• When Home is Tiny by Choice

    Many of us are playing a game.  We may not realize it, or if we do, we don’t bother questioning it.  But we certainly know the rules:  Get money – Get more money – Buy more – Get more – Buy bigger – Impress others – Keep moving up.  It’s a competition that we are convinced that we really want to win.

    What if, instead of cultivating image and gathering material possessions, the goal of our lives was the pursuit of experiences, personal growth, maximum health, and satisfying relationships?

    Tiny houses have sparked imagination as they represent the rejection a life spent working to pay for excessive consumption.  In 1997 Sarah Susanka published a book called The Not So Big House which has been credited with initiating renewed interest in small homes.  The tiny house movement (or sometimes more liberally called the small house movement) has been gaining momentum ever since.  Advocates of the movement see the pursuit of ever more elaborate ‘McMansions’ full of stuff as a distraction from the ultimate goal of living a productive and satisfying life.  They borrow from principles of minimalism and simple living to create streamlined tiny structures for optimal living.  Spaces are thoughtfully designed, maximizing efficiency and minimizing the use of resources.  It’s about avoiding the excesses that ultimately lead to waste – the wasting of time, money, energy, and resources.

    The deeper you delve into the tiny house movement, the more you realize that it is primarily about a way of living.   The most important part of any tiny home discussion is not the extent that you can manage squeeze down the square footage of your home, but the change in perspective and priorities that comes with choosing a smaller home.  It’s about stepping away from blindly playing the consumer’s game and instead asking ‘what do I really need in a house so that I can be free to do what I really want with my life?’.

    While some may anticipate feeling smothered by the confined space, tiny home dwellers regularly describe a sense of space and freedom.  Purging unnecessary items can dramatically simplify day-to-day living, releasing tiny home owners from the responsibility of caring for, cleaning, and maintaining all of their things.  The effect is that living tiny leaves more space in your life for non-material things such as family, friends, exercise, spending time in nature, work, passions, creative endeavours, etc.  There is a new kind of luxury living to be had where the ultimate luxury is time.

    small quebec cottage

    Another major perk of tiny or small living is being able to live without the burden of a mortgage or rent payment or at the very least without a large payment.  With a much smaller space to heat and cool you can also expect drastically smaller monthly bills.  Perhaps, you could use some of that reclaimed money to choose better quality particulars like high end and sustainable materials, furniture, appliances, fixtures, etc. for your home.  Perhaps not.  It’s your money.  Take a moment to imagine what you could do with that much extra every month.

    Now that we have covered some of the perks of smaller living, it’s only fair to acknowledge that making the choice to live in a tiny or small house can be a difficult topic to discuss with friends and family.  For some, especially a struggling middle class hoping to stylishly step out of the difficult and all-consuming race for bigger, living tiny may seem like the perfect escape.  But for those who are accustom to making sacrifices to adhere to the rules of the game mentioned above (Get money – Get more money – Buy more – Get more – Buy bigger – Impress others – Keep moving up) living tiny contradicts the ideals that they have spent a lifetime fiercely pursuing.  Consider someone who has given up valuable time with friends or family, staying home with their children, or pursuing their passions in order to work to pay for large homes and abundant material things.  People who have sacrificed like this need to believe that they did the right thing and that large homes are important.  They may be especially unaccepting of the idea.

    Should you decide to forge enthusiastically ahead with plans of reducing the square footage of your living space remember that there is also such a thing as too small!  Just ask the millions of people worldwide forced by poverty to live in small or tiny houses, apartments, huts, shacks, cabins, tents, etc. that may or may not be effectively set up for their needs.  It is not always ideal.

    The key to a successful tiny or small house transition is careful consideration of what will work for you and making the switch with the right attitude.

    When making the decision about what kind of house is best suited to you and your family’s needs it pays to think about more than “How small can I go?”.  It is critical to consider things like:

    1. How introverted are you and the members of your family and what are the individual needs for personal space and privacy?
    2. Do you have the motivation and resourcefulness needed to cook healthy meals in a tiny kitchen?
    3. Where do you value a bit of space to stretch out – in the tub? in bed? playing on the floor with pets or children?  when exercising?
    4. How much time do you expect to be spending indoors.  For example, do you work from home, or live where the climate tends to more extremes of cold or hot?
    5. Do you expect to be entertaining guests?

    Its also important to approach the change with the right attitude.   Think of maximizing efficiency instead of cutting things out of your life.  Simply ‘going without’ implies that things are lacking and will leave you feeling like you are missing something.  A good attitude and a carefully considered plan will allow you to still live the kind of life that you want, only thoughtfully so.  Tiny or small house living is not a step backwards in life, but a step forward in efficiency of design and resource usage.

    small cottage

    Ultimately the tiny house movement is optimistic that it will lead to more efficient use of resources, a less stressful lifestyle, and encourages people to come outside and participate in their communities.  It is the next logical step in a resource ravaged world.  Even if you aren’t willing to move into a house with less than 400 square feet, every time you find yourself asking “Do I really need this much?” you are taking a step in the right direction.

    For examples, inspiration, and stories of tiny home living see:


    The Small and Tiny Homes Board on The Graceful Terran Pinterest page.


    The Tiny Life

    Tiny House Blog

    Tiny House Talk

    Living Big in a Tiny House


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