I guess it's a real movement, this tiny house thing. Of course, poor people have always. lived. in. a. tiny. house. It was all the rich left us! And shall we discuss the Roma people who travel (gypsy), and the Travelers, and of course nomads? These, are people, with a traveling way of life. Perhaps they follow their goat or sheep or cow herds from summer pasture to winter pasture. Maybe they travel from a warm climate to a cooler one in the summertime. This life requires a small portable home -- a tent, a wagon, a yurt.
nomadic pastoralism picture from National Geographic.
In modern times, people would travel, camp, visit, and live in different places going by train, by bus, by plane, and by motorcar, then campers and travel trailers, and motorhomes, and RV's. There is a bit of a hierarchy going on -- the new converts to living in a small space seem to think they are at the top of the new housing food chain since they build what they want and add solar and other technologies pioneered by trailer and RV manufacturers, or they miniaturize and adapt self-contained or "off the grid" solutions that have been used since Time began, and re-popularized in the last few decades.
cute camper with tons of accessories from Sisters on the Fly.
It goes something like this, from all the years of reading, building and research I've done:
1. Tiny house people
2. Small home/apartment people
3. Vacation home/2nd house people
4. RVs, trailers and bigger is better
5. Car campers, mini-trailers, and vans, and smaller is better
6. Mobile home parks, aka, Trailer parks.
We all know the disdain most people have for Trailer Parks, and "trailer trash", but it wasn't always like that. After WWII mobile homes and trailers were a fantastic way for returning GI's and their families to get a home of their own very quickly, and before new housing was built to meet the demand for post-war living. Once the GI's left for "sticks and bricks" homes, they sold cheap, and poorer people moved in and as always, the poor and working class are looked down on. (Doesn't have to be that way, but it still is)
In the early 20th century, luxurious motor homes and fancy campers were bought by "rich" people to travel in and have a taste of the rough life they desperately wanted no more of. Funny isn't it, that people of all incomes really do love to live like a homeless wanderer at least for a while with varying levels of modern conveniences. Take a look at RV Hall of Fame Museum historian Al Hesselbart explaining the modern history of trailers and RV's:
When I was in elementary school, Miss Carmella Fontana, the 1st grade teacher, also taught Chorus, so twice a year all of us Yountville kids were drafted into this show activity. We learned songs our parents would like to hear. One song always made me think about the social implications in the lyrics: The Happy Wanderer. A very happy fellow sings gloriously about the fun he has while "tramping" around the country. Tra la la!
Of course, migrant workers, various ethnic groups all over the world and poor working class people lived itinerant lives, not always out of choice. And of course, as always happens, wealthier people, like to romanticize about the classes of people with less money, I suppose to assuage their guilt about paying them such little wages, while feeling sorry for the poor, or hating the poor, yet refusing to take the responsibility for setting up the economic system that keeps people poor in a society that is phenomenally wealthy.
Yes, the more things change -- So it is with this historical knowledge, placing "tiny homes" in context of human history, both ancient and modern, that I find this "new" movement just amusing.
Is everyone who likes the Tiny House, the back to the land, the Homestead, the preppers, the urban farmers, the small is beautiful movements, a jerk, or a rich moron that steals from the poor? NO. of course not. But we do have to take a peek at history and understand the politics and prejudices in how and where we live.
working class mother in the 1940s.
a tiny house during the Depression of the 1930s.
It is not a coincidence that at the very time we are back in another rich man vs poor man economy, worldwide, actually, but very obvious in the USA, the romantic version of how poor people live should find amusement with the very wealthy.
During the Depression in the 1930s, wealthy people would dress like tramps and party party party! Recently, hipsters have taken to romanticize hobos (the historical homeless), with hobo-theme weddings and parties!
