The crux of this post is simple: I desperately want to get my heart on paper regarding the topic of tiny houses. Also known as the “small house movement,” this concept has the capability of making a big impact on our world. Lots of digital ink has been spilled about tiny houses, but I wanted to introduce the readers of the New Leaf Energy blog to this movement in the hopes that it encourages you to get out and explore this new architectural and green living development.
200 ft2 or less
Imagine the entirety of your home life fitting into little more than the space allotted for a master bedroom and on-suite bathroom in a typical “McMansion.” On the surface, this may sound confining for some people – even claustrophobic – but for many, it rings of freedom, both from the trappings of a consumer-driven society and from the shackles of a weighty 30-year mortgage. All of the sudden, living in your walk-in closet begins to feel like an open door to a new world.
Let’s begin with the basics. A tiny house is just that – a house. It’s not a mobile home, it’s not a camper, it’s not temporary, and it’s not a last resort. Tiny houses are typically less than 200 ft2 in size and constructed on the back of a flat bed trailer, as they are usually too small to be constructed as permanent dwellings in many jurisdictions. These dwellings are the living embodiment of an Ikea showroom micro-apartment concept display, marrying innovation with efficiency.
Often these amazing homes adapt a main living space for multiple uses including office space, living room, and dining room. Many folks build a 2nd floor loft as a bedroom and some include a small front porch. Don’t think that these tiny habitations are without modern comforts, as a kitchen, shower, and toilet are usually incorporated. The idea isn’t to do without modern luxuries; it’s about enjoying them in a smaller space.
To facilitate the necessities, most folks design their tiny homes complete with standard electricity hookups and can attach to plumbing and sewerage in a manner similar to an RV. For those who choose a greener path, these efficient dwellings can be partially or completely powered by solar panel arrays and can incorporate a composting toilet. Lastly, these homes can be as permanent as any home, complete with a yard and a white picket fence.
Living Simply with Less
A tiny house represents the choice to live small so that you can live how you please. For example, I am madly in love with every object of any sentimentality, and as such, I’m owned by the very things that belong to me. Living in a tiny house means learning to simplify – or to keep less and experience more. This “simple life” can a difficult pill to swallow. My wife and I have waxed philosophic about this topic, and we know it’s easier said than done, but imagine a life where all of your home concerns can be summed up in a single word: ease.
One of the greatest freedoms with regard to a tiny house is financial ease. For a manufactured tiny house greater than 170 ft2 in size, you can expect to pay upwards of $70,000, but if you are willing to dig in and build it yourself, you can do it for half the price while creating a lifetime of memories. In our case, if we built our own tiny house, and bought some land near us in Fort Worth, we could expect to save about $2,000 per month in mortgage payments alone.
Moving beyond your finances, having a tiny house means having less to care for and less to worry over. Your home itself gets smaller, but your world gets exponentially larger as you let go of the trappings that come with a large home cluttered by possessions.
Now, take this concept one step further: your home now has legs. As tiny homes are permanent, you can place yours on a plot of land like any other house with a yard and fence, but where you choose to hang your hat, and for how long, is limited only by your imagination. With a small or even non-existent mortgage, a home on wheels, and a sense of adventure, your family can go wherever your heart wishes to be.
Beyond the personal benefits of tiny living, Mother Earth benefits as well. At its most basic level, the smaller your dwelling, the smaller your individual footprint on this earth. Tiny houses require less electricity to operate, use less water, and require fewer resources to build. Tiny houses help you to live in harmony with nature and can bring you even closer to a carbon-neutral life.
Other Small Home Options
As appealing as a tiny house is to both my wife and me, we have a son now, and we would eventually like another. This makes a tiny house a tough sell for a growing family. As amazing as the small house movement is, not everyone can make the transition into a tiny dream on wheels. One step up from a tiny house is a little house. As these structures are permanent, they flirt with the minimum square footage allowed by local zoning, usually between 500-600 ft2. These little houses can offer more space for a young family while still allowing for the benefits of financial ease and a simpler life. Little living comes in more than one size indeed.
The thought that life can be flexible, easy, and affordable is truly amazing. In some ways this sense of freedom is the epitome of the American spirit, but conversely it takes a willingness to adjust your vision the American dream. What constitutes the perfect home is an entirely personal thing, but I would encourage you to expand your thinking into something a bit smaller, a bit more personal, and a whole lot more liberating than what we as Americans are accustomed to. Here’s to tiny living!