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Tiny House Psychology And Why You Love Small Spaces

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Article by Laura LaVoie

During my research for topics to share with my fellow Tiny House Enthusiasts, I came across this blog post by Emily Badger at The Atlantic Cities. Here Emily shares a conversation she had with Tiny House author Mimi Zeiger.

In their conversation, Zeiger offers several psychological profiles of people who love and want to live in tiny spaces.

  • The Walden – the minimizer, simplifier, and environmentally conscious.
  • The DIY – the person who wants control over everything, even building their own home
  • The Cuteness – the person who just loves everything in miniature
  • The Puzzler – the one who wants to jam as much functional stuff into as small a space as possible.

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Why We Love Small Spaces with Laura LaVoie

I got to thinking about these categories and how they apply to me and to other tiny home builders that I know. Like any other psychological profile, it is difficult to fit individuals into neat and tidy categories.

If you’ve spent any time in corporate America you have certainly taken your share of tests that tell you what color you are or whether you’re a leader or follower and they are never 100% accurate.

My partner is a DIYer. He always wanted to build something with his own hands. The reason a tiny house was so attractive to him was simply because of the scale. When building something for the first time it seemed more responsible to go as small as we could so it would be easier to fix mistakes or just not mess them up in the first place. But he also has a bit of Puzzler in his personality. He wanted to organize all of the things that both of us would need to live a comfortable life into our little mountain house.

My top trait is the Walden, but not for the reasons laid out in Badger’s blog. Sure, I want minimize my footprint and live light on the environment, but I also want some serious Thoreau level solitude and self-reliance. Matt has some Walden in his personality as well which is one of the reasons we’ve been together so long and can actually stand to be in a tiny space together. I also have a bit of the Cuteness. I think having a tiny house is adorable. When you look at the things I have put in the house to decorate it you will find tiny beer glasses, tiny chip clips, a tiny gnome, and a tiny matchbox Honda Element. These aren’t the functional things, just the little touches that make me smile when I see them.

Why do you like tiny houses? Do you want to build your own space? Do you want to live for free on Ralph Waldo Emerson’s property? Do you want to fit an entire home theater in to 90 square feet just to say you can? Tell us, what profile fits you the best then if you want “Like” and share using the buttons below.

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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!
{ 21 comments… add one }
  • July 20, 2012, 10:07 am

    Another obvious profile would be those wanting to avoid taking on a large mortgage. Some lost their large homes to foreclosure in the real estate crash. Others were burdened by large credit card debt or student loans, and vowed to live debt-free going forward.

    • July 20, 2012, 7:13 pm

      I agree- thanks Mili!!

    • July 21, 2012, 10:11 am

      I agree – though I think this would fall into part of the Thoreau mentality as well to some degree.

  • Meg and Joe
    July 20, 2012, 6:55 pm

    My profile fits closer to “sticking it to the man”. I never have been one to accepting what is the social norm and what is expected of us and how were supposed to live. I pay close attention to the mistakes of others and do exactly the opposite of what they do. No debt, living well inside my means, no credit cards, loans, buying used over new and not succumbing to immediate gratification. I will not allow others to profit off of my hard earned cash…period. A cool head will always prevail.

  • sesameB
    July 23, 2012, 4:58 pm

    I agree with the comment written above:

    “My profile fits closer to “sticking it to the man”. I never have been one to accepting what is the social norm and what is expected of us and how were supposed to live. I pay close attention to the mistakes of others and do exactly the opposite of what they do. No debt, living well inside my means, no credit cards, loans, buying used over new and not succumbing to immediate gratification. I will not allow others to profit off of my hard earned cash…period.”

    Excellent, just excellent. Very well stated, I agree with your comments 100%.

  • Mary
    July 25, 2012, 2:40 pm

    Great observation. Being a “temperament theory” fan, I see the descriptions corresponding to the four types. I am a Puzzler, which I think is the NT temperament. I am somewhat less a DYI, which nicely fits the SP type. A part of me loves the Cuteness and the symbolism represented in the miniature,which I think is a function of NF attributes, and a very, very small part of me is the Walden, but my conservatism is for the opposite of “green.” I love and want to benefit from all of nature and the creations of man, but on my scale of capability and desire. Conservation lets me live like a king.

