Note from Ethan: This post originally appeared in Issue 30 of the Tiny House Magazine
While everyone seems to enjoy looking at Pinterest photos of tiny houses, not everyone would enjoy living in a tiny house.
You may assume that the only people who shouldn't live in tiny houses are those who flat out aren't interested in this way of life. But it may surprise you to hear that even if you've got your heart set on tiny house living, this lifestyle might not be for you.
Before you invest too much time or money into your tiny house dream, it's important that you educate yourself about what tiny house living really involves. Tiny house living comes with a unique set of challenges. There may be issues you haven't considered that could prevent you from living in, or at least enjoying living in, a tiny house.
Let's dive into some of these potential issues.
You have allergies
If you have any allergies, it's important to make sure that none of the materials you are allergic to will be used in your tiny house. Whether you're allergic to propane, alcohol, or sawdust, you don't want to be living in a house made out of something that irritates your body.
I've had thank you emails from people who have read Tiny House Decisions, who have realized that tiny house living is not for them because of their allergies. While they've been disappointed, they've also been grateful to have realized this before they started building.
If you have an allergy, you must be honest with yourself about whether or not it will affect your ability to live in a tiny house. The last thing you want to do is spend months or years building a home you can't live in!
You're not prepared to break the law
To be frank, living in a tiny house is most likely illegal or not entirely legal where you live. Tiny houses tend to fall into a bit of a legal grey area, at least when you decide to live in one full time.
To live in a tiny house, you have to be OK with the facts that you may be breaking the law and that your local authorities could kick you out of your house at any time. For most people, this level of uncertainty is too much. If you're not comfortable with this, don't go tiny.
You have limited mobility
The majority of tiny house designs include a loft area, which is usually where the bed is kept. If you have limited mobility, or you expect that your mobility might become an issue as you grow older, climbing a ladder to go to bed each night might not be the best idea. That said, it is possible to build a tiny house that doesn't use any ladders.
Even if you can cope with a ladder or you don't plan on having any ladders in your tiny house, you may have difficulty moving around a tiny house, simply because tiny houses are so small.
If you are particularly tall or overweight, or you lack coordination, you may find yourself bumping into things all the time. If you're dead set on living in a tiny house, you'll need to think carefully about how to modify the design to suit your needs, just like this tall guy did. Otherwise, you may be better off living somewhere a little larger.
You've got a big family
Most people who live in tiny houses are individuals or couples. Occasionally you'll hear of a family that's making tiny house living work for them, but these families are often fairly small, like this family of four. If you have eight children, you are not physically going to be able to fit them all into one tiny house!
If you have a large family but you love the idea of living in a tiny house, I'd encourage you to consider other alternative living options. Perhaps you could live in a converted bus, like this family, a house boat, a converted shipping container, or just a small house.
Even if you have a small family and you could fit everyone in, it's important that the whole family understands just how close they are going to have to become to make tiny house living work. Ask yourself if you will all be able to cope with having so little privacy.
You're scared of heights or have claustrophobia
If small spaces freak you out, living in one probably isn't a good idea! Likewise, if you're planning to live with another person and you really need your own space, you might find tiny house living quite stressful.
You're not prepared to use a composting toilet
It wouldn't be very practical to use a regular flush toilet in a tiny house. You'd have to store a load of water in your house, refill your water tank after every eight or so trips to the bathroom, and find somewhere for all of that water to go.
Composting toilets are by far the best option for tiny house living. And composting toilets essentially involve doing your business into a bucket and covering it with sawdust. Using a composting toilet is actually much better than it sounds, but if you can't handle the thought of doing your business this way, you might need to rethink your tiny house plans!
You don't really, really want this
Please do not build a tiny house simply because tiny houses are cute. If you want to live in a tiny house simply because they're pretty to look at, please stick to Pinterest. If you're going to deal with all the complications that come with building and living in a tiny house, you're going to need a much bigger reason than aesthetics.
This lifestyle choice is an alternative one. If you chose to adopt it, you're going to encounter a lot of people who disagree with or disapprove of your choice. Family members will think you're making a mistake, your local authorities will fight you, and your neighbors will turn their noses up at your toilet.
Before you embark on a tiny house journey, make sure you really, really want to do this.
Your partner isn't keen
If you're planning on sharing your tiny house with your significant other but they're not as sold on the idea as you are, it might be better for your relationship if you let the dream go. Living in a small space is tricky enough when both parties are enthusiastic about it. If either of you has doubts, don't do it.
You love hosting guests
If you're the sort of person who's always hosting dinner parties and inviting distant relatives to stay, you may find tiny house living somewhat restrictive. There are only so many beds you can fit into a small space and, even if you can make room for your guests, they may not appreciate the lack of privacy that comes with staying in a tiny house.
Tiny house kitchens tend to be on the small side too, so if cooking is a big passion of yours, take the time to work out whether or not there would be enough space for all of your ingredients and gadgets in a tiny house.
You can't cut down your belongings
If you're a shopaholic or you live to drum, hula hoop, or build sculptures, you need to ask yourself whether or not there's going to be room for all of your possessions in your tiny house. Most of us dream of getting rid of our belongings and living a minimalist lifestyle, but reality often stops that dream from coming true.
Be honest with yourself. Can you really get rid of enough of your stuff to live in a trailer-sized space?
You have lots of big pets
Plenty of people live in tiny houses with cats, dogs, and other animals. Generally, it works fine and these pets tend to spend a lot more time outdoors than most pets. But if you've got a St. Bernard or two Newfoundlands, please do not attempt to bundle them into a tiny house, for your sake and for theirs!
Is Tiny House Living for You?
Have you seriously considered every aspect of tiny house living and worked out what problems each one could cause you? Have you visited or stayed in a tiny house to try one out for size? Have you spoken to people who live in tiny houses to find out what niggles and issues they've had with this lifestyle?
Before you invest money into building or buying a tiny house, try to think of all the potential issues that could could up if you lived in a tiny house. Think through them and work out not only whether or not you could cope with them, but also whether or not you would enjoy dealing with them.
And finally, if you decide that tiny house living is not for you, don't worry! There are plenty of other types of houses you could live in, as well as plenty of other ways of living according to the philosophies of the tiny house movement. You'll just have to think outside the box!