Many inner city apartments are, by the numbers, not too far removed from a tiny house. Yet, in terms of charm and appeal, tiny houses are in a whole different galaxy.
Through gorgeous feats of space-conscious engineering, tiny houses manage to pack the true necessities of a home into 500 (or sometimes fewer) square feet. They're downright adorable, so we can't help but obsess over every inch of them and the simpler way of life they represent.
"Tiny houses represent affordable luxury," says Daniel Levine, director of the Avant-Guide Institute and trends expert. "One of today's status symbols is the ability to have something special and unique, and not cookie-cutter like everyone else. Tiny houses fit snugly into this trend. They have a wow factor that even a McMansion can't provide."
It's easy to embrace new tiny living mantras like smaller is better and less is more. "The idea of living with only what you need is relaxing," says Rachel Kazez, LCSW, therapist and founder of All Along. "It cuts out some of the cycle of consumerism, at least in theory." Living with only items that truly spark joy and each item perfectly organized sounds too good to be true. And it might be.
"One of today's status symbols is the ability to have something special and unique, and not cookie-cutter like everyone else. Tiny houses have a wow factor that even a McMansion can't provide."
Despite the allure and the many benefits of tiny homes (a smaller carbon footprint, easier cleaning, cheaper upkeep, and more), most people still can't or don't want to uproot their lives to go tiny because of personal affection toward belongings. "I think one barrier is the attachment to items and clutter," says Randy Jones, Founder of Incredible Tiny Homes in Morristown, TN. "When going tiny, most items viewed as necessary are actually not necessary."
Moving into a tiny house means a lifestyle overhaul that even people who love reading about and watching programming on micro homes don't fully comprehend. "People often have meaningful connections to material objects and hobbies that can be difficult to incorporate into a tiny home," says Sally Augustin, PhD Fellow, American Psychological Association Principal, Design With Science. "We really do have strong emotional attachment to objects in our lives, and divesting ourselves of those to which we are attached can truly be wrenching."
It's not only consumerism and connection to our belongings keeping tiny house fans from moving in. Zoning can also be an issue, since many countries and cities don't allow it due to strict zoning regulations, according to Jones.
A big part of the fantasy that tiny houses play into is the offer of an alternative life while also providing a sense of control. The owner assumes possession over the small space and everything in it, and in the case of tiny houses, more freedom as well. However, there are psychological downsides to having a tiny house as well.
"If people actually wanted to live in tiny houses, more houses would be tiny!"
"You're more vulnerable and may feel less protected, says Kazez. "The sense of freedom may also make you feel less settled. You may feel too close for comfort in a tiny house that doesn't have rooms and that is internally small."
As much as we love looking at tiny houses, thinking about streamlined storage, and reading about tiny living, most of us aren't moving into home sweet tiny home just yet. "There's a reason modern housing developed as it did," says Kazez. "Tiny houses are less convenient and less common. If people actually wanted to live in tiny houses, more houses would be tiny!"
Still, there are ways to dip your toe in the tiny house testing waters. "Tiny house living doesn't have to be for everyone," says Kazez. "Staying in a tiny house Airbnb, touring tiny houses, going to conventions, and looking at cool photos and videos online may be plenty!"