A friend recently said, upon seeing the tiny house for the first time, “That’s a closet! You’ll kill each other!” Well, after 4 months living in the tiny house, and 3 months before that living in an even smaller boat, I can tell you that we’re both quite alive.
But so many people wonder how we manage to get along in such a small space that I thought I’d share what works for us.
Be polite. It is a tiny space, and two people will often be passing one another in snug areas. “Excuse me, I need to get by,” works well, as does waiting until the other person is done what they’re doing before you ask to get by. Even if you know each other well, please, thank you, and all those other social words are still important to use.
Be direct. This is part of being polite. As much as I would love to be a mind reader, that’s not going to happen any time soon. If you need to get to the storage, the bathroom, the sink, or plan to do some activity that takes up extra space, tell your partner. Ask when would be a good time. Talk to each other about what you plan to be doing and when, and figure out what would work best. We like to take showers one after another so that we only have to empty out the shower room and clean up afterwards once. But we need to coordinate when that will happen.
Be patient. Dinner may have to wait if the kitchen counter is being used for a different project. The water tank may have to be filled before you can wash dishes, or the batteries may need to be charged before you can use the computer. It may take 2 people to make the bed, and the other person won’t be home for a few hours. It’ s really like negotiating with your partner no matter where you live, just magnified because it’s a small space and many things and places are used for double-duty.
Have at least two comfortable living areas. No couple, no matter how happy, wants to spend every single minute of every day together. We all need our space. Weather or other circumstances may require that you both be inside all day, so it helps to have two cozy places to be for whatever you want to be doing — reading, writing, crafts, playing music, etc. It also helps if you have a fight and need to get away and cool off, and going outside isn’t practical.
Spend time outdoors and/or away from the tiny house. Everyone has their own interests and things to do, and not everything needs to, or should, take place in the tiny house. It is a small space, and many things can’t happen there. Go out for a bike ride, a swim, a run or a walk. Head to the library or the movie theater. Many people who live in tiny houses have jobs, volunteer or paid, that take them away from home. No one stays home (in whatever home they have) all day, every day even if they work at home or are retired. It’s a big world with lots of interesting things to do — go do them! At the very least, have a table and chairs that you can set up outside in good weather and use them (and those folding chairs can be handy when you entertain guests inside your house).
Respect the other person’s needs. My partner likes silence when he reads. I like to have music or the radio on. I can go in another “room,” go outside, or use headphones. There are always several ways to solve any potential conflicts. It helps to understand each other and your differences, and work together to figure out the solution that works for both of you.
In the end, just be up for change. Maybe the storage isn’t working out quite right, or the way the counter is set up is too cluttered. Maybe the lighting by the bed isn’t right for one person. Because the house is so small, many things have to double up, and it can be a hassle to move things to get at other things. As you live in the house, you’ll figure out what systems work best for you, and that may involve redoing something you’ve already done. Relax about it, and think of it as an adventure.
When we were first together and building our first house, we were warned that building a house with your sweetheart was a bad idea — most couples break up. On the other hand, if you and your partner survive house building, you may find that your relationship strengthens. In 28 years together, we’ve built 5 homes, renovated 2 others, and built several outbuildings. We think we’ve got one more house in us. We’ve learned a whole lot about each other and our relationship, but know we still have plenty to learn. Living in a tiny house is just one more way to grow as individuals, and as a couple. We love it!