In response to DEAR PEOPLE WHO LIVE IN FANCY TINY HOUSES by Lauren Modery, published on Medium.com.
Dear Lauren Modery,
Worst smells exist in tiny houses than Mexican food farts. You wondered if I love living in a fancy tiny house. If I wake up thinking, I’ve made a terrible mistake. Well, I hope you don’t mind an answer from a plain tiny house dweller.
Wow, 250-square feet is fancy indeed! My house is 161-square feet, and yes, that odd one-square foot makes a difference — it’s my toilet. If you are going to have a home in the US, you need a toilet. Spend a week homeless and you’ll discover you have to pay to poop. Those public toilets are for paying customers only.
However, conscientious of space, my squared-foot plastic throne of human dignity resides in my newly remodeled shower. Because my husband and I are not youthful sleek millennials, neither of our Gen X buffalo butts fit in the original shower. Why let two-square feet of space go to waste?
The water closet is exactly that — a closet. A cheap tension rod sprung across its expanse allows me to hang turquoise-colored velvet hangers (hey, I saved money on the rod and only own 12 tops so I could splurge). The former shower now holds fabric-covered cardbord box-shelves for an illusion of fancy. Press-on plastic hooks (same idea as press-on finger nails for those of us who can’t afford manicures), allow me to show off my hair bandana collection. Silly me! I think I own more bandanas than tops!
The central piece of art in the water closet is a copper-looking shower-caddy that hangs next to the built-in mirrored cabinet. It holds several bottles of herbs, monster finger-puppets (don’t ask, that’s a different response), a pottery jar of cotton balls and all my earrings hanging from the rungs. It’s all spectacular space until my husband steps into the closet to pee. Aim has never been more important.
Ah, so you ask about smells. Let me explain our simple contained septic system. Wash your hands and the flow goes to the “gray-water” box; poop or pee and the flow drops into the “black-water” box. When contained (yes, curious writer, we can travel with our tiny house!) we use an enzyme that masks odors. When parked, we pull out a slinky-like blue hose, open both boxes and secure the hose into a sewer pipe with a piece of firewood to secure the connect.
Due to gravity, most spillage sits in the hose. This used to require lifting the slinky for a manual dump. Fortunately, we discovered a slunky. This is an accordion apparatus of flat plastic slats with a semi-circle cutout upon which the sewer hose resides at graduated heights. It’s tallest at the point of entry from water boxes and lowest by the time it reaches the pipe. Who knew sewage required such thought? If no heed is given, oh, Baby — it stinks and gives you heed!
Recently, a kind neighbor in a fancy little house (this mo-fo has 450-square-feet with chrome, slide-outs, cable-satellite dish and a flat-screen t.v. so big we can watch it best from our place) complained about our stinking hole. He even pointed out that a congregation of black flies had gathered in glee around the place where our hose dumped. He said, “Get a doughnut.” Before I could ask why such a diet change mattered, he showed me his hole (we are quite intimate, we communities of tiny house dwellers).
Turns out a doughnut is a soft piece of black rubber that fits onto the sewage hose and can be pressed like clay into the sewage pipe, thus blocking odors and breaking up fly parties. As of yet, no such doughnut exists to block Mexican food farts. Too bad, because, as you correctly surmised, the expansion rate of a bad fart exceeds that of the space of a tiny home. It’s a mathematical problem only alleviated by going outside, where the kitchen is.
It was either an office or kitchen indoors, but with 161-square feet of space it couldn’t be both. I work from home, so it’s an office at the end of our tiny home. I have a desk stacked on top of storage files, a laptop, killer speakers, a wi-fi system smarter than me, a printer, telephone (an antiquated system called a “landline”) and a coffee pot. Truly a coffee pot is more an office item than it is part of a kitchen. Behind my office/folding chair is a twin-bed platform. Our children (lucky them!) are grown with living space of their own, so the platform is a glorified dog bed with exceptions. I’ll return to that idea momentarily.
Step outside and our kitchen is massive! We have a barbecue pit surrounded by patio chairs; a propane smoker barbecue; a tabletop briquet barbecue; a picnic table/food prep/dining table; a crock-pot with extension cord; and all the milky-way as night lights overhead. Ah, curious writer, this is the benefit of tiny house dwelling. It desperately makes you want to escape your condensed space before you knife each other or kick a dog that you develop a greater appreciation of the outdoors.
We also eat out a lot. Unfortunately, we love southwestern cooking, Mexican food’s kin with similar fart DNA.
Cramped space? Yes, but you learn what is necessary in life. Stinky? Oh, yeah, but you cope and mask. Sexy-time? Ah, well, did I mention we are not youthful sleek millennials? It’s not the farts that create havoc with the four inches above our faces in our sleeping den; it’s claustrophobia and the physicality of not fitting sexy-time into the sleeping space. So what to do? That’s when the two dogs (German Short-haired Pointers, by the way so no toy-dogs here) get an unexpected invite to sleep in the bed platform too high for them to reach without our help. The dog bed suffices. It’s also a good place to watch t.v. through our neighbor’s window.
Zombies? Oh, come now, don’t be ridiculous. We don’t fear the zombie apocalypse because technically, our tiny house is a can and we can’t be easily shaken out of it with windows molded in place and access points that fit only easily-squashed mini-zombies. In fact, more than one zombie through the narrow door is impossible, allowing us to easily pick them off until frustrated, they’ll sneak into easier to access big houses. Besides, we can hook up our tiny house and get the heck out of Dodge when the zombies come. Can you do that with your big house?
Finally, let me explain the worst smell possible. It’s not farts but breath. Before we learned the doughnut trick, our two dogs escaped our tiny house (probably in desperation for space to roam). Being pointers, they followed their noses and discovered where we had been hiding the toilet water they once loved when we had dwelled in a big house. Without opposing thumbs, they managed to pull out the sewer hose and lap up what liquid spilled forth.
Believe me when I say, dog-breath enhanced by sewage is way worse than a Mexican fart in 161-square feet of space. May you never lose a big house to find out for yourself.
Charli Mills, Humble Little House Dweller