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Tiny House Movement Growing Because Small Spaces = More Freedom?

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I ran into this news segment on the Tiny House Movement by Global News 16×9 in Canada.

The episode takes you on an adventure into a few people’s lives who live very tiny lives.

And the question is, for these people, do small spaces mean more freedom?

But it’s not just that. These micro homes are also much better for the environment.

What do you small spaces- including tiny homes- mean to you?

Tiny House Movement: Small Spaces More Freedom?

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I encourage you to enjoy the rest of this article on the tiny house movement, watch the 10-minute documentary video below and see how you may even want to become a part of the small movement for freedom, too, below:

Jay Shafer of Sonoma County and Four Lights Tiny Houses

As you watch the full news segment or what I’d call a micro-documentary below you’ll get to head over to Sonoma County in California and meet Jay Shafer who has been a pioneer for the tiny house movement for over a decade now.

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“Living small is living in a conscious way,” says Jay Shafer.

Young Family going Tiny in Canada

Next, you’ll get to meet a couple with a young child who are building their own family tiny house which they plan to park and live out of behind their parents’ backyard.


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Their reasons for doing it? To live more sustainably, scale back, and to financially live below their means so they can build the best future possible for themselves.

6’5″ Tall Law Student Joel Fleck Living in a DIY Tiny House

Why did Joel do it? Because it’s a smart and affordable shelter.

And for those of you tall guys (and ladies) out there just so you know he is 6’5″ and about 260 pounds.

And he still comfortably and happily lives the simple life in his less than 200 sq. ft. tiny cabin on wheels.

So if you’ve got the desire to live small you can do it even if you’re tall. Joel built everything in his house from scratch and yes, his couch is 7′ long.

The downfall? He’s too tall for his shower since there’s a loft directly above the bathroom. But he found a unique solution which I’ll let you find in the video below.

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Canada’s Tiniest Foundation House (317 Sq. Ft.)

After you visit Jay, Joel and the young couple building their own tiny home, the documentary takes you to Canada’s smallest house on a foundation and yes- you’ll even get to go inside and meet the current owner/tenant.

This tiny home is now one of Canada’s most famous homes (even Ellen has featured it on her show).

For 317 sq. ft. Joseph (the owner) paid $173,000. Which, in Toronto, normally only buys you a parking space.

“I don’t need more space. All the things that you feel that you have to possess to be somebody, this is a misunderstanding of life,” says Joseph on his interview (owner/dweller).


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What’s Next: A Tiny House Village?

That’s what we’re all shooting for since during the last five years we’ve been experiencing a sort of tiny house boom where the concept has gained a lot of attention worldwide.

Now the question is, how do we go about creating communities of small housing to serve people who want to enjoy more life and a lot less house?

Full Story: The Tiny House Movement, Small Spaces More Freedom?

Why Go Tiny?

If you’re looking into the small house movement chances are that you are thinking of downsizing for several logical reasons:

  • To be better to the environment
  • So your housing costs less
  • So you don’t have to clean so much
  • So you can have more free time

Then and Now

According to the census, in 1975 the average sq. ft. inside of a newly built American home was 1535 sq. ft. (source)

Fast forward to 2010 and that average has crept up to 2169 sq. ft. (source)

All the while, families have actually gotten smaller.

In 1975 there was an average of 2.94 people per household (source).

And by 2010 down to about 2.63 people per household (source).

So what’s all the extra space for?

The Sacrifice

To me what it really comes down to is sacrificing space for more choices in our lives and in most cases, it’s worth it (but not always).

The Biggest Challenge: Where to do it?

The other sacrifice for going tiny (specifically) is that it’s challenging finding a place to park and live in your newly built DIY tiny house. And some people are even doing it illegally and under the radar, because minimum house sizing standards are not allowing them to live in a micro home.

Other Options

But there’s good news: 1) it’s totally possible because others are doing it right now, 2) there are places to do it legitimately, 3) you can always find a small cabin, cottage, live out of an RV or find yourself a micro-apartment instead, and 4) tiny house communities are coming soon!

