January 22, 2022

The Tiny-House Dream Is Actually a Nightmare

Tiny homes seem like utopian living spaces — where twee hipsters can lounge on handmade foldaway futons draped in quilts from Etsy, surrounded by four tiny walls of reclaimed wood.

Look on Instagram. Watch Tiny House Nation. Check out Pinterest. Stream a movie on Netflix. Hell, visit Thrillist. But after speaking to people who have spent time in tiny spaces — everything from tiny homes, to RVs, to converted buses, to shipping containers — the truth comes out. Sadly, these aren’t the utopian living spaces that are going to save you from paying exorbitant rents or 30-year mortgages. There are plenty of unique problems that come with every kind of pint-sized living space, turning them from cute little dream homes into compact nightmares.

What tiny houses get right

There are plenty of great reasons to buy a tiny house, RV, or a shipping container that can be turned into a home. I toured the one in the photo, and it seems fantastic. You’ll get rid of all the shit you don’t need (frankly, there’s no room for it where you live, regardless). There’s a smaller environmental footprint. You’ll spend less money on rent or a mortgage. You can theoretically drop the home wherever and live anywhere you choose.

As Jordan, a guy who lives in California in a converted bus, told me, you learn “deliberateness.” That’s a fine bastardization of a famous Thoreau quote, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” Jordan says he and his wife cut out vegging. He sold all his video game consoles, bravely discovering whether life without Assassin’s Creed Syndicate is even a life worth living. They’re living a decidedly simpler life, but they’re still part of the modern, not-tiny world.

Living in a tiny space sounds like a one-way ticket to Walden Pond. But there’s plenty to consider about living tiny that the promise of a deliberate lifestyle and a beautiful Instagram photo cannot convey. Mainly, that living in cramped quarters and composting your poop can suck.

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