By February 21, 2013 25 Comments Read More →

Tiny Houses – Taking On the Matrix of Consumerism

Alex Pietrowski, Staff Writer
Waking Times

Imagine changing your life in such a way that you drastically reduce your debt, rid yourself of clutter and make a statement against consumerism!

Super-size Me

Over the last six decades, industry and emerging culture have over-inflated the American dream. What started as a vision of modest comfort has grown into a culture of super-sizing everything from food, to cars, to houses. In the 1950’s, the average home size was just under 1000 square feet. The US National Association of Home Builders reports that by 2005, an average new home in the US measured 2414 square feet, dropping to 2100 square feet by 2009.

As a result of super-sizing the American dream, cities have sprawled into suburbs, where it seems almost impossible to live without at least 1, if not 2, cars, where home owners don’t really own their homes but are trapped by high mortgage payments, filling their homes with stuff they can’t really afford or don’t need, and working longer hours to pay for it all. Has this become American culture?

Luxury or Prison?

What is your definition of a luxury home?

Many of us will think of a home with several thousand square feet, vaulted ceilings, plenty of yard space, 2+ car garage, open kitchen, and on, and on. But Jay Shafer, author of The Small House Book and The Tumbleweed DIY Book of Backyard Sheds and Tiny Houses, considers a 96 square foot house on wheels a luxury, while a “McMansion” is more like a debtor’s prison.

Consider how much freer you would be without your mortgage payments, without as many maintenance requirements, without the worries associated with cleaning, organizing and decorating as many spaces throughout your home, spaces piled with stuff you’re not really using or don’t really need. The following video is an interview with Jay Shafer, where he shares his opinions about the freedom that you may gain when downsizing and de-cluttering, ridding yourself of unneeded space and stuff, and reducing your debt obligations.

Too Small for Your Safety

If you want to build a small home, you will quickly find out that it is actually illegal to build a home under a certain size in North America. You may also have a hard time securing the needed financing to do so. In the above video, Shafer explains how the building industry and the insurance companies have created building codes and zoning regulations, or what he calls “mandatory consumption laws”, which hinder how small and where people can build their homes, as for example limiting certain sizes to trailer parks. The reasoning behind these regulations has been heavily weighed on our safety and well-being, although many codes, such as the minimum square food requirements per room, have little to do with either of these factors.

In many US cities, new homes have to be at least 750 square feet, and this can range up to 1600 square feet in areas where land is more expensive. The International Building Code (which outlines the building codes and regulations for North America, even though the name suggests otherwise) was set up  by the housing industry with the goal of making the worth of a house comparable to the value of the land it is built on, thus justifying set property values.

There are loopholes to working around the building code. Jay Shafer, for example, found how to make tiny houses fall under the trailer umbrella by putting the homes on wheels. Yet, most people would find it challenging to build simple and small. They would need resources to help then understand the codes and regulations and how to work around them. Also, they would need access to adequate funds considering that banks will not loan for new builds smaller than what is allowed by the code.

Outsmarting Consumerism

Our culture and industry have created a world where it is illegal to build and live in tiny homes. Is consumerism being forced on us? Has consumerism created the life you thought you are supposed to live?

Individuals like Jay Shafer are not only making their life simpler, but they are also making a statement against over-consumption, and to Jay, a statement of civil disobedience. Are you ready to create the life YOU want to live?

Visit these innovative companies’ website for more information about tiny houses:

About the Author

Alex Pietrowski is an artist and writer concerned with preserving good health and the basic freedom to enjoy a healthy lifestyle. He is a staff writer for and an avid student of Yoga and life.


This article is offered under Creative Commons license. It’s okay to republish it anywhere as long as attribution bio is included and all links remain intact.

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  • LeAnn Addleman

    So many comments against the tiny house living. Personally, I have lived in apartments and big houses. Currently, a 2500 sq. ft. farmhouse with one son and we have way too much space, consequently, we collect and “hoard” way too much stuff. I have stuff in closets and cabinets I probably haven’t seen in years and haven’t used. To me that’s waste. I am thinking seriously about having a tiny home on wheels so I can go where I want to when I want to. The current proposed legislation might make that a challenge but think about it, no mortgage, low heating costs, less space to clean and maintain, freedom and ability to see more of the outdoors.

  • Tara

    I agree with Canis; we’re not being forced to live in small spaces. It is a choice, but one that comes naturally when your mind becomes evolved and you don’t feel the need to hump around so much excess. Consumerism created all these artificial needs and you cant argue with people whose minds have not evolved to understand.