It Might Not Be For You?

For some people, the idea of tiny living just won’t work. If you have a large family, plan to have a family, work from home, have enjoyable hobbies that take up space, or if you simply enjoy having more space so you can have guests over more often without it invading your privacy.

But maybe a small house will still work great for you and you can still enjoy the benefits of choosing a smart housing option for you and your family.

Other Ways to Use Tiny Houses

If you can’t live tiny but you’re still fascinated with the idea you can still dive in and you might even want to get yourself a micro home for another reason since tiny houses can be and are being used in so many ways, like:

  • Affordable second homes for vacations
  • Backyard guest houses or rentals
  • Vacation rentals on your own land or campground
  • Backyard writing, yoga, meditation, and art studios

The options are only limited to your imagination. The next question is, what would you design and build a tiny house for?

Sources and Resources

How to Get Started

Do YOU think the tiny house movement is growing? Yes or no and why (if you want) in the comments down below please. Thanks!

If you enjoyed this story on the boom of the small house movement you’ll love our free daily tiny house newsletter with even more!

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Alex is a contributor and editor for TinyHouseTalk.com and the always free Tiny House Newsletter. He has a passion for exploring and sharing tiny homes (from yurts and RVs to tiny cabins and cottages) and inspiring simple living stories. We invite you to send in your story and tiny home photos too so we can re-share and inspire others towards a simple life too. Thank you!
{ 17 comments… add one }
  • alice h
    March 14, 2014, 1:58 pm

    I think the word freedom is much abused, especially used in conjunction with tiny houses. It’s more about having actual, concrete choices than some nebulous concept of doing whatever you want and damn the consequences that some seem to tout. Some choices free you from onerous financial obligations but there are still other obligations you will be subject to. Some choices and obligations are easy, some are hard, it all depends on what you’re prepared to take on and what that’s worth to you. Some people get a rude awakening when they discover that just building a tiny house isn’t the answer to all their problems, some people discover a whole new world of wonder, and most probably fall somewhere in between.

    Living in a tiny house does not automatically assure a small ecological footprint. It depends on a lot of factors, all of which need to be considered. I had many friends who extolled the virtues of their little cabin in the woods but there were several flaws in the logic. They all needed vehicles to maintain their lifestyle, most of their consumption of goods and services involved frequent trips to town and they were all quite happy to use other people’s running water and sewer systems when in town while still boasting how they didn’t need those things at their place. The biggest problem was that once the area they lived in attracted more people who wanted to live in the bush and it got too crowded for them they moved on to another wild place and the whole thing started again. The little clearing with a tiny cabin became a crowded subdivision. They were helping to destroy the very thing they loved. Of course not everybody does that and many people can supply a lot of their needs without constantly running off to town. I’m just saying that living in a small house isn’t necessarily living small.

    My reasons for building a tiny house are largely financial – it’s a case of tiny house or no house and a tiny house is more livable than the current 13′ Boler trailer where I stay part time. That said, if money were no object I’d still build a small house, about 500 sq ft for me plus a 200 sq ft apartment. My little plot of land is part of an existing rural subdivision of long standing with a good community within reasonable walking or hitchhiking distance, accessible by public transit and ferry so no vehicle is required, though an electrical assist trike would be handy. I’ll be better able to manage living on my pension there than in the large city where I spend the other part of my time (largely due to current family obligations). When the time comes that I’m no longer able to manage on my own I’ll pass the place on to my grandkids and move on but there are a lot of good years in between. Some people say they’d be bored but all the city amenities don’t do me much good if I can’t afford them and my rural life will be busy enough for me.

    My design builds in a lot of functional flexibility and storage. It’s like a Swiss Army knife where things flop out if needed and tuck away when not but the basic functions are kept simple and easy to use.

  • LaMar
    March 15, 2014, 11:01 am

    Tiny homes are not a new phenomena and until around 1980 most people lived in houses under 1500 feet. In 1960 the average was 1200 square feet. Today it is closer to 3000 square feet. That was driven by the media craze for McMansions before the housing market crash.

