It is what it is: Keep it simple

So I’m probably not one of those people who can chuck it all and move into a tiny house, but I think I can relate to tiny house living, because I have recently come to the realization that I have a tiny garage.

For those who aren’t caught up on the most recent real estate craze, tiny homes are defined as a dwelling of about 400 square feet or less. Tiny house dwellers say they want to simplify their lives, but to live full-time in such a small space, they have learned to adapt. They generally sleep in lofts with hardly enough room to sit up, have limited bathroom facilities, miniature appliances (if they have any at all) and very little storage space.

At 20-by-22 feet, my garage is larger than most tiny homes. In fact, the two-car space is probably bigger than a lot of other garages in the area, and if you count the 8-by-12 shed out back, I’d guess that the average tiny home dweller would be aghast at calling the space “tiny.”

The crux of my argument is this: while more than 400 square feet with which to work, I find myself essentially making tiny house-style adaptations to be able to use that space.

I’ll admit it; I’ve got a fair amount of stuff. It would probably be a lot easier to manage the space if my wife didn’t insist on parking her car in the garage, but what are you going to do?

As I look around the garage, in addition to the car, there’s at least seven bicycles. That may sound like a lot for a family of four, but really we should have 12 — a road bike, a mountain bike and a fat bike for everyone. Right now, we’ve got the bare minimum.

Then there’s about eight sets of cross-country skis and poles, and a couple of wall-mounted baskets with other sports equipment — tennis racquets, various balls, disc golf gear, and who knows what else. There’s a set of hooks for bike helmets, and three sets of golf clubs hanging from pegs on a different wall.

I’ve got a large cabinet for fishing gear and assorted bicycle parts, and one of those big rolling chests for most of my tools. There’s a workbench and two sets of shelves with camping gear, leftover paint from various projects, and stuff for doing things like maintaining the car my wife parks in the garage.

And don’t think I’m not being efficient with the space — I use the ceiling for storage too. I’ve got a canoe hanging from the ceiling on one sie of the garage, and the other has a rack for the skis, and another where I stick totes of Halloween and Christmas decorations. Granted, I leave some of the Christmas lights up all year, but I do eventually put most of the decorations away come spring.

Taking up most of the space on my side of the garage is the half-finished canoe I’ve been working on for at least 15 years. I think this will be the year I finally get it done. I’ve been telling myself that since I started it, but hey, if the Cubs can win the World Series, anything is possible.

I’ve also got a table saw and a mitre saw, both of which have an early adaptation for doing big projects in a relatively small space: they’re on wheels. In fact, I’ve always had to be a little creative with the garage space, for example, angling the saw one way or the other, depending on the dimensions of the wood being cut. For long pieces — like the wood strips for building the canoe, I’ve even opened the garage door to have enough room.

Things got much more complicated in the past year, though, when we added a ping pong table into the mix. It was a given that we’d have to move the car out of the garage when we wanted to unfold the table, but even with it stowed away, accessing things in the garage is much more complex.

It hit home for me recently when I needed to grab a hex wrench from the tool chest to make an adjustment on a bicycle, but to get to the tool chest, I had to first move the trash barrel, then roll the ping pong table out of the way. And when I was done, I had to make sure everything was put back in just the right sopt, so there would still be room to park the car.

I assume that making it work in a tiny home is the much the same, when you have to wait to fill a teapot because someone is using the one sink to brush their teeth, or you have to fold up the couch to access the storage compartment with your clothes in it. And it’s crucial that everything be put away exactly where it goes, or you’ll end up inadvertently barricading yourself in your own home.

While I’m sure it works for some people, I’m still not quite sold on the tiny homes philosophy — at least not for full-time living arrangements. I feel like I’ve already culled everything that doesn’t get used, so my ideal solution would be to build a bigger garage, where I could spread everything out. Because for a philosophy that aims to simplify, tiny living sure makes things complicated.

Reach Clarion editor Will Morrow at

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