There’s a movement going on out there. It’s called ‘The Tiny House Movement’.
Check out the documentary ‘We the Tiny House People’ here.
Tiny House Living – And How I Went Mad in the First Place.
Life has its way of having a good chuckle at your expense, does it not? Way back in the child rearing years of my life, my partner at the time and I took to the road in a 1948 Leyland bus, which had a couple of lofts on the roof just big enough to swing a mouse in. So off we set with three kids, two dogs and a parrot, and did a few rounds of the North Island of our lovely country, New Zealand. A grand and interesting life it was too, with many a character-forming challenge along the way.
Things I learned while living on the road:
- Hiding a two storied, very colourful bus when in a new town is nigh on impossible. Curtain-twitching will abound upon your arrival.
- Sending the kids out with a plastic bag each to pick the rubbish around your new vacinity is a great way to soften the hearts of a large majority of curtain-twitchers.
- If you want to meet the local council very quickly, string up a clothesline between a couple of trees – the council will be there within fifteen minutes – I guarantee it.
- There are a minimum of forty seven ways to do the family washing by hand. They’re all very hard work, especially when you have a little one still in cloth nappies.
- Kids learn great social skills. They learn to leap out of the bus, grab the nearest local kid and play with him – Quickly!
- Kids will do embarrassing things like sneak out of the bus just before you leave and get left behind so you have to backtrack, go find them and risk looking like uncaring beasts while they cry dramatically and Very loudly over being abandoned. Or jump out at gas stations and say ‘Do we live here now Mum?’
- You will shop at a new supermarket every week, where they all vindictively arrange their goods in completely different ways from each other so as to drive you mad trying to find what you need while trying to corral three kids going in three different directions.
- You will all gain the skill of walking sideways saying ‘Scuse me, scuse me’ whilst tripping (hopefully delicately) over whatever dog decides to throw itself directly in your path at the first sign of you getting up to do something.
- Parrots have more character than we give them credit for. Our particular one would nudge the most expensive pottery he could find on the bench towards the edge, stand back and kick it, laughing maniacally at the smashing sounds then flying just out of our reach when we tried to have words with him about it.
This lifestyle is not for the fainthearted. You too may go slowly mad.
After eight years of living in such a way, my partner and I split up and our lives went in different directions. I then experienced living in a house for a while, which came as a relief for a variety of reasons.
Things I learned about living in a house:
- In modern housing, the toilet is usually situated Inside the house. It took me a day or two to remember that – I went looking for the outhouse in the backyard a few times.
- When hanging out your washing, you have no need to look over your shoulder for a council person any more. The council Doesn’t care if you hang your washing out!
- You no longer need to stick down your belongings with BluTack – unless you live in an earthquake-prone area, which accounts for most of New Zealand, so it’s probably a good idea anyway.
- You can put things in the fridge without first sealing them with GladWrap and a lid just in case you move.
- There is no longer any need to put bunjy cords across your bookcase, unless… [see above note on earthquake zones].
- You can turn a tap on and the water will just keep flowing and flowing and flowing…
- You can leave a light on all night and it won’t run the battery down. Houses are magically connected to electrical grids that keep on going and going and going…
- Automatic washing machines are the greatest thing ever invented by mankind. Kiss your auto washing machine every day if you have one – it’s worth its weight in gold!
A couple of years ago I had a bit of an upheaval in my life and had to move to a new town. While living on someone else’s doorstep temporarily, I had to make a decision or two:
- Go begging at the bank for a mortgage so I could stress out on paying that back for the next few decades of my life, or
- Pay rent (a.k.a dead money) to somebody else for the rest of my life and potentially have issues with flatmates not paying their rent because their dog died/their car broke down/they just lost yet another job/they needed it to buy cigarettes, alcohol and other things they would have died without or,
- Consider my third alternative, which was to buy a caravan and resign myself to living in a tiny space again, after vowing and declaring I would never go down that insanity-inducing track again.
