I have zero doubts that the average American house is way, way too big and consumes far too much energy (in its construction, and especially through its use), and produces far too much waste. This is a huge problem.
Thankfully, there is now a shift towards a tiny house movement, with some forward-thinking folks designing, building, and residing in ever smaller homes, in opposition to the “bigger is better” mentality that has plagued modern American homes. But when is small just too small to be practical? How realistic are tiny homes for a non-consumer lifestyle?
I’ve been pondering that question recently. For individuals living a more “conventional” lifestyle, with a full-time job, perhaps a commuter job, who shop for groceries and do not grow much or any of their own food, who live in the city or suburbs, who do not have work that involves the land, or farming… the need for a lot of space is indeed questionable. As many people are familiar, if there is space to fill, it will get filled (see: your parent’s attic full of crap that no one has sifted through in years).
As a homesteader, a food producer, an aspiring self-sufficient type, or some one that lives in a rural setting, etc., space is valuable, and a necessity. Have a significant-sized garden? You’ll probably want to can and put up a lot of your homegrown food, and quart jars take up a lot of space. Do you raise animals? Where are you going to process wool, or make the cheese from this morning’s milk, or make your sausage from your pig in the fall? Probably not in your 120 square foot home.
I suppose my question is: where do you draw the line on tiny houses, especially if you do work or maintain a lifestyle that involves providing more for yourself? You simply couldn’t put up 200 quart jars of food in a small space.
I think it is important to recognize that American homes are, on the whole, way too big, and those folks leading more “conventional” (for lack of a better word) lives could probably benefit from downsizing their space. (Middle class Americans are probably familiar with that one room in their house that almost no one ever uses, or the one or two that are completely full of crap. Wealthy Americans probably have half a dozen or more of those rooms.)
I’ll speak for myself here (as someone who is trying to provide more for myself) that space is definitely a premium, and I am frugal with the space that I build for myself, but there is definitely a threshold at which a space is not useful, since growing your own food, raising chickens, keeping bees, making candles, woodworking, home building, etc. — all that stuff takes space. Tools and equipment take space. Preserved food takes space. A tiny home would never be enough.
(By the way, yes, my current home is very small at 200 square feet, but I am in a unique position living at Dancing Rabbit because I share kitchen space, showers and toilets, and computer space elsewhere. So really, my “home” is more than the 200 square feet that I sleep in.)
Just food for thought.
Image credit: Tiny House Paintings