Small House Movement Grows
15 Jun 2009
Through the Small House Movement a growing number of people, like Gregory Johnson has discovered, living small frees up your mind, your wallet and your soul.
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For many of us, the thought of trying to downsize into a smaller abode would fill us with dread: cars, bikes, double facing wardrobes full of clothes we hardly wear, the spareroom-come-boxroom, that needs a clear out but never gets one, too many wellies in the hallway, cupboards, cats, coats and a stack of National Geographics in the cubbyhole, dating back to 1973 ñ but for a growing number of people, like Gregory Johnson has discovered, living small frees up your mind, your wallet and your soul’.*
To think small, we must overcome an addictive cultural need to think big ñ the need to own, want more of and update to a better’ version. If we cut down our consumer-centric lifestyles and take up less square footage, we can reduce our impact on the Earth’s resources. In short, we can leave behind a smaller footprint if we are not wearing such big shoes.
Gregory, a computer consultant,was introduced to the live-small idea after his circumstances changed and he no longer needed the space that his 2,000-square-foot home was providing. A keen bike rider, his desire to live off-grid and enjoy a healthier lifestyle, led him to establish Resources for Life ñ a website for people focused on living more simply.
After uploading a newspaper article about Jay Shafer ñ an artist, builder and architect, who had been living in a self-built 100-square-foot house for over a decade ñ Gregory’s readers were keen to know more. The two men eventually met and, along with Shay Salomon, author of Little House on a Small Planet and the book’s photographer Nigel Valdez, they founded The Small House Society.
When co-founder Jay Shafer launched the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company, Gregory was his very first customer. The brief was to build him a smaller place of residence ñ a moveable miniature house, called the Mobile Hermitage.
This completely functional diminutive dwelling is proof that tiny house owners do not have to scrimp on home comforts. An all-season habitat, it is large enough for one or two very compatible adults. It boasts high quality materials because its limited size means it can afford to: an ample front porch, a queen-sized bed in a sleeping loft, exquisite pine flooring, well-designed cupboard space, a table, cabin heater and a sink with gravity-fed water. It is also fully wired for electricity but Gregory prefers to use bicycle LED lights instead. The design is so efficient that it matches the practical equivalent of a house nearly three times its size, with many areas serving more than one purpose. ‘Tables and surfaces seem to come out of the woodwork on demand as needed,’ Gregory explains.
The Hermitage was built on wheels, as city building codes prohibit such a tiny construction having its own foundation. Since his home is mobile, Gregory does not have to pay property taxes. Instead he spends about £28 a year on a trailer license. Heating the property only costs a few pounds each week, even in mid winter and it was so cheap to build, he has decided to forego insurance.
Gregory, who has lost about three and a half stone since scaling down’, can now spend his time being more connected with the world outside. Some chores can no longer be done indoors and must be outsourced. In re-evaluating his needs as a single person, he thought: ‘What can I do without? I don’t really need a laundry room; I can visit the launderette. Also, I don’t need an exercise room as I can go to the gym.’
Jay says that over the past three years, demand for his tiny homes has grown. The notion of such dwellings becoming popular might have been an absurdity in the past but recently, rising energy costs and the mortgage situation have altered home owners’ needs. Since giving up his 4,000-square-foot home in 1997, for a property smaller than most people’s bathrooms, Jay has not looked back. ‘I was fed up with paying for more space than I really needed, so I built a 100-square-foot house to meet my needs rather than adjusting my needs to the space.’
Jay’s exquisitely designed home went on to inspire carpenter and builder Shay Salomon to also promote the tiny house concept. ‘Although not many are willing to live as small as Jay and Gregory, their homes inspire the imagination,’ she says. ‘It’s the art of presenting possibility.’
Shay, who has built six homes under 500 square feet this last few years, says: ‘As a builder, I can see the emotional, spiritual and financial toll that big houses take on people in terms of the environment, free time and family life. A small house needs less maintaining and gives you more time for living.’
After Hurricane Katrina, the small house concept in America gathered understand-able interest. Some residents began to consider the merits of smaller and more portable homes, so they could move out of the path of an oncoming storm. Julie Martin, who was herself rendered home-less by the hurricane, did not want to wait for dilly-dallying government assistance. So she bought one of Jay’s tiny houses, opened a franchise called Martin House to Go’ and now sells to other needy Gulf Coast residents.
Today, the Small House Society has a rapidly growing membership. It already includes over 40 architects and urban planners, who have collectively built at least 500 of these pint-sized dwellings around the world. Membership is open to all and Gregory is particularly keen to expand its international trade network.
*Quote by: Shay Salomon
Jay Shafer’s house measures 96 sqaure feet
Photo: © Tumbleweed Tiny House Company
Put Your Life on a Diet
Put Your Life on a Diet is the ultimate resource for living a simpler life as well as leaving behind a smaller environmental footprint and living a healthier life for you and the planet. In this book author Gregory Paul Johnson guides us in five significant areas-housing, food, technology, utilities, and transportation ó teaching us how to create a simpler life, reducing stress in our own lives and harm to the environment. Due to the pressures and complexity of life today, simplicity is being sought after like never before. Put Your Life on a Diet offers the tools to escape the ‘cookie-cutter’ existence so many are living today and find peace in a simpler lifestyle.
Put Your Life on a Diet: Lessons Learned
Living in 140 Square Feet’
by Gregory Johnson
Published by Gibbs Smith
ISBN-13: 978 1423603177
Little House on a Small Planet
Live in less space but have more room to enjoy it. Does that sound like a contradiction? Smart readers will discover that, on the contrary, living small can free up your mind, your wallet and your soul. With the cost of living rising and the environment suffering from excessive building, now is the time to scale back and join the movement.
Little House on a Small Planet’
by Shay Salomon.
Photographs by Nigel Valdez.
ISBN-13: 978 1592288687
Published by: Lyons Press.
The Small House Book
Jay Shafer has been living in less than 100 square feet since 1997. The experience prompted him to write The Small House Book and start his own company, Tumbleweed Tiny Houses, to provide plans and build small houses for others. Daring to think small in a world obsessed with everything big,
he has become something of a guru to those who believe we will not be able to afford energy-guzzling monster homes for much longer.
The Small House Book’
by Jay Shafer. Price: $36.95
Published by: Tumbleweed Tiny House Company
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