Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Benefits of a Small Home

There is no doubt about it, tiny homes are popular. With a variety of reality TV shows across multiple cable networks, everyone has an opportunity to peek inside these minuscule dwellings.

But what if the legacy of the tiny house movement isn't small homes on wheels but a desire to choose a home based on its purpose and fit for your lifestyle?

This recent article from a Maine-based website makes a strong case for small, not tiny, homes

photo by Giant Dream Photography
The key point is that small homes are another possible option that is born out of the need to simplify our lives. While tiny homes on wheels are incredible and work for a lot of people, they don't work for everyone. And they shouldn't have to. It is a lot of pressure on a tiny house to assume that it is a on-size-fits-all solution for every American family.

Over the last 4 years I've had the opportunity to experience both tiny and small homes. We moved into our 120 square foot home in May of 2012 and lived in it for the first year. I loved every second of it. While living there, I never felt a pull to go bigger. It was comfortable and had all the things I needed. Any downsides we faced weren't a result of the home's size.

Then we were faced with an opportunity we couldn't pass up. A 700 square foot bungalow in the city limits of Asheville came up for sale for a great price. We could afford it because we had downsized. Because we had reduced our expenses. And because we had lived for a year in a 120 square foot home. So we bought it.

As we began to renovate the home, using our newfound skills from building, we also began cultivating relationships within the city and with the neighbors directly on either side of us. This sense of community was probably the only thing missing from the tiny house, which was deliberately built on private land in the mountains.

And that was when we realized that we were in the fortunate position to have the best of both worlds.

If the legacy of the tiny house movement results in individuals and families being more deliberate about the homes they choose to live in, then I believe we have achieved success. It isn't about the size of the house. It is never about the house.

I don't mean for this to be a small versus tiny discussion, as I see them as both valid choices. A small home can be anything from an apartment or condo to a single family home, generally below 1,000 square feet. Though definitions in the small and tiny home arena are often nebulous.

But what are the benefits of choosing a small home? Here are some of the lessons I've learned.
  • Reduced financial burden. Little or no mortgage, reduced utility bills, smaller property tax.
  • Less space to clean inside. It takes us only slightly more time to clean the city house as it takes to clean the tiny house. And we keep it neat, as a result of our new lifestyle.
  • Smaller yard to maintain outside. Very little to mow. Very little to landscape. It takes care of itself. You can do the work you want to do without worrying about what you have to do.
  • Choice of location. Do you want country or city? Do you want shared walls or single family?
  • Easier to comply with code and zoning. Are you worried about having a place to park your tiny house on wheels? Foundation homes, either small single family or Accessory Dwelling Units, might be a good compromise.
Our tiny house was an adventure and an experience. We built it ourselves to prove to ourselves that we could do it. We lived in it to prove to ourselves that we could. And we did. It was a catalyst that allowed me to quit my job. And all of that added up to benefits we never saw coming.

But when we started spending more time in our city house we realized that living close to the city was important to us. We realized that having good neighbors was important to us. We realized that we could use the same lessons we learned in building the tiny house, both practical and emotional, to make living in this bungalow a success. Small living and tiny living are two sides of the same coin.