Tiny House, Tiny Living, The Tiny Life.

A Case Against Tiny Houses

I firmly believe that for this movement to grow, it is important to consider the viewpoints of detractors of Tiny Houses.  An open dialogue conducted in a civil manner serves many functions including building consensus and reminding ourselves of the possible downsides of Tiny Houses.  A recent article criticizing tiny houses seemed to take it a bit far when they likened people who want to live in Tiny Houses to Ted Kaczynski.

Like I said, I find that to be pretty outrageous, but more to the point, Tiny Houses are still a very small movement and its good to keep that in mind, even when we enthusiastically plan our future Tiny Houses or talk our friends ear off about this and that for our Tiny House.  In some ways Tiny Houses aren’t a new thing, but people seem to get caught up in a notion that we want everyone to live in 100 square feet, which isn’t true.  About once a month I get an email from someone who is very upset because they feel that I want their entire family of 4 to live in a tumbleweed house, but I posted about how that isn’t the case here.

So while I find the particular article to be not constructive or open to a dialogue.  I thought I would post some of the follow up comments from it as a way to get a glimpse into the viewpoints of those who think Tiny Houses are a terrible idea.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

47 Comments
  1. Everyone needs to remember——people thought the world was FLAT once. Given enough time people will open their eyes to posibilities for themselves. WE of the enlightened just need to continue on our way.

  2. Funny; I think that what we may be looking at here is a fear of government-mandated downsizing from some, the usual ‘tard’ comments from a certain segment of the less-than-literati, a niggling realization that they perhaps have been ‘had’ by the constant commercialization of our lives to buy more than they can really afford, but now they’re stuck, and lastly, an existential fight between the extroverts and the introverts.

    I used to feel compelled, mostly by women’s magazines and advertising, to have enough room to ‘entertain'; a family room was required, and a great room, and a ‘gourmet’ kitchen (for my peanut butter and jelly sandwiches???) and a formal dining room; all needing initial cost, expensive furniture, upkeep, and taxes paid on them. Finally realized, I hate to ‘entertain’ and if I do, it’s one on one, not a crowd. I was a nervous wreck the few times I hosted a large family gathering and swore never again. Turns out if you want to get a large group together, it’s the easiest thing to just call up a local restaurant and reserve a room or a large table. Everybody kicks in a few bucks and has a nice party and someone else does the work!

    As someone who has lived in many different size and kind of homes including a tipi, a yurt, a 50’s 1700 SF ranch, an English style 500 SF cottage, a 110 year old farmhouse on acreage, and a modern condo and many nondescript apartments, my favorite was the tipi and the cottage; both had style and a sense of place and actual aliveness that the others never acquired. I actually cried for weeks after I had to leave the tipi and go back to what at that time I called, ‘white man house’ because the square corners and lack of air movement and outside sounds so disturbed me; like being in prison…

    To all the big house advocates; maybe you live in your house; I live in my mind; my favorite activities are reading, surfing the web for interesting information, making a simple meal, washing and sleeping. Small amount of storage needed for favorite books, a few clothes and memorabilia. I could easily put everything I own, and everything I need to do indoors, into 200 SF or so. Need more space, step outside. Turns out, the outdoors is really BIG! I feel sorry for you with your big houses, big bills, big upkeep and big taxes.

  3. Wow, that article definitely takes a less than civil tone. Kudos for being civil in response.

    For anyone curious: the article is easily searchable, but I wouldn’t have linked to it either. The information shared in this post is more than enough to give you an idea of what the actual article says.

  4. “I firmly believe that for this movement to grow, it is important to consider the viewpoints of detractors of Tiny Houses.” Very sound advice, Ryan. This can be said of any situation. Always be aware of the counter-arguments and always try and falsify your own claims. It’s very important in order to check the knowledge we absorb for soundness.

    Having said that, some of the comments there are ridiculous. But it’s typical of any potentially polarising discussion. As a matter of distraction, the opposition will argue that you’re trying to force them into something they disagree with. I’ve never seen that language used by any of the writers within the Tiny House Movement. The language tends to be more “We’re going to do this, because we think it is good. We hope other people will think this is good too, and will do it.” What I have noticed from the detractors, though, is silly arguments trying to stop people from building tiny houses. Saying that it is child abuse trying to bring children up in such a small space, and so on.

