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Living Big in Tiny Houses in a Shrinking World

There are many channels on YouTube that make video content about this concept of a ‘tiny house.’ Most notably are ‘Living Big In A Tiny House’ and ‘Kirsten Dirksen.’ The concept revolves around a philosophy of trying to live as best as you can, or if you wish to, quite modestly, in houses that are much cheaper than normal houses, are smaller––thus forcing you to be outdoors more often––and require less maintenance and upkeep. Often they are built on top of a trailer to tow around if needed, other methods include using shipping containers or organic materials.

Survivalists, anti-technology activists, minimalists and Islamic scholars all argue using this logic and rhetoric. For the sake of this argument, I will provide the example of Varg Vikernes. Vikernes is a Norwegian online content creator who lives modestly with his family in France. Rejecting consumerism, he instead uses solar power for electricity, as do most of the families that are featured in tiny house videos. Survivalism is a belief where material consumption should be shunned heavily, and that the proliferation of your lineage is of utmost importance; surviving instead of consuming. This is how Europeans and their descendants used to live until recent times, when consumerism shifted into overdrive. When you live modestly, you reject material comfort which is a force of progressing weakness. Instead of eating fast food, you are forced to develop your cooking skills. Instead of paying tens of thousands of dollars to send your children to a public school, you can homeschool them since your expenditures will be so minimal.

There are many aspects to tiny houses that are appealing; the freedom of mobility, the aesthetic, the financial aspect and the lifestyle. But I will first discuss the negative aspects that I see, and then the perceived aspects that others may see and explain why they aren't negatives. Firstly, there is the limitations present on potential family life. It could foster a culture of living alone, or limiting the amount of children you have in a world of third world population explosion. When you live in a small space, your children are limited in their safety and ability to explore and be curious about their surroundings. Furthermore, it makes a big world seem smaller to them; an average family house in Australia seems massive when you are under 5-years-old. A well-designed, family-oriented house can combat this issue, likewise with making a second tiny house with and for your children when they outgrow the first tiny house that you built. Building it on your parents' land, if they have any, can also allow extended familial living.

If the design is too small, it enables people to live out an infantile lifestyle of living in a cubby house, or replicating the Japanese phenomenon of living in a pod. This is just consumerism on steroids, and not a reasonable counter to it, because you have no immediate access to the outdoors or space to get immersed in when you don't own your place of residence. Cramping is another symptom of consumer society, where people try to fit too much into too little a space, instead of focussing on quality. If your tiny house is too small, you are following this same idea. You want to be able to live in the house and not be trapped. Due to its difference to normalised ways of living, there is also a big risk of this lifestyle only lasting for a short amount of time, it turning into a trendy thing to do and losing its uniqueness and allowing antisocial people to escape from the community to live by themselves, instead of creating their own family and community.

Now for the perceived negatives and what I see as positives. Getting outdoors and healthy in natural surroundings is a natural consequence of having a smaller house, as cabin fever will soon force you outside. Being outside and enjoying the sun is great for your immune system, unlike living in a sterile, germ-free environment. Like a lot of couples that choose this life, they immerse themselves in lush greenery, often buying a large plot of land or building on a farming estate. I much prefer this 'small house, big backyard' attitude to the modern overcrowding of neighbourhoods frame of mind we find ourselves in now. When you overcrowd everyone into suburbs, natural spaces get choked to death and suffer as a result. Thus, consumerism is the enemy of nature, and minimalism is is not. Natural surrounding should be valued and not exploited. Such an outlook allows for greater self-sufficiency in cooking, exercising and social interaction (which can create intimacy instead of isolation), so you, your children and your community won't be under the influence of immoral people.

When you have greater control of your lifestyle, you can more easily reject consumer society's ideas. You will have low bills, less escapism into short-lived pleasures, a stronger entrepreneurial spirit and learning more practical skills during the building of your home with your own labour, and reusing old materials for new purposes or organic resources that allow for better temperature control. Combining the natural aesthetics of the outdoors with smart building practices to create passive houses, for example, can allow anyone to live in a house which needs significantly reduced energy to heat or cool. If you wish to, you can also built it with a heritage or homestead design in mind, which further emphasises the rejection of consumer society and its pattern of houses losing their national heritage for the same designs repeated en masse, and pursuing overcrowding instead of beauty.

With solar panels and water tanks being so easy to access nowadays, and them being a much less energy intensive option, it would be insane to pay so much more money for energy bills, if you have the option to use them. In Australia, it is illegal to not have a rainwater catchment system, but in Colorado it used to be illegal to have one, which is strange as both regions have high levels of desertification. In the case of natural disasters, you'd be glad you didn't spend so much money on your home and have so many possessions. The rebuild and recovery would be less devastating and time consuming this way. This lifestyle is flexible enough for most people to pursue, especially for young men who wish to learn practical skills; building their own tiny house and living modestly would be an exceptional example of masculinity. With no wasted space in a good design and with enough ingenuity, you can fit an entire world in your own house. This means you can have better communication since there will be less escaping to hide away in your room, whilst still retaining the essentials.

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