The Tiny House Movement

I’ve been following the Tiny House movement, also known as the Small Home movement, for several years now. While technically any home less than 1,000 square feet is considered to be a tiny house, most of these new tiny homes are less than 500 square feet. A few of them are less than 100 square feet.

The houses come in two flavors: mobile, and stationary. The mobile ones are built for the most part on top of tandem axle trailers. An 8×16 will net you 128 square feet; a 24 foot one will get you 192. The immobile ones are often a bit larger in size. Both are often taller than you would expect. The tall ceilings give both the illusion of being larger then they are, and are often home to lofts and additional storage. Permanent tiny houses often contain traditional plumbing and electrical solutions, while the mobile kind more closely resemble camper trailers and often utilize things like composting toilets and solar panels.

Of course there’s no rules when it comes to tiny homes there are no rules, no right or wrong. There are plans and suggestions, but that’s it. Some people buy these things pre-made. Some people buy kits. Some people buy plans. Some people buy a trailer, some wood, a hammer and some nails and start building.

One of my friends who grew up in Texas moved to New York City. While discussing the lifestyle differences he told me “in Texas, we had a swimming pool. Here [in New York City] I have the YMCA. There, I had a huge backyard. Here, I have Central Park. There, I had a huge DVD collection. Here, I have Netflix.”

To say that one must make concessions when living in a small home is not a small statement. I currently have a six-foot-tall arcade cabinet standing in my dining room, “just because.” I have a closet lined with 1,000 DVDs I never watch. When you live in a 300 square foot home, you make to make choices like how many spoons do you really need to survive. It’s all about deciding what you need to live, and what you can live without. I suppose at its core, that’s what living in a small home is all about. It is not unusual in a tiny house for the bedroom, the living room, and the office to all be the same small room.

You would think people would embrace small homes, but this does not seem to be the case. Most neighborhoods have a minimum amount of square feet for a home; unsurprisingly, tiny homes rarely meet these requirements. Some cities and neighborhoods fear what affect these small, inexpensive homes will have on property values. Many mobile home parks refuse to let tiny homes park there if they weren’t built by a certified builder. Zoning issues and permits, it turns out, can be a nightmare.

While my heart adores the tiny house movement, my collecting tendencies are in direct conflict with them. My “Star Wars Room,” a spare bedroom in our house lined with shelves full of Star Wars collectibles, is roughly the size of some of these homes. To say we would need to downsize is an understatement. I could write a book of all the things I would need to get rid of first. And then I would need to get rid of the book, because it wouldn’t fit in the tiny home either.

As far as electronic entertainment goes, you would have room for a laptop and a flat screen television and that’s about it. Everything’s a concession. It’s about getting down to a single pair of shoes. Six extra inches of closet space could mean a bathroom that’s six inches narrower. Sometimes, the bathrooms don’t have doors. Everything in the house has multiple uses: couches have storage underneath, kitchen counters become kitchen tables, desks fold into walls, and stairs hide cabinet drawers.

A tiny home is definitely not in the cards for us anytime soon, but maybe someday as a summer home.

Or a writer’s cabin.

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1 comment to The Tiny House Movement

  • Zeno

    Myiown interest in this movement has to do in its function as an exercise in efficiency and cost management as well as utilization of new building materials.It’s rather discouraging, when one considers the potential benefits for low income people, to discover that there’s resistance to this effort being perpetrated by an orthodoxy within zoning and construction whose sole justification seems to be “that’s the way we’ve always done it”