Living Smaller in the Bigger Picture

It’s been a long time, my friends! Sorry about that! It’s been a trying end to the winter and we unfortunately had to let the house sit in the snow while we took care of other things. It’s not what we wanted to do and she must have been lonely, but we’re back on the road to completing our build!

While you wait for me to post more fun photos of my shotty carpentry, I’d like to share with you an article I wrote for the November 2016 issue of the American Institute of Architects – New Hampshire Forum.

Some background info: I wrote this short article in response to an article in the October 2016 issue that suggested architecture is to blame for failing the residential sector, even going as far as calling the Tiny House Movement an “atrocity.” You can find that original article at this web address, check out page #3:

https://www.aianh.org/sites/default/files/Newsletters/2016_10_Forum_web.pdf

Although this was originally just a response to someone else’s words, I think that it’s important to break anything down to the basics, or origins, in order to understand it better. In this case, it’s the reason behind the Tiny House Movement: why we have an inherent desire to live simply.

You can find my original article at this web address, check out page #9:
 

https://www.aianh.org/sites/default/files/Newsletters/2016_11_Forum_web.pdf

Or, just read below! Chat soon, friends. 🙂

Living Smaller in the Bigger Picture

Don’t worry – architecture is not to blame for the tiny house movement gaining momentum with cheesy reality TV shows and Pinterest posts. The movement has been gaining interest in the United States for the past 17 years and climbing, because it offers many Americans a solution to a number of moral, financial, ecological and goal-driven problems. The resulting benefits are vast, including: more time, more money, a higher quality home, a smaller carbon footprint, a sense of pride and accomplishment, and in some cases solving homelessness.

But enough about the benefits. Those are the obvious reasons to jump onboard the tiny house train. So why do so many people gravitate toward this style of living while others view it as a passing fad? It is because our inherent yearning for a higher quality of life prevails. Some of us let the water flow through our faucets without knowing where it comes from or where it goes when it drains. Some of us are closely acquainted with the consequences of our consumption. Some of us know to conserve water and compost waste in order to preserve precious resources. For those who do not care to know where their water comes from or where their waste goes, just as long as it disappears when the toilet is flushed, tiny homes may not be the answer. For some folks, if it’s out of sight – it’s out of mind. For those who truly want to be connected to their environment, a tiny home is not a fad, but a conscious choice to strive for a higher quality of life.

Let’s strip down to the fundamentals. Native Americans are one example of many nomadic peoples who would touch the earth lightly. They would migrate with the seasons in order to provide their own with the best quality life they knew possible. Native Americans learned to adapt to climate change because they were more connected to the Earth than most of us could ever understand. Their shelters averaged 175 – 315 square feet of only essential living space, and accommodated 8-10 adults and children. Mother Nature was certainly an extension of that home, just as it would be to a small house on a foundation or a trailer.

Current-day suburbia, with its mass-produced houses that have little uniqueness, does not encourage interaction between the home-owner and their neighbors, family, and friends. We are disconnected from the environment, of which we could not live without. We are separated from the livelihood that surrounds us, as suburbia suggests we retreat to our homes. Each family member carries out his or her own agenda in separate rooms. This track that we Americans are on is not beneficial to our social development. We need community members who contribute to the prosperity of the town or village to which they belong. We need businesses and institutions to develop in town centers instead of on the outskirts. We need a new community plan – one that incorporates small and customized homes, personal connections, efficient land use, and a close proximity to places of work, play, and commerce. We then can collectively achieve a higher quality of life, health, prosperity, and therefore the ultimate goal of true happiness. If we could learn from our country’s natives, then we could become more connected to our world.

Yes, we have significantly progressed in building technologies since before the Industrial Revolution. However, the goal we strive for remains the same: to simply live and be happy. We could also be asking ourselves, “What do we contribute to this world?” With the time spent maintaining our large homes (along with our plethora of belongings) and working tirelessly to make sure we submit our bill payments on time, we all could give a little more energy to the Earth and to the people who have helped shape us.

Tiny houses offer an opportunity for the average Joe/Joanne to become involved with the design (and in some cases construction) of his or her own home. The movement allows, even encourages, more people to become actual, proud homeowners, without the hefty bill. It is a movement that seeks to minimize our output and to furthermore enrich our lives. In the bigger picture, tiny homes are not just trendy novelties. Living intentionally within our means, with our direct needs and desires in play, just may be the key to recuperating some intimacy between the resident and residence.

Resources:

Archer, John. Architecture and Suburbia: From English Villa to American Dream House, 1690-2000. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2005.

Calthorpe, Peter. Urbanism in the Age of Climate Change. Washington D.C., USA: Island Press, 2010.

Laubin, Reginald, and Gladys Laubin. The Indian Tipi: Its History, Construction, and Use. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1977.

Nelessen, Anton Clarence. Visions for a New American Dream: Process, Principles, and an Ordinance to Plan and Design Small Communities. Second Edition ed. Chicago, Illinois: The American Planning Association, 1994.

Salomon, Shay. Little House on a Small Planet: Simple Homes, Cozy Retreats, and Energy Efficient Possibilities. Guilford, Connecticut: Lyons Press, 2006.