  • Mary
    July 25, 2012, 2:50 pm

    Sorry to omit, that would make Walden representative of the SJ. You can take a little test on Kiersey.com and test to see if I’m right.

  • Anne Ollamha
    July 29, 2012, 12:27 pm

    I like the idea of a tiny house, although I think that I would end up building a kitchen with an attached bath and sleeping loft.

    What is my psychological profile? Hm, I’m thinking cheap bastard with a love of eating.

    I dislike “cute”. Small women tend to be dismissed as “cute” and not taken seriously. I have issues with “cute”.

    I would probably be termed DIY simply because it often costs less doing things that way, espcially if you pick up materials second-hand.

    Walden Pond? I don’t particularly want to damage the environment, and I see living in harmony with it as being smart. Gardening in order to gain a superior product without paying a premium price. Planting a wildflower “lawn” to avoid wasting money and time mowing the lawn. Maybe a mercenary Walden Pond.

    Puzzler? Maybe. Being organized, and making the best use of space, time and money do appeal to me.

    Yeah, Cheap Bastard works 🙂

  • LaMar
    July 29, 2012, 12:30 pm

    There are many reasons to choose a small home and affordability and necessity are usually at the top of the list.

    Smaller homes cost less to build (if done correctly), cost less to heat and cool and are generally more efficient and require less land to build.

    Many larger homes started as smaller homes and the owner can build on to expand room as needed. It costs less to start small and build on as you have the money.

  • GW
    July 29, 2012, 12:43 pm

    I’m just tired of being married to my crap. And dusting too many tchotchkes.

    • Tiana
      August 29, 2012, 2:28 pm

      Yes! Every time i have lived in a large home (our current behemoth, although all paid off, is a burdening 820sqft) I find it wall to wall with 3 breeds of paper tiger, close cousin cooking gadgets (I really only need ONE grater!) and every semi vintage/antique that batts it’s eyes at me. And don’t get me started on holiday decor! My new motto? Would you want/need/be able to have this in your room at the assisted living home? If it is not lifetime worthy, get it out of my life!

  • Dixie Hacker Hurley
    July 29, 2012, 12:55 pm

    Hi there, tiny house lovers. Now I gotta say being a woman an a typical one the cute factor plays heavily on my list for homes. Though, I’m now 56 years old an disabled, specifically have diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, have had my back broken twice, an have bad feet an knees to go along with it all. so what I’m looking at here is practicality ! The less space an the less junk in that space I have to clean an keep picked up the easier it is on my body m my life. Therefore also the longer I will be able to keep doing for my own self, keeping my independence an freedom longer! I’m not a quiter, an will not give up on life yet! No one should.

  • Tina Gallagher
    July 29, 2012, 1:05 pm

    I have all four traits. I find absolutely nothing wrong with any of them. The DIY’er also wants control over their finances; reducing their bills walks hand in hand with the Walden. Nothing wrong with that.
    With the economy sinking, more tiny houses will become the living space of many people.

    Wonder if Congress will try to regulate them?

    • Mary
      July 29, 2012, 3:35 pm

      Of course they will! Just as soon as they figure out how to get blood out of us turnips. Or more likely, when enough builders start making enough money.

  • Cal 20 Sailor
    July 29, 2012, 4:34 pm

    I must be schizophrenic because I identify with all four traits, although it seems, based on Thoreau’s actual experiment, the Wàlden & DIYer could be the same. Cuteness & Puzzler are also similar in that could both relate to efficient use of function and space.

  • RJ Hickey
    July 29, 2012, 10:10 pm

    I possess all 4 personality traits, in this order: Walden, DIY, Puzzler, Cuteness. Over the past 6 months I have assembled an impressive collection of used building materials. Mostly from Craigslist & mostly free. I am going to build a small cabin to practice living small because it is consistent with my Climate Master training & within the next year our employment situation will be changing. It will be 8 feet wide so it can be moved without a special permit.

    I have designed & built my own house before. It was a 1000sf shop with a same size apartment above. I loved that place. We often would say “what are we going to do with all this space”. We have lived in motor homes, vans, trailers & small houses. We have learned lots of lessons. One thing we repeated prove is “regardless of the size of your living space, your stuff will expand to consume all available space.