And so, the universe chuckled and here I am living in a tiny space again, only without the three kids, two dogs and parrot. And to my surprise, I find that I absolutely love it! Once again, I have to wander across the yard to use the bathroom, but I look at the trees, birds and stars and keep in touch with nature more than I would if living in a house. I wake up every morning, look at my wee home and think ‘mine, mine, mine!’. I can do what I want with the interior and exterior – change things and put shelves up and cupboards in and paint the whole durn place bright orange with purple highlights if I want, and it doesn’t bother anyone else and I don’t need to ask permission. From my bed, I can look at just about every belonging I have and enjoy it over and over again. And it keeps my overheads down, so I can continue my mad jaunts to Asia and go play with elephants once a year. Laugh all you like Universe – it doesn’t get much better than this…
Tiny House and ‘Normal House’ Living – Pros and Cons (May Contain Llamas)
There’s a lot to be said about living in a ‘real house’. As I’ve mentioned before, the divine presence of an automatic washing machine is number one in my book. Here are some other great things about it:
‘Real House Pros’ –
- The ability to watch t.v. and movies on giant screens.
- The ability to shut yourself in a room and get some peace and quiet from other humanoids, dogs, parrots, llamas or whatever you live with.
- The ability to stuff your dishes into a dishwasher if your mother-in-law or other visitors are on their way to visit.
- The ability to have visitors on a rainy day and send their kids into the next room so they may scream, throw things around and maul each other without getting up your nose.
- The ability to use taps that pour water out for as long as you want them to.
On the other hand, there are some not so great things about having a ‘Real House’:
‘Real House’ Cons –
- You have to mow the lawn. Unless you have a llama…
- You have to have lots of furniture, which is a total pain when it comes to shifting and can cause loss of friends.
- It takes ages to heat the whole place up on a cold day, meaning bigger power bills, unless you are lucky enough to be able to stay in bed all day with somebody yummy in which case you won’t give a damn.
- There is great potential for unsociability as everybody shuts themselves in their own room and plays with their Playstations/Ipads/Kindles/whatever rips their nightie.
- You just don’t go out and look at the stars as much. Why would you when you have an inside toilet?!
There’s also a lot to be said for living in a Tiny House. Let me count the ways:
Tiny House Pros –
- You don’t usually have to mow the lawn. Unless you own the property you’re on. In which case why don’t you have a llama??!!
- You don’t need lots of furniture, which means that on moving day your friends still love you – they may even come and watch and laugh as you play Tiny House Transit.
- If you’re smart (like me) you have one laptop that does everything. This means that you can lie in bed watching movies/Tv on Demand with the excellent justification that you are being practical by keeping warm and saving on the power bill/battery consumption. Even if you do have to heat the place, it usually only takes about five minutes – just long enough to put your llama away for the night.
- When friends come to visit, you tend to play Scrabble and other games that make you look intelligent. Plus all that extra body warmth in a small place helps warm your Tiny House up.
- You take a lot more notice of Nature. That bird in the tree that serenades you every morning. The stars that glimmer gorgeously above you when you’re on your way to the bathroom. The morning dew sparkling in the sunshine. The cute hedgehog that has snuggled up in your gumboots. Woh, wait a minute…
In all fairness though, Tiny House living is not for everybody. For some of the following reasons:
Tiny House Cons –
- Watching Lord of the Rings on a 12 inch screen just doesn’t cut it, no matter how loud you have the speakers up.
- Indoor privacy? What privacy?! If somebody comes to visit you and you’re not dressed yet, there’s that embarrassing moment while they wait outside for you to make yourself decent. Not a great way to keep friendships if it rains a lot where you live.
- Everyone can see your dishes all of the time. Which makes being a slack housekeeper really embarrassing.
- If your friends come to visit and bring their kids, you can’t shut them in another room. Which means you have to put up with the little
sodsdarlings being under your feet, interrupting your conversations and running their sticky little fingers all through your stuff for the duration.
