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Posts Tagged Tiny Houses

What Tiny Houses Mean For Urban Density

Yesterday I was talking about tiny houses with another tiny house aficionado when the topic of how do tiny houses intersect with the need in the future for more urban density.  There have been several studies suggesting that in order to meet the needs of the future, more and more people are going to have to live in cities.  The land around cities will also have to be shifted to agricultural spaces to support these cities with food that can be produced within a few hours travel time.

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So what do tiny houses mean for this potential future?  Tiny houses provide a living laboratory for people to try out different design ideas, utility systems, storage solutions, and learn lessons that can be taken and applied to small sustainable housing of the next evolution of the city.  I have been asked many of times: “how do you think you’ll get the same density with tiny houses as you do apartment buildings?”  The simple answer is I’m not.

In a city setting essentially you could have same interiors, but the outside form would be one that is stack-able.   Since you can’t have side wall windows or a sky light, we are going to have to make the end walls floor to ceiling windows to get enough light in.  We will need to design as part of the master plan, outdoor living spaces that people actually want to hang out in, with roof top gardens, building courtyards, local community gardens, and great parks.

In the suburbs and rural areas I’d expect to see more mini villages pop up in the form of co-housing projects.  These villages would most likely allow people who want to live in the country do so, but also be the hubs for agricultural activities for themselves and the cities.

I struggle personally with the notion that we may be faced with living more and more in dense cities because I am one that likes room to roam, a quite place to sit and think and green space to be in.   Here in Charlotte, while it is a very sizable city, I live on several acres. I have been fortunate enough to travel a good bit and even cities that have done a really good job with their parks and green spaces, I still find myself feeling smothered by tall buildings and concrete.  Cities certainly offer a lot to do, but there is something deep inside of me that resonates with being outdoors in the woods.  Something that I fear no high density city will be able to provide me with.

Your Turn!

  • How do you see the future of housing?
  • What will the cities and country look like for a sustainable future?

Tiny Houses and Pets

One of the first questions my friends and family asked us when we announced our intention to build Big Red was, “What about Angel?”

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Angel is our 50 lb pit mix, and as you can tell from the question, everyone who meets her becomes a big fan. She’s a rescue, who came to us as a foster with six puppies, all since successfully adopted, and is now a certified therapy dog. She’s the sweetest, most lovable… sorry, I’m sure everyone thinks their dog is the best dog. Angel has papers that say she is, though! She passed tests and everything!

I digress. And I will take this opportunity to post as many Angel pictures as possible.

Pet ownership poses a special challenge for Tiny House aspirants. How do we best accommodate the needs of a pet or pets who did not actively choose the tiny life, the way we did? Possessed of both cats and a dog, I see the challenges of both audiences. Not owners of birds or reptiles or rodents, however, but seeing as how those are mostly stationary animals, all that entails is carving out a single location for them, and perhaps a single trade-off: Bird or Fridge? Snake or Toilet? Fancy Rat or Fancy Wine Cooler? Dogs and cats (and, I suppose, other larger mobile companion animals such as pygmy swine) need room to roam.

Now, I’m mainly addressing urban and suburban pet owners, like myself here. I’ve lived in the country and met many a wonderful yard dog in my time, so if your pet is mostly unfamiliar with the inside of a house, there really isn’t too much to adapt. Also, I make the assumption that the owner and pet are separated for part or most of the day, similar to my situation. If you get to be or plan to be home with your pet, it will be easier to accommodate mid-day walks.

phooIn the same vein, our two cats are semi-outdoor animals (that’s Phooey to the left; Shucks is camera-shy). Please don’t be mad at me. I’ve had many friends, back when I was a park ranger, who insisted all domestic cats should be strictly indoor animals due to both documented increased cat health and feline avicidal tendencies. Domestic and feral cats kill a shockingly large number of songbirds every year. I kept them indoors as long as it was just me and the cats, but Alan does not enjoy rambunctious felines at 3 am. Since my marriage is apparently more important to me than all of bird-dom, out they went.

