By Willa Maglalang
"We’ve got to cut the extraneous out of our lives, and we’ve got to learn to stem the inflow. We need to think before we buy. Ask ourselves, 'Is that really going to make me happier? Truly?'"
With those words, treehugger.com founder Graham Hill encapsulated in a TED Talk what we need to be conscious about these days, not only when purchasing goods, but when choosing our living spaces as well. After having lectured about sustainability around the globe, and in partnership with Discovery Communications, Graham went on to create lifeedited.com. The website aims to help individuals to “design life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space, and energy.” In short: less stuff, more happiness.
For him, it began with his desire to live large in a small space—an intent clearly connected with his sustainability mission. Graham bought two apartments in which he wanted to accommodate twelve during dinner parties, two overnight guests, a home office, and a home theater with digital projector. On top of that, it had to be done in an environmentally responsible manner.
Many people would have balked at the task, but not the two Romanian architecture students who came up with an amazing design for Graham’s residence. (How it was done can be viewed on lifeedited.com.) It was proof that by applying smart concepts and techniques, people can live rewarding lives that allow them to live within their means.
In addition to encouraging living in smaller homes, the website also inspires readers to edit life in other areas.
Edit your life in any budget
Edit your possessions
When you buy, buy quality stuff you like and will use
Get rid of paper
Take a walk
Get some budget-transforming furniture
If the tips don’t work for you, maybe these questions that Graham Hill himself posed, would: Could I do with a little life editing? Would that give me a little more freedom? Maybe a little more time?
Tiny House Movement
In one tiny movie, filmmakers Merete Mueller and Christopher Smith show how a couple with no building experience can make their own home. In the process, the movie, aptly titled Tiny, raises questions about what really makes a home, and challenges the American Dream of acquiring big and more. (See the trailer on the site.)
Although the movie may be one of the few done professionally, it joins an increasing number of videos done by Tiny House owners themselves. They are witnesses to a growing group of supporters of the tiny (or small) house movement, which advocates living simply in small houses.
The tiny-themovie.com website cites the movement as having been inspired by Henry David Thoreau, who led a spartan life in the woods, where he also built his own house. Today’s movement, however, is more about checking what possessions or comforts we can live without. Most tiny houses are built on trailer beds, or are art studios or guest houses on the grounds of larger homes. They are an alternative to building homes, without the hassle of mortgage payments or upkeep of a traditional house.
On a related site, thetinylife.com, Americans are said to have been downsizing from the typical 2,600-square-foot homes because seventy-six percent of them have lived from paycheck to paycheck just paying for their homes. This translates to allotting one-third to one-half of their income for the next fifteen years for mortgage payments! (See infographic.)
Back on tiny-themovie.com, one can see a list of other sites that are useful for exploring this conscious lifestyle. Some of them are The Tiny Revolution, The Tiny House Blog, Tiny House Design, Tiny House Talk, among others.
Merete Mueller, co-creator of the new film Tiny, took some time to answer some questions posed by Willa Maglalang.
What inspired you do to the film?
The film grew out of the circumstances of our lives—Christopher decided to build a Tiny House first, and then I suggested making a film about it. Personally, I was really interested in the idea of “home” and what that actually means. Home is something that we all understand, even though it can be hard to pin it down and describe exactly how we find it. So I was very interested in exploring those ideas through this story of building a home from scratch, and through the stories of so many others who are downsizing their lives and their sense of home.
You can find more info about how the project began in this blog that I wrote.
What's the future of the tiny house movement?
I think the future of the movement depends in large part on whether building codes can be updated and expanded to include these smaller types of structures. Right now in most counties and cities, Tiny Houses exist in a sort of legal grey area. Because they're on wheels, they're not illegal. But they're also not necessarily legal; there just aren't any specific restrictions on them in place. As they become more and more popular, I think many county governments will face questions about how to deal with them in the codes. My hope is that Tiny Houses are helping to encourage a conversation around sustainable development. Hopefully, seeing that there is a need and a market for these types of small-scale dwellings will encourage people to update building codes to allow people to live small, legally.
How can it be replicated outside of the United States, especially in developing countries where having a home has become just a dream?
The Tiny House movement tends to focus on people who have downsized by choice; people who could live much larger if they wanted to, but have chosen a simpler lifestyle because they feel that it allows them a better quality of life. However, there are many people in the United States and around the world who already live Tiny by necessity, and not by choice. But the Tiny House movement presents a lot of design innovations that can be applied to building small structures that are truly livable for those who have no choice but to live small.
In the United States, much of our development in the last fifty years has happened on the edges of our metropolitan communities, in the suburbs. This hasn't been very sustainable. The Tiny House movement also encourages us to look at the possibilities of urban infill development—building small backyard cottages, for example, or building in the vacant and unused spaces in our cities, rather than continuing to expand the suburbs until there is no empty space left. Not only is urban infill development cheaper for city governments, it's much more sustainable from an energy and transportation standpoint.
Willa Maglalang lives in the Philippines and volunteers at LILIPOH as a social media editor. She wrote “Breaking The Silence: Healing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder With Art Therapy” in the magazine’s Fall 2013 issue.