And of course, Marie Antoinette, pretending to be a simple farm girl, while doing nothing with her power, to actually improve the lives of actual simple farm girls. It is well-studied that, "Poverty Chic refers to an array of fads and fashions in popular culture that make recreational or stylish – and often expensive – ‘fun’ of poverty, or traditional symbols of working class and underclass statuses. Earlier historical examples of Poor Chic are 1920s Harlem ‘white slumming parties’, Parisian costume balls where the rich adorned themselves in expensive rags, and Marie Antoinette’s 15-cottage ornamented Hameau farm.(Karen Bettez Halnon,Poor Chic: The Rational Consumption of Poverty).
intellectual survey of literature examines the disdain in America for the poor.
There is another component to living in a smaller home, with less stuff. It has lately come to be called "Ecological Footprint", another modern variation of a back to the land movement that started again in the 1920s and 30s by people such as Scott and Helen Nearing, proponents of self-sufficiency. The Footprint awareness campaign grew out of all the activity of the 60s and 70s about "saving the Earth", and now we have global warming and climate change, and the rise of uber-manufacturing of massive amounts of stuff we don't need and we don't want. There is a yearning for simpler times, like Little House on the Prairie, but with solar and 24/7 internet and Netflix.
The Nearings wrote The Good Life, and were "advocates for simple and sustainable living skills, social and economic justice, organic gardening and vegetarianism." Nearing, with his PhD in Economics supported the "new economics" stating in 1913, "that the economists part company with the ominous pictures of an overpopulated, starving world, prostrate before the throne of 'competition,' 'individual initiative,' 'private property,' or some other pseudo-god, and tell men in simple, straightforward language how they may combine, re-shape, or overcome the laws and utilize them as a blessing instead of enduring them as a burden and a curse."
Part of the social change going on right now is a reaction to the Worldwide Economic Crash caused by the world's largest banks, Wall Street, insurance companies, large corporations and large financial concerns and arrogant behavior by the wealthy. Combined, the precarious and reckless nature of the powerful to care about nothing but money for themselves and give no thought to social destruction and chaos, have made many millions of people take their newly-found political awareness to become more self-sufficient, as a self-protection scheme. Many are now asking themselves, Could we live in a tiny house?
After a long century of buying products, consuming factory made goods, and being "modern middle-class people", here is combined all the culmination of the lessons learned in the last century: Buying less, recycling, re-using, growing your own food, preserving and canning it for the future, and deciding to eat food grown locally for better flavor and safety concerns. It's the Homestead movement, back again, that appeals to people on the Left, and the Right.
This also includes the rejection of GMO corporate "food", and the want for organic food which is more nutritious because We are what we Eat. From our food, to our shelter, 2 very basic human needs, springs the smartness of living in a smaller home with less stuff.
Less Stuff. More Time. Less Stuff thinking really makes you question everything you buy. Do you need 3000 square feet with 4 televisions and rooms you never live in except on 2 holidays a year? Do you really want to work 40 to 60 hours a week, with commute time, to pay for a huge mortgage on a huge house, and pay huge property tax bills, and 3 cars, and all the repair bills, and all that lawn to mow and all the stuff you own gets crammed in a garage??!?
Rainwater collection, sharing libraries for household tools and even rent a car for 3 hours... all these things are not-so-new ways of living, but they are becoming very popular in the hive mind of people today.
Back to the way poor people live -- they almost always have had a garden, they make their own clothes, and do their own home and car repairs, DIY, rather than pay someone else, and also trading work for items is a basic part of thrifty living practiced since humans made neighborhoods, then towns, then cities. With the rise of the merchant class, the middle class, and the social payment programs, people have had more financial freedom, but also more dependence on banks, Wall Street and corporations, to manage the world's money supply and the precarious way that they do and don't do, their work, seldom cautiously and carefully diligent towards us. US.
Sure, cutting back, living in a smaller home is COOL even if you don't want to think about the larger implications to the economy and our personal health. Whatever your reasons, do it! Join us! Embrace all the different ways we can live, for now and into the future.
You can choose a very simple life in a small home, an apartment, or a van or trailer or RV. You can build your own and join the worldwide communities that already live with a smaller demand on the planet and its resources as we barrel towards 8 billion people. Just jump in and live free.