5 Reasons The Tiny House Movement Is Doomed To Fail: And 5 Things We Can Do About It

When I first bought the domain, hipdiggs.com, a few years ago, I had a dream. I wanted to start a blog about the tiny house movement. I thought that building and living in a tiny house would be a great way to support the ideal of minimalism. I’ve changed my mind. The tiny house movement might be doing more harm than good for the cause. In some cases, tiny houses are illegal. 

house-768707_1280 Tiny House Movement: Photo of little white house with a green door and window frame.

Living In Small Spaces Isn’t Too Bad

Throughout my life, I’ve lived in many small spaces. I’ve rented single rooms, travel trailers, studio apartments, and small houses. I’ve lived simply. I wasn’t counting, but in my 20s, I probably owned less than 100 material possessions, not counting my cassette tapes and small book collection. Through most of my 30s, I lived in a studio apartment while attending college and grad school. It wasn’t until my 40s that I had a kid and began to accumulate more stuff.

Now I’m buying a 1200-square-foot house. It’s bigger than my dream home, but it’s what I could find in my town without living in the ghetto.

I know what you’re thinking, “Hypocrite! How can you promote simple living if you’re not living in a smaller home?”

After all, it’s just my daughter and me. Why do I need three bedrooms and two bathrooms? Those of you who have girls might understand. I’ve felt a little guilty about living such an upscale life (sarcasm intended) while promoting minimalism, but lately I’m having second thoughts. Maybe what I’m doing is not so bad after all. In fact, I think scaling down without going to extremes will be the way to create large-scale change. The tiny house movement in it’s current form will never find its way into the mainstream. In fact, it’s doomed to fail. 

Why The Tiny House Movement Is Doomed To Fail

  1. The tiny house movement is a counter-culture movement: I was born in the early 1960s. As a kid, I remember the hippies. People were living in Volkswagon busses and traveling around the country smoking pot, preaching about love and freedom. The tiny house movement feels similar. There may be less pot smoking, but the idea behind it is the same: to find ways to live more freely. The problem is that counter-culture movements rarely work their way into mainstream culture.
  2. The tiny house movement has an escapist mindset: I’ve often dreamed of escaping the 9-to-5 world and moving to a cabin in the mountains. I’ve pictured myself living in a tiny house next to the ocean. It’s an escapist fantasy. Sure, I might be able to scale down and live in a quiet and peaceful place when I retire, but right now I need to work and take care of Annie. Let’s be realistic. I wonder how many people who build tiny houses live in them longterm? I’ve known several people who have moved out to the country, only to abandon the lifestyle after a few years due to the constraints and limitations.
  3. The tiny house movement is evasive of authority: If we want to make a new culture stick, we need to work with authority, not against it. Most tiny houses are now built on wheels. This makes little sense to me. If I wanted something on wheels, I’d just buy a small travel trailer. But I understand that people build tiny houses on wheels to evade building codes and taxes. Evading rules and regulations is not a great way to move a cause forward. It’s hard to get governmental and cultural support for something that goes counter to the status quo.
  4. The tiny house movement is not practical: Okay, I’ll admit, they’re cute. I’ve even sketched out a few of my own floor plans. I find it fun and challenging to make the most efficient use of space. But 100 to 200 square-foot homes are not practical for most people. They also aren’t practical to build in suburban areas. Not everybody who wants to live simply wants to park their house on wheels on a friend’s property out in the boonies. As we age, many of us would rather be closer to cultural activities, medical facilities and other conveniences of small towns or cities.
  5. The tiny house movement appeals to a small population: The idea of building a little house on wheels only appeals to a certain type of person. In fact, some of those people seem a little bit off: recluses, rebels, and drifters. Hey, I fit the bill too, but this may not give the movement the best possible public image.

I’ve just painted a pretty bleak picture of the future for the tiny house movement. But not all is lost. I believe there are alternative ways to make the tiny house movement work.

5 Ways To Help The Tiny House Movement

  1. Ditch the wheels: I said it before and I’ll say it again: if I wanted something on wheels, I’d simply buy a travel trailer, a van, or a small motorhome. That would actually give me more freedom. I could park in campgrounds and Walmart parking lots while I travel. I’d be living in something that was specifically made for traveling. When I think of a home, I think of permanent structures. I see tiny homes on wheels as glorified trailers. I find it a bit silly.
  2. Accept reality: Why are so many people unhappy with their lives. As a blogger, I’ve noticed that everybody is trying to escape. They want to quit their jobs. They want to live away from the masses. They want to attain their vision of freedom. Here’s the problem: it takes money and/or hard work to get there. I’m not trying to rain on your parade, but sometimes we need to suck it up and accept the real world while we work toward our dream.
  3. Increase the size: Most cities and counties have building codes and zoning laws that make it hard to build tiny houses. So stop making 100 to 200 square-foot houses. Instead, increase the size to 400-700 square feet. This will make it much easier to build small-sized homes on existing lots.
  4. Stop fighting authority: Remember the old song that said, “I fought the law and the law won?” It’s true. Fighting authority by evading rules and regulations does little to promote the tiny house movement to larger-scale populations. Instead of fighting authority, find ways to work within the current social and political structures to promote simple living and smaller homes.
  5. Buy existing structures: I’ve travelled extensively around the United States. Most every town has its fair share of studio, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom condominiums and homes. Why reinvent the wheel? What if those of us interested in small-home living started buying little old, dilapidated homes, and began fixing them up? We could begin to make our communities more appealing while setting an example for others. We could show our kids that we can live simply without going to the extreme of evading rules and regulations. We could begin to work with our governmental agencies, and in turn, they might begin to find favor upon the tiny house movement.

If you’d like to see more people using less resources, then it’s time to get more realistic about small-home living. If my arguments have made you think a little differently about the tiny house movement, I encourage you to share this article.

Let’s continue to push for ways to live simple. We can do it without tiny house failures or tiny house regrets. Let’s continue to promote downsizing and minimalism. We can do it in a way in which we can work within the current cultural and political restraints. Let’s make it cool for more people to join the tiny house movement by changing the way we present the movement.

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  1. Totally agree. My dream … a 500-600 soft home. With one bedroom and a small studio. I collect plans of such homes. So many are available. Why re-invent? You know the saying: Start where you are, Use what you have. PS Yes my email refers to Frank Gehry, the architect.

      1. It reminds me of something I read once about an architect whose policy is to only build places that are 500 square feet per intended occupant. I think you’re in to something with the idea of having more modest goals that would be acceptable to a lot more people. Just like the overall good of getting most people to eat half as much meat is higher than getting 10% to become vegetarian, or how Peter Singer, advocate for increasing philanthropic giving, has advocated for somewhat modest giving levels that a greater number of people would feel comfortable with. Maybe the new housing movement should be called “500 per person” or something. Anyway, great post.

  2. First I’d like to say I’m glad you opened up comments again. I’ve been reading your blog(s) for 3 years or so now, and though I have cut way, WAY back on commenting (both here and elsewhere) it’s nice to have the option to do so. Also, I really like the way your blogs have evolved. I commented to you in the past – keep writing them and I’ll keep reading them.

    Having said that, I very much agree that the small home movement will probably be seen as a “fad” when we look back on it in a few years. Although they are kind of “cool”, kind of a modern day “always-wanted-a-tree-house” feel, they really seem a bit impractical for long-term living. And though my house is a some what larger than yours, the idea of simplifying and clearing out the clutter is very much on my mind, my wife’s as well. Having too much stuff is annoying and really does “tie you down”.