    Tiny houses are like turtle shells, self contained and efficient. Having a big house is worst than Agenda 21, — big houses force you to stay in one place, work your a$$ off to pay for it, and not have the time to enjoy it, or time contemplate anything else, except for what “they” want you to know, which is programmed for you on cable tv so you don’t have to think for yourself. You can barely afford a proper vacation, so you travel locally, road trip only and lie to yourself that you don’t need to visit the rest of the world, which is the realest education you can ever have. When you have a tiny house that is paid for in full, you have created CHOICE. FREEDOM. Nature is your livingroom. Get the F outside and discover. When you’re too tired from working to pay for all that space you don’t need, then you don’t have the energy to explore.
    Humans are the only animals that amass things and drag those things around with them. It’s not natural, but it feel natural and right to people who have bought into the idea that trappings are success. But they are just that “trappings”. You are trapped.
    I was married and had a 3,000 sq foot house and when I got divorced 10 years later, I was forced to think about what to take with me to my tiny one bedroom attic apartment. Well, let me tell you, nothing is more daunting than packing a 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a living room, a den, and kitchen, formal dining room and a full basement. These are the three categories you have to pile your “life” into, (1) what you really need, (2) what you can sell, and (3) what is just posing as useful but is really garbage that needs to be dumped.

    I don’t miss any of the things that I no longer have. I’m hardly home because my boyfriend, who lives in his own apartment, he and I go exploring all the time. We only sleep, cook, and use the bathroom / shower and get ready in our places. Shelter is not where you LIVE. Shelter is where you take shelter, clean yourself, rest up before you go back out to live. The END.

  • canis

    Living in a small space does not make one ascetic, nor does it constitute cabin fever, proposed agenda 21 nonsense or any of that 1984 crap. For most of human history, people were nomads, living as close to nature as they could get, and not needing a lot to their person. It’s only THIS society we live in, the industrial, throwaway culture that has only been here for about 100-175 years that dictates that anything that has been “the norm” for only about four generations spits on how it’s been for centuries. Nobody’s telling you what you can and can’t do. Nobody’s systematically killing you off. If anything, the System As You See It will collapse and humanity will come full circle, as history always tends to repeat itself. You’re not free minds if you believe every damn conspiracy out there.

    • Tamara

      Agenda 21 is about forcing people to live that way. New apartments and condos are being built tiny, which takes choice away from people. I am free because I will not let anyone else choose how I live my life, if you think I am not that is your ignorance.

  • Lisa

    Perfect example of the political brainwash of Agenda 21 convincing the weak minded that they should be cooped up in a pen. In the meantime, those pushing this type of nonsense live in grand mansions.

    Beyond that this exemplifies the ridiculous extremes from the McMansions to something like this little cell. Pitiful.

  • AGENDA 21

    This is absolute crap. No one is forcing you into a big house. There are tons of homes all across America that are under 1,000 square feet. Also I’m wondering whose land he is living on? Does he also live next door? It looks like the house next door has the same trim color. Ah, yes, the house next door is ‘the baby and my wife’s house.’
    He’s an ascetic. He might as well go to a monk’s cell and preach it as the salvation of man.
    This is AGENDA 21–the cult of emotion rather than reason. Artificial scarcity. The Neo-Feudal lifestyle. The deification of the New Poverty.

  • Lygeia

    At 16:44, he gestures to the house next to him and refers to it as “his wife’s and baby’s house.”

    So, basically, once his wife had a baby, he moved out.

    He is living in his backyard. It is basically a divorce.

  • Italics Mine

    These itty bitty houses are cute, but who wouldn’t go stir crazy?

    • canis

      The world would basically be your back yard. If you feel cramped, go outside!

      • Tamara

        No. My home, my territory is also my safe zone. If I feel too cramped in my safe zone, I will be too stressed. Also, what if it is raining? Snowing? Too cold? too hot? Why should I have to leave my territory, which is supposed to be my refuge from outside constant stress in order to relieve stress? It is not a refuge if I feel stressed, but the outside world is full of many random factors which may also cause me stress. so NO, I refuse to live in a space that is too small for my mental health. People need to live in a space they feel comfortable with and some may like large spaces, others may feel fine in smaller spaces but to force people to live in tiny boxes is cruel and unhealthy. Even in nature an animal will build a nest to the size that is comfortable to them. People need to be able to decide for themselves and not be forced by others. Otherwise they will become stressed and sick… Agenda 21 (which will force people into unhealthy situations) can kiss my a$$.

    • LeAnn Addleman

      I wouldn’t feel cramped or go stir crazy. How much space do we need to live and how much do you need to spend?

  • abinico warez

    I’ll move into a closet when I see Obama, elected officials, and Wall St tycoons doing so.

    • LeAnn Addleman

      They don’t have to. We pay them enough to live lavishly while we struggle from month to month. Maybe you live the way they do and can afford to.

  • Victor Gagnon

    For those complaining about having to live in small spaces, I can probably find you more people than available houses who would love to live in that small space and not complain. At least a place to live. We should all be grateful for what we have not what we don’t have. Its simply a society that says to us that we must have more space to be better off and happier. A bold face lie actually!!! There is a difference between what we want vs what we need and our wants are always bigger than our needs, hence we create dept for what we want and then complain about. We refuse to take responsibility for our lives!
    Simply my opinion!

    • In my opinion, I deserve to live in a beautiful home with plenty of space and that should not be cost prohibitive. The only reason why a quality home is so expensive is because the powers that be want it that way. Why shouldn’t you want a nice home? If you are a decent person, you deserve it. I like the finer things in life, but I’m still not a consumerist. These tiny houses just reinforce how the powers that be want us to end up living. Humans are not designed to live in such cramped quarters. They’ll eventually get a severe case of cabin fever.