    I’m not aware of a moral case either way concerning tiny houses. Perhaps I should give writing one a go.

    • All we have to do is look at the settlers of the west. living in wagons as they moved west. soddy’s were little more than 12 x12 if that in some cases. and the first log cabins back east were not McMansions either. people do not need huge spaces in which to live caves were often not huge, and teepees, etc. etc. So of course ignorent people say dumb things untill they get knowledge. we just need to keep on keeping on fellow tiny houser’s.

    • Right on Paul! Tiny house bloggers are about the most chill people I know, they aren’t really into trying to force people into tiny houses, quite the opposite really.

    • Hey Paul!

      I wrote a post about this topic a little bit ago, check it out here: http://www.thetinylife.com/is-it-etical-to-raise-a-child-in-a-tiny-house/

    • Why is this a polarizing issue? I guess maybe I’m naive enough to really not understand why people get so mad about other people’s choices.

      • It is a polarizing issue for the same reason a black wolf doesn’t fit in with a white wolf pack. It’s not the norm. We are afraid of change because of the unknown factor. People are uncomfortable with change even if the change helps them personally. They become mad because the change challenges their concept of what is right,(the norm).
        Anything that disrupts the financial flow is frowned upon and that is the purpose of regulations

      • It is a polarizing issue for the same reason a black wolf doesn’t fit in with a white wolf pack. It’s not the norm. We are afraid of change because of the unknown factor. People are uncomfortable with change even if the change helps them personally. They become mad because the change challenges their concept of what is right,(the norm).
        Anything that disrupts the financial flow is frowned upon and that is the purpose of regulations. You can’t build a structure over 120 sq. ft. without pulling a permit than then increases property value which increases property taxes.
        Deek is exactly right in his “cure for cancer” comment. Until they can dip their beak into the money they are against “it” no matter what it is. The question is how do you react and overcome.

  5. All you need to do is look at some of the inane comments on Youtube directed towards young Austin Hay and the tiny house he built when he was 16 years old. It seems that when you build a Tiny House and have a lot of youtube views you run into a lot of very ignorant closed-minded people.They don’t comprehend that we who live in tiny houses don’t demand that they also choose that life. I find most often that they make a judgement without looking at the whole story.You won’t get through to a person making an uneducated opinion on something they know absolutely about and their greatest desire in life is to make comments like “he will never get l**d by a girlfriend in that tiny shack”
    Don’t try civil discourse when speaking to a moron.It is a waste of valuable oxygen.
    Just keep on designing and building and living in the house that fits your needs.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sOCGd2h1Zxs
    Robert
    TheTinyBungalow

    • Robert,

      You are very right on the youtube comments, I have quite a few videos on youtube and people are so hateful! Even here on the blog we have people once in a while that say some terrible things. For the most part I leave them unless they are using curse words or racist/sexist/otherists, even then I often just edit them to change out the words to less offensive stand ins.

  6. Thanks for sharing this. I’ve run into the negative comments and I’ve let them get me down more than once. But you’re right, we should talk about these things to get them in the open.

    I do love the assertion that the government may “mandate” things like this. Based on the difficulty tiny house builders are having with codes and zoning, I really don’t see this as a problem, immediate or otherwise, here in the US.

    • Thanks, Laurie. I agree with you that we need to get these issues out in the open but not let the people who are so negative get to us. That’s why I’m sad people are focusing just on the comments on the article and Ryan didn’t post a link to the article itself – I know I haven’t even read all of the comments because most of them are just uninformed and silly. The positive responses we’ve seen through email and the hundreds of supporters we’ve had in this area who have come out for open houses, meetups, and building work days in the past six months are what I like to focus on rather than the negativity.
      Good luck with your project, I follow your blog.
      Lee

      • Hello Lee,

        I saw your comments, I think there has been some confusion, the article that I took these from was entitled “Environmentalists Push for Downsizing … to 200-Sq. Ft. Homes” by Liz Thatcher. I didn’t want to post a link because I felt that doing so would actually benefit them.

        The article your are referring to, which you named in a later comment was entitled “Home squeezed home” by Emily Wax of Huffington Post. The Huff’s article on Boneyard and the comments that I pulled these were not from that article.