    I have always been attracted to small spaces. I can remember my “fort” under the back porch and the tree house I built in the neighbor’s tree. Then there was the club house my dad & I built. I have been studying tiny houses for 5 years & I am ready to take the plunge. If you are thinking about building one, I would suggest attending one of Tumbleweeds workshops, if you haven’t done so already.

  • Frank Rodrigues
    July 30, 2012, 2:52 am


    My name is Frank Rodrigues,
    I live in Central Connecticut.
    This is my very first post about my interest in building and living in a Tiny House !

    I have resently been laid of from a Government Contract Company.
    When they first informed us that there were going to be lay-offs, I first asked myself this question;
    What The F$%k am I going to do now ?
    I’m a lisenced Aircraft Mechanic and have been in Aviation since 1979, I have work on this countries largest Aircraft C-5 Galaxy to little Cessna’s and Largest Helicopters to the Oh-58’s and most all in between ! Unfortunatly, if I want to continue in this career field, I would have to move out of state most likely. Besides, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been laid off, working in the Aviation career field and I’m sick of it !!!
    So, I decided that I was going to create my own reality from this point on, not being dependent on an organization to provide me a living. Now I said to myself, if I would be losing my job soon, how am I going to pay $900.00 a month rent? I started to research other cheap ways to live. The first option that came to mind was to b and live in a Yurt, which is a great idea, except that I don’t own any land in which to put one up “Expense” and by the time I finished with it, it could end up being very costly. Then I said what else is out there? Storage Containers, which is a great option, because they can be purchased for little money and you can stack them and they can be modified in many different ways. Then I started to add that up “Expense” !
    That’s when I found the “Tiny House” !! Again, I questioned myself and said that is doable. I mentioned that I have been layed of many times before and I always had to fall back on my many other skills. I have to be one of the most versatile Handyman I know, having done Roofing, Siding, Carpentry, Window/Doors, Masonry, Tiling, Flooring, Plumbing, Electrical, Painting (Interior/Exterior), Landscape Construction and building Decks. I am very capable of building an incredible Tiny house for myself.
    Now the research started!
    I searched all over the internet, to see what was out there?
    I couldn’t believe how many BEAUTIFUL TINY HOUSES, their were out there!
    Now it was time to figure out how large of one that I want to live in, and found one that I really liked.
    It is 24’ long with a Double Dormer all the way to the back wall (I don’t understand why people aren’t taking advantage of the option in every design, it provides a much more spacious sleeping loft) !
    Now that the house design is selected, I asked myself that very important question,
    Could I live in a “Tiny House” ? I looked around at all the stuff I had around the apartment, in the attic, closets and the Garage. I realized that more than 50% of the stuff I had, I really didn’t use it, or I have not used it in a year’s time or longer!
    Hmmm ?
    Now, I asked myself another question.
    How am I going to get rid of this stuff?
    Then, I was channel Surfing on the TV with 1,000’s of channels and ended up watching “Barter Kings” for the first time! All the time watching those guys doing what they do, knew that I had just found my answer too many of my questions. Like how was I going to be able to afford to build my Tiny House, How to get rid of all that stuff? So, I created many, many, ad’s on Craigslist, to barter for all the tools, I was going to need to barter my services “My Many Skills” for the materials and so on.
    I immediately got interest many of the goods I had to trade and made my first Trade!!!
    Wow, this really works, I traded something that I never use for a very usable tool, that I know I will use for certain  Well in no time at all, I have amassed a very formable collection of construction tools (mostly all of them were brand new or very lightly used) or other things I can trade for Tools later, which is what I’ve done.
    Okay, now that I have The Goal, Skills, Time and Tools, I started to put myself out there, by calling friends, people I have done work for in the past and placed an ad on Craigslist to barter my services. Well, a week went by and NOTHING! Not a single hit!
    I was wondering if this was really going to work.