    As they say – clutter creates chaos …

    1. Hi David, I hope all is well. Yes, I think the tiny house movement might be remembered as a fad, but I also think it could have power if we consider ways to make it more acceptable and reasonable for a larger population. Thanks for continuing to read my writing.

    1. Traditionally, a house is meant to be a permanent structure. I think the wheels have mostly been used to avoid taxes and building codes.

      1. traditionally we lived in piles of sticks or just camped and hunted to survive the whole 9 to 5 job is a new development that only happened a few thousand years ago now lets thing how long have humans existed… lucy was 3.2 million years old and her grand perrents had lived in trees not houses

      2. Dan,

        Evading certain rules is indeed a reason for some people to use a tiny house. But there is another really compelling factor to have wheels: If one does not own (or intend to own) land and stay there permanently, this is one of the only ways to create a functional house that you can take along with you in life. That alone is why I built my first tiny house on wheels. Now I am completing number 23 (I build to code and pay plenty of taxes, BTW).

          1. I’m choosing wheels for the mobility as well. As I live in a tiny house in India half the time and don’t have land in the US, I need the option to move my tiny house around the US depending on where I need to be. And the reason I’m not just getting a trailer or small RV is because I’m a designer and the creative process of building a tiny house gives me life!

        1. One thing about these tiny homes on wheels is that they really aren’t intended to be moved frequently, in the way that RVs are. They’re certainly mobile but not in the way that campers are, moved every two weeks.

  3. Great article, I’ve had the same thoughts while watching this movement. People are going to small. Why not try cutting your living space in half first. I’m not sure people realize how small 200sq ft is, especially with children. Maybe try going from 2500 to 1200 sq ft to see how you adapt.

    Love the idea of finding existing structures too.

    1. I wonder how many people who go to extremes, stick with it? That would make an interesting study. My guess is that the majority get tired of living that small and increase the size of their living situation at some point. So I agree, downsize with some moderation. Thanks for reading and commenting, T.J.

  4. Even sharing an existing structure and dividing it with other like minded folk would be workable in many communities. I agree with the wheel thing- I don’t want to live on a movable frame, when I think of small living it’s not an rv.

    1. In some places in Europe, families share homes. I think that is something that could become more common in America with some organization. Thanks for stopping by and commenting, April.

  5. Great article! All excellent points. My family of four currently lives in a 1300 sq ft 1920’s farmhouse. It’s plenty of space for us. Minimalism allows me to make it feel more spacious by keeping all the stuff to a minimum and get rid of the things we no longer need/use.

    1. Thanks, for your comment, Sandy. I agree. I think 1300 is great for four.

      I’ve always thought that spaciousness should be part of minimalism and simple living. I’d rather have a 1200 sq-ft house with sparse décor than a 200 sq-ft house that’s crammed full.

      1. Yes, I’d rather have some spaciousness too, rather than trying to cram necessities into less than 200 sf. My husband and I live in a 720 sf 2-bedroom apartment, which is plenty for us. Our adult daughter lived with us for two years and that worked too, though one bathroom for 3 adults getting ready for work took some cooperation and creativity! Our living/kitchen/dining area is big enough to have our two kids and their significant others over for a meal, and now that our younger child has moved out, that second bedroom is a useful guest bedroom/office/playroom for our young grandson.

        There are several older (built in the 20s to 40s) neighborhoods in our town with houses in the 800-1000 sf range that could benefit from some repair and perhaps remodeling. If my two kids were younger, we might look into buying one of those to raise them in. It would be great to see those older, well-built homes revitalized. As you say, why reinvent the wheel? The largest house we ever lived in when they were growing up was almost 1300 sf, the smallest was about 850. Thinking about that 1300 sf house now, I wonder that we thought we needed all that room!

        1. My home is slightly larger than I need but it’s partially due to the restraints of the market. There are smaller houses, but most of them are in undesirable and even potentially dangerous parts of town.

  6. I agree that the tiny house movement will never become mainstream; there are too many obstacles as you pointed out. I’m more interested in living in a microcondo especially because I like living close to the centre of the city. Tiny houses are usually located in the middle of nowhere and that’s not an option for me since I don’t drive.

    1. Excellent point, Yuko. I feel the same way. I’d prefer a small space in town. I’d like to walk and bike as my primary modes of transportation. I’d like to see a more mainstream version of small living. Perhaps we can learn some things from the tiny house movement and apply it to city dwellings. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  7. I would so love to be in a smaller house, but that would mean my blesshisheart quasi-hoarder husband (although he finally threw away his Apple employee manual and Apple employee earthquake guide from 1992) would have to get rid of 75% of his possessions. I travel light, but he has possessions.

  8. Excellent points – I think you’ve put your finger on it.

    One point I never see addressed but experience with my husband, who is keen on boats, is that a physically large person generally dislikes the confined feeling of a small space. Bumping your head, knocking your knees and elbows and long shins all the time, is no fun. At 5’2″ I adore small spaces but I am not skinny, so personally I think 500-1000 sqft is more likely to catch on (hubby is a large 6’4″…). Having said that, this is the size of many European homes when the need to Americanise does not dominate (we’re going that way over here, sadly) and apparently, it used to be the norm there in north America, too, not too long ago! So really, common sense?

    1. I think houses in the U.S. have doubled in size since the 1970s. It makes no sense. It will be sad if Europe follows our poor model. I agree that it’s hard for larger people to live in small spaces. I whack my hip on my kitchen counter corners most every day and I’m average sized. Argh! Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  9. Dan, I agree with all 10 of your points, but disagree with your title.

    Just because tiny houses will never be mainstream does not mean that the movement is a failure. There’s a small set of people who enjoy counter-culture movements and freedom so much that they are willing to deal with a little impracticality as a trade-off. And in fact, if the tiny house movement ever *were* to become mainstream, then it would lose a lot of its appeal to many people. I know it sounds really stupid, but I actually enjoy being a little bit different than the average person merely for the sake of being a little bit different. Not in a hipster way, but in a way that I simply feel more comfortable knowing that I’m my own person.

    I can’t see myself living in a tiny house with my wife and dog for the rest of my life. But I *can* see living in one for 1-2 years. I think that could be very valuable for a sort of self rediscovery, society detox scheme.

    1. Hi Pat, thanks for stopping by. I agree with you that the title is a little unfair. I wrote it more as a hook than an exact reference to the article. I also could not see myself living in a tiny house for the longterm. Small, yes, but not tiny. And I agree that a tiny-house detox could be beneficial. I appreciate your input!

  10. I’m so glad you wrote this! I love tiny houses and am really looking forward to the new season of Tiny House Hunters on HGTV!! However, I feel it is a money making scheme more than anything. I feel a camper of some sort is more cost effective and makes more sense ergonomically if you want to live tiny and travel around in your home…..and I do!!

    1. It’s sad that almost anything, including “minimalism” and “tiny houses,” becomes more profit-based than sincere as it gains more popularity. But I believe you’re right. It has become a money-making scheme. However, there are some cities that are becoming proactive about using tiny houses to home the homeless.

  11. My son and I lived in a 600 sq ft house. I called it my studio house. Yes, it was too small: very difficult to keep uncluttered and clean because there simply wasn’t enough places to put necessary items. Also there wasn’t really enough room for hospitality and entertaining. Now I live alone in an apt barely bigger than that but this time it’s working better: more storage and rooms are laid out better.

    1. And many people try to promote 100-200 sq ft as something to aim. I think I could manage 500-600 by myself, but with my daughter it would be difficult. Thanks for your comment!

    2. “…there wasn’t really enough room for hospitality and entertaining.”

