Tiny House Blogger Ryan Mitchell recently posted an anti-tiny house article that appeared elsewhere on the World Wide Web.

His post specifically showcased the not only negative but often ignorant comments from that original article.

He made the deliberate choice not to link to the original article, which was written with a tone of superiority and implied that tiny house builders are all just Unibombers waiting to happen.

Here is the thing that I think many people seem to forget: We aren’t part of a tiny house army intent on taking away everyone’s 1,000 or larger square foot homes and replacing them all with tiny structures.

medium 31188028331   Tiny Houses Arent Right For Everyone: And They Shouldnt Be

photo credit: Merelymel13 via photopin cc

I have often made the mistake of allowing negative online comments to get to me. After an interview with the Huffington Post I was shocked by the precise type of negative comments feeling many of them were misdirected at best. If someone doesn’t like what I am doing that’s one thing but when someone tells me I am doing it wrong its kind of another. No one can tell anyone that their experience is incorrect or invalid, yet we have a culture where countless internet trolls do just that. And yes, if I am going to be a blogger I need to have some pretty thick skin – but beneath my skin is a real human with real feelings and it is a constantly struggle not to let the bullies win.

So why do we keep allowing these individuals to have a voice in our community? In the world of instant internet communication there is no way to stop negative comments on our blogs. What we can control are our reactions.

Here is a key point the tiny house community needs to make: We believe that everyone should live the way that is most comfortable for them and that makes them happiest. We would like the same consideration back for our choices. Live deliberately and don’t harm anyone else in the process.

The tiny house movement does have something to offer. We can show people,  if they are willing to look beyond our ridiculously small houses, is how to simplify and downsize, spend less and save more money, and have a more environmentally conscious lifestyle. We also need to learn our audience. Not everyone is interested in these values and whether or not we think they should is kind of beside the point. It is all about targeting or even marketing. Who would be interested in these topics? College students? Alternative religious communities? Non-profit organizations?

I applaud Ryan for taking some time to bring this topic up on The Tiny Life. I do think we need to discuss not only why people write or say such negative things, but also how we react to them.

As someone interested in alternative living, how do you choose to engage in the greater community? What things do you want people to know about the tiny house movement. In what ways can we make a real difference?

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   Tiny Houses Arent Right For Everyone: And They Shouldnt Be

Laura LaVoie

Contributor and Tiny House Owner at 120SquareFeet.com
Laura M. LaVoie is a professional writer living in the mountains of North Carolina in a 120 Square Foot house with her partner and their hairless cat, Piglet. Laura graduated from Western Michigan University with a degree in Anthropology. She has been published in magazines and anthologies on the subjects of mythology and culture. She spent nearly 15 years in the temporary staffing industry before deciding to become a full time writer. Laura works closely with the Zulu Orphan Alliance volunteering her time and the skills she's learned building her own small house to build a shelter for orphans and other vulnerable children living near Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Laura also enjoys simple living, brewing and drinking craft beer, and popular culture.

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{ 45 comments }

  • Ryan

    Thanks for the shout out Alex!

    While I do agree people do need to make their own decisions on the life they live etc. There is going to come to a point where we must balance this with the fact that we live on a planet that has finite resources. There will come a time when we must reconcile that truth with the way we are living our lives. What that looks like, I don’t know.

    It is a grey area that can lead to some slippery slopes for sure, but we know this is something we must face to sustain humankind. I am hopeful that we can navigate those changes in a way that is ethical, just and makes us stronger.

    Reply
    • Alex

      Thanks Ryan! It was Laura who did this one. Nice to read your thoughts as always.

      Reply
  • Stacie

    Great little article. For all of us who want to be in small homes we too have to get through our families and friends.
    1) How do you choose to engage in the greater community? I would love to be part of this community and help others become part of this community lifestyle. I will engage as soon as my kiddo graduates. For now, all I can do is read and learn.
    2) What things do you want people to know about the tiny house movement. I think people right now are getting a lot of good and useful information. I fear this movement is going to turn into a group of “haves” having this token space as an extra space instead of their actual living breathing home. This will increase awareness with the taxing crowd and rule makers and the simplicity and eco-friendliness of these spaces will turn into expensive controlled units that the average person will again be out of reach of.
    3)In what ways can we make a real difference? If we had access to web pages that offered community living (like a campgrounds, trailer parks, or off grid communities that were free from the codes I suspect more people would jump on board. Wouldn’t it be great to be a block away from your neighbor and then meet them in the garden to collect crops and then meet up with another neighbor to do some cooking, drying, or canning? People could encourage eachother and help eachother grow without the mainstream yuppies :p.
    Anxiously awaiting graduation…….