- If you live like I do, you will have to fetch your own water regularly, several times a day in fact. Unless you have a water tank and pumps and stuff, which means having either a hose setup, or a gravity tank, and running a pump to get the water out of your taps which will run your battery down unless you have mega solar panels, which means you must have a set of trickle batteries, all of which costs you lots of money to set up. Personally I’d rather just go for a walk with the big jug.
So there we have it, a few of the pros and cons on both sides of the argument. There are many more, but that’s another bottle of wine for another day. But if you’re giving any thought to Tiny House living, go and talk to somebody that’s already doing it before deciding if it’s for you. They’ll be able to give you a bit of a run down on the reality of the situation. And you may even get to pat their llama.
Tiny House Living – Life Without a Television. The Ice – It comes!!
“Did you see blah blah blah last night…?”
“Nope. Haven’t got a television.”
I do caregiving for a living, so I stay for two days and two nights in a house each week. But even then I’m still not tempted to stare at the goggle-box. Unless there’s a good documentary on, or Bones – about the only drama I like to see regularly, because her autistic-type personality has a train-smash sort of fascination to it, and the other characters make me laugh. The other exception being America’s Next Top Model, but that’s because I like watching the photo shoots that they come up with. In between the shoots (when they’re bitching at each other about who should be doing the dishes or what a cow so-and-so is) I usually wander off and hand out meds or empty catheter bags or something else so much more fascinating.
It’s no hardship though, having no t.v. We do have the internet, after all, which can keep us amused for hours. Any question you can possibly come up with, Google will find an answer to it somewhere. Which is how I know that steam rollers don’t roll steam…
But the best thing we have is the outside world. When you don’t live in a house, you tend to live so much closer to Nature. So every time you traipse across the way to use the toilet in the utility area, you tend to look up at the stars along the way. And when you’re having an outside fire, you tend to flame-gaze – something we humans have been doing for millennia – and swap stories. That’s what we used to do before televisions came along – tell our own stories. Now they do it for us.
You take a lot more notice of the little beings around you too. When a wee bird flies into your awning, you to stop and have a chat with it. You also name the hedgehogs. And you get to know all your resident spiders quite intimately – watching them skydive on their silken threads, or build a new web, then going all gooey over their babies ‘cos they all look just like their mama…
You know when autumn is coming because you have to dodge falling chestnuts while hanging out the washing (helmets are recommended – them thur trees get quite tall) and sweep all the leaves out of your awning over and over. You know what the moon cycle is because it makes the difference between carrying a torch or not when you are walking to the toilet in the dark. And you know when it’s winter because the ice comes…
We don’t have snow in this part of New Zealand (North) but the South Islanders very kindly send us up a taste of what they’re getting by way of a Southerly wind – bitterly cold and reeking of snow without the fun part. They keep the snow for themselves, selfish blighters! So yesterday morning, after huddling away from a particularly fun cold snap the night before, had us running around looking at all the ice it had left behind. And me looking like a madwoman in my dressing gown bending in all sorts of positions to take photos of it. As you do, when you haven’t got a television…
Exhibit A: The bird bath –
To hell with dignity, I say!
Then we marvelled at this lot for a while. So much so, we actually forgot to make the coffee. I know, right??!!
I’m going to stop here and see if you can guess what this ice was sitting on. I’ll leave it for a day or two and see if anyone can figure it out. Send in your ideas of what you think it is. Go on, indulge me – I haven’t got a television.
* Days later –
This is where the ice came from – the tops of our rubbish bins.
Yeah, I know – small things amuse small minds. 😀
In Which I Give Mother Nature erm, a Certain Gesture, on a Cold, Rainy Night.
There’s a lot to be said for having an awning off the side of your caravan on a cold, rainy night. While sitting here with a hot water bottle stuffed up my clothing, somewhere between my merino undershirt, my lambswool jersey (purchased from a menswear department because menswear departments for some reason unknown often have better quality garments for lesser prices than their womenswear equivalents), and my very thick sweatshirt (also purchased from a menswear department for the aforementioned reasons), I have pondered upon this fact mightily.