      Exactly. There is an anti-social aspect to the tiny house movement that rubs me the wrong way. I’ve been on small leisure boats and in mobile homes more cognizant of the needs of hospitality than these “houses.”

      Are the children being raised in Mom and Dad’s tiny fantasy allowed to have hobbies, interests, and possessions of their own? Can they take up skateboarding, a musical instrument, have a pet, own a bicycle, join sports teams? (“Sorry, Billy, but we don’t have room for balls, cleats, pads, and a helmet. Only swimming, and only one suit and one towel, maybe a set of goggles if you’re willing to get rid of your lone goldfish.”)

      And the whole saving money thing seems to be a ruse. If my husband and I opted to live and raise our family in a tiny “house” (assuming we didn’t have to keep moving it to another obliging family member’s back yard every few years or so), and if we had cleverly invested the saved money and grown it into a tidy nest egg (rather than using the savings as an excuse to aspire to a lower standard of earnings), what would be the point of that money had our home been a cramped, inhospitable dwelling for the past 25 years?

      Austerity? Sure, why not. But tiny houses are not about austerity, it’s an eco-status cult.

      1. You bring up great points and I agree. I actually touch on some of these things in other posts like, “Could Extreme Minimalism Be Selfishness In Disguise?”

        I shudder at the idea of parents forcing minimalism on their kids. It’s one thing to teach your kids not to over consume, but another to limit them from exploring their own interests.

        My tiny house dream is just smaller than what I’m currently living in. In a few years, after my daughter is older, I’d like to downsize from 1200 to about 800 square feet. That’s reasonable, I think.

      2. I agree! The movement rubs me the wrong way; remember that scene in 10 Things I Hate About You, where someone says something about “meaningless, consumer-driven lives”? The people who are drawn to this form of hipster buzzword living look at those of us who aren’t and think they’re better than us because “they don’t need stuff to be happy”, and those of use who aren’t tiny-dwelling minimalists are all living “meaningless, consumer-driven lives”. I can totally agree that constant consumerism is not a path to happiness, but I don’t appreciate being looked down upon because we have 10 bath towels instead of 2, and enough dishes for 12 place settings; I never end up running a half-full dishwasher or washing machine, and if people come over we don’t have to ask them to bring their own plates for dinner! My home is small and doesn’t have a lot in it, but it’s warm and colorful and welcoming, and everything in it is either something that we A) love, or B) use on a regular basis.

        1. Thanks for your comments, Kelsey. I’m with you on keeping our homes comfortable but not being excessive consumers.

    3. This sounds like the space i am living in and this place is 900 sf but no place to put stuff that i need the kitchen esp. is 8×9 and hardly any cupboards but it would be laid out better it would be wonderful but i pull my hair out just trying to figure out how to store things —–i looked at a 1 bedroom apartment int he nursing home and i would have more cupboards in fact i would have empty cupboards i have thrown out that much

  12. Dan,
    This is so well said! I’ve wondered about the wheels, too? Wouldn’t buying an RV or travel trailer be much cheaper than building a tiny house on wheels? I agree with the mention of this movement being somewhat of a “fad.” While it works for some, I can’t see it being practical for most–at least not long term. I would feel like screaming if I lived in 200 square feet. I felt like that when I moved from my 800 sq ft home, and that’s when I moved to this 1800 sq ft home. Then I realized that first home was plenty big; I just had too much stuff. Now I feel like screaming because this place is too big and has stuff everywhere! Anyway, I’m working on getting back there. Fortunately, I didn’t sell that first house, as I really loved it–a cute little doll house, I always thought of it as. Anyway, I digress. You made some great points in your article. I think that downsizing is freeing for all of us, but it doesn’t have to go to an extreme.

    1. I’d also be willing to bet that most people who live in tiny houses only do for a season. So they downsize only to wind up buying more stuff again later. I like the 500-1000 square-foot range.

  13. I would love to see comments from someone who is living or had lived in a tiny house. Last night I made the decision to abandon the idea. I had been researching tiny home living for a couple months. A year ago i was diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer…i was looking for ways to save money incase the time came when i could no longer work. The idea was to get a tiny house rv..and live in RV parks across the US. The goal was to be mobile. Guess what? Tiny homes are not permitted in most RV parks…even if they are RCIA certified. It is illegal to park in someone’s yard due to zoning laws. Where can tiny house dwellers go? There are people who want to remain in society and not “off grid.” Then the idea of living in an actual rv crossed my mind…they are twice as cramped and less homie. I’m thinking I’ll just get a roommate and try to save money that way.

    1. Hi Lea, you might try one of the tiny house blogs or comments from people who live the lifestyle.

      I think a small RV or teardrop trailer would be much more practical for living on the road. It’s likely that some people have actually wound up spending more money on the less conventional “tiny home” than they would on a more traditional, smaller home. Living small does not always equate to saving money.

      1. Saving money and living lean can be a accomplished many ways. Creativity and resourcefulness never cease being practical.

        The happiest I ever remember being while single was the summer I lived in a little cab over camper that I set off the truck on some crates, and I’d love to live in that small of space again, if I were single, But I love being married too much to risk that.

        Growing up, my neighbors had 4 kids and lived in house trailers for the first 20 years or so. Then they decided to build their own home next to their trailer. Did they stay small? No way! Twenty years caught up with them and they built a LARGE three story, open concept with almost no interior walls. It was the largest home in the whole area. Likewise, I suspect the pendulum will swing away from this movement. However, just as we still have our 60’s hippies clearly evident in our society, I suspect there will be many minimalist tiny dwellers for the foreseeable future. It may be a good time to start investing in large, open concept nursing homes where they can spend their golden years and golden savings!

        So many tiny homes I see have cost their diy owners upward of $60k. I don’t see that being a good solution, at least not for me. That’s where creativity and resourcefulness come in. I’ve learned how to source good salvage materials for the cost of hauling them off. Having virtually free material changes one’s diy plans. I now find myself in 4200 sf and I’m still building another 1,000 or so. But, aside from the land, septic system and the like, I’ve only spent $1,858 on my construction project. It’s inexpensive, but it’s not cheap. My walls average 6″ thick, with north walls being 10″ I have R30 insulation, solar radiant barrier and steel roof. But, I’ve also learned how to support a family of five for about $1,500 per month. We have food, furniture and utilities, yet live well with less. I think that type of resourcefulness is at the heart of the minimalist lifestyle. We don’t need more stuff to be happy, even if we have a larger space to put it in.

  14. Totally agree. I too fell for the charm of the Tiny House at one point. Obsessing about building one for myself one day. The barrier to simple cheap living is land. Not the cost of the structure. Tiny homes are very expensive per square foot. Probably more than double what it costs to build a conventional home. And yes travel trailers are way more efficient and well thought out and easy to tow. Building a house on a trailer is dumb. Typically these houses stay where they are so the trailer is just a huge waste of resources.

    Now I live in my van. I suppose technically I am homeless. The homeless are living the most sustainable lifestyle. Why aren’t there cute websites and TV shows about blue tarp homes? They should be LEED certified.



    1. Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Craig. If I weren’t a single parent, living out of a small trailer or a van might not be a bad option. In the future, I’d like to buy a small house or condo in the 500-700 square foot range. I think in many parts of the country that would be less expensive and more simple than the tiny house option.

