Modern western society values high level education, and a job that will make lots of money. Then, of course, comes the purchasing power. A big house, every cutting edge modern convenience and sun holidays are all prized commodities.
However, all this superficiality and a focus on consumerism can be bad for our psychological health and well-being. In reaction to our increasingly consumer-driven world, and born of the trials and tribulations many face in the post-Global Economic Crisis world, a new movement has emerged.
This movement is based on the concept that we should live free of self-propagating clutter and excessive possessions that will only weigh us down. It all sounds very spiritual and enlightening, but could cutting ourselves off from consumerism at the source really work?
The movement in question is known as the small house movement. Founded in the mid-to-late 90’s, the movement has grown so big that there are now companies specializing in building tiny houses, with some people moving from homes of over 2,000 square feet to a small space that’s 8 feet by 20 feet.
With the economic decline that occurred from 2007-2010, the small house movement exploded as people were forced to downsize, whether it was because of the economy, forced relocation or even natural disaster. In 2014, the movement gathered mass exposure with the television show, “Tiny House Nation”, which shows how one can truly achieve the American dream by building ones own teeny tiny home. The following are eleven inspiration people who have made a massive impact in the tiny house movement, making a name for themselves as pioneers in the process.
11. Matthew Lepley & Jules Smith
This British couple recently won the right to keep their one bedroom eco-cabin, which they built on a plot of 20 acres that they purchased. The house is made from green composite materials and is the epitome of living a simple life in a small house. Though not as small as some of the other entries on this list, Matthew and Jules used the bare minimum in satisfying their living needs including having their bed on the floor of the bedroom loft.
The house also has no electricity. During the 5 year it took for the house to be built, Matthew and Jules were living in a tent. They used no power tools and built everything by hand.
10. Jay Shafer
Jay Shafer moved into his first small house eighteen years ago. In 1999, he wrote an article about the benefits of small living and was a public voice against legislative bans on small houses in the United States. He is considered to be the pioneer of living in a tiny house on wheels and making your home mobile with simplistic design and minimalist lifestyle demands.
The first home he lived in was 100 square feet, and earned awards for the most innovative design in 1999. Jay has now dedicated his life to helping others transition into the small house life, as well as designing houses for people. He continues to be one of the most popular faces in the community, owning several companies and firms for tiny house design and building.
9. Lina Menard
Lina Menard currently lives in a rented small house that is about 130 square feet. She’s also an architect and designer who started her own company called Niche Consulting, LLC.
Through her company, she wants to help others realize their own dreams of living small, and partners with Portland Alternative Dwellings to teach classes and hold workshops and other events.
Lina has become a major advocate of the small house community and blogs about her experiences of living in 130 square feet, also providing tips and tricks on building your own small house with sustainable materials. Lina continues to live in a variety of small rentals in Portland.
8. Andrew & Gabriella Morrison
Andrew and Gabriella Morrison were living in a large house, overwhelmed by cleaning and utility bills in order to keep up with the maintenance of their place.
After researching other options, they ran into the small house movement and immediately wanted to jump on board. After spending $33,000, the couple finished construction on their 221 square foot home on wheels and had it fully furnished with appliances and furniture.
The tiny house has a fully equipped kitchen, stairs into a bedroom loft and a 3/4 bath. The house also has a few cozy spots for curling up with a book or just relaxing. The couple clearly had to downsize in order to fit all of their belongings into the house, but they couldn’t be happier with their decision.
7. Steve Areen
Steve Areen built his 500 square foot “dome home” in Thailand on his friend’s mango farm, and spent about $6,000 building it. With an additional $3,000 spent on furnishings and interior materials, Steve’s total spending was about $9,000 and the home took about six weeks to build.
The home is very green, meaning that it naturally cools and heats itself due to the insulation and large windows that allow for natural temperature changes. The house has a hammock, a lounging space, and a personal pond.
Steve used cement blocks and clay blocks to build the space, and he openly admits that if the process had taken longer than six weeks, he would have abandoned the project.
6. Macy Miller
Macy Miller is an architect who wasn’t happy with the lack of construction training while she was in school. So she decided to take on her own construction project of building a small house as a way to learn more, but also to eventually save money on housing costs. When Macy began researching, she was exposed to the tiny home community and realized that there was a whole networking circle for this lifestyle.
