Sizing Up the Tiny House Movement

Tiny houses represent an appealing alternative to traditional homes. An entire movement has been created behind them. But why?

Any house that is under 400 square feet is considered a tiny house. They can be built with a foundation, made out of an old shed or built on a trailer.

People are drawn to tiny homes for different reasons. Many tiny house owners cite the lowered expense, others make the move for environmental reasons and some are minimalists.

According to The Tiny Life, the average cost of buying a traditional home is $1,073,000 over 30 years.

Alternatively, a tiny house can cost anywhere from $12,000 to $45,000 to build. For most, there’s no need for a mortgage — they pay the costs up front. Repair and maintenance costs are also minimal compared to a traditional home, especially since many tiny house dwellers built the home themselves and can handle most repair issues.

There’s still the matter of where to live in your tiny house, which represents an additional expense. According to Tiny House Community, you’ve got five options:

  1. Your own land (which can be difficult due to zoning)
  2. Someone’s backyard
  3. RV park (which are starting to accept tiny houses)
  4. Tiny house community or ecovillage
  5. Cities where there are already small homes

So — will it really be cheaper? Depending on where you end up living, most likely.

Beyond the finances, minimalists and design aficionados are drawn to tiny houses due to their emphasis on functional space. The interior design of a tiny house is much different than a traditional home, with every square inch being put to good use.

How Did Living in Small Houses Become a Social Movement?

Sarah Susanka has been credited with starting the movement towards living in smaller houses with her 1997 book The Not So Big House. She wasn’t the first to advocate such a lifestyle, however. Lloyd Kahn’s 1973 book Shelter and Lester Walker’s 1987 book Tiny Houses are also credited with spreading the idea of simpler living.

Of course, Henry David Thoreau advocated for simpler living in Walden. Many people cite Thoreau as inspiration for a return to minimalist living.

In the early 2000’s, Jay Shafer designed a 96 square foot home that received nationwide attention, helping to catalyze philosophy into reality. He later founded a company that built and sold tiny homes.

However, it wasn’t until 2005’s Hurricane Katrina that tiny houses really started to shine. Marianne Cusato designed Katrina Cottages as a 308 square feet alternative to FEMA trailers. They were designed to help provide a better solution to a disastrous situation, but they ended up garnering nationwide attention due to their design.

2008’s housing crisis turned a niche idea into a viable alternative. As people lost their homes, mortgage rates sky rocketed and the nation fell into a recession — seemingly everyone was investigating a cheaper way to live. This investigation led millions to explore tiny houses as a viable option to a traditional property.

Now, there have been documentaries, TV shows and endless blog posts about tiny houses and the social movement behind them. Tiny houses can be seen being towed around the United States, popping up in backyards and being built in vacant fields.

Is A Tiny House Right for You?

We live in a society where bigger is better, but tiny houses challenge that notion. The philosophy behind tiny houses is to have your living space serve you, instead of the other way around. It’s about having more time and money to do what interests in you.

Does that sound appealing? It does to me.

However, the reality is that you’ll be living in a much smaller space than you likely have for your entire life. Typically, a tiny house will have areas that transform to suit different needs, instead of having a dedicated room for each need. Your living room, dining room and home gym will probably be in the same area. Can you handle that?

Another aspect that draws many to the world of tiny houses is designing your own house from the ground up. Sure, some companies sell blueprints you can buy, but you can also try your hand at designing and building your own dwelling. The alone attracts many do-it-yourselfers; tiny houses are the ultimate project.

Those who value simplicity, frugality and minimalism are perfect candidates for living in a tiny house.

Have you ever thought about living in a tiny house? Do you currently? Are you planning on it? Let me know in the comments!

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