  15. My Latino girlfriend sees this movement as a young white people movement. You don’t see many Latinos, African-American, or Asians trying to buy tiny houses. Unlike in these cultures, it’s a stigma for young white people to stay with family while they get started. They also do not want to live in potentially dangerous areas where smaller houses exist, as you mentioned. We suspect that this movement is a new way for people to save up, sell to yuppies who think the tiny house is “cool”, buy another tiny house, sell, and eventually be able to afford a larger house in desirable areas. Perhaps this new form of “flipping” could be a valid option to staying with family, etc. Another point my girlfriend makes is she would like to have extended family visit for an extended period, but does not want them in our house the entire time. A tiny house as a guest house or mother-in-law appt could be a cheaper alternative to a duplex/triplex.

    1. Interesting insights, Ian. Now that you point it out, it seems that it is mostly caucasians that are building and buying tiny houses. I was intrigued with them as a form of downsizing rather than forward momentum. But I can see how that could work for some. And I agree that a tiny house could make a great guest house. I’m still aiming for something smaller when my daughter goes out on her own, but not tiny.

  16. I lived in a small 1100 sq ft home for about 15 years with my wife and 2 boys. When a colonial 2 story hit the market for a less than 110k we closed in record time. The house was listed as a 2697 sq ft home, but after calculating the total sq footage it was 3967 sq ft and we love the space! It has a total of 15 rooms, 8 closets and 1 storage building. I have to admit the energy cost was about double of what we paid in the smaller 1100 sq ft home, but instead of conserving i just bought solar panels and a grid tie inverter. Also bought a wind turbine but just have installed it yet. We are seeing lower utility bills now similar to what we paid in the smaller home. I guess after living in a tiny house for so long it was a nice change to own a giant home. We have always love to entertain during the Holidays and now we can easily invite up to 30 people over for Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings. Instead of downsizing why don’t people just go green with solar and wind?

    1. Hey, Wes, that’s a big house. I’m all for going green. I have a friend who added solar, but now that we have a presidential change, there may not see the same incentives. Adding alternative power sources can be expensive.

  17. I like the spirit of the movement but anything less then 400 sq. ft isn’t going to work for most humans (hermits excluded). You can build small affordable cordwood, cob, earthbag or straw structures for the same price or less that can meet codes in rural areas.

    I know a guy with property in northern MI who buried a short/used bus shell berm style on 20 wooded acres and made it into an earth shelter – he even used furring strips, spray foam and wrapped it in Tyvek before burying it. Total cost with a small solar system, venting and hand bored shallow well was less then $10,000 not including the land but that was just a hunting camp for him. I doubt if the inspectors even know it exists – never asked…

    1. Thanks for your reply, Andy.

      I agree that 400 square feet is about the least amount of space that most people would live in.

      I know they make a lot of unique homes in the Taos, NM region. I think there are still some scattered rural counties in the US where one can have more freedom in regard to codes and inspections. I have no problem with people who want to live in those kinds of remote areas and live in small and unique shelters. I also love the “spirit” of the movement. I just think there are smarter alternatives in many cases and I don’t think defying standards and inspections will help the movement forward.

  18. Life is all about the experiences. This one may be an oops for me! I just moved into my THOW and im taking inventory of more CONS than PROS. I have to live on a campground because there is not place to put my home elsewhere. I can’t have reliable cable and even living with the most minimal items possible I want/need, I still don’t have enough room to put stuff. I have to spend money on a storage unit for putting my plastic storage bins and few other things. Ill give it some time, but after that, Im out.

    1. I think one could live in a tiny house. I lived in a 20-foot trailer for several years. But I was younger and without a kid. I had not accumulated some of the necessities of life. But are they really necessities? Probably not. Still, I don’t think we need to limit ourselves that much to live simply.

  19. I absolutely agree! We just bought our first home, 1,054sq. ft. on a nice big lot in a little town, which we love and are slowly fixing up (it hadn’t been loved for a long time). It’s more than we need at the moment (just the two of us and our 2 dogs and the cat), but we plan on having children in the next few years and it’ll be plenty of space without any being wasted. I totally understand living “small and simple”, but I just think the “tiny house movement” is a fad and a huge waste of money for a glorified trailer. If you live in a place with nice weather year round and can do a lot of “outdoor living”, cool, but I’m in the PNW and it’s nasty and rainy here the bulk of the year, there’s just no way! It makes me sad to watch the tiny home shows on TV where people with kids are shopping for tiny houses and the children will end up sleeping on sofa cushions in the middle of the living room instead of a proper bed, or people are setting up little cribs for their babies in the bathroom. Small living is great, but “tiny” living is just a silly waste of time and money.

    1. I only have one child. No matter what kind of home I choose, I will insist that she gets her own bedroom. I would sacrifice and set up a living room like a studio apartment and give her the bedroom if we ever lived in a one-bedroom home.

  20. I am reading this post a year later but I fully agree with your statements. I too want “less” home but only becuase I want less mortgage. We are family of four living in 1700 sq ft. townhouse in a rural area. We love the town with it’s top rated school system, numerous parks, and proximity to Princeton University. But … the housing is expensive and so are the property taxes. We could not have raised our kids in a 700sq foot home ( a teenage girl does NOT want to share a room/bed with her teenage brother) but we are considering out options once the kids are done with college (six years from now). A 700 sq. ft. home would be a great way to downsize. So long as I can live near a high tech corridor.

    It seemed to me from reading many of the tiny home web sites and watching TV shows featuring tiny homes, that the way most of the proponents handled the limitations was to impose on others. If you are placing your home on someone else’s property, presumably to avoid property taxes, then you are freeloading your housing decision onto them. Occupying a public park is not scalable or desirable to residents who wants use the park. Again, you are freeloaing.

    I think it’s more practical to support projects like the Open Building Institute: Eco-Building Toolkit that if focused on affordable eco-housing that on making one’s home as tiny as possible.

    1. Thanks for your reply and including links to interesting sites. I’m in 1400 square feet and it’s just my daughter and me. I’m currently job searching and relocation might be my prompt to downsize. But even if I stay with my current employer, I’m considering downsizing and then renting this house out.

  21. Nice article – If you’re looking to go tiny, forego the mobile home (or tiny home same thing) and just buy an existing city house in a mid size city (top 50 to 100 size population). You can typically grab something for around 60k (1000 sq ft/1.5 bathroom), invest 30-40k into it and you’re set and living in a comfortable “new” home with very low maintenance (not a lot of bathrooms, accessories, not a lot to fix). Buy within 3-5 miles of city center and you can even skip on commuting and ride a bike. Once you’re three years in and ahead of all the repairs, you’re basically done. With a 30 year mortgage it is bound to be much less than any studio nearby.

    I’m sure people will have different approaches to this – but just something that I’ve done and had success with. Overall – I love the conversations about downsizing. I could buy more, but I’m so much happier in a modest home. I can’t imagine keeping up a large house – no time and $$$ for your self/hobbies/family/friends and interests!

  22. Tiny homes are so stupid! I don’t think people realize how over priced these thing really are. If you purchase a tiny home from a builder then you are paying around the same price or more per sq. ft. as you would for a regular home. The problem is with tiny homes you are not getting the land in that cost or a lot of the regular things that you would get with a fixed house, also tiny homes really don’t increase in value they decrease over time. I think most people that buy these mobile homes don’t really think things through very well. I know here in San Diego I pay $1000 a month rent for 300sq ft. including utilities, that’s $60,000 for 5yrs. However I get a full size bathroom & kitchen and I do not have to deal with hookups or a composting toilet or worry about zoning or needing to move from campsite to campsite. Now if I had the land I would build my own tiny home (800sq ft min) and not pay ridiculous prices from builders that probably don’t even have a license (not talking about every builder) but remember these tiny homes don’t need to pass any type of building inspection. I watch HGTV tiny homes and I can tell you on a lot of those homes they are not finished very well. People if you want tiny and you can’t build it yourself do yourself a favor and BUY A MOTOR HOME OR A TRAILER. I just feel sorry for most of the people that are falling for these things.