    People have just started to realize that spending 30 or more years to pay a mortgage is a form of slavery that ties you to an area and a job and in today’s society people will change jobs an average of 10 times in a lifetime and move several times so having a huge mortgage with hard to get out of houses is no longer desirable.

    Smaller permanent homes can be built much cheaper for cash and increases in value faster so a person can put it on the market and get out fast with a nice profit if they need to move.

    I think houses on wheels are more of a fad and are a stepping stone for some people while they save to build or buy a house or live in a trailer park or on someone else’s property and are not a long term housing solution.

    Whether a small house means more freedom depends on the person’s lifestyle. Since most cities require larger houses it may mean being farther isolated in rural areas and that would limit some freedoms.

    If you build the house for cash and build it to be efficient with solar power and passive solar features then you can save more money for other things like education, travel, and helping family which is a freedom many people want.

    I would hope that people are becoming less wealth and status symbol oriented and the small house movement is a result of that but in reality I think many people have few choices after the housing market crash wiped out their finances and credit and they don’t want to pay rent for something they will never own.

    • Brian
      July 2, 2014, 3:39 pm

      Well said LaMar, you are right on the button. Thx

    • Lisa E.
      September 25, 2014, 4:26 pm

      LaMar: The laws and regulations governing size were created by people. People who have construction and bank mortgaging ulterior motives. It’s time We the People took the country back and change the laws to suit human beings and not the profit industry. This includes smaller housing for more people. They make the decisions that all the rest of us have to slave under. It’s time for a change and changing what the profit seekers have done is do-able. We just need to get ourselves organized.

      I think, you have made some good points here, but I don’t agree that the THM is a “fad”. What I think is the THM is a new class of housing that offers options to a country that has been sold the McCastle bill of goods.

      To wit: There are the (1) First Time Owners, (2) the Nature buffs who want to garden and live in more rural surroundings, (3) the Travelers (like me) who want to travel and skip the packing and inconveniences of living at the mercy of commercial support systems, (4) there are the single Mom’s who want clean, fresh air for their kids and a place that isn’t dictated by a landlord, (5) there are the artists (I’m one) who want to write and paint without the encroachment of urban demands into their daily lives, (6) a beacon of hope for indigent people living out in the elements of cities all across the country, and last but not least; (7) there are the Seniors who have put up with the insanity of the rat-race all their lives and want some quality time in their “golden years” instead of the pseudo lifestyle created by banking interests in search of “renewable cash flow” victims.

      I just don’t see the THM as a “fad”. I see it as a very real option to a lot of nonsense for a lot of people. And the beauty of a tiny house on wheels (THOW) is that, unlike RV’s, these wooden living spaces will grow old graciously and not end up a rust bucket lined with asbestos with VOC trim. With a THOW you can truly be the king (or queen) of your castle and not just another serf. 😉

      • LaMar
        September 25, 2014, 4:33 pm

        Lisa, I think if you re-read my post I said that I believe the house on wheels movement is a fad not the tiny house movement which are not the same. People have been building small permanent houses for as long as houses have been built but the house on wheels movement is a fad in my opinion because the houses are on wheels, do not hold their value for resale and are too restrictive in size based on road regulations and too expensive for the space provided. I design both and I see many more people interested in permanent tiny houses than in houses on wheels.

        • Lisa E.
          September 25, 2014, 6:22 pm

          LaMar: All of my comments were geared for tiny houses on wheels (THOW) and not small foundation houses.

          People are having trouble parking their THOW on lots in-town because of city ordinances and regulations. My point was, people made these laws so people can change these laws. These laws/regulations/ordinances are not set in cement, nor did they come down from a mountain top on tablets as would some city administrators would have us believe.

          All you need to make a THOW a permanent house is a piece of land, some front steps, and some lattice to cover the axles (Dee Williams). Many tiny houses are now completely off the grid. This makes local governments unhappy because these politicians are tasked with protecting the profits of special interest urban support conglomerates.

