I’ve been infatuated with tiny house living since the moment I heard about it. Not surprising since I’ve always had a love-on for the little. There was the plastic toy toilet I used to hide from my sister as a child (I didn’t want to share). And the miniature potbelly pig I desperately wanted for a pet as a teenager. I’ve been cultivating my weird obsession with tiny versions of full-sized things my whole life. And now, here is a movement that not only bolsters one of my many eccentricities – it also validates it. Because tiny houses aren’t just adorable, they could save the planet too.
A tiny home is 500 square feet or less, although I’ve read about people building homes as itsy bitsy as 96 square feet (about the size of a smallish bedroom). Did I mention the average Canadian home currently sits at around 1,900? So… what are we doing with the extra 1,400 square feet? Why, filling it with stuff, of course!
According to website The Tiny Life, having less stuff (“Life Simplification”) is one of the core principles of tiny house living. Along with “Environmental Consciousness” (tiny houses have smaller footprints – literally and metaphorically), “Self Sufficiency” (68 per cent of tiny house owners have no mortgage), “Sound Fiscal Plans” (32 per cent of tiny house owners have more than $10,000 saved for retirement) and “Life Adventures” (what could be more adventurous than raising four kids in a 232 square foot home).
With only one percent of American home buyers purchasing a residence that is 1,000 square feet or less (1,000 square feet is the cutoff for a house to be considered “small”), it’s clear that extreme downsizing isn’t for everyone. But I think there are a few things tiny house living can teach us all.
Build Better, Not Bigger
Back in my favourite decade – the good ol’ 90s – English-born, American-based architect Sarah Susanka published her design ideas, based on the principle of quality over quantity, in The Not So Big House, which served as a launchpad for the tiny house movement. According to the book’s website, “Not So Big doesn’t necessarily mean small. It means not as big as you thought you needed, but designed and built to perfectly suit the way you live.” Essentially, think before you build (or buy)! A bigger house not only isn’t better, it also leads to a higher upfront construction cost, a higher overall cost to maintain the home and, as mentioned above, just a whole lot of wasted space to fill with wasteful things.
The Simple Life
When you permanently live in a home the same size as some people’s recreational vehicles, you make simplification a priority. And it’s within this task that tiny house owners shine. An example I’m currently implementing in my own not-so-tiny, but also not-so-big residence, is from a video about a couple who live in a tiny home. Their office is about the size of a regular home’s linen closet. To maximize their space, they scan all their officey-type documents into their computer and then shred the paper copy. Well, let me tell you, this blew my mind. Before I began my own shredding extravaganza a good portion of my closet floor was dedicated to plastic filing boxes. Not only am I now saving space, I’m saving something even more precious – time. Because all I do after I open a piece of important mail is scan, shred, done.
Less Truly Does Equal More
Although I already touched on the sustainability of a tiny house, it’s the most important facet of this movement. Statements similar to the following currently echo throughout our daily lives – if we want to continue to live on a planet that doesn’t resemble The Day After Tomorrow, something has to change. (But don’t worry, Jake Gyllenhaal can stay.) Website Planet Forward calls tiny house living “one of the rare instances in which cheap and green go hand in hand.” For everyone who has ever wanted to “go green” only to gasp at the price of organic foods, eco-friendly cleaning supplies, clothing made of natural materials and alternative energy sources like solar panels, here is a price that is truly startling: $23,000. As in, the average cost to build a tiny home, if built by the owners. Plus, a smaller home means lower heating and electricity costs, and a lot more money available to invest in all the cool, new eco-inventions for the home – like a composting toilet (which is small, but not small enough to hide from your sibling).
So maybe a tiny home isn’t in your future, but a tinier, simpler life? Now, doesn’t that sound nice…
Want to learn more about tiny life living? Watch this video! As for your comments, which I’m always dying to receive, please post them below. Would you live in a 500 square foot house? If not, are there ways you’d like to incorporate the tiny house living movement into your life? Subscribe so you don’t miss future posts on architecture, interior design, DIY projects, sustainability, home decor, crafts and gardening.
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Posted on February 12, 2015
Former architectural technologist. Current treehugger.
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