        I think if you google “Environmentalists Push for Downsizing … to 200-Sq. Ft. Homes” by Liz Thatcher and see that article you’ll find it to be very different from (not in a good way) from the Huff article.

        Thanks for commenting!

        Ryan

  7. It’s funny they are complaining about being forced to live in tiny houses when we are working very hard just to let them be allowed… mandating would come WAY far down the line from there and honestly, not very smart for a country to do. Overall the article irks me, but there are always two sides to a coin and there will always be people with opinions that are different. I’m glad it’s being talked about, even the hate news reaches new people who can then form their own opinions. Maybe someone will see that and it will change their life. Hopefully it won’t be discouraging to too many.

  8. Hi Ryan, I wish you would have linked to the article, so readers can see that the article wasn’t exactly negative only the comments were negative. Emily Wax, the reporter, wasn’t trying to be negative in the article. And if you look on Reddit, all of the comments there were more positive.

    The article, entitled “Home squeezed home” in the Washington Post is about the community I am a part of here in DC where I am building a tiny house along with three others – Boneyard Studios is the name. We feel that there are way too many press articles on “oh look at those cute tiny homes situated on some beautiful rural landscape” or “oh, look at those crazy people living in tiny homes.” The press does not cover most people doing this in urban areas and questions they face: zoning, code, are these even possible as another means of affordable housing in a more densely populated area? We don’t have the answers, but we wanted to try and live the questions through our pilot urban tiny house community.

    We wished the article would have addressed more of the nuances of how tiny houses are affordable (or not given lack of financing) and city building code and zoning that prohibit a lot of people from building smaller: be it tiny homes on wheels or accessory dwelling units that would allow for greater urban infill, but we are glad that Emily portrayed our project in a larger context of housing and affordability. I hope more tiny house builders will come forward with some of the challenges they face, as we hear from people all the time about how they’d love to do what we are doing but they want to see some of the challenges addressed first.

    Thanks,

    Lee

    And a link to a follow-up Q&A we did with a local real estate / urban development blog.
    http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/one_on_one_tiny_homes_on_wheels/6357

    • Hey Lee,

      I already replied to your other comment, but wanted to be sure to cover all the bases :) The article that I took these from was entitled “Environmentalists Push for Downsizing … to 200-Sq. Ft. Homes” by Liz Thatcher which was posted on a small time news blog. I didn’t want to post a link because I felt that doing so would actually benefit them.

      A excerpt highlights my point here:

      “The Tiny-House movement is another push by eco-nuts to get Americans to give up comfort and “consumerism.” Living in tiny houses where there is no room for anything means buying less, which – on a large enough scale — means a crippled economy and shuttered businesses. So such asceticism definitely has its attraction for the “responsible environmental citizen.” Just ask Ted Kaczynski.”

      Thanks for commenting!

      Ryan

      • Hey Ryan,
        Thanks for the explanation. I did come across that Huff Post article the next day. Unfortunately, many of the comments on the Wash Post article were also very negative, which is why I assumed you were referring to that one. I now also understand you not wanting to post a link to drive traffic to a blogger’s website.
        Thanks again,
        Lee

      • OMG! That last sentence was sooo uncalled for!!! Talk about a “low blow” to our cause! She certainly knows how to make enemies. :-(

  9. And a link to a follow-up Q&A we did with a local real estate / urban development blog.

  10. I don’t understand why you didn’t post the article or a link to the article. I spent several minutes trying various searches (it doesn’t help that you can’t highlight the comments you supplied either). You cannot have a dialogue or critique or debate without examining both sides. I ended up reading the Emily Wax article Lee mentioned above, but you cannot have been referring to that as it is not critical. Yes, the comments are fear-based and less-than-intelligent, but I’d be more interested in the pieced of purported journalism that inspired them. Sigh.

    • Hey Alex,

      The link was posted below by a Robert. To provide a link to their site actually helps their site. The way google and other search engines work is they, in part, determine how important a website is by looking at how many other website link to it. More links, means they place higher in the google rankings, which means more money for them through advertisements etc.

      So linking indirectly gives them money. It’s a tough call for me as a the author of the post. But now you have the link in Robert’s comment. So feel free to check it out and sorry for the difficulty.

