For my Media Writing final, we had to choose a topic that interested us and write an in depth news article about it in APA format. Below is my story on The Tiny House Movement featuring a personal story from a family converting to the tiny life.
America: BIG for TINY Houses; The Tiny House Movement
Jessica McArthur-Smith and her family are becoming part of the Tiny House Movement – a social trend about downsizing and switching to a minimalistic lifestyle.
McArthur-Smith and her family started their journey in an 1,800-square-foot, four bedroom home in Arizona back in the spring of 2013. In August of 2014, they moved to a 1,100-square-foot, three bedroom apartment in Wisconsin. Earlier this year, the family decided it was time to make a change. While the family is working on purging its personal belongings, they are constructing a tiny house on wheels.
The family’s house is named The Mustard Seed Tiny House.
“We named it that because the mustard seed is the tiniest of seeds and it grows into the biggest of plants and provides shade to other plants,” McArthur-Smith said, “We feel that God will use this project or finished project to be that shade that others need, so to speak.”
Their Mustard Seed Tiny House is budgeted at $35,000 and 415-square-feet, which is fairly typical of tiny houses.
Typical tiny houses are between 100 and 400 square feet, but can vary on an individual’s interpretation of the phrase.
The family decided to go tiny back in March of this year. They designed their house using Google Sketchup. The house will sit on a trailer, like most tiny houses do, and they will construct the house themselves through YouTube videos and people that have stepped up to help out.
The family hopes to have their house built by April of 2016. McArthur-Smith’s husband, Adam, works on constructing the house when he is not working at his job. They are two months into a budgeted six month build.
The Mustard Seed Tiny House is located 10 minutes away from the family’s Wisconsin apartment and right outside of town.
The house will be home to McArthur-Smith, her husband, her two youngest children, and their two cats.
Although it was a hard decision to make, McArthur-Smith saw the positive benefits to going tiny that she could not pass up. She said that it will provide her family with financial and spiritual freedom. She hopes to have a closer and tight knit family as a result from this undertaking.
“I picture it like being away at camp,” she said, “It was always a blast to have everyone together; talking and laughing.”
McArthur-Smith said that both of her children express positive feelings about the drastic downsize. Steven, 11, said that he would give everything away so that the family can have their tiny house. Samantha, 2, gets excited whenever she gets to visit the house.
The family is enjoying being able to design and build their home. They are eagerly awaiting its completion and the sense of accomplishment that will come with it. The family also hopes to be able to travel more since their home will be on wheels.
The family is musical, so they will have to leave their musical instruments behind. Even though she said she is sad about giving up something they love, McArthur-Smith is hopeful overall. “We don’t need thousands of feet of space to be happy,” she said.
McArthur-Smith has many positive thoughts about The Tiny House Movement itself and she hopes that it sweeps the nation. She says that the concept of “more is better” is not always the way to go. She is looking forward to finishing her tiny home and making the transition to the tiny life.
Jessica McArthur-Smith’s story is only one of the many about people realizing what going tiny could truly mean for them.
Rising in Popularity
The Tiny House Movement is sweeping the nation. According to McArthur-Smith, Madison Wisconsin has built tiny homes for homeless residents. According to Cassie O’Mara from Tumbleweed Tiny House Company (one of the first strictly tiny house building companies), the company has received over 80,000 phone calls and emails asking about tiny houses this year alone. She said that over 2,600 people will have attended the company’s two-day Dream Big Live Tiny workshops on how to build a tiny house.
In 2013, couple Christopher Smith and Merete Mueller recorded their personal tiny house story in the documentary TINY: A Story About Living Small. According to Netflix’s website, the film is now a highly rated documentary on Netflix.
According to a September article on techomebuilder.com, The Make It Right foundation, a non-profit organization founded by Brad Pitt, has partnered with John Weisbarth and Zack Griffin, renovation experts from FYI’s show “Tiny House Nation.” The partnership is building tiny homes for Hurricane Katrina victims.
According to citizenstinyhouse.com, Citizen’s Bank is hosting a tiny house experiment construction here in Cleveland, Ohio to help people explore the viability of affordable and sustainable housing.
Tiny Houses gained international attention on CNN, Huffington Post, NBC, PBS, as well as from numerous personal blogs and virtual community postings.
Elaine Walker from the website Tiny House Community said that zoning boards nationwide are starting to consider changes in legislation to allow tiny homes.
The Tiny House Movement
TheTinyLife.com defines The Tiny House Movement as a social trend where people are choosing to downsize the space they live in. Walker said that the movement is about reducing one’s possessions to fit in such a small space and reducing consumption to maintain a minimalistic lifestyle.
Gabriella Morrison, a tiny house advocate and co-owner of tinyhousebuild.com, said “the process of going tiny means getting in touch with what’s truly important in life and reducing the ‘noise’ and clutter that gets in the way of true happiness.”
The question remains, why do people choose to do this? Walker said people have a “desire to reduce expenses, become more financially independent, and live more sustainably.
TheTinyLife.com said “for most Americans one-third to one-half of their income is dedicated to the roof over their heads; this translates to 15 years of working just to pay for it, and because of it, 76% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck.”
With tiny homes starting at anywhere between $5,000 to $25,000, families can buy a house without incurring mounds of debt.
According to TheTinyLife.com, going tiny gives people a greater sense of independence, and allows them to be completely debt free.
“Going tiny” has positive effects on the environment, according to advocates of the trend. Living in a smaller space requires less energy, thereby reducing the home’s carbon footprint. Many tiny homes are also built from eco-friendly or recycled materials.
Having a smaller home to take care of gives people more personal time. Andrew Martin, an online publisher and advocate for sustainable living, said, “Living light gives people space to define their worlds and gain more control over how they live life, ultimately leading to greater happiness and satisfaction.”
There are impediments to the growth of small homes, however. Municipal building and zoning codes often prevent tiny houses from being placed.
O’Mara said “Most of the 17,000 plus building departments across the United States greatly restrict where someone can place and live in a tiny house on wheels.” She also said that building codes are not keeping up with needs and desires for smaller and more affordable homes.
The Ins and Outs of Tiny
Walker said that the typical homebuyers who go tiny are single adults, young couples with debt, and empty nesters; but anyone is able to go tiny if they want to.
McArthur-Smith said that she hopes more people join this trend and that having a family is not an excuse for not being able to go tiny.
Tiny homes range in design options as well. The house can have wheels or foundation. The home can have a loft, stairs, or one floor. The decor can have a traditional theme or more of a modern feel. Ultimately, the design of the home is up to the future homeowners.
Morrison said, “We sell the plans for our hOMe design and it’s really incredible to see the various interpretations of the plans that people are building.”
The cost of tiny homes vary depending on size and features that someone chooses to incorporate. Walker said building with new materials will usually cost around $20,000.
People across the nation are continuing to take interest and look into the movement, just like Jessica and her family did.
Morrison said, “The tiny house movement is growing at warp speed because there is no shortage of people that are sick and tired of living within the status quo. I think that it will only continue to grow as more and more people find out about it.”
If you are interested in following Jessica’s journey, like her page “The Mustard Seed Tiny House” on Facebook.
If you are interested in finding more specific information about tiny houses, visit tinyhousecommunity.com or thetinylife.com.
If you are interested in personalizing plans and joining The Tiny House Movement, visit Tumbleweed Tiny House Company’s website tumbleweedtinyhouses.com or American Tiny Houses’ website americantinyhouse.com.
If you are interested in finding even more information, you can browse the
Internet for people’s personal blog stories and other informative websites.
Download this story here.