    Reply
    • Alex

      Thank you Stacie for sharing your wonderful thoughts. I love #3.

      Reply
  • Liz

    I disagree that you can’t do anything about the comments. Any blog owner can and should, IMO, have a comments policy, and moderate them if need be. It’s your blog, and free speech does not apply. It’s a private space you control.

    Reply
    • Laura M. LaVoie

      On your own blog, certainly. I also moderate comments but I post almost anything that comes through.

      However, what about with posts on public forums such as Huffington Post?

      Reply
  • Liz

    Just gotta not read the comments. :\

    Reply
  • Ryan

    Yeah on my blog the only time I pull comments is when there is severe language or any racist/sexist/other-ists type of comments.

    I can count on one hand that I have had to delete a comment, I usually just edit out the inappropriate stuff.

    As for non-constructive criticisms that are often loaded with negativity, I find that people often step up in the comments and say it’s not cool.

    Reply
  • Nancy Peacock

    The thing that makes me angry about negative comments re. tiny houses is that we are fighting for our rights. Large houses are accepted as normal and good. If you want a large house, you will have no trouble finding one. But if you want to live tiny, or even moderately you will have trouble – with city hall, neighbors, other people who simply see you as extreme. I once lived in a perfectly wonderful house which my neighbor tried to get torn down. He said it was a blight. I felt the same way about his house. Perhaps this is why the negative remarks get under your skin. They do mine too. It’s not tiny vs. large. It’s basic human rights to shelter and happiness.

    Reply
  • Ann

    I engage in the community because there are elements of this community that are attractive to me. I could not live in a tiny house because my work includes tools that require space. However, the concepts of simple and small help me to make my home efficient so that square footage can be allocated to my work without leaving the other aspects of life out.

    I look at the huge tract houses and I shudder. I have no interest in taking from these people their over-sized and wastefully designed homes but I do not want to have to live in such a place in order to have room for my work.

    The tiny home movement inspires me to carefully consider every aspect of what I think I need. I am challenged to ask myself how many feet can I cut from my living area and still have a comfortable, fully functional area?

    Tiny houses do more than just demonstrate a more extreme form of cutting back, they inspire better design in a broader community.

    Reply
    • Alex

      I love your point Ann and totally agree. Although these little houses aren’t for everyone and I certainly don’t expect them to be, I love how they get people thinking about creating “smarter” designs as you described. Thanks for sharing!

      Reply
  • Rhonda

    Luckily, I’ve not experienced the negativity that some have but mine is still in the wishing stage. I watch the news at night and hear all the reports of people impacted by the housing bubble and by hurricanes Katrina & Sandy and I think that if there ever was a time in history for a shift in that paradigm it should be now. I sometimes wonder if the displaced people of New York would be glad to have the roof of a tiny house over the heads of themselves and their children when FEMA seems to be failing them miserably. And I hope (to myself) that Jay Shafer is taking advantage of the situation that has presented itself and is contacting some of the politicians to say..here is the answer…. I’ve posted stuff on my Pinterest board hoping that the citizens will be able to see it but I know that is doubtful. Land will always be an issue until the building codes allow for smaller houses

    Reply
  • Rhonda

    Forgot to mention a positive…I’ve noticed some of the larger home magazines picking up on the small space trend (for lack of a better word but you know what I mean) lately. Houzz especially :) I follow them on Pinterest and add what I think could be useful to my “Tiny House” or “Decor: Small” or “Organize & Upcycle” or “Camping & Natural Disasters” boards. I also have boards “Holiday: Christmas” with decorating ideas and try to keep it geared toward small spaces with maybe a few exceptions.

    Reply
  • keven

    A tiny home with a renter in your backyard may be the way to keep your “big house” out of forclosure. It sure worked for me.

    Reply
    • Laura M. LaVoie

      This is a really good point and a really good idea. Tiny homes can be mutually beneficial for not only those of us living in tiny homes but also for people with conventional homes. This kind of symbiotic relationship can be the future of tiny spaces.

      Reply
  • Norman

    Would anyone know the link to the original article Ryan is referencing? I would be interested in reading it for myself.

