Size matters

When Jenn lived in Washington state, as a child, her family knew a man who up and left their neighborhood to finally move into his dream house — a more mansiony abode in a different part of town.

He was back within a year, when he realized “I didn’t own the house,” he told Jenn’s dad. “The house owned me.”

He wasn’t talking about mortgage. He was talking about space, and all the extra places to clean, places to keep uncluttered, places to fill with furniture and lawn to mow.

The ranks of people rejecting those notions, like this guy did oh so many years ago, are growing. Or at least becoming more vocal. The tiny house movement is strong and well documented on blogs and in a documentary called “Tiny,” which folks can watch on Netflix’s streaming service. These people economize their living space to the extreme, with couples or small families living in just a few hundred square feet, typically in an itty-bitty place that has to be built on a trailer frame with wheels to meet building codes.

Here’s the trailer:

The tiny house  movement is a vocal minority, but they’re not exactly turning the tide. Today, the average house size is 2700 square feet. In 1970, it was 1400.

Kitchens are bigger today. Family rooms are bigger. Bedrooms are bigger. Garages are way, way, way bigger.Yet families are smaller by an average of one person compared to 65 years back.

For my money, both the McMansioners and the tiny-housers are doing it wrong. The people expanding into corpulent houses are the easiest targets, of course. They’re consumers in the truest sense, chewing up real estate for their house, raw materials to build it, and, most significantly, fossil fuels to keep all that wasted space at just the perfect comfort level.

And while the tiny house folks have a philosophy that appeals to The Dew — they pare down their possessions to the barest of essentials to fit in their little spaces — they have economized to the point where their kitchen isn’t effective, methinks. I can’t imagine trying a canning project like the one we did over the weekend. And where would you store a year’s worth of preserved food?

At 1400 square feet, our house is about two rooms too big to suit us. We don’t need a large bathroom. Ours is 5×6, but so well designed that it feels downright luxurious. But neither Jenn nor I are willing to skimp on the functionality of a large kitchen.

“Tiny” is a fascinating movie. It follows, primarily, one couple’s attempt to build such a house despite having no construction experience. But it’s truly more of a philosophical treatise. Not much time is spent on construction lessons or mistakes made. And I would’ve loved to learn more about the paring down. What are the things they gave up or gave away, just to fit?

Aside from those missed opportunities, it’s a fun, fascinating film, and it’s made Jenn and me ponder what we can do to simplify even more. She likes to call our little ponderosa the “wee homestead.” Turns out we’ve been living large.

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