Friday, 21 January 2011

Tiny living?

Thanks to this post by Paula at Weeding for Godot, I have been thinking once again about the 'tiny house' movement and the downshifting that goes with it. It's an idea that has cropped up in my thoughts every few months since I first stumbled upon it.

A company selling prefabricated tiny houses in the USA builds dwellings ranging from 65 square feet (tiny) to around 900 square feet (small), or 84 square metres. Interestingly, according to this article, 84 metre square is 8 square metres bigger than the average size of a new build home in the UK. I have seen a few new builds in the last few years and can say they do not compare to bespoke tiny home plans; not only has the build quality in some of them been terrible, on the whole they show no sign of integrated design, despite (or possibly thanks to) rigorous building code regulations. Unfortunately they often exhibit a tendency to ugliness and uniformity wherever you go in the country.

If I were single with no children I know that I could live a good life in around 200 square feet (something that I could not have said a few years ago as I carried around all my clutter). It wouldn't actually need to be a house - a yurt of even a houseboat also appeal, although I would want access to a garden. I would love to cut my possessions down to a handful of essentials. In reality, I have a partner and a toddler who would not be so keen, although we have discussed yurts and houseboats, going so far as to build a small yurt with some friends a few years ago to 'get a feel for it'. We gave up on the yurt idea when we realised that you need planning permission to erect what is essentially a tent on your own plot of land; and planning permission is hard to come by for even a traditional dwelling. Still the aesthetics and simplicity of small handmade homes appeal to me and I am yet again wistful for a downsized life.

We have downshifted our possessions substantially over the last few years, but still seem to be surrounded by clutter. So once again I am on a mission to free myself from excess; and to live as 'small' as possible in our current home, which certainly isn't big by UK standards. I know that we both have a wardrobe of clothes that no longer fit. The kitchen, even after my last pare down attempt, still needs a rethink. Gus has far too many toys, and increasingly they are of the small, multipart scatterable variety. We are still making do with storage that takes up a lot of floorspace, when what we have in abundance is bare wall space.

We seem to have far too high expectations of what homes and possessions are capable of; and we want to be prepared for every eventuality - many people want formal dining tables that could host a dinner party for twelve should it ever come to it, when they have never cooked for four and tend to eat TV dinners (nothing wrong with that). Newer homes in this country increasingly come with aspirational walk in closets attached to the master bedrooms - to store mountains of cheap import worn-once clothing whilst 10% of it actually gets worn on a day to day basis.

I have been guilty of over extending my expectations in the past; and have bought needless furniture, crockery, clothing and craft materials that I am never going to realistically use. I still have much to cut out, declutter and streamline as a result of that. This means not only more of my time wasted (after the time I wasted working to earn the money to buy and store the things), but also that I get to enjoy the stomach churning knowledge that I am a numb skull that always accompanies my realising just how much time and money I have wasted on stuff I have never used. Still, with all the sunshine we have had recently I am full of energy, so this will be a week of decluttering, sorting and trying to make our home a little more tiny; with no doubt a little self flagellation along the way.

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