A few weeks ago I pulled out all the coins and notes I had been stashing aside for a very long time and forked out for a new awning to be tailor-made to my requirements. It’s not that I didn’t like the original awning that came with the caravan, it’s just that I was running out of places to put duct tape to plug up the holes where the wind whistled beautiful melodies into my private spaces, and the water feature was quite frankly getting out of hand. Far be it from me to complain, but when the bits of duct tape begin to outnumber the bits of awning, a girl just has to get practical.
So I tracked down a local awning-maker and got him to whistle up a new outside room for me – a stylish, reasonable-sized number with burgundy walls and a cream roof. It has no windows – not that I have a problem with looking out at the world, but I’m a little averse to the outside world being able to look in at me – and features wide doorways which zip and unzip in a variety of combinations allowing me to have open walls wherever I like. A factor that is heavily dependent on which way the wind is blowing. The cream roof is fantastic! Obviously it didn’t stay pristine for very long, especially since I live under a plum tree, which seemed to take the new awning as a cue for raining down the heaviest crop I’ve ever seen it have yet onto my lovely light-coloured roof, but such are the trials and tribulations of indoor/outdoor living. Besides, the plums were rather tasty, and, most fortuitously, the splats some of them made didn’t clash at all with the burgundy walls . The first few mornings I opened the door and stepped out into the awning, my pre-caffeine brain told me I had left the outside light on. But no, it was merely a phenomenon called ‘natural light’ seeping joyfully through the roof. Those of you who have had to fumble around on a winters morning with a torch to find the kettle and associated accoutrements will undoubtedly appreciate this particular aspect as much as I do.
And so, here I sit with most of the long side of the awning open to nature, watching the raindrops descend outside my lovely new shelter and the solar lights twinkle in the thick darkness, snug in my sheepskin boots, Biggles hat, layers of wool and silk neck scarf, relishing the fact that I don’t have to be squashed up inside my caravan tiny house going slowly mad(der) while looking at the same four closed-in walls for the entire duration of winter.
Take THAT Mother Nature! Mwahaha!
23thorns – In Answer to Your Questions on Tiny House Living
There’s a great blog on the WordPress site written by a guy called 23thorns, full of witty descriptions on South African wildlife, parenting ups and downs, and all manner of other ravings. I had a nosy at his blog, he popped into mine and read one of my ravings on Tiny House Living, and he wrote a post of his own that posed a few questions about the lifestyle to which I am largely now accustomed.
The answer to why I went (back) into Tiny House Living is in my blog here
My point of view about some of the Pros and Cons of Tiny House Living is here
And the raving that 23thorns read about Tiny House Living is here
And now to his questions.
What do you do when you fight?
The quick answer to that is to live alone. Which I do. And I don’t tend to argue with myself a lot, although it has been known to happen. But that’s another bottle of wine… Having said that, my partner does come and spend time with me quite regularly, and although we rarely argue, that has been known to happen too. And as you say Mr Thorns, the satisfaction of slamming a door is generally denied to Tiny House People, and flouncing three feet across the floor has about as much satisfaction as pushing the ‘End’ button on a cellphone when you’re angry with the git on the other end – it just doesn’t cut it. In such circumstances, it is advisable to have a raincoat and gumboots (Wellingtons to some) and bugger off for a walk to let off a bit of your steam and maybe scare some of the inhabitants of the local duck pond if you’ve really got your knickers in a knot, and yes, chances are in the ‘Four Seasons in One Day’ weather we tend to have in New Zealand on a daily basis, you Will end up looking windswept and interesting
Does your underwear all smell of food?
Well that’s a bit personal, isn’t it?! Do I ask you if your underwear smells of baboons because they occasionally get into your house?