          [Here in Florida, I pay an additional $100.00, a month because NC, SC, and FL have been conscripted to pay for the building of a new nuclear energy plant in Georgia by the federal government for twenty billion dollars, which will be handed off to the private energy industry as a free gift; and we will continue to be taxed for this to maintain an additional twenty billion dollars in annual maintenance; you may hear public dollars for privatized profits; this is a standard corporate model.

          They certainly do not want off the grid living. It’s why electrical cars and hydrogen tablet fuels were quashed because it doesn’t make money for special interest groups.]

          It may be that your particular set of experiences have lead you to believe that the other groups I enumerated are not interested in THOW living. But as this country slides into deeper and deeper depression; a trend that will never reverse itself until we get the money out of politics and government, I believe the THOW will become a welcome and very viable option.*

          * I did a study a couple of years ago and found that people in the poorest sections of cities, like Oakland, CA, are paying as much as, and usually more, in property taxes than the people in Marin County; the richest county in northern California.

          For many seniors, their 9-5 days are over. Most have only Social Security to fall back on and this isn’t enough to keep up with property taxes and property maintenance, together with the cost of health care, dental, food, utilities, etc. With the ever increasing rate of inflation there will be a need for alternative living to traditional foundation housing. For me, I just don’t want my option to be a car or the streets (and I know, and know of, too many people already living this.)

    • Rich
      September 26, 2014, 8:34 am

      Right on Alice and Lamar!
      The world over, there is this mis-guided idea of absolute freedom. Human-kind is interdependent and must learn to cooperate if it to survive.
      The greater good must exceed personal freedom. Look to nature for a model. Co-existence or No-existence……. my 2 cents!

  • Alex
    March 16, 2014, 9:46 am

    Thanks LaMar on point as usual

  • Linda
    March 17, 2014, 7:24 pm

    Forcing people into large houses is not an oversight on the part of society. The bigger the house, the more you spend, buy, pay. It’s designed to get your last dollar. And don’t think they are going to let you get away with living expense-free in a tiny house. They will do all in their power to keep you from this. Nothing short of a revolt will change the zoning/housing codes.

  • Rebecca
    July 2, 2014, 1:27 pm

    I agree that forcing larger homes was not an oversight. Pressure has come from the huge number of businesses that make a living from excess consumption. It will not take a revolution in the armed sense, but a conscious refusal to buy in to endless advertising and social pressure. When I built my little house on the prairie before the crash I was looked down on by my peers… most of whom lost homes when our field crashed. I moved to the mountains and am working a food forest/cabin and rarely hear anything but smartluckyawesome. I prefer the mountain even with a shorter growing season. Maybe cold frames and greenhouse in my future. I call small house living the best for now… allows me to have comfort, less debt, and freedom from the endless filling of a 4000 sf house I had. It is a process but I am working on worm bin/garden/chickens/food forest and prefer to use my time creating a living loop at home instead of chasing baas hawg’s run behind the rabbit (greyhounds run themselves to death behind the uncatchable rabbit). Tiny living catches the rabbit.

  • Joyce Wittschen
    July 25, 2014, 11:16 am

    Can someone inform me of which states are forming tiny house communities?

  • Karen R
    September 25, 2014, 3:47 pm

    We also need communities for tiny houses that exceed 400 square feet and have residential style 220 electricity. These are not classified as RVs.

  • Lisa E.
    September 25, 2014, 3:53 pm

    I don’t see getting rid of a house that is “too much house” and swapping it out for a smaller place that allows more freedom as a “sacrifice”.

    To me, it’s more of a “trade up”. You are trading out house work, bigger carbon footprint, bigger bills, being constantly buried under a pile of debt, more home and yard maintenance, less travel and time for yourself and your interests, for getting your life back from the rat-race.

    I purchased my 1800 sf home a decade ago. When it sold, it was in peak condition because the seller expected the house would have to go through a bank inspection to get a mortgage. However, as the years have gone by and maintenance became necessary, every trades person who has come here is looking for a killing and every price I have been quoted (for simple repairs and adjustments) has been up in the thousands. Infuriatingly ridiculous!