    1. I agree. I’m fortunate to live in a smaller town and pay $1050 for a small three-bedroom home. But someday I’d like to downsize more.

  23. I agree with some points but as someone who has been designing my own tiny home I disagree with a few points you have made. Its not a fad…. It’s a lifestyle. Some of us realize that we don’t need McMansions or big houses. For me personally I travel a lot for work so 200 square feet would be perfect for me. We are not anti government and anti man. We have been working with both local and national governments to make tony houses legal. Some of us have houses on wheels so we can travel with our house instead of being stationary. I would be happy to answer your questions if you have any but I few of your points are not valid.

    1. Eric, I don’t think all who build and support tiny houses are anti-governement. I think there are many people trying to work with agencies and do things above board. And I applaud that work. I think there is a place for tiny houses and people who truly do enjoy the lifestyle. I wouldn’t mind a permanent “small house” in the future, myself. But I have met several tiny home owners who live in tiny homes to try to outsmart the government, to avoid taxes and codes. So I know there is that faction, too. I’m all for turning small living into mainstream someday if it is possible.

  24. We grew up in the 60’s with parents who camped with tents, then graduated to campers, trailers then motorhomes. While I love the sort of Cinderella story of watching someone make something from nothing including people’s personalities in décor, I question the safety of regular moving of these crazy buildings on wheels. There is an answer already out there… camping trailers… hate the wallpaper or curtains, why not customize that ? We travelled everywhere and I cannot imagine a novice driving these tiny homes on a regular basis. I would buy an old camper and gut it, it’s already road worthy. Love the concept, but see the problems.

    1. I agree that campers already serve the purpose. But they have to be licensed, and that might be why some would avoid them and build tiny houses.

  25. Great article with interesting comments! Thank you all for sharing your comments.

    I have mixed feelings about little houses because while I try to be a minimalist, it’s not a lifestyle everyone can be comfortable with. I say this because during the ten years my husband and I lived in a 24-foot trailer, we met people who sold their traditional homes and spent the proceeds on and trailers much larger than ours that they weren’t especially happy with.

    During our working years, we lived rather simply in smaller, less expensive homes, and didn’t spend much on luxuries. Our vacations were spent in a tent or pop-up trailer in state or national parks so we were familiar with camping. However, camping is much different than living 24/7/365 in a tiny home.

    When we were able to retire early, we sold our home, gave away or sold most of our possessions and purchased a truck to tow our inexpensive 24-foot trailer. Living this lifestyle was the most freeing thing we’ve ever done. We were no longer owned by possessions. I don’t remember any period of adjustment to living in a small space because of this tremendous feeling of freedom from “things.” However, I wonder how many people who move into these tiny houses don’t get that feeling of freedom and just can’t handle the reality of living in such a small space. We met people living in larger motorhomes/trailers who were trying to deal with living in a home that was less than 320 square feet. Unfortunately, since some of them had spent the proceeds of a home sale on a depreciating asset, they sometimes had a difficult time trying to sell the motorhome/trailer in order to move back into a traditional larger home.

    When our trailer frame developed small stress fractures, we no longer felt comfortable towing it and sold it to someone who planned to use it as a fixed location vacation home. We now live in an apartment, and even though I try to maintain the minimalistic lifestyle I learned during our little home years, it is not easy. This summer I am cleaning and culling because “things” are starting to own me again. Being a minimalist in a consumer-driven society is difficult!

    1. Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I think you experienced what a lot of people experience. Living a life in a trailer was freeing, but only for a period of time. Tiny houses I expect would be a similar experience for many people. I’ll never own a big house. When I get closer to retirement I’ll downsize to a small house or condo. If I can afford it, I might get a small motorhome (think VW bus size), too. Then one can have the best of both worlds. A small house that is easy to maintain and a vehicle that allows travel and freedom.

  26. Paragraph two should read: “…proceeds on motorhomes and trailers…” Sorry about the mistake. Thanks.

  27. I thoroughly enjoyed this article, and you raised several points that I had not really thought about. I believe that ‘tiny’ versus ‘small’ makes a real difference in one’s happiness. I, myself, have chosen small over the past few years.
    Several years ago I purchased a 167-year-old former carriage house, roughly 850 sq. ft. of living space, in a small but very active city, and my son and his family of 3 have lived quite comfortably there since the purchase. With only a 15 year mortgage, it is priceless to our family. If their needs change, it will become my retirement home, with everything within walking distance.
    Two years ago I bought a 100-year-old home with an acre of ground for myself, only a 10 year mortgage this time, with roughly 600 sq. ft. The only problem I’m having is the outdated utilities, upgrading as I can (i.e. one electrical outlet per room! Lol!) Within this home, my friend and I actually only use half the space, with another son using one room for his drums and musical studio, when he visits.
    So, with less than 1500 sq. ft., 12 years to go on the longest mortgage, (both payments combined are less than $800 a month, and I currently owe less on the two than I gave for the first one), two families are living quite comfortably. These were my choices, and I am enjoying the results.
    I’ve owned the 3000+ sq. ft. homes, and I know I am no longer capable of maintaining that size home. My small house is just my size.

    1. An old carriage house sounds really cool. I tend to like mid-century modern homes. I currently have 1400 sq. ft. with a $1000 mortgage payment. I hope to downsize in a few years to less than 1000 sq. ft. and a smaller payment. I don’t know how, or WHY, anybody would want to maintain 3000 sq. ft.?

    1. That’s the perfect size. I took a look at the photos. I hope to do something similar when my daughter is older.

  28. Our 31 year old son and his wife, who live in Austin, Texas with her mother, are putting the finishing touches on their tiny house. The tiny house is on wheels and has been under construction for the past two years. They finally have found a place to move it – a tiny house community in a rural area east of Austin. They wanted to live in an Austin zip code, but there are laws that restrict “home made travel trailers” (the legal definition of a tiny house). They wanted to ‘live off the grid’, collect their own rain water, use a composting toilet, etc. But they have opted for the ‘hookups’ that the tiny house community will provide.
    It breaks my heart to see such smart (both have BA degrees in Architecture from UT and she has a MA in Landscape Architecture), energetic young people give in to their idealism. I predicted that this tiny house ‘movement’ was a fad and would last about five years, at most – just like the Hippie ‘movement’ of the late Sixties.
    Thanks for a great blog – you expressed many of my thoughts so succinctly. Now, if I could just get you to talk some sense into these two young people….LOL.

  29. Great blog post. We just renovated a house that the listing agent told us was a tear down. Hmmm….I think we have a pretty nice house now. 1200 sq ft bungalow. I guess she meant on a half acre lot we should tear it down and build a monster home. Yah….no. Now we’re a couple years from retirement and we’ve decided we’ll do it again. Head down to the east coast where houses are cheap, buy one that needs love and renos and bring it back to life. Why does everyone need new when there are so many houses available?

    1. 1200 is a great size for a small family. My house is a similar size. But I will likely downsize to about half this size in the future.

  30. I agree with finding older smaller homes to renovate instead of reinventing the wheel.
    I just recently purchased a 600 sq ft seasonal cottage that we’re renovating into a year round home. It’s near a lake and will be our summer home until the kids are grown and we can downsize into it for our retirement home.

