When I was around seven years old, my parents bought me a Little Tykes house. It was made with yellow plastic, and it stood five feet tall, five feet wide, with pink shutters, a blue shingled roof and a faux stove with a frying pan on top. The moment I saw it, I was in love.
I brought my Easy Bake Oven in there, decorated the walls with drawings from kindergarten, “washed dishes,” entertained, “had a baby”… Man, I was on the fast track for a seven year old. I was thriving. My house may have looked tiny, but as far as I was concerned, Chateau Natalie provided plenty of space for all my Big Girl needs.
I can’t help but think of my Little Tykes house when I think of micro housing – a trend Europeans have been into for decades that has finally made its way to the States. From San Francisco to Milwaukee to Boston, people are living in feats of architecture that are often not much bigger than a Chevy Suburban. And unlike my 7-year-old self, these homeowners are not playing make believe.
Here’s the scoop: In the face of growing city populations, soaring house prices and high mortgage costs – not to mention the whole student debt sitch – would-be American homeowners are getting creative. They’re thinking “small,” instead of “big,” and turning their dreams into reality.
In the last few years, there’s been a 160 percent increase in the percentage of tiny houses, making micro housing more like a movement than a housing trend. There are tiny apartments, tiny hotels, tiny granny flats, and even tiny culture clubs. Tiny living is huge right now. Oxymoron noted.
The homes run the gamut. There’s everything from a 90-square-foot micro-apartment in Manhattan, to a 950-square-foot architect-designed family home in the middle of the Wisconsin woods. The design ideas and locales are endless. Think a pod-like tree house in Sweden. An ice fishing house in Quebec. You know what? Do me a favor. Google Image search “tiny houses.” Your mind will be blown.
And here’s the thing: There are a lot of proven bennies to tiny living. The mortgages are itty bitty or non-existent. Since many of these homes are portable, they offer a mobile lifestyle with a comfort factor that a Breaking Bad-style RV just does not have (Walt, you were such a jerk). Also, when compared to your 5,000-square-foot McMansion, these shelters come with tiny price tags and reduced carbon footprints. But perhaps the biggest benefit? Tiny living takes that old adage “less is more” to a whole new level.
Some of you out there are starting to hyperventilate because you’ve got a closet that looks like Carrie Bradshaw’s. Hocking your thirty pairs of Manolo Blahniks is not just frightening. It’s like blasphemy. But tiny living-proponents are arguing that they’re actually happier with less. Less clutter – less stuff – leads to better lives.
This is how I see it: No mortgage to saddle me like the chains of Jacob Marley? Check. More Zen in my life because I’m less focused on material things? Check. I can actually afford to buy a home? Check. I can take it to San Francisco during Bay to Breakers if I want to? Check. Okay. Sign me up!