Small House Movement

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Jake
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Small House Movement

Postby Jake » 18 Feb 2010, 01:43

This piece aired on our local television news last evening:

http://www.kxan.com/dpp/living_green/gr ... tral-texas

I love what the woman says near the end about square footage having nothing to do with real abundance.

Our house is about 1100 square feet (102 square meters). And while we consider this way too much space for two humans and a cat, by Texas standards it's a fairly small house.

As native north-easterners, we were also amused when a contractor referred to this house, built in 1973, as "old" since we both grew up in and around houses built over a hundred years ago. I imagine Europeans might be equally amused at our thinking of 100 year old houses as "old."

Anyway, has anyone else thought about this? Do you feel like you and your home take up too much space? (Katie and Corwen, you are officially exempt! :D )
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Re: Small House Movement

Postby Aylyn » 18 Feb 2010, 10:45

It is always dependent on what you are used to, whether a house is big or small. When I was looking for a house up her in Scotland, I looked at 2-3 bedroom houses, and when I asked the people why they were selling it, very often I got the answer: Now that the kids are gone, it is too big for us. While I was looking at the rooms thinking: They are too small for me. It is a different perception.....

The square-metre measurement by itself is not very helpful, as a lot depends on how rooms ant the interior of the house itself are designed. The house I have now has about 100 sqm on 2 floor, and a lot of the space is wasted on staircase and hallways. The rooms themselves also suffer from nooks, crannies, windows, doors and other stuff in the most unlikely places, leaving very little room to put furniture, which makes it even harder to live in the place. I had 60 sqm in my flat in Germany, and still more space to live than in this house now, just because the flat was much more streamlined.

And yeah, old is a matter of perception too: The house was build in the 1950s, and is considered to be of middling age ;-)
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Re: Small House Movement

Postby Badger Bob » 18 Feb 2010, 11:43

I live in a 3-room guest house that I rent from my family, one 10' square bedroom, one 10'x12' livingroom/kitchen and a small lavatory and shower room. It is just big enough for me and the odd guest but I have to rotate books in and out of the loft from time to time.

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Re: Small House Movement

Postby katie bridgewater » 18 Feb 2010, 12:03

Here are some of our favourite tiny house urls, Jake. Hope you find them inspiring! :D

http://tinyhouseblog.com/

http://www.humbledesigns.co.uk/

http://www.travellerhomes.co.uk/

As an aside, I once bought a book of postcards in a charity shop for 50p - it was a collection of photos by Peter Menzel called "People and their Possessions". Each picture showed a normal family (all from different countries around the world) sitting outside their house with all their possessions brought out and arranged in front of the building. Utterly humbling to see the houses and possessions that most of the world calls home. I can't find the pics online, but he did the same thing with a weeks worth of food which I think is on his website or in a book called 'what the world eats'.

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Re: Small House Movement

Postby Aitrus » 18 Feb 2010, 17:26

We have a 1150 foot home for two adults and two young girls. It's a 2-bed, 2 bath place. We're OK for now, but all of us value private spaces for things like reading, meditation, etc. We'll need to get a bigger place as the girls get older.

After the girls get older and move out, my wife and I still plan on having spaces for each of us. We'll probably convert the girls' bedrooms or something.

Our private space is important to us as it's someplace we can each go to and be away from the others. It's one of the things that helps keep the peace.
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Re: Small House Movement

Postby Corwen » 18 Feb 2010, 18:01

(Katie and Corwen, you are officially exempt! :D )
Actually our current living arrangements are the most spacious I've had as an adult as we added two sheds last year. We now have two caravans, each with a porch, and two sheds, making a total of around 324 square feet. When our narrowboat is finished that'll be another 270 square feet.

A far cry from when I lived in a 7'x5' bender! Mind you I do seem to have acquired a lot of stuff since then...

The little spaces we have are quite easy to heat, which for me is the most important thing about small space living, its green-ness. That said though we haven't sorted out a good way to heat the shed we use as a recording studio yet, a wood stove is too noisy. If I see one cheap I could get a wood stove with a back boiler, and put it in one of the other structures to drive a radiator in that shed.
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Re: Small House Movement

Postby Badger Bob » 19 Feb 2010, 10:44

That said though we haven't sorted out a good way to heat the shed we use as a recording studio yet, a wood stove is too noisy.
Well it didn't bother the Beatles on Norwegian Wood...

