Have you all heard about The Tiny House Movement? No? Well, by the time you’re done reading this, you will have had a crash course on the topic. A tiny house is any house that is under 800 square feet. WOW! That’s small! Especially compared to the mansions that most of us live in. And no, I didn’t mis-type that last sentence. Most of us DO live in mansions. Trust me. If you’ve left the good ol US of A at all in your lifetime and traveled anywhere of lesser economic standing, you already know this. As citizens of the United States of America, we have been afforded more luxuries and niceties than oh say, 70% of the rest of the world’s population. The average American home consists of 3 bedrooms and 2 baths, at least a one car garage, indoor plumbing, electricity, heating and air conditioning. These are all things we Americans now expect. But believe it or not, you can go many places on this lovely planet and find that not only are these things not a given when house hunting, they don’t even make the list.
The funny thing about it all is that a lot of these things truly are not necessary for our survival. Ask any of our beloved US Soldiers, I’m sure they’ll tell you exactly what’s necessary to survive and what isn’t. Watch the movie Jarhead if you need examples of what I’m talking about. But the reason I bring this up is because a conversation about tiny houses would be remiss if concept of minimalism was not at least touched on. Minimalism, as its name suggests, is the practice of having less. Minimizing everything in your life, starting with your possessions. The idea is that by paring down or even eliminating the amount of stuff you have, you also begin to rid yourself of stress. Why stress? Well, the more you own, the more you must take care of. The more you must take care of, the more you must spend on upkeep. The more you have to upkeep, the more time you must spend taking care of all of your stuff. In the end, you find yourself out of time, money, space and energy trying to house all this stuff that you’ve bought that, truth be told, you really don’t need.
The words consumer and American are now synonymous. We greedily inhale all the latest gadgets and fashion trends, only to discard them to a landfill a mere months later in favor of the next newest and biggest thing. We spend the majority of our days either working for some company that’s trying to figure out how to separate Americans from their money or we wander around in a marketing induced stupor trying to decide what next to spend our hard earned dollars on. All in an attempt, it seems, to buy happiness. If I can just get that car or that purse, that pair of shoes, wear the right makeup or don the right outfit, buy the best power tools, own the manliest truck, get season tickets to my favorite sports team, fly my entire family to Disney on vacation…..I could go on and on. But the point is that we work so hard trying to earn the money to make these things a reality in our lives because it represents happiness and success to us. But the funny thing is, once we have them, there is always something new to replace it. Our consuming little hearts are never satisfied. We just want more and more and more. But why?
I can tell you that, from my own experience, the times in my life when I was spending the most money were also the times in my life that I was the most unhappy. I was married once and found myself alone and bored on a regular basis. So what did I do? I went to the mall and wandered around at least once a week. Going to the mall for me was like going to Walmart for everyone else. I never left empty handed and I always spent a LOT more than I had intended. The funny thing was, I’d be so excited about what I purchased when I got home, but that happiness lasted only a couple of hours. Then I’d find that the loneliness, the sadness, the unhappiness…..it was all still there. My retail therapy didn’t do anything but compound the situation. Now, not only was I still unhappy and lonely, but I was unhappy and lonely AND creating needless credit card debt. Of course I didn’t ever stop long enough to think about it in those terms because I was too busy running away from my true feelings. I had no idea what was really going on inside my fragile little heart. I just wasn’t paying attention. I was caught up in the zombie rat race that is the life of an American consumer. I blamed my credit card debt on how expensive things were and tricked myself into believing that I truly needed everything I purchased. BIG. FAT. LIE.
Anyway, fast forward a few years. I was forced to downsize via a nice little life change called divorce. I went from living in a 4 bedroom home on a corner lot in a nice neighborhood with money to eat out whenever I wanted and spending cash to go to the movies and taking fabulous cruise vacations to living in a one bedroom apartment, buying my groceries at Aldi (because I had to, not because I was thrifty), no cable TV, no computer, no weekly trips to the mall and maybe $100 to my name after the bills were paid. My life literally flipped upside down. But you know what? I was just. fine. I made it. My bills were paid and I was probably happier than I’d ever been.
I learned very quickly that I didn’t need the fancy china that I registered for when I got married. I didn’t need half the kitchen gadgets I had accumulated thinking I was going to morph into Donna Reed with the swipe of my credit card. I didn’t need all the towels and toiletries and I certainly didn’t need all the little knick knacks to decorate that big ol house with. I just didn’t need ANY of that stuff. It was actually really nice to come home to my little one bedroom apartment and know that I didn’t need a lot to be happy and the stuff I did need could fit nicely into 700 sq ft with PLENTY of room left over. It was a total bonus that it took me only 30 minutes to clean my apartment vs an entire weekend to clean my old house! LOVED it! lol
Now, I’m back to living in a house. We have plenty of room for all our stuff, but now I’m finding that because I have all this extra room, I feel like I need to decorate it and fill it with, you guessed it, STUFF!!! Aaaahhhh! There are days when I just want to back a dumpster into the drive and start chucking it all. Don’t get me wrong, I love this house…life was just simpler without it and all its contents to take care of. Which leads me to tiny houses. I discovered the tiny house craze a year or so ago. Maybe longer. I was researching how to start my first garden (I was tired of all the high prices at the grocery store, not to mention all the preservatives and other BS that the FDA allows in our food supply…yada, yada, yada) and I stumbled upon an article about tiny houses on an Off Grid website. But I was ABSOLUTELY intrigued. It was such a foreign concept. A house smaller than my apartment?! Get out! I couldn’t stop researching and reading about these houses. Why were people living in such small spaces? Did they really like it? How’d they do it? How’d they decide what to get rid of and what to keep? What about necessities? How’d they fit everything? That led me to minimalism and then the idea of never buying anything that didn’t at least serve two purposes, including furniture. Then it was back to off grid living and solar power, composting and gardening. I had come full circle. I had come across a subculture that I did not know existed.
The best and most compelling reason I came across that made people decide to make the transition to a tiny house is financial. These houses start anywhere from $5k and, for the structure only, can go up to $30k depending upon square footage, finishings & labor. Can you imagine what more you could do in your life if you owned your home in 5 years for no more than $500 a month?! Buying a home could essentially be compared to buying a car. I can definitely get behind that! Add to the fact that your utilities would go down because the space you are heating and cooling, etc is much smaller. Even less if you choose to use solar power and a composting toilet.
I could go on SO many more vacations with all that saved money! My life would be more affordable, more simplistic and, dare I say, happier. Less stuff to tie me down and stress me out. Its official. I do plan to have my own tiny house at some point in the future. I know myself well enough to know that I’m not for a 90 sq footer or even a 300 sq footer for that matter. My size is probably 800-900 sq feet and it will be in the middle of at least 10 acres. It could be a tree house, a little cabin or a hobbit hole, I truly don’t care. But whatever it ends up being, it will be just enough. No more, no less.