We’ve been watching a lot of home improvement and real estate shows on TV recently — because that’s apparently what you do on Friday night when your local video rental store has closed and your home internet isn’t fast enough to keep up with whatever your teenage kids are up to online and still stream movies without regular buffering breaks.
In any case, it seems the latest craze is tiny homes — small but efficiently designed homes that, as far as I can tell, are just an updated take on mobile homes.
That said, I could totally see myself living in a tiny home. I’m a fan of functional, well thought out design. I like indoor spaces (what we used to call rooms) that serve multiple purposes. I’m a fan of keeping things simple. In fact, we live in a cozy split-level home, and for the most part, I’m perfectly content with utilizing just the top level. We’ve all even been sharing one bathroom for the past few weeks while the downstairs bathroom gets a makeover, with only a few minor inconveniences. We hardly need to go downstairs at all — with a few notable exceptions.
And I suppose that’s the rub of what’s depicted as an idyllic lifestyle.
First off, the kids’ bedrooms are downstairs. I’m pretty sure that having personal space for our teenagers contributes to family harmony, rather than detracting from it.
So, our tiny house would need a small addition for kids’ bedrooms. Oh, and a small bump-out for full-sized washer and dryer. We’re active, and we generate a lot of dirty laundry. Oh, and if that bump-out could include a half-bath, that would alleviate most of those aforementioned minor inconveniences. And as long as we’re adding the half-bath, we could squeeze in shower stall, too, right?
But the big question for me is what those folks extolling the virtues of a tiny home do with their stuff. And by stuff I don’t mean the things that fill our closets, bookshelves, crawlspaces and every other nook and cranny around the house.
What I mean is this: what you hear is that by downsizing your home, you have more time and money to invest in experiences — which I’m all for. That’s why I groan every time my wife insists on fertilizing the lawn. Sure, it will look nicer, but it also means mowing more often.
But usually, any experiences in which you participate regularly require some sort of gear — backpacks, tents, bicycles, fishing rods, tools, kayaks, canoes, boats, skis, an assortment of footwear, outerwear — the list goes on. We have a two-car garage, and while my wife squeezes her car into her side of the garage, mine is mostly filled with all that other stuff. It’s be one thing if we never used any of that stuff, but there’s very little in there that we haven’t used in the past year, or won’t be using for an upcoming adventure.
So, our tiny house would need the addition for the kids’ bedrooms, the bump-out for the laundry and bath, plus a few hundred square feet of space for storing and working on all of our stuff — which is essentially what we have now.
Who knew — we’re already living the tiny home dream!
Of course, the tiny home philosophy is about figuring out the difference between the wants and needs in your life, and finding a balance between the two. There are plenty of things I’ve hung on to over the years for no particular reason. I’ve got a drawer full of T-shirts sorted into two piles, one for shirts I wear regularly, the other, much larger pile, for ones I don’t. When my wife was dressing up for 1980s day at her school last week and asked me if I had anything left from that decade, that fact that I did should have been a clue that it’s time to spend some time simplifying, or in other words, getting rid of that stuff I don’t use anymore.
Then again, that old sweatshirt now falls into the category of having been used in the past year. And spending a day cleaning out the closet might detract from other experiences, such as using one of the several bicycles I’ve got in the garage. I’m thinking it’s time to go for a ride …
Reach Clarion editor Will Morrow at firstname.lastname@example.org.