More tiny house FAQs

 

Here are a few more FAQ’s about our tiny house… feel free to leave a question in the comments!

Where does your baby play?

Our one year old mostly plays outside. It’s winter here in South Africa, which means most days it’s between 55-75F and sunny outside. At night it can get down to freezing (maybe only 2 or 3 weeks out of the winter) and some early mornings we have frost. So early mornings are probably the hardest, since we’re cooped up inside before it warms up enough to play outside. Our 14 month old entertains himself inside with his toys and our tupperware/pots and pans cupboard mostly.

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We have a mini “deck” about three feet wide that is covered outside our door. He spends a lot of time in that area, moving gravel around. Currently he’s out there putting gravel inside one of my pots and stirring it around. He has toys, but not a ton– so usually we toss our recycling out on the deck and let him play with it until it’s trashed (and then we recycle it). So, we’re not the tidiest neighbours, but he has a blast. Since we had to level the ground around our house before moving the house, we don’t have grass right around us. Sometimes that’s a pain, but since it’s winter and everything is dry (and not a giant mudbath) it’s worked fine having dirt & gravel. This past week we filled up an old tire with some left-over sand, and now his favorite thing is climbing into the tire and playing in the sand (with sticks and recycling, mostly).

I would guess our little guy spends 75% of his waking hours outside.

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He likes watching the dog walkers and joggers in the forest.

What do you do when it’s too cold or raining? 

We visit friends, go to the public library, fold down our kitchen table to make more room and play inside.

How do you get electricity and water? 

We are not off-grid. Maybe one day. We are plumbed in to a septic tank, and hooked in to our land lord’s electricity and water. We are using gas for heating water and our stove, and so far have only used about 50 kw of electricity per month. So hopefully one day we can switch to solar.

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Where do you store your stuff? 

One of the points of living in a tiny house is it forces you to reckon with your stuff and keep your stuff to a minimum. We are NOT always the best at this, and could do way better about keeping our stuff to a minimum. We’ve done an okay job with clothes, papers, kitchen gadgets, books etc. but Baby Stuff is our biggest debate. We’ve managed to store a lot of clothes, but other baby gadgets we have passed on. So far, all our belongings fit in our house, except for our luggage, and our tools, and the high chair Bram doesn’t use anymore. This picture shows you our “utility” side of the house. We have a rain tank for watering the garden, the gas hook-up for water and stove, two green crates of tools/paint/etc, a tall black recycling bin, and the grey bin is compost. Baby stuff is the hardest to know what to do with (hence.. the high chair just sitting outside!) — we could probably store it with family, or take it apart (yay IKEA) and store it under the house. But… you know… that takes effort. Bram’s stroller stays in the trunk of our car, or under the shelter on the deck.

How do you do laundry? 

We have a front loader washing machine, and like most South African’s hang our laundry out to dry– so we didn’t worry about fitting a dryer in the house. We’ll see how it goes when the rainy season comes.

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How do you heat your house? 

Right now– with this:

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That is an energy efficient plug-in heater. It can automatically turn on and blow little puffs of warm air when the temp drops below whatever we set it to.

Something most people don’t know about South Africa: Nobody has central heating. Even rich people don’t. If people need to warm the house they use space heaters, gas heaters, or little electric heaters. Some people use under-floor heating underneath tiles. Or fire places. But there is no concept of central heating and cooling. One difference is most South African houses are brick, which means they slowly warm up during the day, and then release the heat at night. Our house is wood- but it is insulated- which means it doesn’t “store” heat like brick does. However, once it is warm inside, it keeps the warmth in because of the good insulation.

When we visited this South African tiny house and talked with the architect, we asked her about heating (and her house was in Pretoria, which gets colder than where we are)– and she said– “The philosophy of heating houses is wrong. We should not heat space. We should heat people. That is much more energy efficient.”

So– for the most part in our tiny house, we’ve gone with the “heat the people” philosophy. We wear winter pjs at night, have a down duvet and an extra blanket, give our kiddo a warm winter sleeping sack (plus he’s in his tent, which also keeps him a bit warmer) and sometimes add a hot water bottle thingy. Then, of course, we have our mini-heater. Since we sleep upstairs and heat rises, our loft stays pretty toasty. But if we’re worried about it being too cold, I’ll bake bread or some form of dessert, and just using the oven with the windows all closed heats up the house pretty quick, because it is a small space. When I’m done, I’ll leave the door cracked a bit for extra heat. So far– we’ve been warm enough! I don’t know actual temperatures of how cold it has gotten in the house– we’ve had a week of below freezing at night– but we have never been uncomfortable or too cold.

 

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