Tiny House Living, many have heard of it, but what does it truly mean? A Tiny House can be defined in a number of ways, but most people agree that a tiny house is a detached residential space that is typically no larger than around 500 square ft or around 46.5 square metres (at the most generous of definitions) and is usually found on its own property or on the property of another house. Tiny Houses exist based on the notion of lower waste, lower costs, and lower impacts on the environment, but many who choose to live in this style do so for a variety of reasons ranging from cheaper housing and lower/no utilities to a deeper connection with nature and escaping the conventional housing market.
The Costs of Tiny Houses
Since tiny houses are smaller, the costs associated with larger houses such as heating, electrical, and plumbing can be reduced or entirely eliminated. Tiny houses, though not a rule, are often entirely or partially off-grid, meaning that they operate without connection to a local electrical or plumbing grid. Off-grid living has grown popular in recent years as a compromise between living with modern comforts such as refrigerators, televisions, and the internet while also limiting greenhouse gas emissions and other negative connotations associated with being connected to the public grid. Living off-grid in a tiny home is made easier since they generally have tiny demands for electricity and water. Many off-grid tiny houses use solar panels for electricity generation and a rain barrel (or purchased water) for water needs. Simple heaters can be used for hot water and water recycling/grey water usage, or the reuse of non-potable but safe to use water, can also further cut down on water needs. As for plumbing, many solutions can be made. Some still opt for the ease and comfort of plumbing, while a common replacement that uses significantly less water are composting toilets.
Along with having fewer possessions in a smaller space, tiny living is also easily conducive to low/zero-waste living, a modern trend towards sustainability. With less storage and physical room to have items, tiny houses have a natural function of limiting the amount of things that can exist in your home. In this way, tiny houses lend an easy starting point to those interested or intending on limiting their waste. By using reusable containers or purchasing only what is needed, the amount of storage in the tiny house (as little as there may be) should always be enough since you are never purchasing beyond what is needed. The same goes for electricity and water needs. Simple small ways of limiting consumption that naturally exist in tiny houses would include less lighting and plumbing fixtures and less space to regulate temperature. While all of this preparation and pre planning might sound complicated, the results can mean a very low-waste lifestyle and consuming much less in general. Within the greater concept of environmentalism, tiny houses can be quite sustainable even without much additional work. Smaller living spaces are known to have less negative impacts on the environment for a variety of reasons ranging from less physical impact on the environment due to a smaller footprint, less power needed to sustain the house, and less materials needed to build the house itself. As stated, electricity and water are greatly reduced by having less fixtures that draw from either.
As for why people live in tiny houses, there are many positives of living in a smaller space. For example, a common-cited reason for people to move to a tiny house is that a smaller space means less personal items, a less cluttered home, and a feeling of clarity and simplicity. Within the past decade, minimalism has been a common trend; simply having the minimal amount of personal belongings as necessary. Tiny living lends itself well to this lifestyle, and many who choose to live tiny quote this as a major push towards their personal choice. There has even been a smaller submovement within the tiny house community for retirees to choose to relocate to tiny houses for the lower costs and smaller space which, depending on the design, can be significantly easier for people in retirement. Besides cost and sustainability, many choose to live tiny for the connection to nature. Many tiny houses have gardens and green space, which can allow for a deeper connection to nature as it never seems too far away. Many who live tiny consider their yards to be a true extension of their living area and indoor/outdoor living is very common.
While there are many positives to the tiny house movement, there are criticisms that can be rightfully made. Early criticism arose around the concept of tiny houses existing as something of a “Gentrified Trailer Park”, particularly when many tiny houses were mobile and the community was still in its infancy. Many similarities can be found between them such as the physical size, their potential mobility, the fact that in many jurisdictions tiny houses are officially classified as mobile homes or of the same classification, and the potential to have a similar lifestyle. As a criticism, this is mainly aimed at cautioning people of the double standard of looking down on cheaper housing for those who cannot afford other options, but supporting a very similar housing style for those who can afford to build from scratch or purchase from companies. Other criticisms can be found towards tiny houses’ potential to damage the environment by using special materials to insulate, heat, wire, and to provide plumbing while limiting the overall weight of the structure, as even tiny houses not designed to be moved are often constructed at other locations and moved to the temporary or final plot. Depending on the material used, this can be an accurate problem with building any new house with modern features. While these criticisms are valid and should be addressed when discussing tiny houses, many in the community try their best to empower others to live more sustainably and affordably while also acknowledging that current tiny houses are not perfect, and work is needed to further advance the movement towards a fully sustainable option. Tiny houses have their flaws, but their potential is all the more inspiring.
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