There is a grassroots movement in the green community to simplify our lives by getting rid ofCredit: Image by Steven Walling all unnecessary material goods and live in dwellings that are no larger than necessary. You may have heard of the open challenge to live with less than 100 material items in your life.
The average home in the US is over 2000 square feet in size, about double the size of the average home in Europe. By contrast, some tiny house enthusiasts are moving into beautiful wooden cottages on wheels in the 65-200 square foot range while shedding most of their belongings. These cottages have about the same amount of room as 10 to 26 foot travel trailers.
These small dwellings are found under several aliases: tiny house, micro home and mini home. Micro homes are defined as dwellings under 100 square feet in size with mini homes defined as 100 to 400 square feet in size. If the home is 400-1000 square feet, it is being called a small home. For the rest of this article, tiny house will refer to anything in the 65-400 square foot range.
Tiny houses are built on trailer frames due to local ordinances in most locales that require a house to be of a minimum size, around 400 square feet, to legally be put on a foundation. The houses tend to be as tall as legally possible to fit under highway underpasses - around 13 feet. With the extra height, sleeping lofts and vaulted ceilings are feasible, which frees up floor space and makes the living area feel more spacious.
Construction materials lean toward natural wood, inside and out with cute all wood porches. Most of the kitchen and bathroom fixtures are standard travel trailer fare but built in couches and dinettes are missing - left up to the owner to pick compact furniture. Some even have compact one piece washer/dryers.
Reasons to live in a tiny house:
- Live the frugal life and well within your means
- Reduce stress by having less to worry about
- Reduce cleaning and maintenance chores
- Reduce your electric and heating bills
- Lower your mortgage payments
- Most are on wheels so relocating means you can take your home with you
- Improve your peace of mind about your carbon footprint
- Discourage unwanted overnight house guests
- You spend most of your waking hours at work, at the gym and only sleep at home
- You prepare very simple meals
Reasons not to live in a tiny house:
- You are claustrophobic
- You have special disabilities and cannot navigate in a small area or up ladders to lofts
- You have hobbies or pastimes that take a lot of space
- You have older children at home that have an active social life and want to have friends over frequently
- You frequently entertain multiple friends at the same time
- You want a large home theater and a big screen television
- You love to cook elaborate meals and exotic recipes
- You like to take baths not showers
- You have multiple cats and dogs
- You can’t give up your large book, CD, DVD or memorabilia collections
- You are a gadget and hardware collector
- You work out of your home and need a spacious home office
Pre-built versions of these tiny houses on wheels are available from several companies in the $15,000 - $60,000 range or you can buy plans for under $800 and build your own. Why not just look for a good deal on a used travel trailer? That would also reduce your carbon footprint and has the added bonus of the reuse of an existing dwelling. However, it would not look like a miniature house, inside or out. The miniature house look is the icon for this movement.
Tiny houses are not built to be towed frequently. They are not aerodynamic and not designed for continuously mobile use, but more to be moved into place once. Many of the shelfs are open and would spill their contents during travel and some of the furniture is loose, too. Like a real house, there would be some unpacking, once you get situated.
Another major issue is finding a place to put your tiny house. You could put it in a trailer park in the 22-36 foot travel trailer / motorhome area. Some owners are parking them in friend’s driveways, running power off extension cords and using their friend’s bathroom facilities.
The tiny house sites show these homes in rustic settings but it is not a small or inexpensive feat to get wells, septic tanks and electric power onto a remote lot. The cost of installing the utilities can easily equal the cost of the home. In towns, many zoning ordinances won’t allow you install just a travel trailer on a vacant plot, which is how they will classify a tiny home on wheels.
The Small House Society is the group advocating smaller dwellings in order to lower our carbon footprint. One of the leading manufacturers of tiny houses is Tumbleweed Homes.
Tiny houses on wheels may not work for everyone. However, downsizing from a 2200 square foot home to a 500-800 square foot apartment or condo will also have, to a lesser degree, most of the benefits of a tiny house and is a workable solution for a larger segment of the population.