It’s true! I’m completely fascinated by the tiny living movement and the popularity of this alternative lifestyle. How is it possible for an individual, let alone a family, to live in a space so small that you can touch both sides of the house with your arms outstretched and where a kitchen triples as a home office and entertainment area? Emotionally, I completely relate to those inspired by minimalist design, sustainable living and the prospect of achieving financial freedom. On a rational or practical level, I can’t reconcile how it’s feasible to sleep in a loft with barely enough room to sit upright or to enter your bathroom and literally be standing in the shower.
For those of you who have not yet seen HGTV’s “Tiny House Hunters,” “Granny Pods” or “She Sheds” or read articles featuring shipping container homes and tiny cabins on wheels, you may wonder why I’m so intrigued with this movement. Although the media has likely embellished its allure, the reality is that in a world of material wealth and the prevalence of a bigger-is-better mentality, a community of people is bucking the trend of larger living and embracing a lifestyle that requires constant decisions regarding consumption and utility. What’s most remarkable to me is that people are not only downsizing their living spaces, but they are successfully incorporating modern conveniences, function, style, warmth and even mobility into unconventionally small footprints. Want to experience a snippet of tiny luxury? Check out the creative spaces of Tyson and Michelle Spiess, the husband-and-wife designer duo and co-owners of Tiny Heirloom based in Portland, Oregon. I’d gladly spend a weekend in a tiny home overlooking Lake Tahoe!
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With its roots in early civilization, the concept of tiny living is not new. However, the contemporary tiny house movement may tip its hat to the American author, poet and philosopher Henry David Thoreau and to more contemporary activists and authors such as Sarah Susanka. What constitutes the size of a tiny home is also not clearly defined, and in the absence of guidelines, a typical home size is approximately 100 to 400 square feet. These abodes are in stark contrast to the average-size American home, which grew from 1,725 square feet in 1983 to 2,598 square feet in 2013. Yikes! I wonder how large the average living space will be in another 20 years? Evidently, the concept of quality over quantity may not resonate with the masses.
For me, the tiny house movement begs the following questions: What is considered to be the optimal living space, and at what point do unused space and material possessions become chaotic and onerous? I often ponder these questions because I yearn to downsize my living space, to discard “stuff” and to be more financially sensible – an opinion that is not shared by members of my extended family who believe that, in spite of monetary savings, I would lament sharing a smaller living space with my family and our 80-pound dog. Although it’s doubtful I would transition to tiny living at this stage of my life, I’m striving to adopt the tiny living philosophy of balancing practicality with utilization in my personal and professional activities.
Perhaps my aspirations to live practically and to discover utility are directly correlated with my market research work. Our Six Degrees team approaches research with a tiny living mindset and differentiates itself through its innovative psycho-sensory approach to research and reporting. Once we establish the appropriate research methodology for a study, we design discussion guides to elicit answers to study objectives with consideration to interview length, respondent targets and client stakeholders, thereby making continuous decisions about consumption of information and efficiency in outcomes. By removing superfluous questions and integrating psycho-sensory exercises such as visual galleries into our research, we take a targeted dive deep into respondents’ perceptions and behaviors and are well-positioned to separate the information we simply want to share from the information we need to convey to inform teams and critical decision-making. Similar to a tiny house owner, we manage client budgets and refine our research approaches and deliverables to effectively present findings in unique, digestible, purposeful and compelling presentations. Essentially, we think broadly and act rationally to ensure that our footprint is creative, functional and meaningful and also meets or exceeds client objectives.
How do you or your company embrace the tiny living mentality? Would you ever live in a tiny house?