Illustrations by Erin Taj

The Men of ‘Tiny House Hunters’ Are Not Okay

Small houses, big issues

One of the many charms of Tiny House Hunters — a nearly perfect reality TV show in which well-meaning people (couples, mostly) attempt to buy entire homes smaller than their current master bedroom—is the hunters’ seemingly boundless capacity for surprise at the spaces they might soon inhabit. I’m pretty sure “It’s…so small!” is the most common refrain uttered on Tiny House Hunters.

The fact that this line is delivered repeatedly, sincerely, without a lick of irony or awareness that the utterer is in fact on a show called Tiny House Hunters and has certainly signed a lot of paperwork and already testified on camera to the fact that their current life goal, at least within the bounds of the show they are now contractually appearing on, is to live in a tiny house — well, what else could they possibly have expected? These moments, their surprise, kill me every time.

But the harsh reality of the tiny home and the hunters’ shock is not, for me, the most fascinating aspect of Tiny House Hunters. No. The most fascinating aspect of the show is the male hunters (husbands, mostly). They’re incredibly, consistently, unceasingly terrible. If there is one single lesson a man might learn from binge watching Tiny House Hunters it’s this: Do not be a man on Tiny House Hunters. Do not be anything like any of the men on Tiny House Hunters. If you have or plan to watch this show—and you should, it’s great!—and someone you care for is watching with you and says something to the effect of, “Gee, that guy sure reminds me of you,” you should sit in silent contemplation for awhile before apologizing to this person, and then set about changing your life entirely.

The female hunters on Tiny House Hunters seem to eventually understand how their hunt is, if not outright crazy, definitely not normal. Kooky. Maybe silly? Quixotic. They’re often the ones delivering the surprise line about how small the tiny house really is, once inside, but by the second or third house, they’ve started laughing at themselves a bit, comfortable in the fact that their fate is probably sealed, that they are nearly finished filming a reality TV show in which they hunt for a tiny house.

This growth and self-awareness is crucial. I like to think that maybe most of the female hunters have this capacity for personal growth because they have had at least a few conversations with friends who gave it to them straight: “Why are you going to subject yourself to televised ridicule to search for a house that has one-sixth the square footage of your current house, which, by the way, I know I’ve maybe made snide remarks about in the past but is really a great place, or at least, not tiny?”

And I like to think that the female hunters have not only thought very hard about this question but responded, and in doing so have mentally and spiritually prepared for the weird indignities of hunting for a tiny house before a national audience.

The men on Tiny House Hunters either have no friends who will call them out on their foolishness or have no capacity for self-reflection. Whatever the case may be, they set so many bad examples it’s hard to know where to begin. But maybe — no, definitely — the biggest crime of all is that the male hunters truly, fervently believe that what they’re doing — hunting for and then moving into a tiny house — is the greatest, most noble and awesomest single sacrifice a human might make in his brief time upon this earth.

Now, it is no doubt a good thing. Americans take up way too much space. Many of our homes could, and should, be a lot smaller. That’s not really the point, though, is it? The point is that nobody likes a zealot, especially if that zealot is forcing his loved ones into a really small space.

They’re blinded by the righteousness of their downsizing, these men. So blinded that they add to their tiny house quest indefensible, preposterous “features.” I put features in quotes because an otherwise sane person would see these features for what they are: a reason not to live in this house. A lot of men on Tiny House Hunters seem suspiciously okay, even thrilled with outhouses, for example. Just the entire toilet and toilet-adjacent philosophy of the male hunters is unbelievably whack (to say nothing of their complete ignorance of the season known as “winter”). Another male hunter, in the show’s pilot episode, in fact, was weirdly obsessed with a plumbing-less, flush-less, composting toilet. I have not lived in a tiny house, but I did live in a single wide trailer, and I can tell you with certainty that very small homes with thin walls and narrow bathrooms have neither the space nor ventilation for toilet-based experimentation.

The problem with zealots is that they take themselves way too seriously. They can’t take a joke, especially at their own expense. And they can’t see outside of themselves, even for a moment. This is a deadly combination on reality television, or anywhere, really, and it blinds the male hunters of Tiny House Hunters to the tragicomic roles they trip their way into. The father moving his family of six (!) into a 600-square-foot home who kept insisting on his own art studio in the backyard, or the husband who kept pushing for a galley kitchen when his wife wanted an open floor plan, even after it became clear he did none of the cooking.

It’s important to not end up like these men, thinking you’re a hero when really, you are a fool. But it’s possible, even if you avoid appearing on a reality television show. To save yourself from such a fate, it’s important to keep close the people you love, who will remind you that however great a sacrifice you might think you’re making, theirs is greater, because here they are, sticking with you, you outhouse-loving idiot.

Ryan Bradley is a writer in Los Angeles.