Small and efficient living is not for everyone, so I wanted to see if my family could manage it.
Many of us by now have heard of “tiny houses.” But for those who haven’t, they are small houses that can range anywhere from 100-500 square feet and make use of every inch of the space.
For my family, the thought of reducing our possessions to the essentials and owning our own home by X-year has always been a tempting one. I was lucky enough to have an experience in my car, but now, my wife and I agreed it was time to experience it together with our two small kids. We planned for a 2 night stay outside of Miami because we wanted an escape from steamy weather. We settled on Atlanta, since the autumn season had just begun and we were craving more pumpkins and changing leaves in the scenery.
We took to Airbnb to find a tiny house that met some of our design requirements. There are a few things that matter to us: a nice, functional kitchen and the illusion that there is a lot of space. This one we settled on was quite amazing, and even featured a video of the build.
We planned to cook all our meals during those several days, to really see if we could pull it off comfortably. We chose meals that required some prep time and would use both the stove and oven. For the first dinner, we chose baked macaroni and cheese with sausage and broccoli.
The second test on the kitchen was to cook together at the same time, to see if there would be enough room, or if we would be pushing and shoving. To our pleasant surprise, the cooking went smoothly. The kitchen utilized the entire width of the tiny home and ensured that no space was wasted. The kitchen table in the kitchen area can be folded away for even more room. Our current kitchen is much bigger in square footage, but it was designed terribly! Only one of us can be in it at a time and it doesn’t even have an oven!
The bathroom was excellently designed. It included a full sized shower, a flushable toilet (not composting, which is often the case in tiny houses), storage drawers, a sink and a mirror. Also in the bathroom was the washer and dryer combo.
The bathroom was good height, which was surprising considering there was a loft right above it. I had about 6 inches from the top of my head to the ceiling (and I’m almost 6 feet tall). We’ve lived in places with downright tiny bathrooms and this bathroom felt fantastically large. Included was a locking sliding door and a venting fan.
The one downside I could find was that the toilet was hooked to a septic tank as was the shower. This meant when you stepped into the shower, you would get a whiff of what was in the tank.
The first thing I noticed in the living area was seating—there’s no soft, inviting couch to sink into because they just take up too much space. Your choices for sitting were the bench seating that lined the walls of the “living room” or wooded foldable Ikea chairs.
What might seem uncomfortable to some was a blessing in disguise: I was less tempted to lounge in one place longer than I needed, because it just hurt after a while. I found myself up more often, either organizing things or hanging out outside.
That’s one of the benefits of a tiny house—It can be used as more of a utility rather than a cage to ingest hours upon hours of Netflix. I missed the coziness of a couch, but found myself more engaged in tangible things and activities. More time was spent walking the neighborhood or entertaining my son.
Lofts have a way of turning the sleep routine a chore. I never liked climbing my bunk bed as a kid, and I especially do not like it now that I am an adult.
One loft in the house had a staircase which my fragile feet and knees could appreciate, but the other loft had a ladder. We did not feel comfortable having our three-year-old climb that high yet, so we took it for ourselves. A staircase takes so much room so I understand not having two. The only thing worse than climbing up a ladder to go to sleep is climbing down, especially if you have to pee or tend to one of the kids.
Other than the climbing factor, sleeping in a plush futon mattresses on a springy wooden loft felt luxurious. The heat rose to keep us toasty during the fall weather that weekend.
Overall, everyone loved the experience. I noticed that I spent more enjoyable time around my family. We all worked better as a team when it came to cooking and cleaning, because we were right next to each other and there was nothing else to do but help—no opportunity to escape into another room to “work” or to “relax.” Instead, we relaxed and worked as a family.
We want to spend longer periods of time in a tiny house under more stressful conditions, but we left Atlanta with a sense of peace and unity, dreading our return to Miami because it favors a superficial culture where more is better. A tiny house may very well be in our future, but there are lots of laws that make it difficult to own and live in a tiny house. Too much red tape for us to navigate at the moment.