Response From A Humble Tiny House Dweller

Written by Charli Mills

Charli Mills, a born buckaroo, makes literary art accessible at She writes about the veteran spouse experience and women forgotten to history.

September 17, 2016

0713162018In response to DEAR PEOPLE WHO LIVE IN FANCY TINY HOUSES by Lauren Modery, published on

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.

Happy Trails,

Charli Mills, Humble Little House Dweller

You May Also Like…

Taking a Break to Rebuild

Taking a Break to Rebuild

Hey Carrot Ranchers! While the relocation of was successful, it's become more of a muddy mess than I...

2023 KIAW Virtual Tour

2023 KIAW Virtual Tour

Years in the making, the first Keweenaw Interactive Art Walk took place on Saturday, September 30. We couldn't have...

Virtual Art Walk

Virtual Art Walk

We are almost ready to go live on the Keweenaw Peninsula with the Keweenaw Interactive Art Walk. If you can't make it...


  1. paustinelf

    Charli, your sense of humor has survived all the unrest and upsets of your past few months. I laughed and laughed at this story. Continued best of luck to you in your ‘tiny house’ life.

    • Charli Mills

      Good to share laughs after adjusting to tiny house life! Thanks, Pat!

  2. Susan Budig

    Wow. If that wasn’t nitty-gritty, nothing it!
    I laughed out loud at the “he showed me his hole” line. 😀

    • Charli Mills

      Hee. hee…life in the trenches of tiny house dwelling. 🙂

  3. GeorgieMoon

    Oh, how I chuckled! Love this post. I also read the original article by Lauren Modery and wanted to reply to her direct, but couldn’t find a reply comment button on her page. I liked her writing style and sarcasm, but loved your response to her even more!
    We live on a 40 ft long sailing yacht with limited space and can relate to everything you write about. But we have the luxury of two combined showers and loos……

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, my…I’m swooning over the thought of two loos! Ha! But twice the stink? Thanks for replying! Once you live small, I think your humor enlarges.

  4. jenanita01

    Due to a complete financial melt down, we once spent time in a static tin can. Although cramped and needing a completely different mind set, we ended up loving it. The peace and quiet, for a start, is amazing. Something I still miss.

    • Charli Mills

      Yes, finances had a hand in helping us experience our tiny house, but once adjusted (and getting into fix-it mode) I’ve come to like our lack on space. Except when the four of us are in it!

      • jenanita01

        Serving Christmas dinner for our family of six had to be seen to be believed!

      • Charli Mills

        Ha! That would make a great story!

  5. Norah

    I’m so pleased I read Lauren’s article before I read yours. I know just what you’re getting at. How you can make small plain house life and sewerage so entertaining is amazing. You need a medal for what you’ve been through and for writing about it in such a humorous way. I think your last statement sums it all up brilliantly though: “May you never lose a big house to find out for yourself”. Well said.

    • Charli Mills

      I’ve survived thanks to help of friends. 😉 While not funny at the time, I do have to laugh over how ridiculous some of this tiny house life can be.

      • Norah

        I don’t think I would have been amused at the time. In fact, I know I would not have been!

  6. Annecdotist

    Clever post, Charli, and nice heartfelt riposte to what looks like a piece of non-journalism (I didn’t read the whole post, part because I wasn’t sure what she was getting at) from someone perhaps on a deadline having run out of ideas.
    Perhaps you could get wider coverage for this, or even a regular column?

    • Charli Mills

      Ah, Anne, I could write an entire new post-response to the decline of American journalism. Those trained in its profession can’t afford to work in it because of all the willing non-journalsts who write for exposure or pennies. But I’ll leave it at that and suffice to say that Modrey’s Medium article struck a funny bone in retrospect to what I’ve experienced. I needed to express and laugh a bit! I’m holding back on broader coverage until MOD is ready to publish, but exploring responses and ideas for now.

  7. Sharmishtha Basu

    cant imagine living in one!

  8. Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

    Like Norah I read Lauren’s article first and just loved your response. That sense of humour will see you through whatever trials lay behind and might come in the future. As for me – I just envy how quickly you must be able to do the housework.

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, Irene, let me boast! Today, I made my bed, tucked all the fleecy blankets around the dog bed, fluffed pillows, wiped the toilet and sink, wiped the counter between the beds, shook out the rug, swept 10 feet of floor, organized my entire (8 square feet) office and was down house cleaning in 10 minutes! 😀

      • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

        You’ve made me so jealous Charli. I’ve never done so much housework as I’ve done since we’ve had the place on the market and from pristine condition it still takes 2 hours. If I have a rest for a day I know I’m going to have to spend more than double that getting back on top of it. I don’t know who is to blame more – the dogs or the husband but the size sure doesn’t help. 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        I’m liking tiny house-cleaning!

  9. The Enchanted Outlook

    Oh my goodness I just can’t stop laughing. I strongly considered tiny house living to get out of the rat-race of renting; it was my husband’s video games that deterred me; space and NOISE for them. I’m sure your sense of humor could get you through anything. (Gotta say, I’m a little jealous of that cleaning schedule, though.)

    • Charli Mills

      Trying to pick the better of rat-race of renting or tiny-house of smells and noise is a lot like trying to pick between our presidential candidates! 😀 Less noise, known rats is a decent choice. I’m sticking it out with chaos and smells until I need a straight jacket. Actually, we are going from 19 foot camper to 36-foot RV coach (note that even the words sound fancier as the space increases). Woohoo! Thanks so much for stopping by and letting me join you in the laughs!

Discover more from Carrot Ranch Literary Community

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading