Wednesday, August 03, 2011

How low could you go?

We have the luxury of space in our house. In fact, far too much space for 2 adults and an old dog. After reading an article in the July 25th New Yorker about “tiny houses”, I gave some serious thought to what it might be like to live in far less space.

These houses, pioneered by Jay Shafer of Tumbleweed Tiny House Company, are typically between 100 and 130 square feet. Most efficiency apartments are around 400 square feet. So that’s really small.

Within that small footprint are all the necessary amenities, packaged very carefully to maximize the use of every cubic inch of space.

Who buys a tiny house? Young people who can’t afford to buy or rent something bigger and might even find a place to park their house for free (they come on a trailer platform). A second group are older people who might have lost a house because they could no longer make the payments or perhaps they are retired and just want to down-size. A third group are ecologically-oriented individuals.

Shafer sells plans for his tiny houses or he will for a considerably higher price build the tiny house of your choice.

I began to wonder what I would keep if I were to downsize from several thousand square feet down to 100. Anyone moving into a smaller space has had to make those painful decisions, but this would be much harder.

I would have to give up most of the things stored in the basement of little light, including my first grade school work that I have been keeping for what reason? Any even one of those pieces of exercise equipment might mean I wouldn’t have space for a bed. Tough choices.

I know people like my faithful reader Pauline who live in a small space and manage just fine. It would obviously take a change of mindset and priorities. It would also take a resolution never again to be a packrat. I don’t have that tendency, but I live with someone who often deserves that label.

How would you fare in a tiny house?


Blogger e said...

My 750 square foot flat is the largest space I've lived in and I keep it uncluttered so I can get around in it and reduce falling hazards. The machine you use for stretching would fill up most of the sitting room. I'm not sure I could navigate 130 feet well with a chair though I can see the attraction.

10:44 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

E -- You and Pauline both get gold stars!

It would definitely be harder to lose something in a smaller space.

11:36 PM  
Blogger Cyndy said...

I feel like I've seen a picture of that house before - in some other magazine.

I think I would love living in a teeny-tiny house, because it would be especially important (and a pleasure)to keep everything all neat and tidy, and it wouldn't be very hard to do that because the place would be so small. I know this from having lived several times in a crew cabin on a ship for months on end and from subletting a tiny NYC apartment once.

But I also know that if I lived in a tiny place I would have to live there alone. My husband would either have to live next door, or in the much larger guest house out back. That's the only way it could work!

1:45 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Cyndy -- I'm sure in both of your tiny living experiences you had just a small portion of your belongings with you. It would really get interesting if you had to pare down to just what would fit in your tiny house.

I agree about sharing space... or not. It seems like a rather personal living arrangement.

5:34 PM  
Anonymous lr said...

What an interesting post, Barbara. My first reaction, as cute as the house in the picture is, was claustrophobia! I know I need to unload a ton of stuff from this house, but at this moment I'm not ready to live in such a small home. It's great, however, that such designs are available to those who are able to make such a move.

6:11 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

LR -- It would be a drastic life-style change for both of us, but who knows -- we might feel unburdened to get rid of a lifetime of stuff!

9:06 PM  
Blogger Merle Sneed said...

We live in 1800sf, which is ample for three adults. I could live in a much smaller space.

10:24 AM  
Blogger bozoette said...

Well, I lived in a Ford van while I was on the road, but I do enjoy being able to stretch out. Our townhouse is pretty small, but we still have managed to clutter it up!

10:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think I'm like a gas: I tend to expand to the space available to me!

But when I was in college (many years ago!), for three years I lived in a succession of tiny rooms. Honestly don't see how I'd do it now, with the tools of my trade taking up way more than that all my themselves...

On the other hand, I notice that as I grow older, I favor getting rid of stuff over getting more, and my net footprint is smaller now than 10 years ago.

Like Cyndy, I think I've seen that photo before -- maybe in the NY Times...?


11:00 AM  
Blogger Steve Reed said...

I would LOVE to have a tiny house like this. However, like Cyndy, I think it would come at the expense of my spouse!

It's interesting, though -- we pared down drastically for our move to England, and our stuff hasn't even arrived yet. So for now we're living with what we brought on the plane, along with some borrowed furnishings. And I have PLENTY right now.

People (me included) always think we need much more than we actually do.

2:07 AM  
Blogger Pauline said...

My cottage is really just one square room measuring 30'x30'. I've divided it into sections with furniture. In that square I have a kitchen, small bath, a dining area, an office, a living/study area and a bedroom. Everything has its place and anything out of place trips me up so I'm forced to be neat. On the other hand, I can clean the place completely in a morning and that includes dusting, vacuuming, washing the floor, the windows, cleaning the bathroom, changing the bed, washing the curtains, and rehanging them!

Each wall has at least one window so I don't experience the claustrophobia Ir mentioned. I moved here from a ten room house so I kept only my most treasured pieces of furniture. I brought all 1200 books with me though and had shelves built on two walls . I have very little storage so can't acquire new things on whim.

I do miss stairs, and having at least one separate room with a door so I can close it against the world. (No, the bathroom doesn't count!) Bust I am content here. It's a cozy, well appointed place, efficient, and still spacious feeling. I'd probably do very well in a tiny house!

11:10 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Anon -- I totally agree with the gas idea.

Pauline -- You are living in 900 square feet. Even though that sounds small, it is larger than any of the tiny houses. I'll bet you would adapt nicely to a tiny house, though.

11:33 AM  

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