Sometimes I think I’d like to build a Tiny House ™, something small, easy to keep tidy, with enough but no more than I need. Part of this is being an inveterate pack rat who is haunted by the shame I would feel if, God forbid, I ever had a house fire and the firemen discovered the mess in the cellar. My reasoning is that if I lived in a tiny house I would have to streamline–a place for everything and everything in its place, a nearly Zen approach to living. Another contributing factor to my interest in small dwellings is that at least if you have to replace the roof on a tiny house, you don’t have to risk life and limb to do it and it doesn’t take six weeks of backbreaking work. (See my post “Dear Santa” for the roof episode that may have triggered this reflection.) A tiny house is eco-friendly, too, using minimal building materials and consciously modest amounts of water, fuel, and electricity (some are totally off-grid, which is the option I’d choose, I think.) But I suppose the most basic reason I have for considering a tiny house is that the world you tallfolk have shaped for yourselves is just too darned big for me.
Standing at five feet-and-one-half-inch when I remember to pull my shoulders back, I am constantly made aware that the rest of the world operates at least a foot over my head. If the jar of peanut butter I want is on the top shelf of the supermarket–most likely stacked at least two jars high by a 6’4″ teenaged basketball player earning money for college–I must either stretch my fingertips for it, praying that I don’t drop the glass jar and create a “clean-up in aisle five,” or ask someone nearby to reach it down for me. Everyone is unfailingly glad to help, but there’s always a smile or twinkle in their eyes. Not unpleasant, but a reminder that I inhabit a world which most adults leave behind at twelve years, the world of dependence on a grown-up.
Standard measurements used in the world of construction leave me at a disadvantage. Consider, for example, the industry standard for upper cabinets in a kitchen. They are based on the assumption that the average person’s reach over and into an upper cabinet is 70-80 inches from the floor. Now, I can reach a height of 70″, but actually this is only about 60″ plus the 12″ to the back of the cabinet. In practice, then, I can reach anything on the first shelf and items on the very front of the second, but beyond that is step stool territory, and, frankly, there’s stuff on the top shelves so old it might just as well have been buried with some pharoah’s larder for the afterlife. Clearly, then, what I really need isn’t cabinets at all, but rather a pantry wall, something like the picture on the left. Something built to my scale.
My little house wouldn’t be austere, of course. There’s a whole world of nifty appliances made just for boats, tiny homes, RVs, and other places where space is at a premium. I would have a great little fireplace/furnace like this: And a mini fridge with a freezer so I could have my coffee ice cream and even a washer/dryer combo that is all one machine! Who knew they even made such things! The gadget geek in me is in seventh heaven just looking at the catalogs.
If I built my little house on a trailer chassis, I could be a gypsy in the winter, heading for sunlight and warmth wherever I pleased, a snowbird towing her own snug birdhouse. “Travels With Gracie.” Sweet…
Practically speaking, it ain’t gonna happen for several reasons.
The very design of a house on wheels–which is constrained to less than the width of a standard lane on a road and the weight that a pickup truck can tow–means that of necessity, interior space is at a premium. Take the bathroom, for instance. In many models this is only about two-and-a-half feet wide. It is a wet bath, meaning there is no separate shower stall. Instead, the entire bathroom is the shower stall (the walls, ceiling, and floor are all covered with waterproof material), and one stands in the middle of the floor and showers. It’s ingenious, but I wouldn’t want to have to towel dry the whole darned room–including the sink and toilet–afterward; not when the house had the best undermount stainless steel kitchen sinks for granite countertops cleaning. And like many who carry the weight of their years in their butt, I’d be afraid that if I tried to turn around in that narrow space, it would take the Jaws of Life to get me out again.
In a similar vein, most of these designs feature a sleeping loft with a mattress on the floor, a window for the breeze, and a cozy quilt. It’s a bit like crawling into a tent every night, I should think, but snug and secure from bears, raccoons, and other beasties. Because there is no room for a staircase with a railing, these lofts are accessed by a steep ladder, which is fine for an agile young person who neither sleepwalks nor needs to use the still-damp-from-the-shower potty during the night. Well, I don’t sleepwalk (to my knowledge), but the bathroom thing is pretty major, so that’s another deal breaker.
So, no, a tiny house isn’t practical for me. My eyes really like the pictures, but my head knows I couldn’t live in so confined a place after the novelty wore off. Besides, if there were no cellar full of jumbled stuff, where would Gracie and the mousies have their fun?