  31. Wonderful perspective. I really connect with the idea of working with what’s available and the authorities to get the principles accepted as mainstream. Instead of creating new dream homes like every generation before us, there’s a rising movement I’ve read about called ‘retrofitting the suburbs’ – exactly as you said, don’t reinvent the wheel, work with what exists. My husband and I are contemplating buying a home and removing the extension so we’ll get a smaller home and bigger garden. We’ll be able to live our dream of a minimalist lifestyle while being more energy efficient and growing our own produce. All with the support of the authorities and in the heart of a community where we can share our principles easily because we have the same base as our neighbours to demonstrate how things can change.

  32. I enjoyed your article, and your final point really hit on a sore point of my own. I grew up in a 900 sq foot home in an inner-ring suburb of Cleveland. Across the nation, inner ring suburbs are suffering blight and desertion by the middle class, and all these lovely, small but not “tiny” homes are falling into disrepair as their elderly owners die off. We have a nation of small homes that are being abandoned to rot by the white middle class–because many of these inner ring suburbs are labeled “bad areas” NOT because of their crime rates but because of coded racism. I’m currently living in Bedford, Ohio, an inner ring suburb of Cleveland–in my mothers 900 sq foot home. I was told by a number of white people (I’m white as well) that Bedford is a “bad area” when I’ve never seen a crime committed here in the past ten years I moved back into the area. But I have black neighbors, and now the coded “bad” neighborhood is being abandoned due to white flight, and all these lovely small post-war homes are becoming harder and harder to sell and many are being abandoned. When my husband and I chose to move to South Euclid, in another home (not so tiny, but still small compared to today’s average size home–it’s a 1500 ft “catalog house” from the 1950s, well built, with many lovely features), we were initially warned that South Euclid was “bad” as well. When we answered that we currently live in Bedford, the response was, “Oh, then you’ll be fine with South Euclid.” In other words, the barely concealed racism was revealed at that moment. So to me, the tiny house movement sits on the back of white racism–a failure to recognize that small post-war houses in many inner ring suburbs are in fact the true conservationist’s answer to being kind to the environment–they are existing structures that are in dire need of rehabbing, but are never considered because hidden racism prohibits middle class white millennials from considering moving into them. There, I’ve had my say. We close on our modest, 1950s cape cod, with its original kit house windows and cedar siding in place (and which we will be proud to maintain), within our lovely mixed race neighborhood, and within walking distance to every amenity we could want–and we paid only 74,000 for it, quite affordable in this day and age of monster McMansions in the exurbs. Inner ring suburb small house rehabbing is the most pro-social, pro-environmental thing one can do, in my opinion.

    1. Lisa, I think you may be correct. I also live in a town that has many small houses. But they are mostly on the Hispanic side of town that is associated with gang violence. As a middle-class white man with a kid, I thought it would be safer to buy something a little bigger on the better side of town. I don’t think of myself as racist, but I do sometimes feel uncomfortable with the thought of living in a neighborhood that is predominantly another race than my own. Perhaps tiny houses are simply one way for people who want to live small to stay with their own and avoid that discomfort. But there are thousands of existing homes that could be had for not much more than a song.

    2. Lisa, I want to hear more! Living in NYC as I do the whole city is pretty well mixed, but my neighborhood – Chelsea – has certainly gone upscale over the 25 years I’ve lived in it (over 20 in the same apt.). As I now look to leave the city, and am trying to weigh every pro and con of each possibility until my only solution is a shot of Bourbon, I feel like I’m going around in circles. I want to be outside of the city, but not on a mountaintop (I grew up in Colorado, so I know mountaintops too!). I thrive on ethnic diversity, but in fact one of my hesitations of moving to certain areas where I would be in the minority is that I am a white male. We’ve done so much to disrupt the lives of other ethnicities’ communities, I don’t want to be perceived in that way. I agree that there are some delightful small homes with lots of character in places like Newburgh, NY – but that city has for years been considered one of the state’s and even the country’s most dangerous. Do I have to or want to subject myself to that in my senior years? Is it really even as bad as they say it is?

      It’s tough for anyone not simply going with the flow. But in this country, I don’t much like where the flow has been going, the over-consumption, the economic speculation, the selling off of our children’s children’s futures, the tragic degree of waste in our everyday lives. I don’t want any part of that. I want to live nicely, eat good food, some of which maybe I will have grown myself, play some music, be warm enough in the winter, and cool enough in the summer. I don’t want to (and can’t afford to) spend an arm and a leg, but I think I’m knowledgeable enough and still able enough to do a lot on my own. It used to be, in my parents’ generation even, that everyone seemed to live this way. It’s hard for me to unlearn this. And I don’t want to unlearn it.

      Anyway, I applaud your decisions above, and than you and Dan for the great info and insight contained here. Really glad I stumbled upon this site after all this time of mucking about in this area!

      1. It’s rarely as bad as they say it is . . . I’ve been visiting message boards discussing suburban living for a while, and I’ve seen the places I’ve lived categorized as “dangerous” and “horrible,” and always by white folks fleeing non-white faces (black, Hispanic). What happens, in my opinion, is that once the cultural differences are perceived by the white population in inner ring suburbs (i.e., they start to hear young people playing loud rap music, hearing loud family parties at backyard barbecues, seeing houses painted in more vibrant color choices), white people interpret this as automatically negative, as their own cultural preferences are different (beige or white or gray house colors, soft rock/pop music, smaller families with quieter laughter and quieter conversation). They then start scanning police blotters and notice for the first time that crime (gasp!) occurs in their city. There is then a selective over-focusing on the “growing crime rate” (which, although it may or may not be growing to a certain degree, is perceived as growing more quickly than it is due to overfocusing on the rates and selective memory, i.e., they never paid attention before–and the crimes are mostly things like increased domestic conflicts and some car thefts, from what I’ve seen–not a reason to carry a gun at all). With this selective over-focusing on crime and the distress over cultural differences, the inner ring suburb is deemed “unlivable” and “dangerous” and white flight takes place. As a result, concerned millennials–if they really want to help the environment as well as contribute to their communities–should consider resisting the above trend and sinking the 80,000 they’d set aside for their tiny house into a substantially less tiny house–but still modest–in an inner ring suburb of their choice. It’s the right thing to do–it really is. You not only get to live with people different from yourself–a big plus, at least for me–but you get the satisfaction of saving a small inner-ring home, a truly environmentally friendly act. And though these little bungalows, typically from 800 to 1500 sq ft, do look a lot alike, they can be personalized and tailored to one’s unique vision as well. And they tend to be pretty well made, especially by today’s standards. They aren’t filled with fiberboard and vinyl, as so many newer houses are, but are built of real wood, glass and steel. Yeah, they may need some updating, but that’s where your individual touches can make the house truly yours. I once came up with an acronym for a movement to save inner ring post-war housing; had thought of starting a blog/website about the topic as well. But darn, I’ve forgotten the acronym now. Still, I’ve toyed off and on with the thought of starting a blog to raise awareness of the issue and promote the purchase and restoration of housing in inner ring suburbs.

  33. Ok I have to agree w you for the most part. I did buy a tiny home, 12 by 24 w a full basement & sheds on an acre of land in the middle of a big woods, 20 miles out of town, partially off grid, & I truly do love it! Right now I am a healthy 63 year old. But as much as we romanticize this kind of life there are drawbacks. Personally I can’t imagine having children in a tiny home, even larger then mine. I know it’s all freeing & exciting in the beginning. I do plan on staying for a few years, maybe til I’m 70. Then I’m moving into town into a nice apartment, closer to stores, medical facilities etc. I do love it out here now, but living in a tiny home, especially on wheels, in my opinion is not realistic in the long haul. I know for sure that it’s doable & enjoyable for a long period of time, but I do not believe it’s a forever thing, except maybe if you are younger & your place is set on a foundation, & you are not raising kids. Otherwise I think it’s not a long time thing. Just my opinion w some experience.