I’m not too worried about how they’ll adapt to Big Red, since they’ll have regular, unsupervised access to the Great Outdoors, where they will hopefully adapt to using the Great Outdoors as the Great Litter Box. Otherwise, I’ll place a litter box under the house for occasional use, because Big Red is too small for stray litter to be flying around. I think it’s important to accustom all pets to eating on a schedule (I’ve had a vet tell me this), so there won’t be food left out for raccoons, either. I can have them in when I want a snuggle, or when the weather is bad. I don’t think they’ll have trouble with the confinement for short periods of time, as they also enjoy tight spaces and the security of cubby holes when indoors.

Angel, on the other hand, spends the majority of her day indoors, preferably on our bed where where she is absolutely prohibited. Angel-shaped divots in the comforter reveal she does not observe the prohibition. However, this also tells me that she doesn’t spend her day wandering the house, taking up space. The key is, she’s a low-energy, almost zen-like dog. She’s The Dude of dogs.

Breed and personality is critical here. If you have the choice, and you are considering a joint dog-and-tiny-house project, please think about the type of dog that would enjoy small living spaces. Often, it’s not the size of the dog, but the energy level that dictates it’s space needs, and energy level can vary within breeds, so get to know your new friend before deciding your lifestyle will be a good fit.

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If you already have a dog, and that dog needs 2 miles of running and 3 hours of ball-chasing a day to stay sane, you might want to consider alternative daytime arrangements for your pooch. I will not personally advocate outdoor kenneling, because many more experienced dog experts have told me it’s bad for them, but the most luxurious kennel probably beats many places I’ve lived myself, so I’m not sure I can judge, given some thought to climate control and socialization. However, dog sitting and doggie daycare are other possible options.

Outdoor  fencing is also important for your dog’s safety during supervised playtime, especially if you are near roads or other hazards. Angel is not the type to go more than 50 feet from the house, unless the neighbors are grilling, but if your dog is the adventurous type, put some thought into containment of a physical sort. The size of one’s house does not necessarily dictate the amount of outdoor space you might have at your dog’s disposal, but adequate play-n-poop, non-concrete ground is pretty important, and that area should be fenced off if at all possible.

Food storage will also be an issue. Just like tiny house dwellers have to think creatively about buying other staples in bulk, pet food is most economically found in large quantities. I’m not yet sure how we’ll tackle this problem with both cat and dog food, but it may involve Rube Goldberg (dog food falling from a ceiling hopper through a feeder tube? Via remote control?).

P1060266Many people have planned for their pooches’ sleeping arrangements to be under a window seat or chair, but Angel has yet to ever sleep in a planned spot. She’s had a number of beds given to her, from my parents or from the rescue group, that she has politely ignored. Therefore, we plan to not have a plan and let her find her favorite spot via her patented decision process of, “Am I allowed to sleep here? No? Ok, perfect!”

We’ve found Angel to be an excellent Tiny House ambassador in our neighborhood as well, so she’s contributed to our house-building efforts by making friends and influencing people. For example, it turns out one of our neighbors is an independent construction contractor who happens to also own a pit bull mix just like Angel. So he’s always happy to see us and answer the occasional question about framing. Tiny house building is community building, even for people who are not actually building a tiny house, it seems.

Pets are a wonderful addition to any life, no matter the size!

Your Turn!

  • How does your pet like tiny living?
  • What changes have you made to accommodate a simpler lifestyle for your pet?
  • Where do you store your pet’s food and supplies?
  • How cute/smart/awesome is your pet?

The Average American

A while ago I wrote a post on being “weird” which was a huge hit and you can check it out here.  I was thinking about what it means to be an average American and started researching some of the numbers.  In particular I was thinking about how a typical American would compare to someone who lived in a Tiny House.   Tomorrow I will write a post on what the average Tiny House person is like to compare.

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Holidays Tiny Life Style

It’s nearly Christmas and here in Charleston we have been enjoying the festive decorations throughout the city. Living inP1000035 a tiny house definitely limits traditional decorations and living the tiny life means having to tweak some holiday decor. One difference is that last year we had an 8 foot tree. That just will not work in La Casita and I have to admit I was a bit bummed about not having the space but one of my students at my school came to my rescue! He brought me the top off his twelve foot tree and placed it in a bowl of clay with a little ornament hanging on one of the branches. He came in the kitchen a couple weeks ago and said, “Here Ms. Andrea! It’s for your tiny house!” It was the sweetest gift and it fixed my tree dilemma.  Now we have a Charlie Brown tree to keep things festive this holiday season!

