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Chris_Mer1Now that my emotional meltdown from yesterday has passed I figured that I would blog about something else. Something a bit more upbeat and something to think about. I am sure that many of us are more and more conscious about our impact on the world; our carbon footprint. I watched an interesting documentary on Netflix the other day called, Tiny-The Movie.
The documentary follows Christopher Smith; a young, 20-something, ambitious young man that wants to pave his own way in the world without being tied to a certain spot and to make a smaller impact on the world around him. How does he do this? He builds a tiny house to move to Colorado to live. Essentially he is looking for his idea of “home,” and what it means to him.

So what is a “tiny house?” The definition can vary a bit because a tiny house can be smaller than less than a hundred square footage and as big as 1,000 square feet (or more). The whole idea is to build smaller and maximize the space that you have. So perhaps the table that you eat at will fold in when not in use, and your bedroom is a loft room near the ceiling that will only fit a mattress and not much else. Most of the tiny houses are built on a towing trailer so that you can move your tiny house wherever you can. Solar panels help with electricity but most are plugged in to an additional source and they either have fireplaces or sailboat heaters. The designs and the variations are far and wide and for the conscientious consumer are becoming more and more popular.

One thing that the documentary focused on was our obsession as a society in the idea that bigger is better. Why we all need to have so much to seem accomplished or better in some way. I think it is a very valid point, look at my household of six plus a cat…we live in an apartment that is over 1000 square feet and in some ways it is far more space that we really need but yet it still feels cramped. We have talked about in the future finding a space that is much larger. I have to say that I am reconsidering that choice. I think that in the tiny houses people were more forced to interact with one another and spend more quality time because they couldn’t just run off into some other room. This would probably not work for everyone, nor would I expect it to. However, I do think that there is some merit in asking how far we have fallen in being about to communicate our needs and spending more time together when at home. It is all about isolation even in a house full of people.

When the kids are being noisy we send them to their rooms or we leave the room, the idea is that you are either outdoors enjoying nature or you are indoors and learning how to communicate with the rest of the people that live in that space. I think that the idea is a noble one; that of tiny houses and having to live more off of limited resources and land. Today’s world makes it far too easy to access things and does not promote us to do more for ourselves. In a world of fiber optic cables, tablets and phones, and every other distraction we are doing ourselves a great disservice in many ways but not teaching ourselves certain life and survival skills that a mere hundred or so years ago were vital to life. Life has become fast food, fast internet, and fast friends. So what are we really gaining when we sacrifice so many other important things?

The topic of the, bigger is better mantra, in the documentary is that we judge success and wealth on what a person has. It could be the nicest house in the world but admit that you would immediately look at a tiny house and most of us would find it impossible to live in something so small and make the assumption that the person just couldn’t afford a “real house.” It is because we have been conditioned to believe so, unless you are living in an apartment in New York City, you may see it this way. I did it myself when I saw the title of the documentary and the minuscule house and I really hate being judgmental but it was the first thing that popped into my head. In years long past it wasn’t uncommon to have a large family in a very small space, especially when America was a newly acquired country by the European settlers. A family of twelve could be packed into a tiny three room house and that was enough space.

As we grow and advance we find ourselves expanding in so many ways, our weight, our height, our living spaces, our cars, and whatever way we can reach farther to expand what we have. We consume far more resources than necessary and very rarely blink an eye. I really think that it is a shame and I think that we can all make some smarter decisions to break this cycle that we have thrown ourselves into. Crime rates increase because even people that cannot afford to have more want more and go to extremes to get it, we have created the catalyst unknowingly. So do we make changes or continue on the destructive path? I am not suggesting that everyone live in a tiny house, but I think that we can all take some lessons from the people that live in them.

So let’s get down to the question of how much is it to buy a tiny house, and is it really as economical as portrayed in the documentary. Now, Christopher Smith’s tiny house cost him approximately $26,000.00 to build. He was at the time of the film living with his girlfriend. This space accommodated two people and they seemed comfortable enough. So between the cost of his home and the cost he will spend per year to maintain it and live in it I would say that was a significant increase in savings. However, let’s say that you have a family, like mine, that is of a larger scale…A larger sized “tiny house,” Three bedrooms and approximately 1000 square feet would cost about $66,000 dollars or more. In today’s market some would say that it was a bargain. Worst case scenario if you really want additional space you could have more than one of the smaller portable homes and avoid the building permits. This again reduces cost and hassle. The cost to heat and cool my home costs thousands a year and in a tiny house you may only be looking at about a hundred or two. This all depends on amenities. The tiny houses are equipped with electrical, though in many plans it is minimal, but very few have running water from a main plumbing source. If this is important to you, you would indeed be looking at a stationary house which will require building permits and additional cost for plumbing. Either way you look at it, it is still a cheaper alternative and for an individual or a couple not the worst decision in the world.

Whether you choose to live in a tiny house or just make some new decisions about the way you live and think about the world makes a huge impact. Encourage yourself to make small changes to save money and reduce your carbon footprint, even if you don’t want to change the way you live entirely. Like I said, it is a great concept and perhaps not feasible for everyone, but I can say for certain that I took something away from that documentary. Perhaps you can give it a watch; Tiny-The Movie is available on Netflix.

http://tiny-themovie.com/about-the-film/
http://www.tumbleweedhouses.com/
http://www.carbonfund.org/reduce

Photo Credit: Tiny-The Movie

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