It is a good point though, and one I imagine has been found out through experience by beginner Tiny Housers. When designing your Tiny House, it does pay not to put your sleeping loft directly above your kitchen, if you can possibly help it. Although I’ve seen some pretty cool solutions to that in New Zealand house trucks and buses, including a brilliantly self-driven rustic Expel-air system created by cutting the innards of a small hot water cylinder lengthways, and attaching it to a telescoping chimney, which lowers over the stove, thus drawing any cooking smells (fragrant or otherwise) outside. As for my own setup, due to experiencing a gas explosion in the bus I used to live in (thanks to a rat getting between the inside and outside walls and chewing through the gas pipe combined with just the right mix of oxygen), I have my kitchen out in my awning, so it’s not really an issue for me and my underwear does not smell of last night’s fish and chips.
How big is your shed?
Part of the agreement where I’m situated is that I get use of a small storage area in the shed I’m parked next to. Everything I owned was quickly shoved in there when I arrived, and every year I go through that stuff and have a bit of a sort out. Anything I having used or yearned for or even thought about over the last year gets sold, tossed in the rubbish or donated to the nearest goodwill shop. Other Tiny Housers I have heard of have bravely and sensibly, done this Before moving into their Tiny House. In my own defense, I didn’t realize I would be returning to Tiny House Living until about a week before I did so, thus I was somewhat less prepared for it psychologically. It’s taken me a while to detach myself from some of my ‘treasures’, but with each year that goes by, I’m getting my head around it more and more. Anyway, I don’t want to talk about it…
Ever heard of these guys?
Movanners? Roadsnails? Part time Luxury motorhome dwellers? Wash your mouth out!
Do you have tiny cars, too?
Nope. I have what I fondly refer to as a ‘Housecar’. It’s a station wagon cunningly organized so that I can jump in at a moment’s notice and leave town comfortable in the knowledge that I can light a fire, cook, cut down a tree, store water, change my clothes every day for a week if I have to, and sleep quite comfortably. Admittedly, it does help to be a Tiny Person when it comes to that. I’ve actually slept very comfortably in my previous house car – a hatchback – after a night of erm, overindulgence, at a friend’s place and got up in the morning having had a wonderful night’s sleep. Many Tiny House people are also greatly advantaged in that the gear they use for everyday life can also double as emergency equipment. Which isn’t a silly idea in New Zealand where we have any number of live volcanoes, experience at least one earthquake somewhere in our country every day and are on constant alert for tidal waves. Within two weeks of moving into my Tiny House, I had to flee from my home twice and go hang out on someone’s doorway who lived several feet higher than I do, due to tsunami warnings. There’s no lack of excitement around here.
I truly hope I haven’t frightened your wife off her pending visit to our beautiful isles…
Do vandals ever move your house while you’re sleeping?
Funny you should ask. That has indeed happened to me once. Not by a vandal though – by my partner-at-the-time. We were parked up at a large gathering of house truckers (a unique New Zealand eccentricity) and attended a ‘Gypsy Ball’ on a Saturday night, an affair that was well attended, musically fabulous and once again involved a modicum of ‘indulgence’. I opened one eye the next morning, in our sleeping loft, to find there was a tree branch poking in the window that had a little bird on it serenading me with a chirpy but overly enthusiastic morning song. Sadistic little shite. When I looked out, the scenery had changed completely and I had no idea where the heck I was. Turned out my partner had woken at some disgusting hour of the morning and decided there was a much better parking spot half a mile yonder, sparked up the motor and drove the bus there while I slept through the whole thing. It creates an interesting sensation, to say the least, in a hung over brain, and it’s quite surreal for a few minutes until your brain cells are holding hands again and re-piece your internal mapping device and you put together where you are in relation to planet earth.
Otherwise, the answer is no.
So I hope that answers your questions satisfactorily, Mr Thorns. Any else, you but need to ask and I’ll try to enlighten you as best I can.
Have a great day – I insist.