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
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.
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.
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