it work? I suppose it did because the post was widely shared at the time. I think it resonated with a lot of people. Often, folks look at tiny houses as concepts, not as actual homes where real people live. I think it’s important to humanize them right off the bat.
So how can you see a tiny home if you’re interested in learning more before taking the leap yourself? Here are some dos and don’ts that I recommend when approaching a tiny home owner to ask about a visit.
- Contact tiny home building companies and make an appointment to tour a home they have available. This may not give you a sense of what it is like to live in one but you will get to see the space and think thoroughly about how to fit your life into it. The key is to contact them in advance. If you know you’re going to be in a place make arrangements so they have time to prepare and can give you the time you deserve.
Builders want to show off their houses because they are in business to sell tiny homes. Builders can be a great first resource when you’re just starting your tiny house explorations.
2. Use a website like Tiny House Vacations to book a stay in a tiny home. You can get a feel for a night or two what it might be like to live in this type of space on for a longer time.
I checked; the website still exists. You can also use other sources, like Airbnb, to specifically search for tiny homes in the areas where you want to visit.
3. Watch for individuals to advertise open houses or tours of their tiny spaces and attend those events. Some tiny home builders and home owners will often go on tour, especially if they are traveling with their tiny home. Or you may be able to attend a tiny house workshop where homes on wheels will be present.
- Show up unannounced and knock on the front door. Regardless of the size, this is a private home and every homeowner deserves their privacy even if they choose to share their story online. Many tiny home owners don’t publicize their addresses to prevent this from happening.
Think of this as a safety issue. Would you love it if someone knocked on your door randomly and asked to see the inside of your house? Probably not. I had a friend who was at home minding her own business when someone just opened her front door and walked in exclaiming how cute it was. That’s not cool regardless of the size of the home.
2. Negatively criticize their design choices to their faces. Every tiny home is built to suit the person or family living in the house and it isn’t their job to demonstrate all of the possibilities of tiny living. If you would rather have a house with a staircase and not a ladder, be respectful and don’t be critical. It is neither constructive nor polite.
This was also a personal pet peeve of mine. I had more than a few people look at photos of my house when I was speaking at events and tell me it was ugly. You know what? You build a tiny house and speak at events then, but don’t yuck someone else’s yum.
3. Be angry that they declined your request and take your negative comments to the internet. Thank them for their time and move on to the next possible option. The wrong comment could lead to hurt feelings or, even worse, a libel or slander lawsuit. (Today I might change this to “vigilante justice” as is popular on the internet.) A tiny home dweller is not required to showcase their home and shouldn’t face public shaming for their choices.
There is one more thing I want to add here that I didn’t think to cover in the first version of this post. Today, there are a number of tiny homes on Airbnb. And even though they’re being rented out, they are still private homes. I am about to admit I am guilty of this particular transgression myself, but I have learned why it’s inappropriate.
Do not email the owner of a tiny home available for short term rental asking for a free stay. And, don’t try to use your personal credentials in the tiny house community to negotiate that free stay. I did this once and I realize that it was inappropriate and I won’t do it again. I know others who have done it and the “Do you know who I am?” argument is not a good look on anyone. If you want to stay in that home, pay for it. Short term rentals are a business and just like I want people to pay me fairly for my work, I should expect to pay others for theirs.
Above all else please respect that tiny homes are actual private homes owned by the individuals. Being open on the internet is not an invitation for a complete lack of privacy. Please respect their personal space and only view tiny homes in the appropriate context.
Written By Laura Lavoie for Tiny House Magazine Issue 93