“I give them six months!” my spouse chortled, after watching an episode of a tiny house show.  I wanted the couple on the show to drive off happily into the sunset, but it did seem that the field was littered with red flags. They had St. Bernard, a bathroom space one spouse seriously compromised on, no private space for either of them (one of them planned to work out of their tiny home) and a refrigerator only big enough to hold pint-sized milk containers. They seemed adventurous and optimistic though, and had well-functioning knees, so maybe they could make it work.

What is driving the tiny house movement? What is it about this lifestyle that’s so appealing to us?

“Tiny house” living abroad

Our family spent the last seven years in Costa Rica, where I visited daily with lots of tourists. They would look at me with a bit of envy and ask, “What’s it like to live in paradise?” My answer was always the same, “We live very simply in a furnished apartment, have everything we need and try to keep our amount of possessions to a bare minimum.” I’d tell them how we try to emulate the Costa Ricans; they work hard five to six days per week and spend their time off with family and friends. Time with loved ones and enjoying the natural environment are priorities in their lives. They don’t have to have the latest gadget or more of something they already have. The tourists who heard my response would wistfully look at each other and sigh when the reality of their lives rushed back in.

Freedom from our stuff

Our friends in Costa Rica lived in modest homes with minimal square footage and enjoyed many of the benefits of what we now refer to as “tiny house” living. For those of us living in developed nations, having too much “stuff” is one of the primary obstacles to a happy life. You have to have make money to buy it, make room for it, clean it, maintain it, protect it, upgrade it and live amongst it! It rules our lives, demands our attention and distracts us from all that is really important. It’s vital to start seeing our stuff for what it actually is and how it is so detrimental to our well-being and peace of mind.

Once we returned from Costa Rica two years ago, I committed to that maintaining a minimalistic lifestyle. I knew that if we ever moved abroad again, we would want to easily get rid all unnecessary possessions, aka “stuff,” and that meant not acquiring it in the first place.

Preparing to move to abroad, I had to get rid of a house and garage full of things I never thought I could live without, like all my collected McCoy pottery, a library of books I’d collected over forty years, 10 numbered boxes of Christmas decorations, and art and craft supplies (I just knew would someday come in very handy!) I got rid of all of it because it was too costly to take with or store, so out it went. Once I got into the swing of it and started to see the open floor space, I was hooked, and you will be too.

 “Tiny house” sustainability

Before we lived abroad, I would watch home improvement shows and sympathetically agree with potential home buyers as they’d categorically state, “This whole kitchen is so dated! Everything has to be replaced before we could live here!” These house hunters were looking at cabinets, flooring, and countertops that were maybe ten years old, and still in excellent condition, but they “needed” the latest trends (which just happened to be manufactured and driven by those that were manufacturing and selling to them.)

“Tiny house” thinking dovetails nicely with an environmentally conscientious lifestyle. Buying items that are gently used, and recycling where possible, helps us keep stuff from piling up in our homes and also our landfills. Reducing our utility bills to “tiny house” size, helps us curtail spending, which can reduce the number of hours we need to work. Buying fewer packaged goods, buying whole foods in bulk and cooking from scratch reduces the amount of waste we generate and improves our health and healthcare costs. By making these kinds of smart choices, you’ll also reap the added benefit of improving your, and your family’s, long-term health.

Moving into a tiny house is not a practical choice for everyone, so if you still are drawn to the idea, try “tiny house” thinking and see if you don’t begin to experience the freedom you’ve only dreamed about.


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