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Re: Small House Movement

Postby Jake » 20 Feb 2010, 21:26

Those websites are inspiring, Katie. Thank you! I think that Peter Menzel book was published here under the title, Material World. I agree it's very humbling. Especially when I start to think that I live an almost monkish existence in terms of physical possessions, it's good to be reminded that it's far from the truth.

Katie and Corwen, do you have off-site storage or anything? While most of my house is very deliberately and effectively "minimalist," in my office I'm surrounded by overflowing shelves and piles and stacks of books that would almost fill 324 square feet! How do you do it?
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Re: Small House Movement

Postby katie bridgewater » 21 Feb 2010, 00:14

Those websites are inspiring, Katie. Thank you!


My pleasure Jake - it's nice to meet someone else who is interested in the different lives we all lead. If you liked the links, I'll ask Corwen to post a list of our favourite shelter related books tomorrow. I think you've opened up a good thread here for us to reflect. I was quite shocked when I started adding up our square footage to find how much more we 'need' than a decade ago!
Katie and Corwen, do you have off-site storage or anything? While most of my house is very deliberately and effectively "minimalist," in my office I'm surrounded by overflowing shelves and piles and stacks of books that would almost fill 324 square feet! How do you do it?
We don't have any off-site storage, apart from my tiny piano which is in my mum's garage awaiting restoration (34"tall x 14" deep and 46"wide - very dinky!)
We built a small porch onto each caravan a year or 2 ago so we could store things more accessibly (especially instruments and workshop props), rather than under the bed. Those who have met us at the OBOD gatherings will know we have things like a Hobby Horse, full mumming play costumes, stock for our instrument and craft stall plus all our own weird and wonderful instruments etc. We've also got lots of camping / hiking gear. We've had to erect the sheds so that our entire living space didn't have to be rearranged every time we wanted to rehearse, or record. Corwen's got his workshop in the other shed, but that is really his place of work and not somewhere you'd consider part of our 'home' (full of horns, bones and antlers - way too stinky for me!)

If we have learnt anything, it is to only ever acquire things that are actually useful, and to keep everything as tidy as possible and in a place where you can get at it without moving tons of other stuff. Items which are purely ornamental are a no-no, luckily real tools, ironware, kettles etc are quite decorative, your living tools have to be your ornaments too so they should be chosen carefully!

Accessible storage is especially important when most of your work involves loading and unloading instruments, PA's, workshop instruments and a small shop, (and not to mention the occasional apple tree...)in and out of a vehicle that can't get closer than 300 yards! We use the space outside as much to live in too - we have a picnic table for sunny days and a big table outside Corwen's workshop for working on big projects. We store our firewood and bicycle stuff against the shed, and things like the tin bath, the 2-man saw and sledge hang up outside too. You have to think hard about what level of protection from the elements each thing needs and store things in the right place. Interior design should avoid wasted space, inaccesible corners, damp zones and the plague of built-in furniture that is never the right size or shape or properly ventilated.

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Re: Small House Movement

Postby Corwen » 21 Feb 2010, 12:42

I've been collecting books about hand built or nomadic housing for a long time, here are a few of my favourites:

Shelter, one of the first books in this field and still fascinating. A mad scrapbook of eccentrics, tribes, ancient, ultra modern and just plain odd architecture.
http://www.amazon.com/Shelter-Lloyd-Kah ... 872&sr=1-1

Home Work, from the same people as produced Shelter but up to date, more colour, full of useful design ideas and more intrepid folk breaking the mould in housing design.
http://www.amazon.com/Home-Work-Handbui ... 921&sr=1-1

Freewheeling Homes, a collection of beautiful and original nomadic vehicles, but quite a thin book. Not the first book I'd recommend, but it does contain construction outlines for traditional gypsy caravans in the back.
http://www.amazon.com/Freewheeling-Home ... 964&sr=1-1

Shelters, Shacks & Shanties, a reprint of a book from the '20s or '30s with fascinating plans for a range of First Nations buildings and shelters, log cabins, and other useful things like wooden locks and concealed door opening mechanisms.
http://www.amazon.com/Shelters-Shacks-S ... 002&sr=1-2

Some Turtles Have Nice Shells, a big book of house truck designs, mainly from NW America.
http://www.amazon.com/Some-Turtles-Have ... 056&sr=1-1

You'll find lots of other similar publications linked to on these Amazon pages, but the ones above we have and can recommend.
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Re: Small House Movement