  11. http://newsbusters.org/blogs/liz-thatcher/2012/11/28/environmentalists-push-downsizing-200-sq-ft-homes

    Slightly more dismissive than the article about squeezed homes and references to self-proclaimed lover of tiny spaces and well constructed play houses.
    One article is from some author with an agenda the other article while meaning well missed the point of the alley built project.Or more to the point failed to really explain the project.

    The article linked to above is from some blogger that thinks Global Climate change is a myth and that anyone trying to restore the environment by doing something about it,is an Eco-Nut.
    The dream they strive to preserve of Buy Buy Buy and more more more is what has gotten us into this place,place,place!
    Robert
    TheTinyBungalow

    • Robert,

      The link you provided is the article that prompted my post.

      The Huffington Post article was not where these comments were copied from.

  12. Forgot to point out. The Blog linked to is directed towards readers of similar ilk. The comments are of course slanted in the direction of the thought process of the author.If it were not, how could they stand to read such drivel?

  13. I imagine their biggest fear is that they will start allowing tiny homes into their McMansion subdivisions. God forbid!!! LOL!

  14. As a person who lives in a tiny house (160 square feet), I can tell you from my stand point it saved my life. As you know I had a major stroke this year, and I can’t work. Hospital costs made my life hell, as did doctor and medicine bills. If My wife had had a mortgage or had rented we would be homeless right now. Our tiny house was finished last year and we bought it with our own money. Any person that is a naysayer would change their tune in a minute if they had to trade places with me.
    As far as the house goes itself, we love it. No more all day cleaning, no more rent, our utility’s are 2 buck a month for our gas bill (water, heat, and cooking), our electric is about 50 cents a day. This is in the winter. So as far as a huge house being more efficient that’s plain rubbish. We love our house. No more useless things, no more clutter just the bare essentials. We have a fully stocked kitchen (I’m a chef) so we can make anything, we have an awesome entertainment center, we have a shower, a bed, and even a sofa (super comfy). In fact I have everything I need for a perfect life. I live in a tiny house. Most do not. Their opinions do not matter to me. Let them buy all their useless stuff and live in debtors prison doing jobs they hate. I’m going fishing…

    • Amen!! :) Joe I’m glad you’re doing better. I love your guys’ blogs and all you share about your large Tiny Life. Peace.

  15. A good many of the detractors come from a realm of fear- fear of change, and the inability to think outside the box- concrete, obtuse, thinking. These ideas aren’t being forced or mandated on them, so I never understand why these type people have such strong and hateful reactions- perhaps its because the movement makes them re-evaluate how they live and overly consume, and they feel they’re being judged, or perhaps they don’t like what they see. The gut reaction becomes one of hate and defensiveness. Look at history, people fight against that which they don’t understand, even if its none of their immediate business at all.
    On another note, one of the biggest anti-tiny housing emails I ever received came from (it turned out) a guy who built HUGE(!) homes for a living. He felt the notion was threatening his profits.
    As I always say, “Even if you came up with a cure for cancer, there would still be someone who would bitch about it”. You can’t please everyone. Never will.

    • I can think of thousands of people who would complain about a cure for cancer. That is BIG BUSINESS and has made many rich. Shame, but it’s true.

    • Deek- perfect distillation. Nuff said.

  16. I’ve found there are a certain class of people that take umbrage to any new perspective, as an assault upon their way of thinking or living. Often these fearful people are heard talking about personal freedom, but it would seem that after reading their comments here they are only talking about their freedom. Fortunately, we still have the Constitution (barely) so that should be a reminder to our fearful fellow citizens that they live in a pluralist democracy, even though the voting system is anchored in the 18th century. Not owning a small house, I’ve been observing small house builders for years and don’t know of a single instance where they say someone “must” build small. The most radical thing I hear from the small house fraternity is that they think people “should” seriously consider building smaller. Apart from that, the most radical thing they ask for is a piece of land upon which to build. But then, they encounter their fearful friends again who scream “Not In My Back Yard!” I’ve lived in lots of cities and neighborhoods and I can attest to the fact that there are plenty of old wealthy areas that have tiny houses from many years ago living quite comfortably next to multi-million dollar state-of-the-art “machines for living”. So to our fearful fellow citizens, I would say this…. Don’t get your underpants in a twist. Small houses have always been with us and always will be, because they honestly reflect more about us than do the vacuous McMansions that are just another form of domestic warehousing. You’ll never be obliged to live in a small house, unless your own income or the growing influence of corporatocracy forces you into one. So relax, and who knows, someday you find them attractive enough to actually look inside one of them for once.

