When Less is More
By Lois Hoffman
Life changes. It’s funny how some things that we have worked for all our lives, like our home, suddenly does not hold the same significance that it once did.
A neighbor that I have known since I was 10 years old just announced the other day that he and his wife are selling their dream house and all the contents and moving to a condo closer to their youngest son. He wants to be free of the maintenance and other obligations that go along with owning a home.
Many folks make this decision to go from owning their own home to an apartment or a condo to make life easier. There has not been much choice between these two extremes… until now. There is a new trend called the “tiny house movement.”
What is a tiny house? Well, the average American home is around 2600 square feet. Tiny homes are usually between 100-400 square feet and come in all shapes, sizes and forms. Hardly any two are alike, but the one thing that they all do have in common is that all enable simpler living in a smaller, more efficient space.
Tiny homes redefine what makes a house a home. Many people need “stuff” around them and, if that is the case and you need a lot of space, then a tiny home is not for you.
But for those that are looking for a change and a chance to live life on their own terms, tiny living may just be for them. The key is learning to live with less and there are definite advantages.
The average tiny home costs between $10,000 and $40,000. A few other statistics are: 68 percent of tiny home owners have no mortgage, 55 percent have more savings, 78 percent own their own home, two out of five tiny home owners are over 50 years old and 89 percent have less credit card debt (no reason to buy anything because there is not room to put it!)
Tiny homes have all the necessities, just not all the extra amenities. They have a full functioning kitchen, small living space and bedroom.
Many do have a compact bathroom with just the necessities. There is a small sink instead of a big vanity. Sometimes the shower has a sunken floor that can be used as a tub and also provide extra head space for tall people in the shower.
However, sometimes people choose not to put a bathroom inside the tiny home at all, but rather locate it outside the living space. Remember, the old outhouses? Sometimes the more things change, the more they stay the same, just a little updated version.
Tiny homes can be rented or owned and can be on wheels or on its own foundation. Most are independent structures that are built from tiny home kits, purchased already built, adapted from trailers or designed and built by the owner.
They are parked on the owner’s land, on a rented piece of ground like a mobile home would be or parked on land with another home. They provide the ideal living quarters for an aging relative to be near family and yet have their own space.
The tiny home trend is becoming more popular for a number of reasons. The biggest one being that people are tired of the rat race, tired of feeling the need to always strive for more material things. They want to simplify, to live life de-cluttered.
Many are tired of the upkeep of the house and lawn. They want to live their lives more adventurous, spending their leisure time pursuing their interests and traveling instead of being tied to their homes.
Most Americans spend one third to one half of their income to putting a roof over their heads, usually taking at least 15 years to pay for it and trying to figure out how to keep up financially after it is paid for.
One of the tricks to living in a small space is to have public places to go and things to do. If you are more of a homebody, this probably isn’t the thing for you.
It also depends where you live if this is right for you. Some places aren’t “tiny home friendly.” California is the state that is most welcoming to tiny homes. Others are Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Oregon and Texas. Four tiny home friendly areas are Spur, Texas; Fresno, California; Walsenburg, Colorado and Brevard, North Carolina.
So, why hasn’t tiny homes become big business? One of the main reasons is that tiny homes may be cheap but buying the land to put them on is not.
Bankers aren’t too receptive to lending money for these homes because they don’t feel that they have the resale value of larger homes. Many townships have laws with minimum square footage requirements because they like the higher tax assessments. Many also insist on full water and sewer services, which makes the cheap tiny homes not so cheap.
As enticing as the thought may be, some people succumb to social pressures. Our society is geared toward bigger is better and is conditioned to always want more. Fear is also a deterrent and downsizing to a tiny house is a big lifestyle change.
The tiny house movement is more than simply living in a small space. A friend is starting her life over and is downsizing and considering a tiny house in whatever area she feels is right for her.
It’s a starting point, a place to start for her and to see where it leads. Perhaps it is just the right fit for her.
For me, not so much. It is not that I need all my stuff, but rather my space. I like being the caretaker of this little piece of the earth that God has entrusted me with. But, that is me.
Tiny houses are a matter of personal choices. They definitely provide additional options for those who want to simplify.
Photo by Getty Images/frankreporter.
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