Ever since the government census bureau began recording such things, the size of houses built in the U.S. has steadily grown. The average house is now pushing 2,500 square feet, a 66% increase from 1973.
This growth in floorspace is indicative of a deeper societal pattern; one of rootedness, security, and materialism.
It is in light of this cultural trend, that the popularity of an underground movement called “tiny houses” or “micro homes” is all the more surprising. The name is not misapplied; prospective tiny homeowners should expect to live in 500 square feet, and even that seems roomy in comparison to the 160 square foot models.
Despite society’s steady rise in square footage, the tiny house movement is growing at an equally rapid rate. Consider the merits raised by defenders of their small castles:
Why Tiny Houses?
As an art form, it is believed that minimalism began in the 1960s, though cavemen were demonstrating artistic restraint long before anyone heard of Frank Stella. Beginning as a fringe movement and growing up with the hippie culture, minimalism has now matured into a new vogue.
The fact that minimalism is growing in popularity in a materialistic age indicates its subversive, countercultural nature, like the hippie revolution of the sixties. Some evangelists for the gospel of minimalism believe that satisfaction can be found in having less, that less really is more. Others, who do not go quite so far, state that minimalism only helps one focus on important things by not focusing on things.
Either way, tiny houses, are by definition, minimalistic. When one’s living quarters are reduced to a few hundred square feet, one learns to live with less. And for many homeowners, this is one of the most attractive features of a tiny house.
The fact that there are so many do-it-yourself models points to tiny houses’ popularity among our more physically competent population. For someone wanting personal involvement in creating his own dwelling, the tiny house movement beats every other option on the market.
The trend toward personal involvement, like the return to minimalism, analog, and vinyl, is a reclamation from the conveyer-belt age of store-bought plastic; it’s another contribution of tiny houses to a subculture that cuts against the grain.
On the other hand, for those preferring minimal effort, ready-built tiny house models abound, proving that there really is something for everyone in a tiny house.
Smaller is usually less expensive, but in the case of houses, the numbers are staggering. Turning again to the government census bureau, one discovers that the average cost of a house in 2016 hovers around $350,000. Compare this to a tiny house which can be purchased anywhere in the neighborhood of $50,000, or built oneself for much less.
For many, a small home means the luxury of a large bank account.
It was mentioned before that large houses appeal to those with a desire for rootedness. It is the other kind of person, haunted by wanderlust, that finds freedom and flexibility in a completely different floor plan. The restless soul lives in small quarters because he intends for most of his life to be lived outside those quarters; a tiny house is little more than a watering hole to which one returns after a day of exploring the world outside.
Going one step further, some tiny houses feature a revolutionary concept: that of nomadic living. Instead of building a structure on a piece of land and living there all one’s life, many tiny houses, like those supplied by the Tumbleweed company, are built on trailer beds, allowing the owner to live on the move. While this may provide problems in terms of a mailing address, it is enormously appealing to those desiring geographic freedom and flexibility.
Where to Find Them.
Tiny houses aren’t for everyone. Materialists, rooted families, or fat people would all have difficulty adapting to a home life constrained by a few hundred square feet. But if it’s the right fit for you, there are plenty of options available:
And, as with any growing industry, there are many, many others.
Perhaps the greatest benefit of tiny houses is that they force us to be intentional with the stuff we have, differentiating between wants and needs. They force us to consider what to have, why we have it, and how to live in light of it. Intentionality in possessions, lifestyle, and the place you call home.
That’s a big mission for a small house.