      • Anonymous

        Actually humans are designed to live in nature.

      • Oxo

        Well said! Each individual who earns a salary deserves to be able to live comfortably. It is not the middle class or the lower classes that have to change their lifestyle, it is the very very rich. These individuals should not be allowed to use their wealth to influence the political process, advance their ideologies, and suppress democracy. They are responsible for the present crisis that they use as a tool to implement an Orwellian society where they will have all the power. Let’s use Potlach – a Native American practice of redistribution of resources that affect those who reached levels of wealth that is a threat to the rest of society.

        Try to live a year in a 30 square meter apartment. You will not have room for books, so the so- called elite will insure you remain uninformed and uneducated. The kitchen will be so tiny that you will only be able to consume ready to eat GMO food. It will be sensational for your health. Forget about inviting friends and family, there will be no room for that. This will do wonders for your mental health. Maybe, you will commit suicide, because you will not stand to remain alone. If not, thanks to the wonderful foods produced by the corporate world, and with the help of the pharmaceutical industries, you will die young. Maybe young enough not to be able to reproduce. The one percent will rejoice, you will not pollute the gene pool. Only THEY will populate the earth.

        They tried to impose their eugenism and their dictatorship fifty years ago and they are back.

        • canis

          I live in a 24.15 square meter apartment. I have plenty of books and a kitchenette where i cook my ORGANIC food. I am educated, I go out, meet people, go to parks, see friends. Oxo and Rahbinah have the biggest entitlement complexes I have seen on this site, it’s baffling. I almost want to think they’re trolls. If not, they are the weakest minds in the room. Can’t do what you want even though it’s conspicuously consumptive? OMFG ILLUMINATI! ASDKHSFDS AGENDA 21! FREAK OUT AND WHINE ABOUT IT!!1
          I’m with anon that humans were meant to live in nature.
          btw “elite” used to be defined by one’s intelligence and wisdom, not bank account.

  • Brenda

    I’m always fascinated with these tiny houses and I like the idea of living with as little a possible but the fact that his wife and child have to live in a somewhat larger structure next door says shows that this in some ways this isn’t working for him to be in something as small as this. His house is basically like a disconnected room of his wife’s house. His wife’s house is quite small too but the fact that hers is more than twice the size shows that sometimes very tiny is to small to be functional or practical. I do like the idea of trying to live in smaller space and use the space more practically but to small could also have it’s stresses.

  • Bob

    come here to Japan and see the housing , its terrible…shoe box apartments, no central heating and high rent…and that outside Tokyo too..

  • Anonymous

    Come here to Japan man, apartments like shoe boxes and high rents! … even outside Tokyo the apartments are timy with no central heating and tiny kitchens…

  • Dave

    There is a new trend coming… bailing-out of the failing society that is enslaving us with over-head and needless excess.

    As the Dollar continues to devaluate and the economy continues to collapse millions of Americans are realizing that the only way to get ahead is to go small and simple.

    I’ve started a new business of creating luxury tiny designer cabins in the beautiful mountains of Colorado taking some of the design concepts of multi-million dollar stone and log mansions in Vail and Aspen and reducing them down to 800 – 950 sq. ft. with the option of an attached garage that contains storage. The ext. also offers the option of an additional outside fireplace and decking.

    These cabins will be completely landscaped and furnished with the highest quality furniture and appointments and fully handcrafted.

    Here’s the fun part … they’re all based on 20×40 Tuff Sheds! As I begin to build my first designer prototype I’m living in a 14×20 Tuff Shed all tricked-out on the beautiful land where I am about to start my first cabin when the ground thaws. It blows people away to see a tiny luxury living space like this! The interior reminds me of living in a beautiful wooden sailboat.

    This way of living isn’t for everyone however. You must want to scale-down and rid your life of excess and rely on storage either in an additional shed or a garage or you’ll go insane. You must live very organized or the small space looks like a mess! Everything MUST have its place or it’s chaos.

    As I begin the process soon I will be posting video on YouTube… stay tuned.

    Watch for:

  • Bunny

    Sounds like Agenda 21 creeping in disguised as something positive.

    • Paul

      You are absolutely right. This is the wet dream of the powers that be, everyone stacked into smaller and smaller spaces. How is anyone supposed to raise a family in something like this? or grow their own food? Of course they can’t. It’s another population-control by stealth measure being sold to us as a great idea. This isn’t fighting back, it’s complying with agenda 21. At the 6 min mark he starts to talk about how much “greenhouse gas” the average family puts out. Articles like this make me question the motives of a site like this or whether those who run it are even conscious.

  • kris

    Dear Friends in America, if you want a tiny home, come to the U.K. We have loads of them and they’re a pain in the ass. There’s nowhere to store even the essentials, so don’t get fooled about “living light”. No cupboard space, no bookshelves, children crammed into rooms the size of an outside toilet.
    We all need some “stuff” in order to live, such as clothes, tools, things for hobbies. True, we don’t need shedloads of useless gear to make our lives worthwhile, BUT believe me, new-build homes in the UK are the smallest in Europe, dreadfully claustrophobic and there aint NO room to even put the people in!

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