There are several programs on cable dedicated to the “tiny house” movement. Indicative of the creative forces involved with these shows, all feature the word “tiny” in their titles:
- Tiny House, Tiny Nation
- Tiny House Builders
- Tiny House, Big Living
- Tiny Hands, Tiny House
- It’s Not “Tiny”, Doctor, It’s “Ticonderoga, New York”
Whenever my wife forces encourages me to watch one of these programs, we always marvel at the ingenuity involved with the design and construction of these shrunken abodes. A bed folds into the wall and has stained glass displayed on its underside; a hibachi is retro-fitted for propane and stands in for the stove; the vegetable crisper in the refrigerator doubles as a sock drawer.
(Of course, Maine has been at the forefront of the tiny house movement well in advance of this trend. For generations we have embraced compactly dimensioned, creatively furnished and three’s-a-crowd structures — we call them “camps.”)
And fad aside, “tiny” isn’t even the smallest acknowledged house size. According to one industry website, “right-sized” homes are broken down into these categories, from smallest to largest: Micro (~150 sq. ft.); Compact; Miniature; Tiny; Little; Small; Efficiency; Reduced; Downsized (~1000 sq. ft.). These distinctions undoubtedly lead to conversations like this: “Oh, what a darling ‘tiny’ house you have! Of course, we gave ours up years ago in order to reduce our carbon footprint down to pinky-toe level when we moved into our ‘micro’ home. It has everything you could possibly need — the only accommodations we’ve had to make are to take all our meals at Burger King, and sometimes Nash sleeps in the lounge at the office when he needs a good night’s rest.”
[A BRIEF ASIDE: The term “right-sized” is popular in Corporate America as a euphemism for “Our piss-poor mismanagement of the bottom line means we are laying off dozens, if not hundreds or thousands, of lesser-paid employees so the members of the senior management team can continue to reap their obscene bonuses.” As a still-smarting victim of such action, it made me shudder as I typed it in the paragraph above, even in this context.]
After the big reveal, where the homeowners see their completed domicile for the first time — usually with a “surprise” flourish like a skylight, or a red wagon from childhood fashioned into a coffee table, or when they now learn for space reasons the kitchen sink and bathtub have been placed outdoors — they ooh and ahh while the missus joins in from her vantage point on the couch (a couch which, while modest within the context of our normal-sized home’s layout, could not possibly fit into any of these tiny houses and would be replaced by a reclaimed park bench — or, as an example of multi-purpose ingenuity in action, by a pair of toilets set side-by-side facing the media center). She’ll turn to me (which would be tough from her perch on a toilet, so scotch that idea) and express her desire to design, build and move into a tiny house of our very own. While I hate to harsh her buzz, it becomes my responsibility to point out the following:
- We already live in a “tiny” house, since our dining room table also serves as a file cabinet, bookshelf, cat bed and ironing board.
- If she’s looking for a small space within which to perform the functions of daily living, I remind her we already live in one, known as our bedroom. We sleep, eat and watch TV within those four walls and can even enjoy the outdoors from an adjoining deck. Out of discretion I don’t also include “and occasionally use it as a bathroom” so as not to remind her of those times when, settling in for the evening, she starts laughing so uncontrollably while watching random Facebook videos on her phone that she pees right through to the mattress.
- If she’s really interested in living in < 300 square feet with all the creature comforts (here I am not referring to our cats), we can do so without the hassle of planning, permits and construction. It's called "buy an RV." My brother-in-law has one that's so luxurious it came with a butler.
Why hasn’t someone developed a series about long-time married couples living in reasonably-sized housing and yet everything belonging to the husband is shoved to the back of the closet / refrigerator / bottom shelf? They could call it, “I Live Here Too, You Know.” I’d watch that show. As long as a certain somebody stretched out next to me on the bed promises not to laugh.