    Reply
  • Kathy Handyside

    What really bothers me is the fact that the housing industry, through corporate lobbying, has enacted laws that force people to buy something they don’t want. I, myself, do not want a big house; I can’t afford one. The only way I can afford to retire is by building and living in a tiny house. Sure, I could go into an apartment situation but that has big drawbacks for me. 1)I like quiet, and so many apartment complexes are plagued by noisy, inconsiderate people. 2) Rent is always going up. 3) I’ve read too many news stories of some whacko person setting an apartment complex alight because he was mad at his girlfriend who lived there. 4) I am a backpacker and I care very very much about the environment. I want to make a little impact on this already stressed and overcrowded world as possible. 5) I’m single, no kids, so a tiny house suits me perfectly. I don’t want to be owned by a house nor do I want to be owned by a lot of stuff, so again, a tiny house suits me perfectly. No, they’re not for everyone, but people should at least have alternatives to the typical subdivision housing.

    Reply
    • Alex

      Well said Kathy, thank you!

      Reply
    • Ann

      Thank you Kathy. You said exactly what I wanted to say. I have land. I have a travel trailer. I may have to rent a spot in a campground in order to live in it!! That is crazy!!

      Reply
  • LaMar Alexander LaMar

    For every troll I get on my solar cabin videos I get hundreds of positive responses so I don’t worry about it.

    I do believe all people need to consider not only the size of their home but also the efficiency of the home and the days of energy hog homes has to be put behind us.

    With new technology, alternative power and better construction materials available even a larger home can be much more efficient however the media driven dream of the McMansion homes has turned into an energy and pollution nightmare that has to be addressed.

    Instead of building codes that enforce minimum sizes for homes we need codes for maximum size homes that are reasonable based on energy consumption and size of family and in my opinion all new homes must include alternative energy that provides for at least half of the homes energy needs.

    So I will gladly take on the trolls that think to attack small house living and alternative house styles- bring it on!

    LaMar

    Reply
    • Alex

      Nice LaMar, very nicely said. I agree, we should have maximum size codes instead with penalties and fees for going above and beyond that or forcing them to match excess with extra solar, wind, etc. Great ideas as always. Thanks!

      Reply
  • Sandra

    I have a tiny house. It was featured here in September. I don’t live in it as it is my summer cabin. But here is the funny thing..several people have asked if they can rent (or borrow) it. They want to see if this is for them. I, personally fell in love with the idea. I only got to use it for 3 weeks prior to our harsh winters (-31C this am) so will get a better idea next summer. One thing I do know is this. I live in a 3000+ square foot home. It is so refreshing to be in this tiny uncluttered little house… I just feel so much less stressed by not having to do anything but enjoy it. (takes 15 minutes to clean). Could I live in it full time? Probably not! But as a retreat; yes.
    Keep up the good work Alex. No regrets from me!

    Reply
  • Rhonda

    I think we need to hook Lamar up with John Stossel and see where it goes :)

    Reply
  • GLeaf

    Everyone must remember the media is in the business of selling too big, too wasteful, too useless.. not simple, efficient, reasonable.

    Reply
  • Sel

    Think about what community of tiny homes means. It means a less materialist, less consumerist culture. Less waste, less fossil fuels consumed. You have people trusting themselves to do for themselves. Big business doesn’t want that, nor do big political groups who want people to feel dependent.
    And there is or can be, a sense of community and interrelatedness. And a real connection to the world around them.
    The negative comes from a perceived threat to a life that ultimately, somewhere inside themselves, is not fulfilling.

    Reply
    • Alex

      I agree Sel that big business wouldn’t want this lifestyle for the majority of people because it doesn’t serve them (big business). Things would be very different, as you said, more of us would be a part of a community and have a connection with our world. We would not listen to and act on the BS that’s always on TV and the news.. They’d hate that.

      Reply
  • Isaac

    Briefly, because my time is valuable to me, and yours should be, too: I do not understand why you are wasting your time reading critical comments that are not constructive. For those people who are interested in reading comments, I don’t know why you would waste their time by not moderating out the comments which are not constructive. How does this help us build a movement? There is a time and place for engaging with people who are not on our side, but this space seems like a space for building community and solving problems. In a movement that took itself seriously, the people publishing helpful information would never – NEVER – stand for this sort of nonsense. It wastes all of our time. Imagine if labor, civil rights, or democracy activists were allowing capitalists, racists, and fascists to post comments directly undermining the struggle on the very publications being used to mobilize that struggle.

    This hand-wringing and moping is absurd. Moderate your comments. Provide us with a blog that better suits the needs of this movement. You’ll feel better and we will too and, more importantly, all of our time will be better spent. I simply cannot fathom why anyone is wasting their time on this. Move on. There are far too many important things to do, and you are doing several of them. I and many other people are grateful for this. Concentrate your efforts in those areas. We need you too much for you to be wasting your and our time with this nonsense.