    1. Sounds like a neat place with a basement. We don’t stay young forever for sure. I’m just going to skip the tiny house at this point and downsize in town in the future. Thanks for commenting.

  34. In light of this “movement” I’ve often wondered if the people who choose this lifestyle, or say they would like to, have hobbies?? If so, then a Tiny House, is really super-impractical. I sew~~where would I store the machine and extra fabric and where would I set up the machine? Then it would have to be removed after each use just so I could eat my meals. I also do photography~~where would I keep my camera, bag, and the few other pieces of gear I have to make the hobby pleasurable? I also knit and crochet~~where would the yarn be stashed? I think the point is made. These hobbies are what add to the enjoyment of my life, but they would become a burden in a space too small to store them or work at them without being cramped. The Tiny Homes are cute and clever and well designed but I don’t think they’ll work for living in them long-term. Just my opinion.

    1. Hi Linda! I couldn’t relate more. I play music and own a few stringed instruments. I cycle and like to keep my bike indoors when not in use. My daughter plays piano. A tiny house would put restrictions on hobbies for sure. Thanks for the thoughtful comment.

  35. I enjoy watching “tiny house” programs on TV, watching how they design the space to fit the needs of the purchasers, but I agree with you that it’s a fad that will fade away sometime in the next decade. I watch these programs and think, “sure, I could probably be comfortable in about 350-400 square feet,” but for how long? And where would I park it? I need plumbing and electrical hookups, for pity’s sake! It won’t be long before these tiny house dwellers abandon their homes for something larger and more permanent.

    1. I love to see the designs and I’m fascinated by how they use space. It’s similar to living on a boat. I’m afraid you might be right about it being a fad. So will we see a bunch of old abandoned tiny houses on the sides of country roads in 20 years?

  36. Reading this with my dutch eyes, living in -indeed- The Netherlands, I can’t help but think: you know there is more to life then the US of A? You should name this ‘5 Reasons The AMERICAN Tiny House Movement Is Doomed To Fail’ 😉

    In my country the wheels have a purpose since you simply have to move every 1 or 2 years because of lack of regulation, besides that, we have no trailer parks. The people who choose TH living are not weird or reclusives at all, they are just happier with less (incl. less stuff, mortgage, overhead etc.), it’s not an escape into the wild: we have no wild, we always can bike to a very nearby city. Outrun authority is a no go for that same reason, even if you want to escape it, you can’t (not without leaving the country..) Practical; covered that, never far from ‘real life’, and that it appeals to a small group….I don’t get that one. So do mansions, tiny NY apartments or just your regular (often crazy sized) typical American suburb houses. I would not want to live in any of those either. And no, I’m not a Tiny House owner, I live in a typical dutch house, measuring 1000 sq ft for all 4 of us, and our 2 pets. Your list is just a little off.

    1. You are right. This is written from an American perspective about the American movement. Thank you for shedding light on what is happening in The Netherlands.

  37. My biggest concern would be lack of privacy. No matter how much I love my spouse, sometimes I need some personal time and space. I don’t operate in his time zone. If your bed is also the couch, does everyone follow the same living schedule? Love watching the shows however.

  38. Simple life is not determined by having a tiny house. If you want to live a tiny and simple life, you can live in any size house and not because of the size of a tiny house. The way of life you choose that will change your life. If you are confused decide which house is right for you you can come to http://www.biesterbos.nl, they are experts on this and will provide the best solution for you because customer satisfaction is the main one.

  39. I’ve lived in a small home of about 700 sf for over 20 years. It’s called an apartment. But it’s a wonderful prewar apartment, built like they meant it. Not like today’s structures. In this space you enter into a large foyer with plenty of room for my upright piano (and 4 speaker cabinets that I’m supposedly working on, going on 2 years now), and two large closets. To the fore-left is the bedroom, about 12×12, not including the large step-in closet. Next to that is a bathroom large enough to include a separate tub and shower stall. Off the foyer to the right is the 12×20 living room. Around the corner from that is a galley kitchen, a true separate room with a door, long but narrow; all the kitchen works are lined up along one long wall (about 14′). Also off the living room (butting up against the end of the kitchen, making up the remaining 6′ of that dimension) is a walk-in closet that I have turned into a library/study, with book shelves on 3 walls and a desk and chair.

    I’ve lived in this apartment since 1994 or 95. During this time it’s been home to a minimum of one, me, and a maximum of two people, two dogs and a bird, or for a while three people and one dog. It’s ranged from being utterly sparse and over-organized to something between a workshop and a storage shed. But I’ve had the flexibility to live that way, for these many years, without going any more nuts than when I started. I cannot even conceive of doing that in a 200sf or even 400sf space.

    So yes, I quite agree with you here. This whole tiny-bug-home movement, if it is a movement, has I think made it difficult for me to find what I need to find at a time in my life when I can’t be messing around too much longer. I need a home of this size as a minimum to operate freely. Ideally, I would have a second bedroom, a slightly larger kitchen, and at least 64sf of storage space like a basement or shed (I currently rent a self-storage space of this size). So we’re really talking about something under 1000sf.

    With average new homes starting around 2400sf, it’s just not so easy to find something this size. Going larger however means more to clean, more to heat and cool, and we all know that clutter expands to fit the space provided. I think if there were more development being done on homes of this size, that don’t leave you scratching your head when someone points out their home-sweet-home, it would be a great advantage to many people. Instead, we’re focusing on “houses” so tiny they can be parked in the driveway of a typical house, or even towed behind a bicycle. That’s just not a house, even if you prepend “tiny-” to it.

    Let’s continue to work toward the “small home” or “modest house” instead. It would be convenient perhaps if mobile homes weren’t all in trailer parks, and didn’t all suck, because they’re about the right size (though not the right proportions). But they are, and they do. Communities where small houses wouldn’t look like dollhouses among McMansions should not be so hard to find. But if a meaningful mass of people were looking for these, instead of tiny towable scofflaw units, it would make a big difference to cities and towns, communities, planning boards, etc. As it is now, it sometimes feels like I’m the only one looking! If there were more people wanting to live modest lives without going overboard (or underboard, I should say!), it would be a great help!

    1. Sounds like you have a great place. I would sure like to see more small houses being built. But there are also a lot of existing small houses that can be remodeled. Hopefully, more people will make that choice. Thanks for commenting.

  40. I commented previously here, but had to add another comment, now that I’m seeing a push for tiny houses as a “solution” to homelessness.

    I have a brother who has spent most of his adult life in shelters or other specialty housing. He finally got into a building that provides studio apartments (more like dorm rooms with a private bath & kitchenette) and has some social support services on site. While the functioning abilities of the homeless population cover a broad spectrum, you don’t end up long-term homeless because you’re capable of managing your own affairs independently. A tiny house is absurdly impractical for this population.

    These are not people who are going to be adept at maintaining tiny house structures, and they certainly don’t need the indignity of having to clamber up to a cramped 4′ high loft onto a mattress on the floor. Many of the indigent population CAN’T climb steep steps or ladders…years of rough living takes its toll on their physical health. These are not people who think it would be cute or adventurous or “green” to live that way. Their needs are very pragmatic: safe shelter in an area close to social services, medical care, public transportation, and nearby shopping, food, and perhaps employment.

    You do not give people incapable of self-sufficiency a tiny house, pat yourself on the back, and declare “problem solved.” Long-term homelessness has nothing to do with lack of a house.

