How to live comfortably when going tiny.
If you’ve casually scrolled through home and architecture Pinterest Boards, browsed your Instagram feed, or channel-surfed your way over to HGTV anytime in the last couple of years, chances are you’re already intimately familiar with the Tiny House craze.
The “tiny house” or “tiny living” movement has been on the rise for decades and it’s not hard to see why. Aesthetically speaking, these diminutive dwellings can be arrestingly beautiful. Stunning A-frames and cedar wood cabins abound, tastefully designed with butcher-block counters, top-of-the-line appliances and modern fixtures.
Beyond their looks, there are other reasons why people are drawn to tiny houses. They promise a less wasteful life, free of the excess space, possessions and presumably the debt that may accompany conventionally-sized American homes. For young singles constrained by high rental costs, retirees looking to downsize, environmentally conscious individuals wanting to live lighter within a smaller footprint, or idealistic nomads with a case of wanderlust, the tiny living movement has presented itself as the quintessential solution.
Tiny homes, which typically round off at about 400 sq. ft. or less, are easier to maintain than big houses, allowing their owners to dedicate more of their precious time and hard-earned money to real life experiences. And because most zoning laws and building codes require minimum square footage for new-constructions, tiny homes are often built on trailer platforms, meaning they’re technically mobile recreation vehicles. Great news for the outdoorsy traveler, so long as you can find a place to park legally.
We’ll admit it—we love the philosophy behind the tiny home. The movement is indicative of a larger shift in the way Americans envision success: a big house, big car, and fancy, expensive possessions once symbolic of the American Dream now oppress homeowners as we become drowned in a sea of things. The spell of materialism is gradually weakening as the public seeks experiential pleasures over physical ones. People are dispelling clutter and excess in the name of more flexible and affordable housing alternatives that are better suited to their unique lifestyles.
All that said, we have some words of advice for the aspiring tiny house owner. Having been in the business of downsizing for nearly two decades now, we know a thing or two about balancing home size with function and comfort. In fact, educating the public on how to live better with less is central to our core mission. Not all small living arrangements are right for everyone, and some tiny houses may need modification before they are suitable for your family and/or lifestyle. So while the promises of tiny living can be alluring, consider these points before taking the plunge—you’ll be happy you did.
First, as with any living transition, be sure to plan well in advance. You’ll need to think long and hard about what your lifestyle will look like two, five, even 10 or 20+ years down the road, depending on how permanent an arrangement you are seeking. Will you have children? Visiting grandchildren? Living in close-quarters with kids can be difficult, especially as they grow and require more privacy. How will your tiny home accommodate this? Consider space-efficient partitions, like curtains or sliding barn doors, to help create personal boundaries when needed.
If you or a family member or roommate becomes injured or unexpectedly develops a mobility issue, will they still be able to access the bedrooms, bathroom, and kitchen? Many tiny house designs integrate ladders or stairs in creative ways; this can be space-efficient and aesthetically pleasing, but it can pose a serious problem to someone who suddenly finds themselves in crutches. Wide doorways and passages, high toe-kicks and accessible furnishings will make the space more accommodating in case of an emergency.
Will you still want to entertain? If so, how many guests, and how will your furniture and fixtures keep them comfortable? When living in a house of this size, every facet of your home must be multifunctional to allow you all the freedoms of tiny-living without sacrificing life’s basic comforts and pleasures. Expandable tables are great options for tiny-house entertainers, as are sofa wall beds.
Will you still have an address? If not, what residence will you list on your driver’s license, voter’s registration, or other important documentation? You may have to consider building your tiny home on a foundation as opposed to a trailer platform for it to be considered a legal residence.
These questions should not impede you from living tiny—rather, they’re necessary considerations that will inevitably allow you to live life more flexibly. Tiny home owners—and potential owners—already understand that life is about experience, not about stuff. The key to small living is striking a balance between living with less, spending less, and living comfortably. By making smart, well-planned purchases and integrating intentional design, your tiny house will adapt to suit you and your family for many years to come—long after the house-hunting shows and Instagram feeds have faded into obscurity.