Tiny Houses for Your Big Wallet

2/2/2011 1:13:31 PM

Tags: tiny house movement, sustainability, environment, The Smart Set, New Haven Advocate, Will Wlizlo

tiny-houseChances are you know someone whose home has been foreclosed or is struggling to keep up with their mortgage. The sub-prime bubble dotted American suburbia with massive, empty husks—cookie-cutter houses infamously dubbed McMansions. It’s unsurprising that many, spurned by the American Dream, turned away from this grandiose model of domesticity and sought a smaller way of life. “A hundred feet of space may make some people claustrophobic, but so too can mountains of debt,” writes New Haven Advocate’s Tara Lohan. “For people struggling to pay expensive home loans, the idea of getting a house for only $20,000 or getting the plans for only a few hundred may seem like a breath of fresh air.” The tiny house movement was reborn.

Consumers have many options when downsizing from a Fortress of Solitude to a Bunker of Solitude. Consulting firm Rightsize by Design will help you transition to a space more gazebo-esque. Tumbleweed Tiny House Company, established by Jay Shafer after he found his own 89-square-foot slice of heaven, builds and provides kits for homes with areas less than 500 square feet—and one as small as 65 square feet. Numerous blogs and online message boards are devoted to the movement.

Greg Beato sees a distinctly American moral underpinning to the tiny house movement as well. Not individuality, economic resilience, or frugality, as Shafer or Lohan might maintain, but gross consumerism. “Ever since Henry Thoreau built a 150-square-foot shack for himself at Walden Pond to escape the clutter and distractions of 19th-century America, small homes have been equated with economy and simplicity,” Beato writes for The Smart Set, and claims that they wrongly “seem to provide an escape from the hamster wheel of consumerism.” He’s got some shack-bashing stats to back up his argument, too.

Build [a Tumbleweed] XS-House yourself and it will cost you around $16,000 for the plans and necessary materials. Buy one ready-made, and the cost escalates to $38,997. That puts it at a luxury-priced $599 per square foot, or more than four times the cost of your average Vegas McMansion! Better yet, it’s an instant house, a house to go, and what’s more American than that? Like a 100-calorie snack pack, a tiny house encourages you to splurge.

But if you have less space, you’ll spend less on gizmos, tools, furniture, and cookware, right? Beato speculates that less space actually brings out our most decadent spending habits. “[I]n a tiny house,” he writes,

everything you own is on display and within reach. If you’re looking at your kitchen appliances all day, you have a legitimate need for the most gorgeous kitchen appliances known to man, and a legitimate rationale for purchasing new ones often. If space is at a premium, you can be forgiven for constantly upgrading to the flattest flat-screen TVs, the most compact washer/dryer combos.

So much for guilt-free, sustainable living.

Sources: New Haven Advocate, The Smart Set 

Image by nicolas.boullosa, licensed under Creative Commons. 



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Post a comment below.

 

Richard Grabowski
6/11/2013 7:29:39 PM
Tiny Houses are great opportunities to shrink our impact on our world. We really live extravagant lives compared to the majority of the world and my travels have taken me to people living on city dumps (whole communities of hundreds of families) in disaster zones and in the slums and we are blessed to be able to choose the home we want to live in Were trying to delivery great new homes for the world that are new zero energy consumption home and can be built in large quantities for the masses...truly a global small house...http://houses.iaddicshelters.com

my two cents
2/10/2011 10:09:07 AM
Such a cynical response to trying to downsize one's shelter. In a previous comment it was mentioned we will soon begin hearing that having energy efficient cars or appliances will just make us drive more or use more electricity. I've already heard it! Perhaps it is true BUT deciding to live in a smaller home represents a shift in our thinking about how much we actually need. Changing the American paradigm is a process. For those interested and able to work from home, check out Shedworking.com. It is already quite a large movement in the UK.

Joel House
2/9/2011 8:19:40 PM
The article blows through it's own economy of scale with silly arguments. It's cheaper to put a roof on a 50 story building than it is on a one story house if you figure the cost of covering each square foot. So cost per square foot can't be compared for a McMansion and a rolling palace. Does the small space mean everything is on display. Nope. Will it lead to rampant consumerism? Sure, within limits. And there are real limits. The latest cell phone won't be any cheaper no matter what size house you live in. The author misses the point. implicit in simplicity is realizing consumption of resources isn't necessary to a sense of well being. And even though you can pull your house with your car, you're still saving gas by not putting it in your lawn mower. When the grass looks greener elsewhere, you move. As to the lawn mower, it's like life, you can't take it with you.

Beverly
2/9/2011 3:05:09 PM
This price per square foot argument is ridiculous. Small houses always cost more per square foot than McMansions: adding bedrooms, rec rooms, away rooms, and other vast spaces is quite cheap.

Kerry
2/9/2011 2:29:27 PM
Not to appear unenlightened, but a cell in a maximum security prison might be more preferable...

Kerry
2/9/2011 2:22:26 PM
Not to appear unenlightened, but a cell in a maximum security prison might be more preferable...

Lisa
2/9/2011 12:14:31 PM
This article is a perfect illustraton of the fact that one can only see something from his own perspective. A person who has no empathy for the motivation behind downsizing can only project his own discordant values onto it. It's actually kind of fascinating to read this and see the disparity between the author's thinking and that of a lot of people who are actually making choices to lessen their consumer "footprint".

Doc_1
2/9/2011 11:24:20 AM
What is an "ultra-thin flatscreen" TV? Secondly, why would you want one in a 500 sq. ft. house? Use your computer with a TV tuner! The "everything on display" arguement is moot.

Doc_1
2/9/2011 11:23:57 AM
What is an "ultra-thin flatscreen" TV? Secondly, why would you want one in a 500 sq. ft. house? Use your computer with a TV tuner! The "everything on display" arguement is moot.

hoyt mcguyer
2/9/2011 10:59:23 AM
"Down sizing creates more consumerism"? Maybe for some, shurly not for most. The Tiny house people have a wonderful selection of plans and their newsletter has links to blogs from owner/builders who are walking the walk. I have downloaded my choice of plan and am working toward a build. As I could not currently build a square box to save my soul, the blogs with timely tips and mistakes made, should help make this happen with a minimum of wasted material and time. This can be one of the many changes that will take us to another chapter in human experience.

TomOfTheNorth
2/6/2011 1:04:13 PM
A fairly annoying premise here: downsizing to a mini-home results in an increase in consumerism. This is ridiculous if not deliberately satirical. My most significant consumption expense - energy - would be dramatically lower in a mini-home. Next we will hear we shouldn’t buy fuel efficient vehicles as they result in more driving…..dumb.



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