Postby Jake » 25 Feb 2010, 03:13

My pleasure Jake - it's nice to meet someone else who is interested in the different lives we all lead. If you liked the links, I'll ask Corwen to post a list of our favourite shelter related books tomorrow. I think you've opened up a good thread here for us to reflect. I was quite shocked when I started adding up our square footage to find how much more we 'need' than a decade ago!
I've found myself in a similar state of shock before. In preparing to move to this house, I couldn't believe how much junk we'd accumulated over the years. I'm saying "we" when I mean "I." My partner packed his personal possessions the day before the move and used no more 3 or 4 medium sized boxes. I remember when I could (and did!) fit everything I owned into half the back seat of my car. I never dreamed then that I would one day need a large truck. And still I think I own far less junk than the average American.
I've been collecting books about hand built or nomadic housing for a long time, here are a few of my favourites:
Wonderful resources, Corwen. Thank you! Now I have more stuff to buy. :grin:

I remember "Shelter" from years back. I never knew there were more books in the series. When I was a kid I wanted to live in places like Tarzan's tree-house, Pooh's hollow tree, gnome burrows or underwater caves. Then for years as an adult my "dream home" was a huge rambling old farmhouse. These days the hollow tree or hobbit house is looking more and more attractive again.

An old friend and her spouse live in a yurt they made themselves in Northern California. I have yet to visit but from pictures it looks amazing. And I think it actually has more inside living space than a lot of larger houses because of the design issues Aylyn talked about earlier.

Have you ever attended any Rainbow Gatherings? I don't know what they're like in the UK but here you can see some of the most ingenious portable housing, especially at national gatherings.
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Re: Small House Movement

Postby Corwen » 22 Jan 2011, 00:16

bump
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Re: Small House Movement

Postby wyeuro » 23 Jan 2011, 08:30

i lived for several months in a tent the mountains near dorrigo in new south wales. i was doing primal therapy there. cows and beagles used to come in and steal the provisions, and there were leeches and ticks, but i was considering buying land. but i went back to my tiny single fronted one storey cottage in adelaide and from there back to the tent on my own land in the semi-desert near the river murray with a few friends. the pet sheep brought the tent down and finally tore it, and we built a wood-frame canvas covered pyramid on a 12 ft base and lived in that, not minding that it leaked. it doesn't rain very often here. but that fell apart and i was given an ancient 11 ft plywood caravan which i restored to nearly rain proof, replacing the tarred roof with the skin of an old above ground swimming pool i found at the dump. as the walls fell off, i tried to replace them with a stone wall, but eventually it caved in and i moved into the slightly less antique 16 ft steel-frame caravan i've lived in ever since.

it was a good thing - i did need dry storage for musical instruments and books, and later for the computer as well, and the leaks in my roof are all fairly manageable, though they've defied my best efforts to seal them. i've knocked out one panel of the wall and built a fireplace on.

there's also a communal kitchen food/storage shed made out of an old tool shed, though cooking is done in the caravans. there are only two of us here now.

we built a stone library/office 2x3m and a brewery 2x2 out of recycled materials, and because there's no phone line to the homestead, we built this office close to the road 500m away. here are some pictures.
000_1511.jpg
the office
000_1511.jpg (43.51 KiB) Viewed 6075 times
coffee break.JPG
cooking is done in the caravan
coffee break.JPG (37.18 KiB) Viewed 6075 times
wy

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Re: Small House Movement

Postby Heddwen » 23 Jan 2011, 13:38

It must be very satisfying to live in a house that you have built yourself

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Re: Small House Movement

Postby Aurora » 24 Jan 2011, 02:23

This has been a very interesting and educating thread! I especially loved the tiny home links.

I will be moving in about six weeks and have discovered i have way too much stuff and have been slowing getting rid of so many things I thought i needed once, it has been very liberating though hard at the same time freeing myself of the mindset that i need so much stuff when i really don't. I still have a lot to get through but hopefully when it's gone I won't start replacing it.

So thanks :)
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Re: Small House Movement

Postby Charlene » 08 Jun 2011, 08:48

Two things come to mind.....get rid of consumption of stuff, hoarding stuff, and clutter....

And, smaller homes are more efficient. I remember when fuel for heating went up, and I thought about how what actually keeps me separate from the outside is a layer of cement stucco, styrofoam, fibreglass insulation, plastic and gypsum wallboard...with wood 2 by 4's, and realized, not that much is keeping me from the outdoors.....

I love camping, and i spend a lot of time out camping in a tent when I can....
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Re: Small House Movement

Postby Huathe » 08 Jun 2011, 16:19

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