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Luckily for us, here in Charleston, the city goes to great lengths to decorate the streets. Wreaths, living trees, lights and banners are everywhere so when I feel like enjoying the season I can hop on my bike and go out to Marion Square to see the park all lit up in white lights or down King Street to enjoy 16 foot living trees placed along the shopping areas. Living in such a vibrant city is great when your living space can’t support all the holiday bells and whistles!

Since we don’t have a regular tree we’ve decided to celebrate gift giving in the style of stockings! I’ve yet to make them, which I swore I would do last week, and now with only a few days til Christmas I have work to do! Stockings were always my favorite part of Christmas morning growing up and it’s a great way to receive presents in a tiny house! Certainly helps keep things scaled down. Check out Ryan’s post about gift giving and tiny house living for more great ideas on giving or receiving this season!

P1000043In terms of indoor decoration we have Christmas lights lighting our living room and we’ve put out the cards we’ve received from family and friends. I’ll get the stockings up when I finish them and we’ve put a winter wreath on our door. It takes some adjustment to have a merry tiny house Christmas but I find it no less enjoyable than past holidays when I lived in larger dwellings. We’ve had to be willing to sacrifice a few things, like a regular tree, but when compared to my daily enjoyment of life in La Casita I don’t mind doing things a bit different during the holidays.  For example, since we don’t have the space to host a party this year we are going to host a Christmas Eve bike ride! We’ll bring cookies and hot cider and enjoy the lights of the city on a tour around the downtown peninsula. We love to entertain our friends and family and while it takes a bit more creativity living in a tiny space, we’ve had just as much fun having gatherings outside our home as in and w e look forward to many more tiny life inspired holidays to come!

Your Turn!

  • Hey tiny house inhabitants! How do you celebrate the holidays tiny life style?

Gifts And Living The Tiny Life

With the holiday season upon us, people get very wrapped up in the need to buy presents. Even though I don’t need things and for the most part I don’t want for much, it’s hardwired into people’s brains that they have to give me something. So today I wanted to share some of the things you can do when it comes to the gift giving season.

I think the first thing to do is long before the holiday season, share with those who might give you gifts that your lifestyle and priorities have shifted to have fewer items. You can frame this in the context of environmentalism, reduced-consumerism, simple living, minimalism; however you do this, people are going to be curious why, so be prepared to have a conversation. It’s important for them to understand that there is a greater purpose and/or goal behind your request. Now we tiny house folks often can’t shut up about our dream tiny house, so this isn’t usually an issue.

Next thing to do is consider the things that you really do need throughout the year, then consider if you could hold off getting it now and instead suggest it as a gift for the holidays. A great example in my own life is work shirts. I wear polos to work, but I only have 4 (I only go into an office 3 days a week), so they wear out with more frequent washings. I was about to retire my polos when I realized it was getting close to the holidays and I decided to wait and ask for new shirts.

So where possible, try to time things so people can give you things that you truly do need, but what about beyond that? Being that I don’t need a whole lot, I find that there are more people to exchange gifts with than I have needs. This is where I ask for experiences or consumables.

The great thing about these two things is that they don’t take up space (or not for long). Experiences can be having them take you out to dinner, going to see a movie, taking a weekend vacation, going on some adventure with them, having them cook you a meal and enjoying it together. The experience will be something that you both will value so much more than anything you can buy at the store.

The second thing is consumables. There are items like foods, drinks, candy, etc. that you can use, but they aren’t going to have to be stored forever. If you want to take it a step further, ask them to take into consideration the packaging of the item.

Great examples of consumables are baked goods. If they are a wine or beer drinker, consider wine/beer of the month clubs. If they are meat eaters, try some mail order steaks; for the vegetarians/vegans/raw folks consider local vendors that prepare meals to go that align with their food preferences. Buying someone a share in a CSA (community supported agriculture) is a fantastic option. A great place to start is with your local farmers market.

So those are just a few tips on how you might bring in the New Year and handle the gift giving season while still balancing it with living The Tiny Life.

Your Turn!

How to do you talk with other about reducing your possessions during the holiday season?

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