  17. I like to keep an open mind while I’m considering a decision. Once I’ve made my decision I try to ignore the detractors and invest my full energy in making it work. If a small business owner spends a significant amount of time thinking about their problems instead of solutions, he or she is doomed to fail. I feel the same way about building a small house. If I spend too much time worrying about it, I’ll never get anything done. Better to start working and solving problems than reading opinions from people you don’t know, who don’t support your idea. Its almost always better to try and to fail than to not try in the first place.

  18. Unfortunately, while our society prides itself on individuality, there is a large degree of conformity that is expected of you. The debate we’ve had over tiny houses is just one example of this. Tell anyone that you’re not into professional sports, or that you’re not into pop culture, or that you don’t own a T.V., or that you homeschool your kids, or you’re not into celebrating the holidays…..people think there’s something really *REALLY* wrong with you! And, you know, since I tend to be quiet and introverted, which is outside the American mainsteram, I must be up to some kind of terrorist attack! ;-)

    • Wow. I’m not into team sports, teevee, I homeschooled the kids and I’m not much for an over-commercialized fake holiday season either.

      The only freedom America offers now is to keep your mouth shut about what you really think; otherwise, you’re free to be a sheep and a ‘consumer'; anything else is tantamount to a combination of heresy and treason.

    • As a very happy introvert, I can relate very well. I also homeschooled my son (now 26) and did indeed get “the look” but I didn’t care. It was our life and I was doing a heck of a lot better than his school system was doing!

      I think it is very important for those interested in the tiny/small home movement to ignore all the naysayers and those who put us down. Stick to groups such as this one who encourage and make you feel good about what you are trying to do. It’s your life and no one else can live it but you. ;-)

    • When I was in sixth grade, I asked a classmate what they thought about the Vietnam War (my parents took us to protest marches and I watched it on the news every evening). My classmate said, “The class thinks your boring.” (They also didn’t know who Johnny Cash was any more than I really knew about the Beatles.)

  19. I am (always) interested in discussion. A discussion is an exchange of ideas (hopefully civilly) in order to learn of and evaluate the points of a subject. This is how we form opinions.
    But negative, uninformed or plain Trollish ‘statements’ do not constitute conversation nor do they invite it. So don’t feed the Trolls. No one is forcing them to live in this way
    (or read this blog for that matter). Spend your energy on the positive.

  20. Two observations I just had;

    1. RE: ‘Ted Kaczinsky’ or however you spell his name; ironic that society is now spending over 50K a year to house him in a 10 x 10 cell in maximum security prison. How’s that for ‘mandated tiny homes…’?

    2. I’ve been spending a lot of time lately reading and discussing medical marijuana and ayahuasca and both the medical and spiritual benefits that can possibly be had from thinking outside the box. That’s what our U.S. culture is so afraid of having us do, think outside the box, vibrate on a different frequency, think differently, have a change of consciousness (and the knowledge of ‘other’ that comes from that), or even to think for one tiny second about possibly doing things differently when the need to do things differently is ever increasingly more apparent in all spheres. Our daily lives are built on a foundation that is inherently unsustainable.

    Yee Gods, we’re all in such prisons by the thought processes we’re surrounded by; it’s consumerism, blind patriotism, continual propaganda that we live in the free-est country in the world when it is anything but…

    I’m reminded of the ‘Garbage Warrior’ movie where he was prevented from building Earthships by idiotic U.S. code enforcers but conversely welcomed with open arms in Mexico when emergency housing was needed after a storm. What exactly kind of country are we in, that touts freedom and conversely legislates and propagandizes it away?

    How exceedingly odd it all is. Crazy-making, in fact.

  21. less is more. i dont get the point in having big houses. i’m an introvert, so i live in my mind anyways. thanks for this awesome post.

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