From her correspondences with the community, Macy decided that building her small house was going to be a lifestyle choice and not an educational project. The house cost about $12,000 to build.
She used a 24-foot long, 8-foot wide flatbed trailer as her foundation, and she used sustainable building materials. Macy is currently seeking property to set her house upon, and eventually wants her house to be portable and off-the-grid.
5. Simon Dale
If you’re familiar with Lord of the Rings and think the Baggins’ hobbit hole looked quite cozy, you’ll be a fan of this tiny house. Simon Dale teamed up with his father-in-law and built a 1200 square foot hobbit house from the ground up, using only natural materials, in Wales, UK.
The hobbit house cost less than $5,000 to build and the project took about three months to complete. Due to their growing family, Simon had to eventually leave the house for something a little bigger but the family continues to live small with a minimalist lifestyle, which is a philosophy the couple wants to pass on to their children. Simon posted all of his notes and floor plans on his website so others could follow his lead.
4. Tammy Strobel
Tammy Strobel currently lives in a small house that spans about 128 square feet. Her converted trailer is 16 feet long, 8 feet wide, and 13 feet tall and has wheels on the bottom. The house looks like a miniature log cabin and is actually built to meet international building code standards so that she can travel with it. The house is so small that it can even fit inside a traditional parking space and under freeway overpasses.
Tammy admits that since she never likes to be inside a building for a long time and prefers to spend her time outside, the small space doesn’t bother her. Plus, the house’s windows make the small area seem much bigger than it really is.
In her journey of living small, she has learned that material possessions don’t last in the long term but instead, it is your relationships which should be the main focus of your life. Since living small, Tammy was able to quit her full-time job and shift her focus to teaching, photography, and writing. She and her husband couldn’t be happier.
3. Dee Williams
Dee Williams is considered to be one of the major pioneers of the small house movement. She has lived in her 84 square foot home for at least ten years and she couldn’t be happier.
It began when she saw Jay Schafer in a magazine with his tiny house on wheels – she actually flew to his town to see it in person. After realizing that she had a serious heart condition, Dee was forced to re-examine her life and what she was doing with it. This, along with an experience building houses in Guatemala for Habitat for Humanity, compelled Williams to come face-to-face with her first world privileges.
Dee parks her small house in the yard of her elderly neighbor who she helps take care of. After a decade of living in her small house, Dee has noted that she feels more connected to her friends and neighbors than ever before. She lives small and nearly free of clutter and possessions.
2. Sarah Susanka
Sarah Susanka is an architect and is often credited with starting the small house movement and pioneering the philosophy of living with less. She was born in England and is now based in the United States living in North Carolina. Susan is the originator of the “Not So Big” philosophy in architecture along with the motto of “build better, not bigger.”
She has authored nine books on the relationship between architecture, the small house movement, and the American lifestyle, which has also been mentioned in The Wall Street Journal and TIME Magazine.
In 1998, Susanka was named one of the 18 innovators of American culture by U.S News and World Daily, making numerous appearances on the Oprah Winfrey Show, the Diane Rehm Show, and the Charlie Rose Show.
1. Christopher Smith & Merete Mueller
Christopher Smith and Merete Mueller are two of the best-known people for bringing the small house movement to the fore. They documented their own journey of transitioning into living in a tiny house with their film, “TINY: A Story About Living Small.”
In total, their small house is about 124 square feet with an 11 foot ceiling to help give their living area a more spacious feeling. There’s a sleeping loft, a galley kitchen, a low-gravity shower, a small bathroom with a composting toilet, plus a small closet with two bookshelves along with a built-in desk and a dining table. The couple built their house on their own, and thought that it would only take a summer, but it ended taking a lot longer.
The transition from traditional living to living small was fairly easy for the couple since they traveled a lot in their early 20’s and didn’t accumulate much. At first, Christopher thought that getting rid of his stuff would be a hassle, but soon discovered how freeing it was to be rid of clutter and to be able to just focus on living life. Merete has stated that she feels closer to the natural world and has found a natural equilibrium since moving into their small house.