Tiny Houses and the Dream of Entertaining

slideThis past weekend, I helped a friend move into a tiny house.

Specifically, he and his family (one wife and two sons) moved from a decent-sized house to a much smaller house. I think it’s around 900 square feet, plus a basement.

For a while now, my friend has been reading a blog called Mr. Money Mustache. It’s a blog largely about cutting down wasteful spending (that’s a terrible summary of the blog–there are some really cool philosophies there).

One of the core ideas of the blog is that people tend to rent or buy homes based on the dream of entertaining. We see our homes as hubs for ourselves and other people.

But, realistically, not every home can be a hub for your friends, because if everyone else is trying to make their home the hub too, then everyone ends up with really nice houses that only they get to enjoy (with rare exceptions). I’ve certainly had that mentality. I love hosting.

The idea also pervades into how we use our space versus how our space encourages us to get out of the home. Like, a few months ago my parents mentioned they were shopping around for a slide for my niece. She loves slides.

But by installing a slide at home, you remove the appeal of going to the park to play on the slide there. You’ve secluded yourself–probably with an inferior slide–instead of creating an opportunity to interact with people in a shared space.

I’ve thought about these ideas before, but the fresh perspective has made me consider them in a new light. Not that I have to make a change–I already live in modest condo. But I’m intrigued by the greater philosophy of it. What do you think? Have you made purchases based on the dream of entertaining that rarely happens? Not just in terms of the size of your home, but also the things you put inside of it.

11 thoughts on “Tiny Houses and the Dream of Entertaining”

  1. > “But by installing a slide at home, you remove the appeal of going to the park to play on the slide there. You’ve secluded yourself–probably with an inferior slide–instead of creating an opportunity to interact with people in a shared space.”

    Great insight. As a father of five, this is a great reminder of “unintended consequences” of family and personal purchases.

  2. Not sure I agree with the idea that having a playset is a problem. We had a playset that was heavily used by our oldest daughter and all of her friends, especially when people came over to visit. We could send the kids outside to play and enjoy some adult-visiting time. The kids all had a great time playing together with the worst problem typically being to every now and then have to warn the kids to watch out for the smaller kids running around.

    Even growing up, we had a playset that was heavily used by all of my cousins when the family was gathered together. While we’d sometimes hit the park across the street, having that in the back yard was convenient for my family when they just needed to get something done without a kid constantly there looking for an adult to entertain them. 🙂 (Not often, but it happened.)

    • paschott: Yeah, I’m not necessarily saying, “Don’t ever by a playset,” but moreso to think about what it really means. I think it’s human nature to want people to come to us–we all want to have the house where everyone hangs out. But I think it’s extremely rare that a single location or single element of any location becomes the sole focus of all our friends and neighbors.

      I’ll use my own childhood home as an example: We had a nice big backyard that connected with 4 other nice big backyards. 4 of those yards had playsets. Granted, they all went up at different times, but isn’t that a little weird? You can probably see the same thing across America with playsets, pools, basketball courts, etc. For some reason we want to own these things, even given the availability of those things in close proximity. We could have even joined forces and built one big awesome jungle gym instead of 4 subpar playsets. 🙂

      • I can see that to some extent, but where I live privacy fences are the norm and I think the fear of lawsuits keeps people from wanting just anyone on their sets. It only takes one incident, and not even a bad one, for someone to have a major lawsuit on their hands. 🙁 Sadly, even if someone is trespassing the homeowner is responsible for whatever they do if they get hurt (which I really don’t understand).

        I like the idea of people pooling together to do something better, but I think there are just too many unknowns for that to be the reality today. Things have changed since we were kids. You even have parents who have CPS called because their kids actually walked from the playground to their house. No actual danger, except to the poor parents who now have CPS breathing down their necks for letting their kids be kids.

        In our case, we actually do seem to be more of a hub for get-togethers than most of our friends. We have a house large enough to handle people, a reasonable amount of parking, and a kid-friendly family room. That would normally justify a playset or similar. Of course as most of the kids are now older, a playset is probably not as necessary, though it would be nice for the littlest one. It would just need to be sturdy enough to handle “big kid” traffic as well.

        • It sounds like you’re the exception to the rule, but that’s great!

          That’s also a good (but unfortunate) point about lawsuits.

  3. Decisions aren’t always made based on some kind of greater good analysis. You might buy a slide so that your toddler happily entertains herself while you make dinner instead of nipping at your heels and complaining. Hypothetically of course.

    • I don’t think Anna’s tiny slide quite qualifies for the big playset I’m talking about here. 🙂

      However, more importantly is the distinction about the “greater good,” which isn’t really the point of this post. It’s not focused on the greater good at all–it’s about the spaces we buy and create with the hope that everyone will come to us. It feels good to be the hub. I’m not saying that Joel should get rid of the pool table or Anna her slide. But I think my friend’s move to a tiny house was a good reminder to me personally that the dream of entertaining rarely aligns with reality.

  4. I’ve just had a look at my shelves and I’ve realised that more than half of my board games have been bought because I think ‘ooh, this’ll be fun to play with friends’! But is that different to what you’re asking though? Because board games by their very nature are social devices meant to be shared with others? (except 1P games obviously)

    • Gino: That’s an interesting question. I think the key difference is that board games are portable. Playtests aren’t portable. Home movie studios aren’t portable. Giant dining rooms aren’t portable. But you can easily pick up 3-4 board games and carry them elsewhere to play.


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