For 20 months – from May 2015 to December 2016, I lived in a container on about 20 sq.m., while a house was growing next door. About 2 months ago I moved to about 120 sq.m.
I would like to share my experiences about living in a “Tiny House”.
The body is a standard ship container – outside dimensions length x width x height (I will remain with the imperial system) approx. 9 x 2.4 x 2.6 meters. One door and two windows on the side, of which I was able to choose the position when I ordered it. The walls are 10cm thick, so withdraw about 20cm for the inner dimensions. The side walls are filled with insulating wool, the ceiling with insulating foam, the floor is plywood impregnated with concrete.
Included is a bathroom, which has about 3.8 sq.m., shower, WC, washing basin, hot water boiler with 80 liters, underneath space for a washing machine and in the living area a kitchen block with sink, refrigerator and two stove tops.
It is actually one of these office containers, where for example employees temporarily move, while a company building is renovated, or of which kindergartens are sometimes built and in Europe they are widely used as refugee homes at the moment.
Since it was only meant as a temporary home, I didn’t want to invest too much money and I already had the furniture.
I have to admit, that my temporary home was quite simple, but more than sufficient for the costs of under 12.000 EUR + approx. 2.500 EUR for concrete foundations, sewer and water connection.
For comparison: I visited a construction fair, where a company, which is specialized in this kind of living, exhibited a residential container with about 25 sq.m. The price was between 55.000 and 60.000 EUR. Everything in there was optimally furnished. It surely would have been more comfortable, but the price per square meter is similar to a house.
First of all, it is my personal opinion and personal feeling. Everyone has its own subjective sense of how much space, comfort, and material things are needed. Some people are satisfied with a hammock, other ones need a golden bed. For me, from time to time I don’t mind to sleep in a hammock or even on the ground.
Probably the most important question: Can one live on 20 sq.m.? Yes, of course, you can. I did long enough. But after nearly 2 years I’m glad that I got out again.
I’ve lived alone in the container and I can hardly imagine that it would have worked out for two (or more) people to live on that small space for that amount of time.
You would always be in the way of each other, furthermore there is no possibility to retreat in another room, if you argue for example or need some space for yourself.
In order to achieve a maximum of space, it is necessary to design the furniture optimally. Well, here you need a carpenter. Equipping such a small space with off-the-shelf furniture does not work. I took some of my existing furniture, so the space was not used very efficient.
I certainly did not bring much clothing and only the most necessary items of crockery and other daily necessities.
My equipment consisted of a bed 140x200cm, a wardrobe 135x200x55cm, a small cupboard for kitchen utensils, a larger one for shoes and other larger items (80x200x40cm), two small cabinets for office and other things and an office desk.
Since I am working in the computer business, I have a lot of IT equipment, which used more space than in an average household.
As far as possible I tried to store things upward in shelves, which I build myself.
There was also a small dining table 75x75cm (and two chairs), but it was always occupied by the clothes horse. Therefore I took my meals on the office desk.
Room for a comfortable armchair or even a couch was not available. Inviting guest was not possible. Firstly because of the lack of space, and secondly, the spartan environment.
In absence of a comfortable sofa or armchair, I did not read very much during the time in the container, because I was either in bed or sat at the desk. Bed is indicated mainly with sleeping and the desk with work.
A hobby that takes up much space is hardly imaginable.
Two electric heaters were responsible for heating in winter. One in the living room and one in the bathroom. In the bathroom there is also a pipe with a fan outwards. This led to an additional heat loss, because it was literally a hole in the wall.
For a year-round use over a long period of time the container is certainly not recommended, not that kind I lived in. The insulation is to bad. In summer it is too hot, in winter the heating costs are too high.
In summer it is still a bit better, the windows and door were always open and you can spend time outside in the garden. In the summer of 2015 there was a heat wave in my region. For about 5 weeks the temperature was constantly over 30 degrees Celsius. I slept outside in the hammock for a couple of days, because inside it was too hot at night.
The knocking of rain on the roof was very loud. What was just a light shower seemed to be a heavy rainfall. Before leaving I always had to look outside, to see if an umbrella was really needed. The first time the neighbor’s cat jumped on the roof at night, I almost fell out of bed, because I was frightened.
The cold season was a huge problem. In winter the coldness mainly came from the floor, as it is much worse insulated than the walls. In winter you are also kind of locked-in. On little space like that, this can be a bit depressing some times. I do not even dare to think what it means to prisoners to be locked up in a cell for years.
Winter 2016 was not really cold. Nevertheless, the power consumption for heating was about 3.000kWh – this was for 20 sq.m. – this is equivalent to a 2-3 person household for a house with about 120 sq.m.
Due to the fact that the furniture was cramped into the container, the air circulation was not ensured in all corners. In cold weather there was condensation.
In the bathroom it was predominantly the window, which fogged up. I always had to turn on the heating and fan after showering, to dry out the bathroom.
In the living area, I moved the furniture about 5cm from the wall. This was sufficient to prevent condensation and mold formation.
A big problem area was under the bed. The place was difficult to access, because the bed took the whole width of the container.
It was a bit tedious to take out the mattress and slatted frame every two to three weeks to clean out under the bed.
Washing and drying the clothes led to increased humidity in the living area afterwards.
The entrance door was not insulated very well and it was always wet from condensation water. Once in winter, when temperatures were below 0C, the door was frozen and I had to push it open with a bit of force.
Since I lived on a construction site, it was always a bit dirty. I did not have a lobby, where to take off my dirty shoes and clothes. In addition it was always a little bit messy, things were always lying above each other.
In my opinion the house is easier to clean than the container, because all things are stowed in cabinets and racks.
When you live on little space, you do not accumulate unnecessary crap. I hope I will continue to do so in the future – not accumulating unnecessary crap.
During the last years, all my stuff was stored in the basement of my parents house. When moving, I already sorted out, sold and gave away or threw away many things I do not need any more.
There were still a lot of things I couldn’t let go, mostly because of emotional reasons. In a couple of months I want to go through all my stuff another time, where I try to get rid of more things.
All my clothes fit into a wardrobe 1m wide, 2.4m high and 60cm deep. Even there is still some room.
Here, I too, try to reduce a little bit by using up too much T-shirts, socks, towels … until a necessary amount is reached.
The same applies to glasses, dishes and various other items of daily use.
By modular, I mean that a living unit / work unit / room / .. can be added relatively quickly without affecting other units in their existing appearance, and also can be removed again. My property is very narrow and the creativity was very limited. With enough space I would have been very open to that concept.
In summary, it was an interesting experience to live on small space, but now I enjoy the comfort of having much more room again.