row of tiny houses

You’ve heard of it, I’m sure, the “Tiny House Movement“. You’ve probably done the exact same thing I have, stared at these awkwardly-angled photos of spaces too small to fathom and wondered how someone really lives there. Where do they hang out? What happens when they have friends over? Or, for the families embracing the movement, what happens when things get, um, amorous?

Truth be told, it’d be an adjustment but one I would be truly willing to make, given the chance. I’ve lived in small spaces for years – I mean, not 250 sq ft small, but small-ISH – first from necessity, then from choice. It’s just…easier. The external clutter of your life becomes limited, and you need to live life out.

But lately, my desire to embrace the growing popularly of this diminutive movement isn’t so much about square footage, it’s about connection. Connection is the basis of human emotional life. It – or the tragic lack thereof- forms the basis of our very first relationships in this world, and we spend our lives seeking to create it with others, through friendship, collaboration, and romantic partnership.

It’s also something that has become harder and harder to attain in our privacy-obsessed, boxed-in little worlds. Communities are larger, those close connections with neighbors have deteriorated and in many neighborhoods you don’t even see people anymore. A garage door opens, an SUV with tinted windows drives in, the garage swallows them up and they disappear into the home. Even that small wave as you walk from driveway to front door has been lost.

Larger houses also mean that you don’t always connect with those within your house in the same way. Each has their own room, their own television. It’s immensely wasteful from an environmental standpoint, all of this excess space, but it can also feel profoundly isolating. In the United States, two separate studies have shown that 40% of people say they’re lonely, a figure that has doubled in the last 30 years.

Social media is popular precisely because we are trying to trying to reclaim that sense of contact and connection,  But the tiny house movement has a better way than sitting by yourself in your giant house, “poking” and “liking”.

Check out “Bestie Row“, a unique group of tiny houses that manages to blend the need for connection with the rejection of McMansion-style living. This intrepid group of friends purchased land alongside a river outside of Austin, Texas, and used an architect to design a row of tiny houses – each only 400 sq feet. In addition to each house, the friends constructed a 1500 sq ft communal space that houses a kitchen, dining area, and space for pastimes and houseguests.

Contrast this type of micro-community, designed for connection and low-environmental impact, with the anonymity and sprawl of many contemporary suburbs. It’s not just the size that’s appealing to me anymore, it’s the sense of closeness. Of sharing resources, living space, and the desire for something beyond granite countertops and an ensuite bathroom.

The hippies might be onto something after all.

Feature image courtesy of Bill Dickinson

By Madeleine Somerville

Madeleine Somerville is the author of All You Need Is Less: An Eco-Friendly Guide to Guilt-Free Green Living and Stress-Free Simplicity. She is a writer, wannabe hippie and lover of soft cheeses. She lives in Edmonton, Canada, with her daughter. You can also find Madeleine at her blog, Sweet Madeleine.