Tiny Houses Are Becoming a Big Deal

Very small homes can provide big opportunities for people of all ages — and the cities, towns and rural communities where they live

Tiny Houses, Big Benefits

Although tiny living has lots of benefits, the lifestyle isn’t for everyone.

Residing in so small a home would present logistical problems for people with extensive "stuff" — or collections, such as art or books, large pieces of equipment for their jobs, or hobbies that involve big objects, such as a piano or skis.

Even though larger tiny homes are available and can be suitable for couples and families, not every household is good with that much togetherness, especially if there are other options.

Having a party or overnight guests becomes a challenge, acknowledges Mitchell. Daily logistics can be another challenge, he acknowledges, even though he has devised ways around not having a washer and dryer in his small space or even an on-location mailbox. (He uses a laundry service and a relative’s postal address and mailbox.)

However, Mitchell also knows that, if he ever needs to, he can move his home simply by loading it onto a trailer that’s then attached it to a pickup truck or other vehicle with towing capacity. (A tiny house owner can own or rent such heavy-duty equipment.)

A larger, farther-reaching plus, says Mitchell, is that the kinds of people who live in tiny houses are exactly the types of citizens communities need in order to thrive and flourish.

"Tiny house owners tend to be more engaged in their surroundings," he says. "Consumer things are less of an issue. Relationships are more of an importance." By definition, if you live in a tiny home, some of your living has to occur outside your home, he points out.

Tiny Houses can also serve an educational purpose, becoming a textbook of sorts for talking about sustainability issues and housing needs. Council Fire’s George Chmael, who also founded SustainaFest, has used tiny houses as a teaching tool for middle and high school students as part of his educational outreach.

"We’re talking to them about living in 200 square feet or less," he says. "This is a very tangible way of calling up real issues: How much space do you need? How many things do you need to live comfortably? What is the American Dream? Do you really need a mortgage, three cars, the debt? What does success mean?"

 "Tiny houses used to be for people who wanted to live small and get off the grid, but no longer," says Chmael. "The coming years will give us a sense of how helpful these types of home can be. I have no doubt they have a role to play. I’m optimistic."

Carol Kaufmann is a writer and editor whose work has appeared in the AARP Bulletin, National Geographic, Reader's Digest and The New York Times. She is also the author of the best-selling books Safari and Ocean, both produced by Workman Publishing.

Published January 2015

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