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December 21, 2016 | Posted in ASH Online

By Lobke van Meijel

Henry David Thoreau might actually think there is still hope for us, now that the United States is moving more and more to his former living standards: a cozy little home, near or inside the forests. And the movement even holds communal values dear to its heart. Indeed, Americans are increasingly embracing the tiny house hype. Time to elaborate the reasons and show some examples, I think!

A tiny house is tiny. Logical, but vague. To put its size a bit more into perspective: a typical American home takes up about 2,600 square feet of space (240m2). For a tiny house, that number is decreased to 100-400 square feet (9/37m2). That is right: more and more Americans are choosing to live in spaces as big as student rooms that Dutch students immediately cross of their lists.

In addition to the cramped space–which tiny house owners consider a positive as it leads to less clutter and more time to focus on what they regard as truly important—there are several other things that tiny homes often have. They are often placed on long trailers to make them mobile. In many instances, the second-floor bedroom space is vertically low, which requires its inhabitants to crawl to bed. And although most have a working shower and toilet, many owners choose for a composting toilet because of sustainability reasons or because they can be used off-grid. Last but not least, there are even those who choose not to install a toilet or shower in their home altogether. These people must really enjoy nature.

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Picture from CountryLivingSpace.com. Original photo by Garett and Carrie Buell.

What is the appeal, then, of the tiny house movement? Well, some of the more popular reasons include financial motivations, environmental concerns, minimalist wishes, and the desire to be less tied to specific investments or a specific space. Financially speaking, tiny homes are a great option because the cost for land and for utilities is low. In addition, there is the dream of not having to pay mortgage, of course. Nevertheless, one should not expect to drop a couple thousand dollars and get the tiny house of their dreams. Precisely because of its small size, careful planning and good use of space and materials is vital. A great design costs money, one always has to calculate the weight of every screw and piece of wood, and if you want your living space to truly match your needs and desires, almost every piece of furniture has to be custom-made. Tiny house designers and builders have stated that in their experiences, costs are often cut in places where there is no room to save money; on the very frames of the house, or on the trailers that supports the mobile home.

Unless someone wants a house that will break down after a couple years of use because of its unsustainable or insufficient frame, therefore, tiny homes still call for financial investments at first. Still, many people take the initial costs to build their dream house (by themselves or by a tiny home designer—what a fantastic job) and to be able to pursue their desired mobility.

To make this a bit more real and to brighten up your day, I want close with a few examples of wonderful tiny homes and equally wonderful life experiences and desires.

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Picture from CountryLivingSpace.com. Original photo by Tumbleweed Tiny House Company.

This guy lives in the forest in Maine, where he built his own (immobile) tiny home with 80% recycled materials. He made his own wood-fired brick oven to make pizzas when his friends come over. They do have to cross the forest though, because there is no road to go by car. He does not want to imagine dealing with a huge house and heaps of stuff anymore.

These two converted a big yellow school bus into a tiny home for themselves and their dog. Felix considers his stereo and his slingshot some of his most prized possessions. Mogli is incredibly happy with their hand-made shower tiles. They started off in Alaska, and are now crossing Canada, the United States, Mexico, Guatemala, Panama and so much more to make their way to Argentina. Oh, they even have a blog!   

Jacob and Ana White are carpenters from Alaska who show you how to build a tiny home over here. There are many different episodes, and I love watching the final one with the actual reveal! This is somewhat of a more “traditional” tiny house, with it being on a trailer and actually mobile. They did, however, opt for an outhouse instead of a inside bathroom.

And then there is this man, who just had a nice idea and went on to executing it without a plan or anything.

For additional awesome videos, here are some suggested channels: Explore Alternatives (Canada), Tiny House Listings (US), Living Big in a Tiny House (NZ), and Dylan Magaster (US).