At times, our series on tiny houses ventured toward… scathing. Which isn’t even original, as evidenced by articles like this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, and this. Jeez. Maybe this counts as punching down?
So as promised, we will conclude our series by refocusing our discussion on what’s great about the tiny house movement. As the movement begins its slow fade into obscurity, these are the five points I pray leave a lasting impact on our culture.
#1: I like that it inspires a sense of personal accountability toward one’s belongings
I’ve expressed my frustration before about the hands-off attitude our culture has fostered about home maintenance—and about belongings in general.
The average American seems to buy things brand new, without putting adequate research or thought into them. These items are often cheaply made, and when they break, they’re thrown into a landfill. Then the cycle repeats. This is exactly the kind of mindless consumption that could eventually send our species into extinction. Or at least some kind of WALL-E future state where we’re all too physically and mentally doughy to leave our hoverchairs.
It disappoints me to see people throw up their hands when it comes to maintaining, repairing, or even understanding what their stuff actually does. Everyone who owns a kitchen should know how to cook, at least a little bit. Anyone who owns clothing should be able to fix a ripped seam or a missing button in clothing. If you poop, AND I KNOW YOU DO, you should know how to unclog a toilet, or at least shut off the water so it doesn’t overflow. If you own a car, you should be able to perform such basic tasks as changing oil and checking tire pressure.
Although our educational institutions (and many of our parents and grandparents) have failed to pass on such vital practical skills to us, we’re incredibly lucky to live in The Age of YouTube Enlightenment. What you do not know how to do, you can learn by watching others. You may even end up teaching one day with your own videos.
People who build their homes with their own two hands are exhibiting the height of personal responsibility for their own learning and development as well as the belongings in which they’ve chosen to invest their time and money. Even if they don’t do the job as well as a professional, it takes pride of ownership to a whole new level. Very few people can brag that they know their house literally down to the studs, and I do think that is something to brag about.
A can-do attitude will save you more money than any other tip, trick, or hack we can offer you on this site.
#2: I like that it takes its cues from socialism
When I was shopping for a house, I was frustrated to realize how many homes in my desired area were built by the same developer. They all had the exact same layout. And it was not a good layout. There is something extraordinarily depressing about little boxes on a hillside.
(BTW Weeds isn’t worth watching IMO but its opening is one of the shortest, simplest, greatest commentaries on American success I’ve ever seen. Watch now, thank me later.)
Tiny houses take architectural cues from the Craftsman style, where rooms are highly customized to fully utilize each individual space. William Morris, a libertarian socialist, founded the movement as a reaction against the dehumanization of lower-class American workers. It rejected mass-produced, assembly-line homes and injected value and dignity back into the artisan trade crafts associated with homebuilding.
This is a trend (and a mentality) I would love to see return to modern home design.
#3: I like that it is a reaction to the excesses of previous generations
In 1973, the average family size was 3.01 persons, and the average new home was 1,660 square feet.
In 2005, the average family size had shrunk to 2.54 persons, but the average new home had ballooned obscenely to 2,687 square feet. That’s almost double the size for fewer people.
Seriously. What the fuck is that?
I can feel my word count swelling just looking at those numbers. I can’t. I have to look away. Someone please slide some sort of fainting sofa or divan beneath me. I am an ENTJ, wastefulness is my Kryptonite.
<takes a real, real deep breath>
Kids can share rooms. Adults can share bathrooms. Families can share family rooms. Family rooms and living rooms should be an interchangeable word for one room. Breakfast nooks are irrelevant if you have a dining table and vice versa. Cars don’t need houses. Your neighborhood needs a bar, not your house. Your bar needs a pool table, not your house. If you don’t work from your house, your house doesn’t need an office. Walk-in pantries are mausoleums where uneaten food goes to gather the dust of centuries upon itself.
Please call my doctor. Tell him I’ve been browsing floor plans again.
#4: I like that it puts pressure on industries that currently don’t give a shit
Millennial home buyers have pretty soundly rejected the McMansions after which our parents lusted, but builders refuse to refocus their efforts on smaller, more modest homes. 75% of new apartments constructed in 2015 were geared toward high-end “luxury” demographics. More modest townhouses, condos, and starter homes face chronic inventory shortages in almost every major city across North America.
But builders want to keep building particleboard “luxury” houses because they offer the best return on investment for their companies. And local governments are eager to attract and retain a wealthy population, often at the expense of Us Poors.
If builders continue to refuse to listen to the changing needs of our generation and local governments fail to incentivize more affordable housing options, tiny houses offer an alternative that makes both industries nervous. Tiny homeowners often don’t pay builders—or only pay niche builders. They also often don’t pay property taxes. That’s a lot of potential lost revenue.
These industries should be sweating at the thought that young people are wiling to go around them. It’s the Malcolm X Theory of Housing Equality. “We want freedom now, but we’re not going to get it saying ‘We Shall Overcome.'” And I fucking dig it.
#5: People who can actually live in tiny homes are cool af, will survive zombie apocalypse
A lot of folks in the comments of previous articles copped to hate-watching Tiny House Hunters. AND RIGHTLY SO. You’re sensible people. The people featured on Tiny House Hunters are often ill-informed, starry-eyed, or doing it for the wrong reasons. It’s high-larious to watch them fret about a lack of “space for entertaining” in a glorified camper.
I think it’s fine and fair to poke fun at people who are blindly following a fad. But I also have a spark of real admiration for people who are doing it for reasons other than Pinterest.
I can think of exactly two people I know in real life who I could picture making a tiny house work. They’re both highly skilled, self-teaching handypeople. They’re also both extremely comfortable with themselves, and could live alone in an isolated corner of nature very successfully. And man, they’re both super cool. Totally the kind of people you hope are next to you when news of the zombie apocalypse breaks. They are those rare, 20-something rugged individualists who somehow have access to all the information I missed. They know how to grow potatoes in a garbage can, and skin a rabbit, and change a fan belt. (Is that a thing? I’m unwilling to Google it to check. But I’m pretty sure it’s a Car Thing I have heard of.)
All my work on the previous articles has been to deter the fad-followers, the shortsighted, and the people who romanticize and idealize based on what they see on TV and Pinterest. But I do know that there are some people out there who are fully prepared and equipped for the intricacies of this offbeat lifestyle. And those people are COOL FUCKIN’ PEOPLE.
They’re amazingly talented; they know themselves down to their cores; they’re willing to work harder than almost anyone else; they’re comfortable enough with their choices to endure constant snide criticisms from assholes like me; and they are completely and utterly unique. You cannot help but admire someone with those rare qualities. I would be willing to bump my head a few times to hang out with more people like that.
And that’s our final word on tiny homes. But seriously did you call my doctor?