    Reply
  • Mary

    What things do you want people to know about the tiny house movement?
    I want them to know I’m not trying to change their lives, just my own. I want them to know and begin considering how liberating and fun small steps toward downsizing can be.
    In what ways can we make a real difference?
    Exchange ideas and respect others’ choices just as we want them to respect ours, while still sharing the benefits of living smaller. Then, just live it. And be very patient.

    Reply
    • Alex

      That’s perfect, thank you Mary.

      Reply
  • vicki

    Just want to say how “refreshing” it is to read these comments. I recently hooked up with Tiny House newsletter, thanks to Pinterest. I remember a time maybe 20 yrs. ago I saw an article in Southern Living for a plan to build a very similar mini home on wheels. At that time my late husband & I were newly married & dreamed of having one of these homes for a river vacation spot. Fast forward 25yrs, I am struggling financially & physically to maintain a house & yard alone. I dream of a small simpler life with out 25yrs of clutter and memories! I have always loved the Thoreau quote you posted & it inspired to move toward this dream.

    Reply
    • Alex

      Wow, thanks so much for sharing Vicki. Wishing you the best. And welcome to the family.

      Reply
  • Tim

    I first got “into” the notion of a tiny cabin back in the 80′s or so, after reading an article in Mother Earth News on very tiny houses. I have been building on my tiny house for several months now, inspired by Jay Shaffer. I will use and enjoy my Tiny Little Cabin (I call it the TLC project) until I need or can afford something different. For me, my tiny cabin helps me to constantly challenge myself to keep life simple. A friend once told me that “it is better to live in the city and dream of a hermitage than to live in a hermitage and dream of the city”. So, for me, the notion of the tiny house is more important than the tiny house itself. As for the critics, there will always be critics. Walk on water and someone will find a reason to complain about it. Thanks for your newsletters Alex. Reading about tiny houses is one of my “happy places”.

    Reply
  • Roseann

    “…tiny house builders are all just Unibombers waiting to happen.”

    Well…yeah. What else are we supposed to do? Be productive members of society who are concerned with being respectful members of their community and planet while taking up residence in a sustainable dwelling and educating those interested in living a simpler life?

    Psht! The whole reason I’m building my tiny house is to complete my epic quest for world domination from the comfort of my tiny, multi-purpose couch.

    Reply
  • Ann Seeton

    I think the extreme comments, like “unibomber” comments shows a distinct lack of understanding of the movement. Mostly, I see people seeking to practice the principle of non-aggression, ie. “do not do unto another person what you would not like done to you.” Hence the tendency to be more non-violent than the average citizen. The desire is simplicity and frugality for oneself and the freedom to downsize to whatever degree one wishes and still OWN one’s home.

    How anyone could get the idea that this is a movement of nuts is beyond me.

    In any culture the pendulum swings, and the swing toward larger and larger houses is worn out. Families are resenting the rules that say that you cannot share a home with your extended family and you cannot rent a single room to a friend who needs a place, and thus use the larger house in a communal fashion. In the past, such as during the Great Depression, many a war widow survived because she could rent out the bedrooms. Now the rules aggressively prevent good people from doing something good, that does not harm anyone, and be able to stay in their home. Even your front yard, which during wars past was turned into victory gardens of lovely produce, are now by law forbidden to include food plants even if they are also lovely to look at!

    I think we need to work to remove so many aggressive laws that punish good citizens.

    Let people build small, let them garden as they wish, let the amazing ingenuity and creativity of the average person shine out. If fewer rules mean someone somewhere abuses the freedom, deal with that ONE person, when and if it happens. But decrease the stress of our culture by permitting greater freedoms.

    Many laws make no sense.

    Reply
  • Susan

    I will be framing this and displaying at the front door of my
    tiny cottage in the woods. Thank You

    Reply
  • RevW

    While I see serious drawbacks to many of the ‘standard features’ of tiny homes such as loft beds or ( for the mobile ones) must-use-large-truck, the tiny house movement is valuable for assembling information for the inevitable reversal of the McMansion trend. The conversion of oversized Victorian and Edwardian homes into flats will someday be repeated with the oversized monstrosities being built in the 20th/21st centuries.

    Reply
    • Ann

      I agree they are valuable for learning what we need to know to reverse the McMansion trend, but unlike the Victorian and Edwardian homes that turned into such nice apartment, I doubt the McMansions will convert so well. My guess is they will be torn down to build several smaller homes, or torn down and replaced by apartments.

      Reply

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