As a tiny home builder and dweller, I feel anxious about showing off our home. For too long, I’ve held back from posting pictures and updates. I’ve come to realize my resistant inner force is based on a preconceived idea of how our home “should be”. And it’s not just me.
With much searching, I’ve had the pleasure of connecting with other Canadian tiny home enthusiasts who don’t put themselves out there. How can we move forward and share information with so many hiding in the shadows?
It all started when I began watching a few episodes of tiny home shows to collect information. I would surely discover details on solar or how people chose to source and store water. I still have no answers. Instead I was sucked into a fantasy.
The homes on these shows are gorgeous and somehow so cheap to build! I wanted my home to be a masterpiece. I forgot about how the numerous sponsors donating materials for exposure and the building crew that works for free to collect pay cheques from the network. When I invite people into my home who are educated by mainstream media they are unimpressed to say the least. And for some reason, I feel embarrassed of our accomplishments.
The plethora of tiny house or “off grid” reality TV shows have lost focus on what the movement is really about. In many episodes, builds have been impressively large spaces. The “tiny” label has been slapped onto these dwellings because they are smaller than the standard American house. The Americanization of this movement is bold. I see people wanting the biggest, the cleanest, the most expensive, and the newest home available to them. This consumerist angle is exactly what minimalists are trying to escape from. Most episodes are focused on interior design rather than efficiency or thriftiness. Yes, they may touch on reusing materials but it’s normally to the minimum such as, using scrap barn wood for that “rustic look”. Rarely, do builders hit up locations like Habitat for Humanity or look online to track down functional used materials.
The alternative housing movement is built on a green foundation. The bulk comes from collecting reused items that would otherwise be thrown away. This means buying used water pumps, tools, tanks, etc. for maybe five dollars less than the cost of purchasing it new because of the principle: less waste.
I was disappointed to learn that the reality TV show “Off the Grid” focuses very little on following off grid practices. They have shifted “off the grid” to represent living away from the rest of society. A lot of the time their homes are located on private slices of tropical paradise. Off the grid means being away from centralized electrical and water hookup but it’s so much more than that. I’m still shocked at how many instances clients explore houses that are semi-connected to the grid and how often they choose these homes because of the convenience. They are turned off by the idea of using a DIY outdoor shower or a latrine. Media is perpetuating the message that current luxuries are essential.
Though, I have not watched every episode of each series, I have had the misfortune of seeing composting toilets misrepresented on TV. One episode showed a thrill seeking young couple who were repulsed by the idea. One partner was quoted saying something along the lines of, “I’ll jump off a cliff any day, but pooping into a bucket is way too scary for me”. Another episode showed a composting toilet and relayed misleading information. They explained that you simply defecate into it all year round and rotate it only twice a year. The woman who was looking at it crinkled her nose and pretended to gag. As she expressed her distaste, the narrating voice neglected to address why composting toilets are used. They did not explain how much freshwater is being wasted every year so we can drop feces into it. The media does not want viewers to address the motivation behind the movement. The media wants to keep things appealing and glamorous.
The truth is that living off grid is not glamorous. It is not the lavish lifestyle that mainstream media plays it up to be. Tiny house dwellers put up with a lot of crap. Literally. We compost our own feces, we track mud and snow into our little dwellings, and we layer up and go outside and chip ice off of frozen over components. Last week, I went outside to adjust the urine pipe and it snapped. I covered my gloves in pee icicles. Our homes aren’t built to run themselves. This is the slow living movement: we run our homes.
The media is crippling this movement. Articles are surfacing providing negative feedback from those who moved tiny without understanding what they were jumping into. This coverage is damaging a powerful movement that is set out to change our relationship with the environment and embrace a lower stress lifestyle.
It’s time to fight back. It’s time to be unapologetic about who we are. So yes, I will move forward and post pictures of our home. We are living in it with some exposed wires and incomplete walls. Our composting toilet is not yet “finished” but works wonderfully. We do not have modern storage built so that everything gets packed away neatly. The overall aesthetics have no importance. Our home is functional and it’s a work in progress. I have no shame because we are doing the best we can and I hope that others in the same boat can do the same.
Here’s to the revolution!
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– The Copper House