    Then I got a call from a guy to build some Deer stands on some hunting property to trade for a brand new in the box, top of the line contractor air compressor and a Framing gun, all of my choosing. Then, I had a friend of a friend call me, she just bought an 1830 Victorian Farm House in Vermont and she want’s me to do the majority of the remodel and even replace the Knob and Tube Wiring, etc… I’m now just two days into that project and another guy calls me up and asks me if I do plumbing, I said yes. He explained that he bought this big house in Mystic CT, and it’s not complete. Then he went on a rage that if he couldn’t get a Toilet and Vanity installed by this Wednesday, his wife was going to “KILL HIM” lol ! Now, this is all while I was driving to Vermont from Connecticut tonight, to be back at the “Huge” job there. He is going to pay me a very large sum of cash (an amount that he came up with) if, I could get the work done this Wednesday! Well, it’s too easy of a job to pass up; especially for the cash he is going to pay me. So, Tuesday night I’ll be travelling back to Connecticut, to do a one day job, that will yield 1.5 weeks of salary after taxes from my last employer.
    I know by now your saying, is this guy ever going to stop?
    The answer to that is; “NO WAY”!
    I plan to create a blog, to continue sharing my incredible journey, how I built my house on Mostly Bartering my services to obtain the materials and anything else I’ll need to live an OFF-Grid free living.
    Now here is an offer!
    Are you wanting to live in a tiny house and either have no time to build it, or don’t even know what a hammer is used for (just playing, but you get my drift) , I will come to you and help you build Your Dream, in order to acquire materials to help build My Dream!
    It’s a Win- Win scenario
    P.S. I would love to consider living on Ralph’s Property!
    Where is it ?
    Please contact me @ myrocketweb10 @ yahoo.com
    Thank-you for reading my first post
    Frank Rodrigues

  • Mary
    July 30, 2012, 2:58 pm

    Of all, I would be closest to a Walden. But my reasons for a small space don’t fit any of the four categories, or at least they didn’t at first.

    I wanted to design a house. I can’t afford a big house if I’m building from the ground up. And the idea of building something functional without spending a fortune, saving money on utilities, and enjoying the space I have became a challenge and somewhat of an obsession…. and then I downsized. Getting rid of more than 2000 pounds of stuff (yes, I weighed it), was… well, enlightening. (pun intended) The more I got rid of, the more I enjoyed what I had. The more I enjoyed it, the less of it I wanted. And the cheaper utilities aren’t bad, either.

    (I haven’t built yet. I’m looking for land and a good location.)

  • jparkes
    July 30, 2012, 3:33 pm

    Until you are debt free, own your home and the land it sits on, you cannot be free. You are enslaved, made to work and pay the bank who is your slave master, your boss is your master, until you pay your debts you are indentured as a slave…freedom from debt removes your obligation to work and the bank no longer threatens to take your home…

    We are enslaved by our reliance on money, for grocery stores, for your doctor, and your insurer. This is not easy to free yourself from, indeed for most it isn’t possible so work and money are still necessary…just to a MUCH lesser extent than if you owe money to a bank.

    I think for a large number of people freedom is only possible in a tiny home…or a mobile of some kind. I was like many other people who saw hollywoods version of trailer park people and decided i didn’t want to be that…in complete ignorance of the realities of life…in retrospect i could have paid for a thousand acres and a home with what i wasted on renting and mortgages, all in trying to keep up with the jones’s.

  • Val
    July 31, 2012, 4:04 am


    Definitely a Puzzler, the Walden, and the Cuteness…and I wish I had the all of the skills necessary to be a DIY. But should there not be one more category? Like say the Cuddler or Cosy – ..the person who wants more and more connectivity to ones home and world. My son who has two young children just built a beautiful timberframe home that is just under 1000 square feet if you count his spacious loft that his young son has for a bedroom. When a family member asked him why he built such a tiny house (lol) when he lived on 26 acres? And didn’t he find family always on top of each other? His response was each person has there little space to get away to when they need it but for the most part we are always together and if a family loves being together a small space is a huggable space. I like to be able to reach out and hug my kids whenever I want to and I want to be accessible to them whenever they need to hug me! When you have to yell across 5000 square feet to track down a hug, by the time you get it you no longer need it.

  • Starr
    July 31, 2012, 5:42 pm

    For sure I’ll all four reasons – and the one about the mortgage! I just want a tiny home so much! One day soon I hope! 🙂

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