The ideology behind going Tiny.

Research Phase

The bigger, deeper reasons why we’ve decided to build a Tiny house are much more rooted in the people we are and the lifestyle we enjoy. Many ideologies that are strongly connected to the Tiny House Movement have resonated with me for many, many years, and for that reason, it wasn’t at all a surprise to my family when I told them what we were planning. In fact, when we told them that it was actually Tim’s initial suggestion, their response was,

“Really?? We would have guessed it was your idea, it seems SO Jess. Huh.”

This was very pleasing and reassuring ūüôā¬†In this post I will go through a few of the¬†main ideological reasons why we (and perhaps future you) will love going Tiny!

Ecological Footprint
I remember in first year university, in my Environmental Management course (I was in a Business Management program at the time), we had to use a Carbon Footprint Calculator to give us a sense of the impact our lifestyles had on the environment, and how dependent we are on fossil fuels. No calculator out there is perfect because there are way too many factors to consider in order to be really accurate, but they are definitely very useful tools to use in comparing how you match up against the average Canadian, and the global goal for individuals. I remember being pretty shocked, since I consider myself to be pretty environmentally conscious. I did it again just now to give you an idea of what the results look like for someone who typically buys local organic, lives in a basement apartment of a well insulated house, uses one car, and went on one holiday in a 12 month period. I used, and my results were as follows:

  • Your footprint is 15.83 metric tons per year
  • The average footprint for people in Canada is 20.00 metric tons
  • The average for the industrial nations is about 11 metric tons
  • The average worldwide carbon footprint is about 4 metric tons
  • The worldwide target to combat climate change is 2 metric tons

This is scary stuff. Regardless of what our backwards government is (or isn’t) implementing, how can individual people of¬†the western world even dream of participating in a¬†combat against the effects of climate change if our lifestyles so drastically do not match what the Earth can sustainably support? That’s a mouthful. But sadly, in my humble opinion, it’s an unpleasant reality.

Tiny house dwellers use a whole lot¬†less electricity than traditional houses, and produce astronomically less waste (of all kinds). Because there is so much less space to fill with useless possessions, tiny housers are forced to constantly be mindful of their surroundings and what they choose to bring into it.¬†I have come to understand a truth in my life, which I think probably rings true for most people, and it is this: You will spend money according to your salary and you will purchase belongings according to available¬†space. ¬†These two things inevitably lead to one conclusion: the more space you have, the more stuff you end up mysteriously owning, and you eventually get so tied down that you really don’t have any freedom at all.

“The things you own end up owning you” -Tyler Durden (Fight Club)

Simplify your house, simplify your life, be less of a burden on the Earth.

I think for most people my age, the thought of taking out a mortgage, buying a house, picking out drapery, paying property taxes, and deciding which light fixtures best represent our personalities is¬†really, really terrifying. I’ve been uncomfortable with¬†debt and loans and the concept of being owned by a bank for a long time- my parents were very frugal people and they taught my brothers and I from a young age that you must live within your means. I guess I probably took their lessons even more to heart than was intended, and now enjoy an irrational resilience to complicated financial commitments. ¬†But you know what, I’m OK with it.¬†I know in St. John’s (and most everywhere else in Canada) there are a tonne of couples like Tim and I who make a comfortable living, but live very carefully and minimally. They do this in order to save every penny possible for a down payment on a house that is really just half decent, AND THEN once they have it, they spend the next 20 years paying off their debt and the interest that goes along with it. But that’s normal, so no one questions it.

If you wanted to put a 20% down payment on a $300,000 home in St. John’s (which is pretty normal for a good quality, nothing fancy house, nowadays), you’re looking at $60,000. When my parents were my age, they could buy an entire house for that amount of money, and have no mortgage. Things have changed. A tiny house (including the trailer), for people who build it themselves, typically ends up costing between $20,000 and $30,000, depending on your tastes for the interior. That’s the equivalent of two years’ rent for me. I don’t think I have to say much more about this.

In addition, being on wheels means that you don’t have to grow any roots until you’re ready, or maybe never! Since leaving home at 17 in 2007 for university, I’ve moved 6 times. I’ve never gotten very comfortable in one spot, for one reason or another. All in all, the financial and geographical freedom a Tiny House would allow me is very appealing.

Realistic Needs
For as long as I can remember I’ve been challenging the assumptions of what people REALLY need, both to survive and to be happy. I camp all the time in a little two-man tent with Tim that is only tall enough to sit up in. My family thinks I’m nuts half the time and my mom always worries I’ll land myself between a rock and hard place, but my running theory that we need way less than we think has served me very well so far. Andrew Morrison talks a lot about this in his video about the Tiny House that we’re basing our structure on. You can find it here:¬†

Historically, humans have been living in very small spaces for a long time. The idea of a gigantic house in the suburbs with no arable land, half an hour’s drive from any property that isn’t residential is a very new concept. I’ve heard tiny housers talk about this in their videos, but here’s an article that sheds some light on this topic:¬†¬†

If you only go back as far as¬†1950, the average American home was 983 square feet. In St. John’s right now, an average house is probably about 2500¬†square feet, but the proportion of houses way bigger than that is large. I’d love to see some stats on this, particularly what the median size is. I know my grandparents and great grandparents lived in a house half the size of the one I currently live in (including the upstairs apartment) or smaller, and had like¬†10 siblings too. They all turned out to be spectacular people, which really goes in the face of what¬†we¬†are currently led to believe we¬†need in terms of per capita square footage.

Photo of Tim's great-grandfather's house. Jack Lake took this house apart in Darby's Harbour, and reassembled it in South East Bight.  The ceilings are extremely low, and there were 9 people living in this while Jack and Mary raised their kids.

Photo of Tim’s great-grandfather’s house. Jack Lake took this house apart in Darby’s Harbour, and reassembled it in South East Bight. The ceilings are very¬†low, and Jack and Mary had 9 children.

A really interesting spin-off of this topic is how our living space and the way it is divided impacts human interaction and child development. This is something I’ve only recently been delving into, but based on what I’ve read so far and a general instinct, people are not as happy at a base level being so far apart¬†and isolated all the time in their own homes. Being able to give conflict a nice wide berth with a whole floor and 5 doors isn’t really that helpful in the quest¬†to become an emotionally intelligent, reasonable human being, when you think about it. Please weigh in if you have any insight, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

I could definitely go on, but I think this post exceeds¬†what my high school english teacher would ask for a final exam essay, so it’s probably time to stop. Here are some great links that expand on what I’ve discussed, and if you have an hour or so of free time this weekend, I’d highly recommend the youtube video linked below, “We The Tiny House People”:

There’s a lot more on the philosophy behind Tiny Houses that I want to express, but I expect it will come out in dribs and drabs as things progress. Thanks for reading!