    1. I have a friend who works for the VA. He was involved in creating housing for homeless veterans in Salt Lake City. They created small apartments, not tiny houses. It really does make much more sense.

  41. “Give up before you start AND set the bar low, very low….” Every this country WAS NOT built on! Put your mind to it in this country and you can have whatever you want!

  42. Dan,

    Your 1200 sq ft home IS a tiny home. You’re fine.

    200 sq ft per person is not a home; it’s a prison cell. It’s preposterous.

    1. Agreed that 200 ft is too small. I like my home, and it’s okay for two of us, but I’ve lived in smaller very comfortably and may likely downsize into a 600-800 ft condo when my daughter is out on her own.

  43. I have never live in tiny house beforehand. If get chance to live in there maybe I am not ready for that. It has limited space and feel not comfortable. I love to have personal space bigger than that. More comfortable. If you have doubt which house you would live-in you can visit http://www.biesterbos.nl ; You can get a housing solution from those skilled in this field.

    1. Thanks for sharing the link. I hope to live in something moderately smaller in the future, but probably not a “tiny house.”

  44. To each his or her own. There are people who are willing to put the needs of our fragile ecosystem first, in addition to those who like the idea for simplicity’s sake as well as good finance.

    If you need space, by all means buy the space you need, but please don’t bash those of us who are willing to think outside the box. How anyone lives is their own business.

    1. If you read the post, it’s less of a “bashing” and more of a suggestion to rethink the whole movement as to create something that could have mainstream momentum. And if we’re worried about the ecosystem, mainstream momentum for a movement to live smaller would do much more than a few fringe individuals living in less realistic tiny houses.

  45. Firstly, thank you for your thoughtful blog. Nice comments all. I have one point of view that I didn’t read about which I am going to share here. I know a tiny-house owner. This person is always at their parents house or their friends’ homes, which are regular sized-houses. Hmmmm…. Maybe the tiny house is too small to stay in for long periods of time. People are always trying to get out of them.
    Also, this person offered a vague comment about following the laws of our town’s building codes. Plus, this house is set on a large land parcel. Small house, big land. And it is rented out on weekends occasionally without permission from the city or neighbors. Seems like some a not-so-savory law breaking attitude is being built into this Tiny House movement.
    I have lived in small spaces of all sorts and so has my husband. We have no desire to return to that life style. We live simply and comfortably in a 2,000 sq. foot house and have no plans of leaving. We’ve worked hard to get it and we take care of it with the intention of being quiet, tidy, green-yard working values (no spraying or gas fuming tools), and we try to be thoughtful and helpful neighbors. All other houses nearby are far larger than ours, but we live in a kind and quiet neighborhood. I’m trying to be an example of how to live in a larger house. We can’t tear them down and waste all that building material. Someone has to live in the not-so-tiny houses.
    It’s not the size of the house, it’s the attitude of the people living in the house whatever the size.
    Downsize where possible and be a nice neighbor. Tiny houses seem more like a problem, unless planned in an ideal situation for the right kind of person, and a fad. They aren’t new. Just the name is. Mobile homes, in-law houses, condos, tents, VW, campers, etc. are all examples of living small. It’s a fad due to its name, not the concept. I’m not fooled.
    My sanity depends on some reasonable amount of space. Here are my living rules: I give away that which I don’t use and I keep what I need to do my work and enjoy my simple life. One house is enough. Do your own yard work and keep it green. It’s much quieter to rake leaves and yard debris than using a gas powered leaf blower, or hire yard workers that make noise and air pollution. That’s gotta stop! We need to be quieter. We share the air and the air waves. (Tiny houses have little space around them; noise is a reason that people want larger homes and larger pieces of land around them.) Be a good neighbor. And don’t put those obnoxious XMAS music things in the front yard!! To end on a high note: I’m pleased to see this concept take off – minimalism – but there are millions of ways of doing that. Be creative and be a good neighbor no matter what the size of your domicile is.

    1. Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Birdie. I’m sure there are some people who truly embrace living in a tiny home and follow laws and codes, but your observations are also quite common.

  46. When I was a teenager, I lived in a double hotel room with my then boyfriend. We owned nothing, we had no option but to own nothing. Never again. Moving towards our retirement years, My husband and I have up-sized. Our living area is in the order of around 3100 sq feet ( If I’m translating correctly from metres! 294 sq metres…).

    Tiny houses are great, but we couldn’t do it.

    We own 3000 books, we have several musical instruments each, I sew costumes, regular clothing, kitchen accessories, et al. A serger, a sewing machine, a cutting table and all the accoutrements. In that room I have a tiny infrared sauna which helps with the symptoms of my genetic illnesses. If I had to pull out and put away all this stuff, all the time, that would take up all the time I have to do these things in!

    My husband uses the living room as his office, for the comfort factor and he is a software architect, so we have all his equipment as well.

    My kitchen is gigantic, as I need to have 3 cooked meals a day for my problems – and a specific diet. I hate cooking, so when I have energy, I cook a heck of a lot, and freeze. This requires a big freezer. Which I keep in my laundry, which is huge, and doubles as my art studio. I paint, sculpt, and dabble in textile art – which involves dyeing, spinning, carding, etc. My pantry is 86sq feet… all shelves and drawers, all used. I love the giant kitchen island, I can put down a multitude of trays and dishes, and it’s still not messy; plenty of prep room. I also do a lot of kimchi, sauerkraut, and other ferments, and these are a lot easier with elbow room!

    All our rooms are thoroughly used, even the guest room. I have a giant linen press, to store all the fabrics and wools, as well as linens. I do not own one bed sheet and one towel! My husband has miles of his embroidery supplies, as well.

    I find it so much easier to clean – I’m not moving furniture, to move furniture, to move furniture, to do any dusting or cleaning. Our little villa was getting so dusty behind things, because I couldn’t move furniture easily. Less furniture? No, we USE all of ours. I LOVE cleaning this house. So easy.

    I incorporated a cloak room, that could be used as an office – it houses suitcases, cloaks, shoes, umbrellas, my shopping trolley, the sports equipment… I would absolutely die if I had to live tiny, and my only leisure option was reading, watching a little telly, or getting out of the house. Our minds would die if we had to ‘live small’.

    The garage, which is 6 meteres by 6 metres (so that brings our total to 3500 sq feet?) houses the car, the kayaks, the carpentry tools (we’re happy woodworking, as well, and have made ourselves many useful items, and it doubles as ‘together’ time).

    Tiny houses are wonderful, but not for us.

  47. I forgot to add that my house running costs are about half that of my neighbours, with small houses. Insulation, a desire to not waste power or water, and a knowledge of how to use air-conditioning properly, all contributes to that. Instead of running it all day at 22⁰c, put it on for an hour and a half at 18⁰c, first thing it the morning. Turn it off – you’re good until about 3pm – then repeat the process, you’re good all night. Simple ways to reduce your running and maintenance costs in larger houses.

  48. Yup, I also think investing a lot of time/effort or money into a tiny house on wheels is kind of pointless. That’s not to say living cheaply in a small space is a bad idea by any means, but personally I’d rather go for an insulated second hand caravan(way more mobile) or an affordable small(under 30′) used sailboat. This could either be a permanent solution, if it suits you, or a temporary solution as you work a regular job and simply avoid high rents or house prices while waiting for the housing market to crash in order to snap up a more affordable property when the opportunity arises.

    1. Good points, Andy. Sailboats are cool options but can wind up sucking up money. I love boats and marinas and would consider boat living in retirement.

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