I was never thrilled about composting toilets when considering tiny houses. I didn’t like the idea of human waste sitting around and having to empty the bucket. It seemed like a hassle with opportunities for ickiness.
When people ask about the tiny house, this is always one of the first things they want to know: What about the bathroom? Somehow saying that we were going to have a bucket for a toilet, de-legitimized the entire house and our lifestyle.
Out of Sight, Out of Mind Composting Toilet System
And it’s not like I was a stranger to composting toilets. I attended an environmentally-focused college, which hosted composting toilets in a couple of its dorm apartments. My partner, Henry, was even in charge of managing the composting system. But that was different. That was a central system–one where all the waste dropped into the basement, where it stayed until it was nuetralized, and was the consistency and smell of earth. It was a system that was easy to manage and had the air of being “out of sight, out of mind.”
But it is not a system fit for a tiny house–for obvious reasons. Space is not one of our strong points.
Low-Flush RV Toilets for Tiny Homes
So, as we researched our options, we looked into low-flush toilets first. This is what I was banking on. Some tiny houses have these, choosing to operate as RVs do. But like RVs, we’d also have to have a holding tank and find some place to dump it when it was full. Seeking out dump stations would be inconvenient and I’ve been camping enough times in the vicinity of RVs to know this is quite the smelly, unpleasant process.
“Anyone who has lost something they thought was theirs forever finally comes to realize that nothing really belongs to them.”
― Paulo Coelho
Without consciously doing so, we turn the things we own into symbols of who we want to be and who we once were.
As I started the task of minimizing my stuff, I envisioned that photographs or old journals would be the sentimental things that’d be hard to let go of when I move into the tiny house. But what I didn’t understand is how memories are embedded in our everyday things. I have had this faded brown jacket with metal buttons since college and it stirs up thoughts of who I was when I was younger; it triggers pleasant memories of chilly fall weather in Northern Wisconsin, where I was living at the time.
The concept of “impermanence” has its roots in Buddhism, which says that nothing is fixed or permanent and for everything, decay is inherent. It is like the old adage: “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” Of course we and the people around us are changing everyday, but what about our inanimate, physical stuff? I have a theory that a lot of these things (old clothing, books, trinkets) don’t change much unless they are used, and then they change with us–new memories are drawn up each time, new signs of use (stains, burn marks, tears) are imminent. Some people try to protect the things they own with the utmost care so they don’t break or get dirty, but I’d rather own a few quality things that are used well.
I still remember laying it all out on the living room floor the night before our trip, lining the items in rows like we were playing a game of memory.
Toothbrush, camp stove, cycling shorts, book of poetry.
How would we know for sure what we would need to live for three months on a bicycle?
Who knows what we would encounter, how many flat tires we’d get or how long we’d go before hitting the next grocery store?
In the summer of 2009, my partner Henry and I traveled 1,500 miles on a tandem bicycle, with just one Burley trailer carrying all our most-needed possessions. We didn’t know it at the time, but this trip would be a precursor to our next adventure- building a whole house on a trailer, (though not a trailer that could be pulled by bike!).
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