29 January 2014

the tiny home "movement" isn't really a movement...

I hate cleaning a huge house and working to pay nothing but bank interest and bills.  It would take several hours each week to clean, polish, dust, wash, put away, and do regular maintenance on my house and all the stuff in my house, which between two floors has over 2000 sq ft of space in use by 6 people.  Even when the work is split between 6 people, it requires a huge investment of time and energy with the only 2 people paying the bills coming home and facing a second workload, Bill primarily taking care of our home and me running my businesses, income from which we depend on.

While living in the cabin we used to have, I got a taste of living micro and living simple that I craved daily.  In many ways, living small made living large possible.  I managed to keep the place pretty much spic 'n' span in literally minutes.  We had to conserve water.  We had to chop wood to stay warm.  When it was nice, we simply went outside.  When it was dark or the weather was bad, we had to play games together, read, watch ancient VHS tapes, or do make-overs on each other to amuse ourselves.  While our little dwelling was certainly on the rustic side, there was nothing daunting or overwhelming about being there, nor did I feel that we were so far removed from civilization that we were at risk of being disowned by (or disowning) society.  It really was a perfect set-up.

This might be the first time you've ever heard of the Tiny House Movement but more than likely, you've seen something like this on Upworthy:

But really, it's nothing new.

The traditional Romani gypsy culture has long relied on living in tiny, portable spaces that allow them to move from town to town when they've sold all they can or they are pushed to move along.

It's rather reminiscent of wagon trains of settlers moving in to settle the west, the premise being there are strength in numbers and bringing a village with you makes it easier to live.  There is strength in numbers.

And I am pretty sure that this gypsy settlement:

bears a startling resemblance to a modern-day RV park where people spend literally tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars to live in little movable villages...

or like the gatherings at music festivals like burning man (or Alberta's own North Country Fair) where people erect temporary cities and somehow manage to live in almost complete harmony...

However, lots of people don't "choose" to live small.  The recession certainly expedited the lack of affordable housing (or more accurately people who could afford any housing even after the bottom dropped out of the market) which resulted in some people making very different choices about how to live.  This family downsized after losing their home and business in 2008.

Tent City USA is a documentary about people who don't even have $12,000 to build a tiny home and salvage a life after the recession.  They are just trying desperately to not be homeless.  (You can watch the full documentary on Netflix right now.)

And the affordable housing crisis isn't just in North America:

Modern tent city living doesn't look very much different than these images shot by Dorothea Lange during the Great Depression, does it?

Edmonton actually has its own history of tent cities, starting in the early 1900s when a population boom combined with low housing availability and exorbitant material costs made the cost of building a home prohibitive.

And as recently as 2007 and 2011 Edmonton's tent cities made the news when they were set up in very public spaces, but mostly you won't see the tent cities unless you wander through the more off-beaten paths of our river valley.

Despite all our planet's billionaires, in densely populated developing countries micro-living is simply the only affordable housing option.  Perhaps ironically because these billion dollar company owners don't pay them fair wages, but that's a post for a different day...

In India, huge settlements of houses barely the size of fridge boxes house entire families.  They are constructed of corrugated metal, tarps, and cardboard.

In the Dominican Republic, while houses are not quite as densely packed into every settlement, tiny houses that are haphazardly thrown together using salvaged or scavenged scraps and furnished with whatever materials you can find are de rigeur.  

In Edmonton, like many other cities around the globe, planners seek to revitalize their inner core as suburban sprawl draws people further and further from what should be a vibrant core by offering homebuilders incentives for including basement suits or erecting multiplexes (duplex, 4-plex) where single family dwellings previously stood.

It's honestly just a matter of time before the houses are split into micro-suites, right?  Anyways...

So why are so many people choosing to live small?  Why is it becoming chic?  While it's definitely a choice reserved for those with at least some money, it starts to make a lot of sense when you look at the benefits:

In densely-populated cities like New York, Toronto, and Paris, chic, creative and stylish micro-living has been around for a long time.  If you live in a major urban centre, you really just need a place to hang your hat since you have access to everything else in close proximity, from markets to laundromats.  They say necessity is the mother of invention - check out how incredibly clever this gorgeous little space in Spain is:

And this company makes beautiful furniture that makes tiny spaces seem 10x bigger than they are:

This kind of clever engineering makes it possible for entire families to inhabit tiny spaces in relative luxury to what our counterparts in Hong Kong endure:

They take micro even one step further when it comes to hotels:

New York is up on the tiny hotel thing, with Yotel leading the industry on clever design.

And if a family can inhabit a small stationary space, why could it not inhabit a mobile space?  I remind you, this is nothing new, it's just becoming chic and hip to be eco-friendly and relatively free from material encumbrances.

And it doesn't have to be as bohemian as the 60s:

or as loud:

In fact living in converted busses ranged from quaint:

to sleek and clever:

To downright luxurious:

Frankly, I have zero interest in a luxury unit.  We hope to outfit a unit somewhere between quaint and clever.  And I've already met my dream bus.  Now, to track one down and make her ours...

That's it for today.  Later on I'll be blogging about career changes, long- and short-term plans, and where I am going to get busdriving lessons from.  Also coming: reno plans, buying land, and career changes.  Whoop whoop!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for leaving a comment - we LOVE comments!