Alex Pietrowski, Staff Writer
Imagine changing your life in such a way that you drastically reduce your debt, rid yourself of clutter and make a statement against consumerism. Many believe building a tiny home on a trailer – or in general moving into a smaller home – is a way to accomplish these changes. On the other hand, some think that these types of trends are unhealthy, part of a larger Agenda 21 initiative, and that they create a perception that living in a very small space is ok, when in fact the result is a more cramped and stressful living experience.
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 foot 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.
A Blessing or a Curse
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 believe that moving into a tiny house is a way to make a statement against over-consumption. Perhaps a tiny home is not a solution for a family for five, and some of us are bound to feel claustrophobic, but people like Jay motivate others to rid themselves of useless clutter and live with more awareness of the impact that they have on the planet.
Yet some believe that this seemingly positive life-style is Agenda 21 creeping in disguise and that the powers that be would love to see everyone stacked into smaller and smaller spaces. Around the world, lots of shoebox apartments and condos are popping – are these a stealth tactic for population-control? What do you think?
Visit these 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 WakingTimes.com and an avid student of Yoga and life.
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