Have you put dirt in the toilet lately? (And other things you don’t hear living in a “normal” house)

Have you put dirt in the toilet lately? (And other things you don’t hear living in a “normal” house)

If you read any Tiny Home blog, you will eventually run into the all-important toilet question. It’s quite valid, and worthy of serious research and consideration. What kind of toilet are you going to have? Are you going to have a black water tank and one of those low-water RV toilets? Are you going to attempt a standard toilet? How about a composting toilet? Or one of those fancy incinerating ones? Or a dehydrating toilet? After picking a method, you have to pick a model (composting toilets range from approximately $720 ̶ $2000 (unless you build your own for the cost of a five-gallon bucket, a toilet seat, and some wood chips. There are numerous tutorials for that as well. But the efficacy vs. cost ratio may be a worthy debate.)). Some toilets work fairly passively; others need electricity or water to process. Did you know there were so many options for the place all your waste is deposited?

After some discussion of our own, we settled on the Boon Jon. My first requirement was that it needed to look relatively like a toilet ̶ I didn’t want to have to obviously sit on a five-gallon bucket, toilet seat or no toilet seat. If we were to have a bucket-based toilet, I wanted it camouflaged. I had also done a sufficiency of reading other people’s blogs to pick up on the concept of separating liquids and solids if one is going to have an alternate toilet, so that was my second requirement. Here’s the deal: everyone thinks poop stinks. They’re right. However, unless you have changed enough diapers (and actually analyzed it), you may not realize this little tidbit: stale urine is the true Sultan of Stench. Change a soggy toddler diaper after a long night of sound sleep and you’ll know. The longer urine sits, the stinkier it gets. The longer poop sits… the drier and less stinky it gets. If you have a method to dehydrate the poop more rapidly, your toilet won’t stink as long. 

Our toilet fulfills both of my requirements. It has a standard toilet seat on top, and then a secondary lid beneath that. Under the lid there is a funnel-type setup right at the front, and a hole behind that which opens into the five-gallon bucket underneath. The bucket lid was modified to have a churn-type setup inside the bucket, and a handle was included to make the churn turn. The whole thing is encased in wood, making it less obvious that our toilet is a bucket. When we empty and clean our toilet, we put about two quarts of peat moss in the bottom, and then use the toilet. Solid waste and toilet paper go in the bucket, and the urine gets caught by the funnel in the front, then carried through a shunt into our grey water. Every couple of uses, we add a scoop or so of peat moss and use the handle to stir what is in the bucket. The peat draws the moisture from the poop, and covers what scent there is until it dries. About once a week, we empty and wash it. Keep in mind we are a family of five, and the same toilet with fewer people wouldn’t have to be emptied quite as often. The waste from the toilet can be emptied into a compost pit. (I’m not going to go into the time and methodology for composting the waste until it is sufficient for reuse; I’m not an expert there, and there are a lot of places you can find that discuss that.)

All of this brings me to my titular question. Have you put dirt in the toilet lately? It’s a very valid question at my house. If there’s an insufficiency of dirt (or no one stirs the toilet to make things get covered in said dirt), the toilet becomes somewhat rank. Even if no one has pooped recently, too much toilet paper (used to wipe urine (and urine stinks!!)) makes the whole toilet scent go awry. 

The toilet was a learning curve. We moved into our house in the hot summertime, and didn’t realize just how much dirt was necessary to keep the process in line. We wound up with maggots. it was terribly gross. The toilet really didn’t stink, but between the heat of the summer and the dehydration happening too slowly, the toilet became a cycle of humidity and a breeding ground of pestilence. It took a little while to clear it all up, but we did. Now, our relationship with our toilet is a good one, and we don’t worry about bugs and excessively humid buckets; they haven’t troubled us since the beginning (we’ve had another hot summer since, too). My only minor beef with the toilet is that between the funnel and the bucket opening is shallower than I would prefer for wiping purposes. That is something I’ve had to get used to. But it all works just fine. 

Of course, in order to ensure I haven’t brought you here with false promises and that there is in fact truth in advertising, I need to remember that my title wasn’t just about the toilet, but about things you hear when living in a Tiny Home that would be an anomaly to hear in a “normal” house. And I was going to do that. But, I started analyzing things and came up with a couple of scenarios:

Me, looking at some awesome kitchen gadget: Oooh, Shiny! I want that! It’s genius… But it won’t fit in my kitchen storage space.

Okay, so that’s true. But for how many people living in “normal” houses is it also true? Probably a majority of them, if we are all honest. Back when I had an entire walk-in pantry (with a spare oven, a secondary sink, counter space, and a chest freezer) that had shelves to the ten-foot ceiling, I filled that sucker up. I didn’t necessarily have room for a new fun gadget. We expand to fill the space we are given, so that scenario applies to everyone.

Kid, in the toy section at Target: Mama! Can we get _____________? Please? 

Me: Nope. You have plenty of things you don’t play with already, and they’re always strewn about. I’m not getting you more things when you can’t take care of the ones you have. 

So that sounds like all parents, everywhere. Doesn’t have anything to do with Tiny Home living. 

Grandparent, arriving with very thoughtful gift of clothing article for the children:  Look how pretty! 

Me, smiling and being truly appreciative: Thank you so much. That was thoughtful. I know the kid will enjoy wearing that. And now I need to get rid of something so our clothing storage spaces aren’t too full…

This, too, is a scenario that can happen anywhere, in any size home. I think the only statement I came up with that isn’t heard in a “normal” home (besides discussions regarding the toilet and the dirtiness thereof) was a very sleepy little voice asking, “Daddy, why is the house shaking?” (The which prompted a sudden cessation of activity and wide eyes, followed by, “Don’t worry about it, love. Go back to sleep,” and a collapse into a fit of fairly silent giggles.)

After all the analysis, the conclusion is that living in a Tiny Home really isn’t that different from living in a home that is not tiny. It still needs cleaning. The parade of stuff still needs curation so you aren’t buried in it. Cooking, sleeping, bathing, living still happens just the same. But the mindset, the opportunities which can be chased, and the eventual effect on finances do make the lifestyle we have chosen one that, for us, is worthy of a few minor inconveniences like putting dirt in our toilet. 


-Katrina Jones

Katrina Jones is a: Wife, Mother, Daughter, Believer, Writer, and the Chief of Strategy for Tiny House Tool- a business that exists for the purpose of helping attain freedom through frugal living, tiny house dwelling, and smart decision making. To Learn more, take the Tiny House Survey Here.

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