Things I Don’t Like About My Tiny House

September 6, 2013 § 33 Comments

I am not going to lie, parts of this stink… overall… totally worth it so far but here are some of the cons as compared to always giving you the shiny ‘pros’.   I think most of these can also be spun to sound like pros and can boil down to me having moments of laziness, like we are all allowed to have.  (it’s actually hard for me to not put on the positive spin at the end of each point… because I wrote this here though I will not!)   Here is the list:

  1. These things take a lot of time and energy to build, parts of my body will never be the same after this build.  As some of you know, about one year ago I fell off the roof while being dumb on a particular part of roofing, this resulted in a back that was broken in two places as well as a broken heel bone.  Here I am one year later, with the cold season coming and I can already feel it in my back.  My foot is STILL not healed amazingly enough, I have not been able to return to running just yet.  I have been told that I will always feel the weather changes in my back.  That is an unexpected consequence of tiny house living that not everyone will have, but it’s real.   Aside from broken bones, this thing ate up about a year and a half of my life I didn’t intend on giving it!  I seriously and foolishly was convinced that 6 months was oodles of time… nope, two years is more like it.  Sure I could have gone faster, I could have also gone a lot slower… but that is a lot of social life to exchange!
  2. Everybody looks and stares, I am happy to share, in fact I LOVE it, most of the time.  Its those other times when I just want peace and quiet, people still gawk then too.   I have been woken up from a nap more than once by someone knocking on the door.  Which is actually really cool, unless your napping mid day, which pregnant people do sometimes! :)   Part of me feels ‘weird’ too, I wish these were more ‘normal so I didn’t have to be made to feel weird so much!
  3. I am constantly concerned about being ‘turned in’ and worried if I am pissing off any neighbors.  Even though I would probably be totally fine with being turned in and it would actually be a different sort of enlightening adventure I would be ready and willing to tackle, it sucks to feel that little bit of insecurity constantly, just not knowing what is around the corner exactly.
  4. Everything is a work in progress, things break, water is not limitless, every action has a consequence that I have to be aware of. Sometimes it would be nice to be oblivious again to my daily processes, dump all the leftovers down the garbage disposal and not think anymore about it.  If I do that now it will grease up my grey water tank and that will be a much bigger deal down the road.  I have to only take what I will eat so i am not as wasteful.  It is mostly enjoyable to be engaged in my daily processes but sometimes it would be awful nice to get lazy and just not care.
  5. Space, only sometimes though.   It’s not even so much the space as it is smells, and it could be a pregnancy thing.  Denny-man stinks though.  He is getting weekly baths pretty much but it’s small enough in the tiny house that it takes no time for it to smell like dog (still, at least it isn’t smelling like compost!).  There have also been times I want to stretch out and do some yoga without leaving home and I just have enough room to do a few poses, nothing too detrimental but, sometimes, it would be cool to not have to go somewhere to do my physical activities.
  6. The dark flooring was a horrid choice with a puppy and mud.  It stays clean mere fractions of a second at best!  I will gets some rugs once I get a lawn and Denny get’s a little better about keeping water in his mouth, that will make this easier.  Right now my floors stay a pretty consistent mix of puppy slobber and dirt.

And the surprising things that I DO like!

  1. I LOVE the composting toilet, at least so far (I have yet to have to empty it).  I like it better than a flush toilet, for real.  No one can hear me pee, no splashing water back on my butt… it’s great!  and absolutely zero smells and the satisfaction that I am not sending a huge burden to be treated at the water plant.
  2. It is nice to be able to do what I want when I want, to know that the investments I make into may living area are mine.  If I want to paint I can, if I break something that isn’t working properly it isn’t super painful knowing I’ll have to replace something dumb only for it to break again some point later.  My own space is an obvious thing to like, but I am surprised by how much I have missed it. Even if it is less than a tenth the size of my last place that was ‘mine’.  That ownership aspect works just the same!

What else would you guys add to the list of Tiny House cons?

