How many of us have joked that we would sell our houses and live in a camper after a day of yard work or deep cleaning bathrooms? Home maintenance, the collection of stuff, all the money required to maintain the typical 2,600 sq. ft. home leaves many of us wanting less: Less yard, less cleaning, less clutter, less responsibility, less debt. But is less really more? Recently, a group of suburbanites set out to investigate the tiny living lifestyle at the third annual Georgia Tiny House Festival at Atlanta Motor Speedway the weekend of March 2-4, 2018. The primary purpose of the event was to raise awareness and money for the non-profits associated with the movement by offering tours of tiny homes, sales of homes, educational seminars, music and food and connection with the tiny house movement.
Our group was welcomed with an informational session led by Alexis and Christian Parsons, a filmmaking duo and an ordinary couple embarking on an extraordinary expedition across the nation in their do-it-yourself tiny house on wheels. We asked questions on sustainable housing: How small is the average tiny house? What is the community like?
Alexis and Christian shared personal stories about growing a community of big thinkers. This housing trend is not only about small houses, but a philosophy, of a simple lifestyle, financial freedom, and limiting one’s environmental footprint. Our trailblazing duo shared stories about how getting gas at a gas station leads to making connections with people who know little about tiny house living. People in grocery stores are fascinated with the couple following them, and asking questions about food storage and dinner menus. The couple loves to share their lifestyle with average citizens who they would never talk to otherwise, except for the fact that they have an adorable house, a bit bigger than a dollhouse, attached to a truck.
Festivals give a chance to expand the conversation even further. Thousands can view the homes and see just how small is small.
Our interest piqued with the creative assortment of tiny house choices. Each of us began to consider a tiny house in our own lives. We wandered and discussed the possibilities of low maintenance, reasonably priced home or vacation home, she-sheds for private office or artist’s studio, or just flat downsizing and living in the quiet country with an efficient house.
We evaluated the creative flow of combing a kitchen, a bath, and sleeping area and places to hang a bike or a winter coat in 400 or less square feet. The issues of space and the ideal minimum space required, combined with a desire for freedom created more questions and analysis. How much space do we truly need?
As we toured the selection of tiny homes we saw small structures on trailers, schoolies (which are school buses that have been converted into a recreational vehicle or RV), yurts, gypsy wagons, teardrops, and traditional recreational vehicles.
Favorites included pods, which is more like a family room on wheels but functional, every corner has a very specific use: custom spots for cooking, bathing, sleeping and nooks for laptops, or a small television. There are innovative structures with clean lines, high ceilings, and large windows, which make 384 square feet feel huge and doable. Creative spaces like the gypsy wagon, with an emphasis on outdoor cooking and bathing, make you want to grab your best friend and go to the beach for a week.
Maybe it was the live music and sunshine of the early spring day, but each of us felt the energy and freedom that the tiny house concept could provide. We stood in line with Brenda, a newly retired schoolteacher, who was writing a check to purchase a new tiny home. She embraced the idea of having no mortgage, less stress, and more time. In her world, less was truly more. More time, more freedom to do what really mattered as she breezed into retirement debt free!
We all applauded her moxie and her commitment to prioritize time over stuff. Brenda wrote her check with a commitment to live large in less space.
All of us want to spend our time well. A meaningful life full of experiences and relationships, but let’s face it, there is nothing like a good nap on a rainy day on a big comfy couch—something we did not see in many of these tiny homes.
We saw one home that was as big as some closets, where clothes, and books and clutter abounded on wheels. Creative efficiency is a hot commodity with the tiny house community. These innovators are always looking for cutting-edge ideas on how to maximize space. As this community grows, the ideas evolve, and space saving is customized to the individual owner. We saw netting that hugged the ceiling and was used to store items from bananas to roller blades.
Many who live in a tiny houses love to live outside, and therefore, the tiny house operates somewhat like a camper. And just like a good camping trip with a crowd of friends, many tiny house communities live to share. Stories abound from the community, which thrives on new friendships, sharing stories of adventure, community dinners, and the sharing of lessons learned and wisdom gained.
Another force in this movement is The Veterans Community Project. This non-profit was born from the growing concern of an increasing homeless veteran population in Kansas City, Missouri. These compassionate, dedicated folks see the tiny house movement as a solution to house our homeless veterans. They help with the cost and construction, and they ensure disabled vets get a “home” designed to meet their needs. Learn more by visiting their website.
But like many ideas, we needed to simmer on it. Where would we celebrate Christmas? Where would all the 30 years of scrapbooks and vacation photos be stored? My dog’s food bin takes up at least a corner of one of those tiny houses.
By the end of the tour, we were awestruck by the efficiency of the many houses we toured, loved the resiliency of the residents, and were a tad envious of their consumer freedom.
Our overwhelming takeaway was the idea of a tryout weekend. We each loved the idea of booking one for a rental on Airbnb and seeing how felt to live big in a small space.
98 Squared LLC, specializes in renting newly built tiny homes in different parts of the United States from Florida, to Colorado to South Carolina. They can be found on Facebook at 98squared. Each of the 98 squared rentals is a marvel of ingenuity and creatively small appointments and even includes vintage lumber from Vintage Lumber Sales, Inc. a thriving business from Gay, Georgia.