The house is beautifully designed. It could have been featured on one of those tiny house shows, where a cute couple discuss how the design gives the illusion of a bigger space and how their commitment to forgoing materialism has made them less stressed.
These shows always make this lifestyle seem so tempting. Just think of all the experiences I could give our small kids with the leftover money and time!
When I drop it on my husband that we’re going to spend a night in a tiny house to see what life there would really be like, he’s much more skeptical. But away we go, because if that guy loves nothing else, it’s an adventure and proving that he’s right. (Spoiler: In a rare turn of events, he’s totally right. )
We choose a place from Getaway, a company that has three tiny houses within a two-hour drive of Boston and rents them to “city dwellers looking to escape the digital grind and test-drive tiny house living.’’ The subject line of the e-mail I receive on the day of the trip is “Tonight: Serenity.’’ I can’t wait.
The exterior of our tiny house — adorably named “Clara,’’ after someone’s grandmother — is slabs of dark wood, and we see a couple of narrow windows; there’s a little campfire site cater-cornered to the property. The interior — under 200 square feet — is sleek and sparse. When you walk in, you see the “kitchen,’’ and to the far left is a queen-sized bed. To the right is a bathroom with a pocket door; a twin-sized bunk bed is above it. To get to the master bed, you ascend three little levels: The first and second are sitting areas and have a hanging chair dangling over them. Next to the bed at the top is a wall-sized window looking out on the woods.
The bathroom provides a lot of entertainment for all of us. The toilet is full of a tin-foil-looking material that, when flushed, crinkles up and sucks down waste. You have 15 flushes until you “fill a cartridge,’’ and when that happens, you can call and get a refill. Within maybe two hours, my son has wasted about a third of those flushes just pressing the button and watching the crinkling. I become a little paranoid that we’ll run out of flushes, so I begin reminding everyone of how many flushes are left every time they exit the bathroom. I’m sure that would be something my kids (ages 2 and 5) would later recount to therapists if we lived in this box full time.
We only spent 19 hours here together, so I can’t speak to the daily ins and outs of tiny house living. But it was quite a trip, and we made it out alive.
3:15 p.m.: We turn onto Mountain Road, drive through the lot, and find our tiny house. Once inside, the kids immediately go berserk, running up and down the levels, climbing up the bunk bed, flushing the toilet. My husband and I squish bags of clothes into the nook under the counter. The 2-year-old realizes that the second level is parallel to the counter. He runs along the counter, then grabs the knives stuck to a magnetic strip on the wall. Everything is toddler height, so he also turns the heat up to 95 and uses the hanging chair to swing and catapult himself. OK, let’s get out of the house of horrors for a little while. We haven’t been here an hour yet.
4: To make a tiny house feel like a home and not so not claustrophobic, we plan for the outside to be part of the living space. I always feel as if I have to give our kids “Experiences.’’ We take a walk. They delight in discovering an old truck-bed cover in the woods. Miraculously, though cold, we walk around, collecting leaves and following a stream for about an hour and a half.
6-6:45: We’ve built a campfire, but to be authentic, we cook dinner in the “kitchen.’’
The kids cozy up to the counter to eat; I sit and balance my plate on my lap. My husband leans on the counter by the sink. Our 2-year-old won’t sit still: He’s behind me, slamming the hanging chair into my head.
Husband: “I have a title for your article, ‘If you love your kids, don’t buy a tiny house.’ ’’
6:50: We sit by the campfire and roast marshmallows with the kids for the first time in their lives. I’m envisioning a perfect little moment, but the kids can’t wait two minutes for the marshmallows to get gooey.
7:10: The kids snuggle on my lap to watch the fire. It’s so sweet and relaxing. I marvel that we haven’t been on our phones for hours and that we haven’t killed anyone. Then the 2-year-old almost falls in the fire because he won’t. just. sit. down.
7:25: Little kid falls asleep. We put him in a Pack ’n Play that we unfolded in the “kitchen.’’
7:45: Big kid in bed. We feel like magicians — ones who forgot to brush our teeth before the little kid was asleep, but magicians nonetheless.
8: We climb into bed and start a movie on the iPad. We considered sitting by the fire, but it’s 25 degrees out, and I’m pretty sure we couldn’t get back in without banging into the crib.
8:20: Little kid crying. I go and hold him.
8:25: He’s back in bed. Resume movie.
9:18: Little kid back up. I realize that there’s a draft coming from under the door. I hold him while my husband moves the crib up a level. After a silent-ish fight of hand gestures and whispers regarding whether or not he’ll a) plummet to his death while up a level or b) climb out of the crib, onto the counter, and grab the knives, we decide to give it a shot. Resume movie.
9:49: Big kid is up and has to go to the bathroom. Getting her down the massive ladder in the dark is, um, interesting. We all go to the bathroom since we’re up. As I’m in there, I feel the tiny house shake and am certain that we’ll roll into a ravine. (I cannot die on the toilet!) Then I realize that it’s just my 6-foot-2 husband climbing up to the bunk bed because our daughter refuses to go up by herself.
I risk waking the little kid by flushing. It sounds like a paper shredder. Five flushes left.
My husband holds a flashlight from the top bunk so I don’t wipe out on the journey to the master suite. It’s the little things.
Resume movie sans husband, who is trying to help our daughter settle down.
10:39: Movie is over. I reflect on the day: I definitely don’t want us to cohabitate in one room again soon, but this hasn’t been so bad, right?
Time unknown: Two-year-old is losing it in his crib. I bring him into my bed. He has literally never slept in anything but a crib. Every time he rolls over or moves, he cries, because he’s confused and sad. I probably get half a sleep cycle in there somewhere.
7:27 a.m.: Everyone is up, and everyone under 6 is crying. It’s not even 7:30, and the kids have tried to leave the house, climb the ladder, and run on the counter.
7:36: Who wants a cookie? Wait, where’s all the food? My husband put it in the car because there wasn’t room inside. Children resume crying because now they don’t have cookies.
7:39: Kids sit on the bed, eat cookies, and watch a movie. This isn’t exactly the back-to-nature parenting I had envisioned cultivating in a tiny house.
7:42: Kids: “Can I have another cookie?’’
“Can I have a juice box?’’
“If the earth is always spinning, why don’t I feel dizzy?’’
8: Oh, my God, it’s only 8 a.m. How long does it take to make this hipster pour-over coffee?
8:15: It starts raining. What are we supposed to do in here if we can’t go outside?
9: Movie is over. How about we just pack up and leave early?
We pack for an hour and half, because that’s how long it takes when you have kids, and leave.
11: Text message from Getaway received: “When you return home, be sure to bring the Getaway spirit back with you by finding time to disconnect and recharge in your daily life.’’
This is what I bring back with me instead:
1. The knowledge that smells and sounds travel quickly in tiny houses, so diapers should be disposed of outside.
2. People need personal space.
3. Tiny houses would be relaxing without kids.
Later that week, I take the kids for a walk around our neighborhood, even though it’s really cold out, which I’m usually loathe to do. Maybe we do have a little of that Getaway spirit.