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§ 33 Responses to Things I Don’t Like About My Tiny House

  • DJ says:

    I think you echo a lot of the downsides that I’ve started to read elsewhere, as more people move into these tiny homes. Tammy at Rowdy Kittens recently posted about being forced to re-locate after a neighbor turned them into the city and they couldn’t get an exemption to remain. Others have posted about how hard it is to build one on their own. Tammy also mentioned how her back injury was more difficult for her in a tiny home, rather than a more conventional one. It’s valuable to share the negatives, as well as the positives. The extra sensitivity to smells, by the way, is no doubt a huge function of the pregnancy. But I’m sure Denny will always smell like a dog. : )

  • bob says:

    Macy, I have been camping in “Towed Haul” for a year now…(I say camping because I have not my own utilities). Adjusting to living tiny is all about learning what is important to you…in other words what do you keep and what goes…..what works in the space and what does not….and mid way through the second trimester the smell and order thing should lighten up a bit (but not a given)..
    Towed Haul is a living breathing organism and is in the constant stages of metamorphosis…this two will end in time. I love my tiny house and I hate it all at the same time…..if I could I would sell it and build a new one and it would be a total different approach and yet I would so miss “Towed Haul” the next one would have for sure a separate sleeping area.

  • jackie says:

    Not having a big enough shower to, you know, “get busy” (nor enough water to last that long).

  • So far the only thing I really don’t like is that when Crystal gets up from the bed (which with a 2-year old is quite frequently) she has to climb over me. I wish we had designed the bed to be long ways even if it only gave us 12″ of clearance on each side. It would be better than being a nocturnal hurdle every. single. night.

  • mim says:

    i dont like dark floors to begin with….
    your space is white and light and i mentioned it to you when you were planning to put the dark floor in that a lighter flooring would look better…..also a big dog in a small space is a disaster…..maybe you can build a tiny house outside for denny…..i couldnt handle such a large animal in such a small space….

    • Kelly says:

      None of these comments were very constructive. How does “I told you so” help her in this situation? I sure hope you didn’t hurt her feelings as those comments would have hurt mine.

    • Kathy says:

      What is the difference in having a large dog(s) in a tiny house than trying to share it with a human(s)?

      • Walking Bob says:

        Personally, I don’t like light colored floors. You don’t know what down there, if you want to sit down on the floor or do some asanas. With a dark floor, you can see the crap and dirt.
        Walking Bob

  • mamalulu1 says:

    That my family of 5 wouldn’t fit! I did however put a deposit down on a 8×16 car hauler trailer tonight and hope to make a Mama mobile Hobbit “home.”

  • Suzannah says:

    Dark floors SUCK. We have beautiful bamboo floors in our townhouse, but with two dogs and tons of rain in GA we only get to see them for about ten minutes each week, five minutes directly after each time we sweep/mop. La was going to put the leftover flooring in her tiny house, which would be awesome money-wise but bad otherwise.

  • I thoroughly enjoyed your commentary on the “realities”, because you are correct, we tend not to comment all that much on the aspects that don’t thrill us about our tiny abodes. It caused me smile a lot, except for the “falling off the roof” part .

    Sympathizing too, because somewhere in all the gyrations over the last couple of years, I got lower back pain as a daily companion. Lying flat on my back installing the “stringers” and the batt insulation under the trailer floor was my least favorite part. I modified the design of the next trailer so that I can accomplish that important job much earlier in the process while standing up.

    I moved in about 4 months ago, in increments, kinda forced into it by circumstances. First the old refrig in the house gave out, and I had just installed the brand new one in the trailer, so I started cooking in the trailer first. The next thing to go was the old water heater so I started showering in the trailer. After a few days of that I said the hell with it and just moved the rest of my stuff in, even though I still have some shelving and trim to install.

    Since I am single, pet-less at the moment and not prone to pregnancy, I am pretty much enjoying the experience. I go back to the main house pretty much only to do laundry. One of the joys of mobility is choosing where to park. When it started getting hot, I moved the trailer away from the house and hooked up to water and (2) separate 20 amp circuits beside the barn under some big old oak trees that shaded 80% of my roof for all but 2 hours a day, and the utility bill for the whole property dropped to $45/month during the summer. YIPPEE! I had a small a/c unit, but never used it, getting cooled nicely by a window-mounted box fan/evap cooler, which I had to turn off at bedtime because it got too damn chilly.

    The one thing that tiny living does is force you to be tidy and organized. (never one of my strong points in the past life). The compact space makes every not-so-clean surface or out-of-place item feel like it’s equipped with lights and sirens. CLEAN ME! Put ME AWAY…NOW! Dammit!
    My best purchase of the last year turned out to be an Electrolux “dust buster” & floor vacuum with a wall-mount bracket/charger. It’s a brilliant lightweight and compact design that works great. I never imagined for a moment that I would end up raving about a damn vacuum cleaner….

  • I have to say, Your posts are engagingly down to earth. When I was pregnant, smells were brutal for the first few months but did get much better later.

    My biggest”con” for the place I’m currently living in, a truck bed camper, is the utter lack of kitchen space. My own TH will have a goodly amount of counter room and room for my cooking supplies. I only have the framing up, so I can use my experience living in this even smaller home to design the interior to suit my needs.

    I have two cats and a bunny, and have designed in a sheltered spot for their litter boxes beside the sawdust toilet to contain odors. I know I’ll be emptying the bucket often! My pup lives outdoors in a pen attached to the camper, with a little door that allows him access inside. I can’t do the same thing in my TH unfortunately. But he will have space to come inside and stretch out with the other critters (and me!) when the weather is bad outside.

    I’ve been worrying about my own flooring, which is a sort-of whitewashed pine. We’ll see if light ends up being better than dark.

    Parker

  • Kelly says:

    Thanks for sharing! Unfortunately, big dogs rarely learn how to keep water in their mouths, the consequence of having no lips. I’m sure you will come up with a solution though :)

  • john says:

    I am closing in on 50 years old and i want to build a little place…tiny is relative for many. It just has to be livable, not barely, but really liveable. If you need a yoga space then plan for that, a separate outbuilding for your Yoga studio, or for me a separate and private office space.
    Mine will also be the last house i own, it will not need to be on wheels. It will be small, it will be planned for handicaps and a wheelchair just in case that ever becomes a possibility in my life. You need not be in a wheelchair to enjoy the wide travel lanes and clear paths in a home.

    Building small means there is money for more important things like quality in materials, better engineering for longer lasting and less maintenance, meeting Leed platinum energy efficiency standards, and low energy appliances to reduce future operating costs when or if money becomes tight. Also investing in solar power, hot water, and wind energy systems to ensure future living is as cheap as you can make it…just in case money becomes an issue…as it always does for all of us!

    For me 400-600 sq. ft. is my goal, and building it to last a hundred years, as is purchasing at least an acre of land in the countryside for growing some of my own fruit and veggies…but not too far from a hospital and and stores, i figure 20 or so miles out of the center of town.
    And you know…it won’t cost any more than the average guys mid-life crisis sports car!

    By the way, it sounds like you need either a natural shrub or tree barrier or just a good old fashioned fence! Let them look, but from a distance. Perhaps a sign letting people know it’s your home, and a link to your blog where they can learn all about it and see pictures without interfering with your privacy.

  • caseyfriday says:

    Good list. I’ve been worried about the space too, but fortunately the land we bought to put our tiny house on already has a 16′ x 16′ cabin, so we can spread out in there, if necessary.

    One of the huge benefits, though, is insurance price! I read around a lot of tiny house owners acting as if there was no insurance company in the world that would cover them, but I spend thirty minutes on the phone and finally found a local company that will cover $35k worth of ‘house’ and another $15k of posessions, PLUS liability for something like $330 a YEAR. Crazy affordable! That’s just about what we’re paying for renters insurance right now.

    Anyway, keep on keepin on!

  • Please tell us which composting toilet you use. And thank you for the candid remarks. Your comments, and some of the replies, have given all of us very useful information.

