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5 Things I Learned from the Tiny House Movement

Thanks to our friend Roz in Boulder for passing along this Elephant Journal article by Lily Martin… it’s a nice read.

5 Things I Learned from the Tiny House Movement


Above photo: from TINY, the movie.

In case you haven’t heard about it, there is a Tiny Movement going on.
It really is quite small.

IMG_4219-250x375There are hundreds of people (maybe thousands, by now) around the world building and living in very tiny abodes. “The Movement” aspect applies more to North America, where the average house size has steadily increased over the past 30 years—to an unsustainable degree.

The tiny house community is scaling back in protest to the convention that ‘bigger is better; challenging the old ideas of housing, especially in light of the economic downturn. The movement raises a question for many people, not just tiny house advocates: what do we really need to be happy and comfortable in a living situation?

This year, I decided to build myself a tiny art studio and dwelling. Something I have always wanted to do, but until discovering the tiny house movement, did not know how. I’ve come across some incredible people and simple wisdom in the process, and think these lessons could apply to whatever life passions you endeavor into. Plus these were lessons freely offered to me, so it’s only fair to pass them on!

1. Share your successes and your mistakes.

The first thing that struck me as unique when I discovered the tiny house movement, was how totally open everyone was with sharing their methods, process, skills or lack there of. It’s what inevitably made me feel like I could do this, because even if everyone in my environment thought what I was doing was crazy, there were all these people out there, living it and sharing it all.

2. Let yourself be unabashedly enthusiastic!

While I have only been to a handful of these Tiny House gatherings, where a bunch of like-minded small house enthusiasts get together, it’s hard not to notice the total positivity in the air. It’s not all type A people either, it’s a huge variety of individuals who all have their own way of expressing their joy. Some are making pretty hard-core solar kit videos, while others are blogging every day about new designs. After years of art school, it was pretty amazing to relax and just be excited about something, free from embarrassment or too much judgment.

3. Lead by example.

The examples of entrepreneurship and leadership are plentiful in the Tiny House movement. Women builders, sustainability people, down-sizers, retirees, low-income families, designers… the collection of examples are there, living it. It’s caught on like the local food movement, like disco beats, backyard economies and cloth diapers. People from all walks of life are waking up to the fact that we cannot sustain the lust for material possessions. Keeping it small keeps things in check.


4. Don’t give up.

Really though, don’t! Keep going. There is a huge difference between a finished project and a half finished one. Like, all the difference.


5. Maintain a do it yourself spirit.

Knowing how something is built, and how it works, is invaluable. What I find so fascinating about DIY is that it’s more an attitude then any one set of skills. The whole point is you learn the skills, and then you can help others learn them as well. Obviously there are situations where you need a professional, but there are many more things we can do for ourselves. We’ve got a left cortex and a right one, and we can figure this stuff out!

It’s been instrumental to have this attitude while approaching this project. Not only does it feel amazing to learn, and then accomplish something you have never done before, it’s teaching me how to apply this attitude to all facets of my life, which means I rarely experience a feeling of helplessness, because I can do it myself.

Actually, in this case I’m not doing it myself at all—I have a small and mighty community behind me on this one.


About the author: Lily Mead Martin is an artist and aspiring builder, currently building an off-grid, tiny mobile art studio in rural Vermont. She is a dual citizen of Canada and the U.S. with Australian family ties. In the past several years she has been pursuing the question of what it means to be a ‘sustainable’ artist, while working at an indie video-game company, micro-brewery and art gallery. She works with photography, paper, ink, wood and plants to look at ecology and architecture. She writes about her building process on LMMSTUDIO.CA

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