THE NEXT BIG THING? TINY LIV­ING

When it comes to hap­pi­ness on the home front, the grow­ing trend is to keep things small and reap big re­wards. By Jo Hegerty

Sunday Mail - Body and Soul - - NEWS -

Tiny liv­ing is a grow­ing counter-cul­ture move­ment that ad­vo­cates liv­ing on a smaller scale. Smaller homes, fewer pos­ses­sions, free­dom from debt, liv­ing a sim­pler back-to­ba­sics life­style – th­ese are the pil­lars of this mini move­ment.

Ad­vo­cate Mal­colm Holtz, who has de­signed a range of “mi­cro homes”, says small can be “poignant and po­etic”. He asks peo­ple to re­call how happy they have been in the small spa­ces they in­habit on hol­i­days, such as tents, car­a­vans, boats, beach huts and cab­ins. By down­siz­ing our liv­ing space, he be­lieves we can up­size our qual­ity of life.

SMALLER HOMES

Mi­cro, tiny or small homes are noth­ing new. In busy cities and de­vel­op­ing na­tions, cramped quar­ters are com­mon and nec­es­sary when pop­u­la­tion ex­ceeds hous­ing sup­ply.

What is new, how­ever, is the emerg­ing trend of “vol­un­tary sim­plic­ity”, where a small num­ber of peo­ple, across all de­mo­graph­ics, have been mak­ing the de­ci­sion to forgo the large, four-bed­room house in favour of more mod­est ac­com­mo­da­tion.

US-based ar­chi­tect Sarah Su­sanka is cred­ited with kick­start­ing the tiny-house move­ment with her book The Not So Big House ( Taun­ton Press), which em­pha­sised clever de­sign over sprawl­ing space.

The Ka­t­rina Cot­tages in the US, 29-square-me­tre homes de­signed for refugees from the hur­ri­cane of the same name, got peo­ple think­ing about af­ford­abil­ity and just how small a space In Aus­tralia, we now live in the largest houses in the world, av­er­ag­ing al­most 250 square me­tres. By 2026, 3.7 mil­lion Aus­tralians will live alone in an empty house.

The fu­ture of McMan­sions may not be so bright. As baby boomers reach re­tire­ment age, they are seek­ing smaller ac­com­mo­da­tion close to ameni­ties. Mean­while, gen­er­a­tion Y is show­ing less in­ter­est in big homes, pre­fer­ring to live in higher-den­sity ar­eas. There is also an in­creased en­vi­ron­men­tal aware­ness.

SIM­PLY LIV­ING

Many Aus­tralians are al­ready in the process of scal­ing back their lives. A 2004 sur­vey by The Aus­tralia In­sti­tute found that al­most a quar­ter of the adult pop­u­la­tion had down­sized in the pre­vi­ous decade.

Burnt out from 80-hour weeks work­ing in the restau­rant busi­ness, Christo­pher Bradley piled his pos­ses­sions into a van and left Syd­ney to live at Crys­tal Wa­ters Eco Vil­lage in Queens­land. There he bought a block of land and the equip­ment he needed to start a new build­ing busi­ness and build a cosy 10square-me­tre cabin with a loft.

Ten years on, Bradley, now 53, has in­creased his liv­ing space slightly, but the tiny liv­ing mind­set still ap­plies. He works fewer hours, man­ages his land ac­cord­ing to per­ma­cul­ture prin­ci­ples, drives a small se­cond­hand car and con­sciously con­sumes less.

LIT­TLE ECO FOOT­PRINTS

Although tiny does not nec­es­sar­ily mean cheap, diminu­tive dwellings re­quire less en­ergy and fewer ma­te­ri­als to build and main­tain, mak­ing them a sus­tain­able so­lu­tion to hous­ing. Aus­tralia’s most well-known tiny house, at Milk­wood Per­ma­cul­ture farm and train­ing cen­tre in

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