  • Paul Kaplan says:

    That was really informative, thanks for sharing! I will eventually move to a tiny house. I spent the summer in a 19′ mini rv traveling across country with 3 dogs- and realized so many things that I’m not giving up when I build my tiny house: 1. I definitely need a shower that I can move around in- ideally I’d like a shower/tub combo. I just enjoy a bath now and then, and with dogs, I need to be able to wash them. 2. Vacuum- with dogs, I vacuum daily- The floor has to be of a durable material, (not dark, thanks for reminding me), and not wood, because the dogs’ slip and slid on it, plus the sound of their nails walking on it, can get aggravating! AND there has to be room to store the vacuum with easy access. 3. I need a separate bedroom space. I have a bad knee, so climbing into a loft won’t work. PLUS the practical side- there are times when you have a sleepover “guest”/”Date” and you don’t want the company of your dogs in the bed, so it is important to have a little private space from your “roomies.”

    I appreciate your words though- it is all good research to help design the ultimate tiny home!

    • ecosmartmobile says:

      Paul, Thank you. Your comment inspired additional thoughts about things I am definitely changing in the next Eco~Smart. I think several of them will make the prototype I’m living in now the worthwhile learning exercise that a prototype is SUPPOSED to be. I keep forgetting that was half the point of building it in the first place. The big lesson learned for me has to do with being “penny-wise and pound foolish”.

      I demo’d an existing 26′ travel trailer down to the frame, an $800 purchase that remains a screaming bargain, but in retrospect there are several things I wish I had done differently…as follows:

      1. I let the existing position of the steel-fold-down steps dictate both the position and size of the doors in my new plan. Dumb… It wouldn’t have been all that difficult to grind the welds and move them to more optimum locations AND make one of the doors at least 30″ to 32″w. When you are designing “tiny”, every inch counts twice as much as in a regular dwelling. My shoulders are 22″ w., my refrig 23.5″w., the existing fiberglas shower enclosure 26.5″w.. so it had to be IN the trailer before the exterior framing was completed. The 24″w. entrance door has shown up as a minor nuisance on several occasions, not the least of which is trying to carry a laundry basket through it without falling on your face. Also, I had to remove the door and the stops when bringing in the fridge.

      2. Re-using that one-piece shower saved me a big chunk of money, but every time I use it, and particularly when I bend to wash my feet, I am reminded that even a 32″ x 32″ shower would have been a HUGE improvement, and the one-piece tub/shower design not all that desirable in cramped quarters. A good question to just “be with” is “How do you REALLY live?” When was the last time you took a “tub bath” instead of a shower? My answer: Can not remember, but at least 5 years ago. When you had a dog, how did you bath him? Uh, in a shower with a hand-held spray unit with a shut-off on it…. No further questions for this witness…. It sounds so damn obvious after the fact, but when you are up to your eyeballs in the design, construction and especially the money-saving mode, things tend to get a little less clear sometimes.

      3. The trailer came with both gray and blackwater tanks and I retained them and let the position of them and the waste-piping holes dictate the location of the toilet, kitchen sink, etc. Again….design limitations born of ignorance. At one point I had the help of a person that has lived the “work-camper” life for years, living full-time in an RV. He asked the “excellent question”… “Do you EVER intend to “dry-camp” in this thing for a week?”… …. “Ah… no.” “Then you do NOT want a blackwater tank in it, because you need to flush, clean and sanitize it on a weekly basis whether you travel in it or not. Do you want to do that?”…. “Uh… HELL no.” And if you want to recycle gray water, there are bigger and better ways to do it.” So, both tanks now reside in a storeroom. The toilet in his RV has a spray nozzle with a flexible hose mounted next to the toilet so you can do a better job of keeping the toilet clean at all times. I’m using that idea in the next Eco~Smart. Don’t know why ALL bathrooms don’t feature this intelligent and inexpensive multi-purpose convenience.