    With a tiny house, lol, if you don’t like the prices you’re being quoted, you can always hook the house up to your truck and go get a better quote somewhere else!!! (Maybe the THM should have an “authorized repair services” listing for each state.)

    And I REALLY like the idea of being able to travel and not have to stay in motels that are questionably clean, sleep in strange beds, eat in restaurants that millions of others also use, toilet where millions of others toilet, etc. The joy of being able to go someplace in an instant and have your own bed(s), your own food and dishes, your own bathroom, plus no-pay entertainment (DVD or WiFi) is mind-bogglingly wonderful!!!

    For my money, the THM is definitely a “trade-up”. (Thanks Alex!!!) 😀

    • Alex
      September 25, 2014, 4:38 pm

      Thanks for sharing Lisa!

  • Brian
    September 25, 2014, 6:55 pm

    Just love your small house Joseph and I would love to see more shots from inside. Your house is just my idea of living in a big city. Thanks for sharing. Cheers from Australia

  • Meli
    September 26, 2014, 8:31 am

    For the people that want to live in the middle of the city & not own a vehicle & use public transportation, a tiny house on wheels might be more of a hassle than what it’s really worth. If you can’t find somewhere to put it in the city & have to move into the country then buy a vehicle to commute back & forth it doesn’t sound like you have accomplished much but cause even more stress.

    For the people that love living in the country & or traveling a tiny house on wheels is ideal. Most of us want to do solar panels & be off the grid. Savings of no electricity bills. Rainwater collection system, that gets you away from all the chemicals in public water systems. The savings of not having a water bill. Keeping bees, & container gardening can help keep you from running to a grocery store for sugar & fresh produce. Some more permanent country living would consist of more permanent garden plots & farm animals & such. The savings of not having much of a grocery bill & not having to drive into town.

    Taxes on land without a septic tank, well, or permanent structure would be minimal. Taxes on a tiny home rated as an RV would be much cheaper than a taxes on land with a permanent house. If you travel to various location (like the snow birders) it would be simple enough to buy land in a few locations & occasionally move between them. Taxes on several properties of just land in the country would still be cheaper than owning a large house on a lot.

    I think lots of drive behind tiny homes on wheels is having the freedom to experience more and not be so tied down. Not to mention in our current economy lots of people no longer have a job they consider to be completely safe. You may be without a job but at least you are not homeless, just move your tiny house to the next place you find employment instead of being stuck only looking for jobs in a location close to your current fixed house.
    Instead of having a huge house with a big 30 year payment why not live in a tiny house on wheels & save all that money for you kids education & when they move away you can easily move away with them.

    I think part of the tiny house on wheels movement is people are sick & tired of having so many rules & regulations to go by. If you hire an electrician to wire your home he has to install receptacles every so many feet, whether you want all that or not because it has to be up to code. If you hire a plumber to fix a drainage problem you have to wait sometimes days for all of the utility companies to come together & sign off that there are no lines in the way of them digging the drainage line up all the way to the septic tank. People are tired of being told that their utility bills are going to raise & being forced to pay it.
    I think most of the tiny house on wheels people just want to live more freely. They are probably more willing to put their own sweat equity into something instead of paying someone else to do it. Afterall, in the end you have worked for it to be done why not do it yourself.
    There is a reason why canning, dehydrating, composting, gardening, cast iron, and woodstoves have all made a comeback. People realize the way we are living our lives is full of chemicals & want a change. Sometimes the old way is just better. Why pay somebody else to do it when you can do it yourself & not have to get a loan to do it. I don’t think the tiny house on wheels is a fad, I think people are just starting to wake up and want to take control of their own lives. If you can live simpler & still enjoy doing all of the things you want to do working 25 hours & have plenty of time to yourself, why would you want to work 60+ hours a week & continue to pay people to do for you all the things you don’t have time to do. Only to look back & wonder where all the time went?

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