June 23, 2014

By Margaret H. Johnson

Have you ever considered building your own home?  How about a ‘tiny’ home?

Recently I watched a documentary called TINY: A Story About Living Small (http://tiny-themovie.com/).  The film chronicles Christopher Smith and his partner Merete Mueller as Christopher fulfills his dream of designing and building his own home without professional help – a 124 square foot tiny home on wheels!  Government regulations don’t allow homes to be under a certain square footage, hence the home being on wheels. Christopher purchases a plot of land where he and the home can live after its completion. Tiny homes are an interesting concept and they are gaining popularity and media coverage.

Popular writer Tammy Strobel (http://www.rowdykittens.com/) blogs about her life and adventures in her tiny home that she shares with her husband. She published a book titled You Can Buy Happiness (and It’s Cheap) that discusses her reasoning behind moving into a tiny home (128 square feet) and the positive impact that it has had on her lifestyle and relationships. One reason that Tammy decided that ‘living small’ was a great option for her was because she wanted to quit her job and pursue her goals of writing full time. Her perspective is fresh, relatable, and inspiring.

I saw a tiny home/apartment layout during the Vancouver Home Show a few years ago - the use of space was amazing. Household furnishings were multi-functional and not a single space was unaccounted for.  Most surprisingly, the layout felt almost ‘roomy’ and comfortable. If you have children, obviously, the space would need to be modified greatly; however, it is interesting to note that in the TINY documentary, many of the homeowners had pets living with them (and sometimes multiple pets). This proves that an efficient use of space (and getting rid of your clutter and junk!) can really help you downsize your accommodation without downsizing your lifestyle!    

Perhaps what is most inspiring about the tiny house movement is that people are creating a way to make housing costs affordable and designing a lifestyle that will work for them. A recent Global News article states that Vancouver’s housing prices are the second highest in the world, following Hong Kong.  As someone who lives in a suburb of Vancouver, I can attest to the high cost of living, particularly for real estate. For many of my local clients, owning their own home is a far away dream that may never become a reality. Some individuals see the tiny house movement as an opportunity to be self-sufficient; rather than drowning in a 40 year mortgage, many tiny homes can be purchased outright for the cost of a down payment on a house in Vancouver.

The film TINY, as well as a search online, will give you plenty of extreme examples of what it means to live small. Although tiny homes are not for everyone, they do provide us with an interesting perspective on paring down our lives to the basics. Many of the home owners featured in the documentary comment on how living in their tiny homes has afforded them financial security and a freedom unlike any other. No longer bound by financial obligation, they are free to pursue other interests and passions that were in line with their internal philosophy.

The question for those of us who do not want to create or live in a tiny home is this: how can I get the desired feelings that I want (freedom, financial security, independence) while still living a high quality and ambitious life? For some, the answer will be downsizing in the form of physical clutter or household items, for others it will be starting on a smaller scale – perhaps practicing letting go of some commitments that are eating up your time or energy. Many people believe that a high quality life comes with a large price tag – tiny home owners, their message, and their examples offer proof of the opposite. 

What do you think?  Does the tiny house movement interest you?

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