      4. As to flooring type and color, 40 years of interior design experience says it doesn’t really doesn’t matter all that much, as schmutz comes in all colors and the full range of light-to-dark values. The trick is to determine the “predominant” source of YOUR crud, and pick your flooring to accommodate that. The terrain around my trailer is sandy and tan colored, so my medium-value pine flooring works pretty well, but I end up vacuuming it a couple times a week anyway because of the black and white stuff that shows up. Real Dark and Real Light floors should probably be avoided in general, and some visual texture like wood grain, or a “multi-color tweed” carpet helps a little.

      Thanks to Macy and all the commenters. One learns so much out of open, honest conversations like these.

  • Theresa Pickel says:

    My father spent 25 years on a large Junk moored in various places around the Seattle area. After several years, he made a little sign that answered all the “usual” questions from curious bypasses. He said this eliminate 90% of the knocks on the door. I don’t live in a small house now, though I moved from a 400 sq ft cob cottage where people frequently stopped and asked questions about the construction process, size, amenities, and so on.

    Making a list of the most commonly asked questions and answering those in a nicely worded, informational sign will probably satisfy the curious without discouraging fellow builders.

  • Rick Murphy says:

    While I love TINY, I personally couldn’t LIVE Tiny. For me, SMALL is the operative word in living. My wife and I are on Social Security. We purchased a 1300 sq. ft. home in a Middle Tennessee for under $70,000 and will spend about $30,000 remodeling it, adding a 500 sq. ft. cathedral ceiling screen porch, energy efficient windows, attic fan and a second bath. For us, SMALL is best. After 40 years of marriage, we’ve accumulated too many memories to live without closets, a kitchen too small the both of us can’t turn around and cook together. For us, one of the secrets of a long and happy marriage is OUR OWN PERSONAL SPACE (ie., his and her computer rooms. We enjoy friends and entertaining. We’re not out to impress folks with needless ostentation, but one of the perks of a life of hard work should be the ability to enjoy your home with your spouse and friends — without being crammed an area the size of a couple of large refrigerators.

  • Iowill says:

    Mobility as we age and/or recover from difficult injuries is problematic with many loft arrangements. This is especially true for some of the more steep and “creative” approaches to loft stairs that I have seen in many people’s designs and builds.

    I really appreciate this blog entry for many reasons. When you talk about being kept from doing yoga, or restricted to a small range of poses, this does suggest a significant quality of life issue. When designing and considering the space you most want and need, keeping range of motion and motion-oriented activities in mind is critical. The bed-hurdle, the way space shared with two makes it less than 50% for both….

    I live in mid-coast Maine near The Shelter Institute, where people have come for decades to learn various timber frame construction techniques; many of whom went on to “build their dream home in the woods.” When we were looking at different properties, we were taken to over three dozen of such places, now on the market for a variety of reasons…but we joked about calling them the home version of a “divorce canoe.” You could date them stylistically by decade. And all but one revealed severe problems with an “idea” being made “actual” and, in doing so, magnifying the gaps caused by oversight or hubris.

    Thanks for writing a honest and clear update of your experience.
    Hope you are able to find ways to adapt your space and continue to improve the quality of your life.

  • I’ve built my own tiny house that I designed (I’m 61 and had a lot of the same concerns as the other “older” commenters) and I must say that I love how the space has turned out and works perfectly for me. I spent many months figuring out just what I really needed and wanted to make sure I’d actually have room for it. This includes that I can do yoga in my living room, I have an electric piano and actually enough room so that another musician can join me in playing music at my house. I can’t do the yoga and have a cellist playing in my living room at the same time though! And my house is 8’6″ wide and just under 13’6″ tall – fitting most of the “down-the-road” no-need-for-a-permit limits.

    I used a larger flatbed trailer (28′ long and then 8′ of gooseneck) so my bedroom is up a short flight of stairs (5 steps and I have a hand rail) and it is an actual bedroom with a closet and a chest of drawers and double bed. I definitely did not want to sleep in my living room or climb up a loft ladder every night and have the shortened head room over my bed. I have a totally workable kitchen, plenty of storage and a bathroom with a composting toilet and RV-type shower/tub. It isn’t palatial, but it works for me and has worked for my guests.

