Since 2009 Tiny r(E)volution has undergone a couple of facelifts. Why the changes? In short, because life changes. With each season comes new adventure, new trial, new circumstances, new opportunities, and the like. Imagine how the Indiana Jones series would have been if he had just been content battling a group of Soviets in the mid-1950s over a telepathic crystal skull rather than continuing on into a professorship and ultimately rescuing the Holy Grail from a crumbling temple? Pretty boring and certainly not worth of a film franchise. Well, the same goes for the r(E)volution. In just six years we have gone from backpacks and the mission field to a converted woodworking shop to a tiny house on wheels to a travel trailer and now on to a small farmette “sticks n bricks.” Each step of the way has been dictated by necessity, opportunity, and growth. But with each step we continually ask ourselves if our life is staying simple and allowing us to live with more purpose. That doesn’t mean we don’t sometimes wonder if 900 sq.ft. is too big or if 240 sq.ft. was unrealistically small. We do. But what we realize over and over is that the tiny house movement ignores convention and serves to work against a simple definition. It is a movement that is dictated by personal growth and recognition.
The past 3-4 years have been explosive for the tiny house movement. Every online journal from Treehugger.com to The New York Times, HuffPo to foreign news sources, have covered the, ahem *cough cough*, trend! No less than three documentaries have been made (with TINY: A story about small living being available on DVD and on Netflix). There are now at least two television shows covering building and buying a tiny house. Even home and garden shows have gotten in on the act regularly including a tiny house on wheels and accompanying landscape as a showcase around the nation.
When compared to the bungalow or cottage of just five years ago (around 1600 sq.ft.) a typical tiny house on wheels seems like tight quarters. But just how tight are they and what fuels the desire to build tiny or *gasp* micro, even.
Throughout our adventures we have moved fluidly from 30o0 cubic inches to our current 900 sq. ft. Along the way we have picked up a little human, some possessions that mean a great deal to us, a desire to host others as they pass through our area, and more. Sometimes our space seems to big, sometimes it seems too tiny, but more often than not it feels just right. It feels like who we are at that moment in time. We have arranged, decorated, and appropriated each space to fit our life right then. This current iteration of “home” is no different. A 2 bedroom/2 bathroom farmette, the just over 900 sq.ft. house sits on just at 1.5 acres and allows us plenty of opportunity to homestead and breathe. It sits on the outskirts of town and has magnificent sunrises and sunsets.
With a small barn on site as well as an enclosed “lean to” we have ample room for growth should our family need it as well as room to explore our hobbies and interests. The openness of the space (only the two bedrooms and bathrooms feature walls) lets us stay in community during the day in addition to homeschooling, working, and just living in general. When we were in backpacks we relied on Internet cafes, coffee shops, public libraries, truck stops, and the generosity of those willing to host us. As we moved into our converted woodshop we gained a small bathroom with shower stall, a kitchenette for home-cooked meals, and a corner that doubled as our closet and nursery. The design of our tiny house gave us a feeling of great space as we had a “bedroom” in the back, a full kitchen (with full-sized appliances) in the front, room for a toddler bed and small play space, and large windows from which to see the world!
One thing we have noted time and time again though is that it is all about the design; the layout of the space. Thoughtful design is far more important than size. That idea is one that Sarah Susanka – author of The Not So Big House – has expressed for years. Credited by Wikipedia with “initiating the small house movement”, her focus is actually on smart design. A smaller house if oftentimes a product of smart design but is never the motivation.
What I have noticed is that the Wikipedia page on tiny houses treats small houses and tiny houses as one idea. And while the two do have a number of similarities, they are esoterically different. Small homes, when designed and scaled intuitively and creatively, can teach the traditional sticks ‘n bricks set quite a bit. Tiny houses (and by this I specifically mean tiny houses on wheels, sheepherders wagons, teepees, and the like) offer up lessons regarding the value of intentional living, relationship, and need -vs- want. Small houses (less than 1,000 square feet) have the ability to again transform the American landscape. Tiny houses seem to be representative only on a niche scale.
I could have sworn that after about 2007 the housing market would look vastly different. Seems I was wrong though as according to the latest U.S. Census data, the average new home is still a McMansion, if you will. The Census Bureau reports that the average single-family house in 2014 was 2,453 sq. ft.; an all-time high. Of the 620,000 single-family homes completed in 2014:
- 565,000 had air-conditioning.
- 64,000 had two bedrooms or less and 282,000 had four bedrooms or more.
- 25,000 had one and one-half bathrooms or less, whereas 221,000 homes had three or more bathrooms.
But what I have come to look beyond is statistics such as those. While 900 sq.ft. may be perfect for the Tiny r(E)volution family of 3 any number of the following would drastically change our needs and thusly our desires for a home.
- Another child
- The desire to do indoor entertaining
- A large dog or multiple pets
- A sizable collection of anything (sports memorabilia, tin signs, Nutcrackers, pinball machines, etc)
Small is relative. End of conversation. Tiny is in many ways, a fad. At least it is to those looking from the outside in. Think about this. You can’t find room for all of your Christmas decorations. My house is too small. You have a party and don’t have enough room for all of your guests to sit for supper. My house is too small. And what does small call for? Bigger! The theory can repeat ad nauseam. How many people who LIKE the latest tiny house Facebook page will actually ever live in a tiny house? What about you? Do you enjoy looking at tiny houses and their cuteness but could never imagine putting your life into one? That is the issue at hand. That is where tiny becomes small and small becomes big. It is a crossroads of intelligence, practicality, and functionality, and I propose, one we all need to stop (or least yield at) in order to avoid a very devastating collision.
What do you think? What is your take on tiny houses, small houses, and the intersection of the two? Do you have a personal theory on the subject?