Deciding to go small means a lot of changes for most of us. It’s not a cheap change either, whether or not it works for you. It doesn’t and won’t work for everyone in every situation. Building your micro-house and moving in can be a serious major step.
So how can anyone try it out without committing too much of their financial assets and future to the change?
We opted for the travel trailer. A used travel trailer can often be found for a fraction of the cost of a “real” micro-house. Granted, this isn’t a solution for someone in the northern tier of the continent during the winter months, but it IS a good option even there during the summer months. You don’t have to commit a vast sum of money to the change, and can easily opt out if it just does not work.
Now why wouldn’t it work?
First of all, most people are not entirely “single” when it comes to their lifestyle. If your significant other lives with you, they may not be as committed to living small as you are. It isn’t fair to expect them to make massive sacrifices for your experiment or decision to go small, and compromises may need to be made.
If you have children, they may be fine with the small now, but how will it work in 3 years or 5 years or 10 years from now? Being childless now also does not mean that you will remain childless either. Kids have this sneaky way of getting into your lives, with or without planning their arrival. They may not be your biological children either–many people end up raising nieces, nephews, grandchildren, siblings…or even a non-relative’s child. Custody arrangements can change too, if you are the non-custodial parent. In addition, many divorced parents find their ex spouse exerting a great deal of pressure in regards to where and how they live, despite the relationship having ended, because of children, visitation, and custody. When the government is involved, they may require you to have more square feet of living space to fit someone else’s arbitrary standards. You wouldn’t be the first parent required to have a bedroom dedicated to Junior…even if he only comes to visit one weekend a month, because someone else said so.
Then there are the genuine space issues. Certain careers, lifestyles, and locations may make living small a tall order. A cello player would certainly have issues trying to cram in their instrument in a travel trailer or other micro-house. Mobility issues may make cramped quarters a huge obstacle. Zoning can make finding a place to park your travel trailer or have your micro house so distant from your work that it ends up creating a larger carbon footprint than having a McMansion would.
Just because you can’t live micro small doesn’t mean you are a failure and a carbon hog. But it does make a lot of environmental sense to be sure before you commit to building a micro house yourself, and a used travel trailer can be a very carbon-wise way to check out the living situation for yourself.
Keep in mind, you will learn things about yourself that you never knew before. You will learn what important space is…and isn’t. You will learn about which of your activities are space hogs and which ones are important…or not important to you.
You will also learn things about your personal living space that you can incorporate into your future micro-house. I know that I don’t want the RV type of stove, and that I need a little bit of cupboard space. I know I need a place to put a full sized stand mixer, because I actually USE that. I also have learned that some of the closet space in a travel trailer is absolutely useless (like the 10″ closet in the bedroom!) I know that I hate storage under the bed that requires lifting the mattress, as I can’t access it alone due to physical issues. I know that a door opening outwards can get away from me, and that I need an entry area to act as a weather buffer between the outdoors and the indoors.
And windows. I hate not being able to see out. (We only have two windows in the living area and one in our bedroom…just not enough!)
Litterbox…a travel trailer isn’t designed with pets in mind. I’ve found a space for it, but not all travel trailers have a “good spot” for the litterbox, and as every cat owner knows…you WILL smell it when Fluffy visits, no matter what kind of litter is being used. It does fade quickly with good litter, but in a small space, believe me…the aroma penetrates it ALL.
It’s the little things like that that you need to know before you settle on a design for your micro home. By knowing them ahead of even finalizing the design, you can prepare for these needs. I know I want a full sized stove, at least 3 ft of counter space…and I do NOT want any of those horrible built-in benches. I know we need space for TWO computers and writers to work simultaneously. I know that GM needs a place where he can sit in a comfy chair and read. I know I need a table where I can read, with a more comfortable seat than a hard wooden bench with a thin pad on it. I also would LIKE to have a full sized bathtub, as the tub makes soaking aching joints much easier (and less water consuming) than an extended shower to accomplish the same thing.
We know we don’t need a television, sofa, bunk beds, or a loft accessed by a ladder. We know we need to have railings along stairs that are usable by my left hand whether I’m going up or down. We know we need a space for Sissy’s crate and Reddog’s bed.
Most of this stuff we would never have realized if we were planning our micro house from the comfort of our previous small home. I thought that house had too many windows, and a vast but poorly designed kitchen. We’ve learned that a small bedroom is fine, but I am claustrophobic enough that I can’t stand to have the bedroom door closed on our tiny bedroom in here. We also need storage for clothing, as well as room for a clothes hamper, and space for a nightstand on BOTH sides of the bed.
Even though living small isn’t for everyone, even a short time of living in a tiny travel trailer can be very educational in terms of yourself, your relationship, and your needs. I have to say…I wouldn’t have missed this for the world!