    Speaking of guests and possible visits by eventual grandkids – I have a loft with two twin mattresses in it and a ladder and also a double bed sofabed for my elderly guests – or me if I can’t even make it up the 5 steps to my bedroom because of injury. I even have a built in wine rack.

    I also have radiant floor heat and a dual water heater that heats the floor glycol and also is insta-hot for my domestic water needs. I have a 100gal water tank in another storage loft and can run my electricity from my solar or by running my propane generator or by plugging into “shore” power if I need to. I fill my water tank about every two weeks. More often if I am doing laundry by hand in my deep large kitchen sink. I got a laundry plunger and a hand wringer and have set up some hooks in my living room (have a retractable clothesline) so that I can hang laundry there to dry if the weather is bad.

    It does tweak my laziness button at times when I have to empty my urine bottle (I have two though so one is always empty and I don’t have to do this in the middle of the night) and the compost from the solid waste side of my separating/composting toilet (Nature’s Head). I only do this about once every two months though. The urine is every 3 days or so.

    If anyone’s interested you can see my house and read my blog (not very up to date) at gypsyturtlejournal.com

    It does take more time and planning to figure out where to put my house. I’ve been in one beautiful place for over 7 months and now need to find another place. Fortunately I don’t have to leave in a hurry so have had time to hunt for the right spot and meet the people whose land I will be on. This summer we had a fire nearby too – and though I should have been able to move my house, the fire fighters wouldn’t allow me to get into the evacuation area with my truck to move it. Luckily it didn’t burn down.

    I think doing the larger gooseneck trailer is the main thing that allowed me to have what I really wanted in my house. Goosenecks are more stable and easier to maneuver to drive down the road too – which is important since my house is quite heavy and tall.

  • Edward Thompson says:

    Going Tiny will not be much of a problem for me, as I lost everything in a fire on the road. But finding a place to build a tiny house is hard now, and the money, I am on Disability and it doesn’t leave much left over. But your story shows the mistakes you have maid and the fact that most just see the advantages not the problems. I have lived “tiny” all my life and really want the freedom that this life gave me then back.

  • Marci Nadler says:

    Perhaps one of those indoor outdoor carpets would work? Maybe one inside and one outside the door? When they get dirty take them out and hose them off. White and dark floors are tough to keep clean looking. I have always like mud brown floors. I love the idea of the reddish mexican tiles with a drain in the middle of the floor, then you could simply hose out the trailer when it got dirty. LOL I got this idea when I worked at the animal shelter. Though they might crack if the house was moveable.
    Oh well this too shall pass. I imagine a swifter and a dog house might be your best friend, or perhaps an overhang outside that wet dogs can lie on until dry.

    Marci

  • aatinyhouse says:

    Thanks for your honesty, Macy. Sharing the difficulties helps all those who come after.

  • […] get-real blogs about the difficulties of tiny house living, one of my favorites from Macy Miller here. But here and here also. Also check out the first EVERY Tiny House […]

  • Carrie says:

    Good stuff Macy. It’s funny how many articles I’ve been seeing lately about living in a tiny house. I’m about ready to write one too. Hopefully the pros outweigh the cons… but sometimes it’s hard to tell.

    practical suggestions: what about laying cork or linoleum (Forbo’s Marmoleum) tile flooring over your existing floors? both products are super thin and have a variegated texture to hide dirt. also, we have a handheld vacuum that we use often! it’s battery operated, and the battery only lasts one full house sweep, but it’s super convenient.

  • Anne Glover says:

    I am in a tiny apartment, which means I did not have to build it and I don’t have to fix it. It lacks the charm and individualism I see in the custom homes; it’s just a simple box-like room in a ho-hum early 70′s apartment building – but I love it! Cozy, versatile, and it takes me about 3 minutes to clean up. I have room for yoga, sewing, writing, entertaining. (not all at the same time, mind you). You mentioned smell and I have to say that is one thing I have trouble with. Cooking smells fill the whole space and they linger.

    • Macy M says:

      I DO have to admit, that seems to be a problem more associated with early pregnancy, I have since not noticed it much at all, I’ve got some windows I can open when needed to get some fresh air and it seems to do the trick!

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