For The Record: The Tiny House Movement is NOT About Cheap Houses

Oddly, I’ve been thinking about writing a post about the “spirit” behind the tiny house movement for a while now based on some of the comments I’ve seen floating around the tiny house realm. Last night, however, after the showing of HGTV’s new Tiny House Hunters, the negative reaction of so many “haters” (for lack of a better-generalized term) finally gave me the incentive I needed to wake up super early and get it done. For some hard-to-explain reason, it’s super important to me that I clarify that the tiny house movement is NOT about cheap dwellings!

If you page through this blog, you’ll see some of my earlier posts that discuss the reasons that John and I decided to build a tiny house and a cheap house really wasn’t one of them. Sure, we were looking for financial freedom, a more simplistic and less consumeristic lifestyle, but we weren’t looking for a $5,000 dwelling or even a $20,000 one. We knew that if a tiny house were going to work for us we were going to have to love being in it and for us, that meant a kitchen we could cook in with upgraded appliances, tons of upgraded windows to keep the heating/cooling inside while letting the light and “space” of the outside in, a bathroom at the opposite end of the house as the kitchen, giant French doors, and a construction that would last our lifetime. We also knew that we weren’t going to be able to build it ourselves so we were going to have to pay for someone else’s’ time and experience. Our budget was $45,000.

This number, surprisingly, brings us a lot of hate in the movement, as though the fact we could pay such a large sum of money makes us unworthy of the tiny house movement.

“You could buy a “big” house where I live for that amount of money.”

We probably could, but we don’t want to live where you live. We want to live where WE live and there currently aren’t any houses with our finishes going for $45,000 in downtown Nashville.

“Looks like the greed factor is hitting the tiny house market”

Greed? We decided to pare down our belongings to only what could fit inside 204sqft and live with a family of 3 people a dog and a cat because we realized the consumerism of our society was causing us to work hard just to pay for our lifestyle without bringing any real happiness. We used the sale of our 1200 sqft condo and our 401k’s to pay for our tiny house. What part of that is fueled by greed?

“If you’re paying more than $15k-$20k for a tiny house, you don’t need a tiny house and should just put a downpayment on a big house.”

The reasoning behind this comment is so flawed I shouldn’t even include it here, but the spirit behind it works with my point. Tiny houses aren’t always about IMMEDIATE need. Sure, we had the ability to access a large chunk of cash in the immediate to build our tiny house, but the goal was to learn to live a more simplified life now so that we were financially more stable later down the road. Sinking that money into a big house would have done nothing to facilitate that PLUS it wouldn’t have addressed the other reason we went tiny, and that was to be an advocate for the entire movement!

I’m about to get political here, so bear with me. If the tiny house movement was filled solely with thousands of people who couldn’t afford to buy any other type of house, where they spend only the bare minimum of money on constructing a tiny house, and then stick them the only place you can legally stick one (on a large plot of rural land), do you think they’d have gotten the attention of not one, not two, not three, but numerous national television shows? Do you think they’d be driving the change in many cities that are changing building and zoning regulations to allow tiny dwellings? Maybe, but I don’t think so.

There was a point in our build where we realized we’d have no place to put it without going rural, and that drove me to the point of panic. We didn’t WANT to live 60 minutes from work. Spending our lives commuting was one of the reasons we left DC and embarked on our tiny house journey. We sat down and contemplated pulling the plug on the whole idea. We wrote out a list of pros and cons of continuing with the build, and to be honest, the cons had a much longer list. Ultimately, we decided to forge ahead anyways though, and not for our own reasons. We decided that even if we couldn’t live in our tiny house right away, we could use it to spread the word about the tiny house movement. Exposure and education was the key to changing regulations and giving the tiny house movement the foot-in-the-door it needed to be legal so that the people who did truly need dwelling options that were more affordable would have access to them. We decided to host monthly open houses and to open up our home for tiny house hopefuls to rent out and test drive because we knew that most people wouldn’t take the plunge or fight for the tiny house movement unless they had seen one and moved around in one.

We decided to be a part of the solution and a part of the change instead a part of the problem, and to do that, we were willing to “pay to play.”

Ultimately, what I’m trying to get at is that not everyone in the tiny house movement is looking for a cheap place to live. Some people are looking for simplicity/minimalism, some people are looking for mobility, some people are looking for a luxury they wouldn’t be able to afford in a “big” house, and some are looking for something else all together. That doesn’t make them unworthy of the tiny house movement, it doesn’t mean they’re soiling the movement or detracting from the movement. The movement isn’t about money at all, it’s about the freedom to live within your means, whatever those means are. And in my opinion, those who NEED the cheap housing also NEED the people who can afford to make fancy expensive tiny houses so that they can gain exposure and move the movement forward. This movement requires all types and we need to work together.

In the end, we’re tiny, we don’t take up much room. There is more than enough room in this movement for all of us.