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Could You Live in a Small Space?

Could You Live in a Small Space?
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By Kitt Walsh

The kids are gone, and with them the sports equipment, video games, tons of toys. You may even finally have time to clear out the garage and attic. What you may discover is that you are sick of all that stuff—the clutter that has made up your life for so long. Maybe you yearn for a simpler existence—smaller, less to clean, more affordable, and a lifestyle that leaves less of an environmental footprint. You may be ready to join the tiny house movement.

Starting in about 2000 and really picking up steam when the housing bubble burst in 2006, the tiny (or small) house movement, where the average house runs about 140 square feet, is about living more simply. If you have been living in a McMansion (or even an average US home of 2,162 square feet) you might die of culture shock, but if not, the idea is intriguing.

Gregory Johnson, co-founder of the Small House Society said some people confuse the movement’s goals.

“People think that this small house movement is anti-big,” Johnson said. “The small house movement isn’t about people who live big. It’s about making options available for people who want to live small.”

He himself lived for six years in 140 square foot house and hooked up with a builder, Jay Shafer of Tumbleweed Tiny House Company (who lived in a 96-square-foot house) to build small home and sells plans to DIYs. That company is booming and the main people who attend the company’s workshops are single women in their 50s.

The buyers find that cleaning and maintenance is kept to a minimum. All utility costs are greatly reduced (and you can use alternative hearting systems like bio fuel and new technology like LED lighting). Construction costs are low (especially if you are DIYing and/or reusing salvaged materials) meaning loans are easier to get. Not much land is needed, so taxes are lower and many models can even be moved on a regular truck hitch (and these houses on wheels don’t require building permits.)

Tumbleweed houses ranging from about $28,000 to $33,5000, if you build the house yourself. The company delivers ready-made houses also ranging from the $57,000 Elm to the $67,000 Cypress.

But what about liveability?

Tiny houses are cleverly designed. Most have an L-shaped kitchen with butcher-block counters (and some have pull out counters, besides), full size sinks, apartment-size or under-counter freezers and refrigerators, two-or-three burner propane stoves (upgrades include convention cooktops that don’t heat up the whole little house) and sorry, you are the dishwasher. Shelves are built up high; no space is wasted. Spice racks line the front of a closet door. Pegs for clothes line the inside. A small shower has a window to avoid claustrophobia, but you need to pull a clear curtain across it to avoid water damage. Water heaters are 10-gallon size. Toilets are low volume; some are compost models. The living room usually is lined with couch/benches that hide wheel wells and can provide extra sleeping space. Desks pull out and steps up to the sleeping loft are either via a ladder hidden behind a bookshelf or stairs that are themselves drawers. Lofts accommodate a queen size mattress (no frame) and many have cathedral ceilings so a 6 ft 2 man won’t bump his head.

You’ll have to jettison your book and DVD collection (go with e-books and MP3s) and there’s not much space for knick-knacks. One women took (digital) photos of all her beloved trinkets to ease the transition.

You really only do need two pairs of jeans (and the washer/dryer is usually one appliance and won’t take too big a load.) If you have a shoe collection you can’t live without, make use of all those upper shelves–footwear as art.

In so small a space though, everything can be top quality. Hardwood floors, designer lighting, high-end faucets and the one thing almost all tiny houses share is lots of windows (thermal windows.) Not only does this allow lots of light, but usually these lovely little houses are found on tiny plots of gorgeous scenery (coastlines are popular places). Not all housing associations welcome the small houses, fearful they will drive down property values, but not all. There is a town in Texas that makes a point of welcoming all small houses. Some owners “drive” their home from place to place like the shell on a snail, but be aware, most RV parks are not welcoming to them.

Other owners are using their small homes as guest houses, in-law apartments or independent (yet nearby) homes for their elderly parents (that’ll be us shortly and I am already lobbying my kids for one.)

But truly, words do not do these little gems justice. You can see a variety of small-house designs at Kent Griswold’s Tiny House Blog, (www.tinyhouseblog.com) where he links to plans by several different designers.

This Small House Society resource page (http://www.resourcesforlife.com/small-house-society/homes) lists a large number of designers and builders of small living spaces, so you can investigate the types and costs.

Whether you have a vagabond soul, are “green,” are sick of too much stuff or like the idea of small bills to go with your small house; when it comes to tiny homes, less really is more.

 

 

 

 

 

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