When Did Living in a Tiny House Become So Popular?

Tiny house living is a popular movement that has swept America and prompted many homeowners to downsize in order to travel more of the country. With all the building popularity surrounding tiny homes, I decided to do some research to find out more about how tiny homes became so popular.

So when did living in a tiny house become so popular? Though living in tiny houses is not a new thing, in recent years, the trend of downsizing to a small, and often portable, home has become incredibly popular. The movement gained popularity in 2008 when the housing market had a downturn. Then, in 2012, a man named Jay Shafer created a tiny house on wheels that he later marketed. 

Today, the tiny house market is still going strong, especially since more people are seeking the freedom to travel and adventure without incurring a lot of debt. But does the history of tiny living and the current tiny home trend suggest a future filled with a growing number of tiny houses?

The Man Who Created the First Tiny House

The history of how tiny houses became so popular is long and often debated to have started in several different places. However, there are a few notable figures that many tiny home enthusiasts mention when recounting the history of the tiny home movement. Among these notable figures are Henry David Thoreau, Sarah Susanka, and Jay Shafer. 

With his 150 square foot cabin, Henry David Thoreau inspired a nation to live more simply. His book Walden chronicles his two-year stay in the small cabin and encourages readers to live a better life by seeking simplicity in basic living. This philosophy has carried forward and often is the drive behind tiny homeowners in our day. Though tiny homes have dramatically evolved to be more portable and modern, with plenty of litttle comforts, Thoreau’s philosophy and inspiration still lives on.

Sarah Susanka was famous for aiding the tiny home movement by publishing a book as well! Her book, titled The Not So Big House, was published in 1998 and focused on building houses that were better and not necessarily bigger in size. Her contribution to the literature on homes and architecture inspired home owners to look for more quality instead of square footage. 

Jay Shafer is probably the most prominent modern figure in tiny home popularity. In 1999 he published an article that detailed the benefits of living a simple life. That same year, he went on to create and found a mobile tiny house company called Tumble Weed Tiny House Company.

A few years later in 2002, Jay began collaborating with other tiny house enthusiasts to create a Small House Society. The growing popularity of this movement gained attention and soon, Jay found himself appearing on television programs such as Oprah to talk about his tiny house. 

There are still many more names that could be mentioned in association with the growth of the tiny house movement and its growing popularity, but let’s look at some other outlets that helped tiny homes grow in popularity. 

How Television Helped Tiny Homes Become So Popular

With an opportunity for the housing and design market to stake a place in the tiny home movement, television has quickly adapted to this trend into a popular television programs which include:

  • Tiny House, Big Living
  • Tiny House Nation
  • Tiny House Living
  • Tiny House Hunters
  • Tiny House World

These programs promote the fun, adventurous lifestyle of tiny living in the United States and across the world. Though they don’t address the issues associated with tiny home living, they do show off the sleek designs and trendy interiors of several tiny homes owned or build for couples and individuals. 

These shows, aired on popular networks such as FYI and HGTV, show viewers how to transform a simple small home into a fun living space. Television’s visual power gives a face to the movement and helps those who can’t possibly imagine what tiny living or tiny homes might look life understand the beneficial and creative aspects that can come with tiny home living. 

Take HGTV’s Tiny House, Big Living for example, this show not only showcases beautifully constructed tiny, portable homes, but it also shows views how to still live a modern, comfortable life in such tiny quarters. The show’s fresh designs give viewers ideas on how they can construct various elements of their home to fit their needs. 

Other shows, like Tiny House World, promote the world-wide popularity of the tiny house trend and help spread enthusiasm and knowledge about the trend and its growth in various nations while still showcasing unique and beautiful designs. 

Many of these television programs expand the definition of tiny house living spaces. For example, in one program, the builders converted an old school bus into a modern living space complete with a kitchen and bedroom. 

The shows help spread the popularity of the tiny houses trend by promoting a positive image of the lifestyle associated with tiny living and the benefits of it.

The Popularity of the Tiny House Movement Outside of the U.S

Thought the tiny house movement is most popular in the United States, there are several people around the world who are beginning to follow the trend and build their own tiny houses. This is especially true for smaller countries like Japan and New Zealand where space is already limited. 

Most of the tiny houses outside of the United States are build because of convenience and not because the people are following a social and architectural movement of any kind. This is one of the benefits of tiny house living. People in countries of limited wealth or resources can still create quality houses with minimal cost. However, many homes that could fit the “tiny home” standards are simply lowquality housing for those who cannot afford more. 

Many poor countries build small houses that could house a large family. However, it is not ideal for the family or exciting as many enthusiasts of the movement would have you believe. Many long for the ability to live in a bigger space with more room. Sure, maybe larger spaces aren’t portable, but they do provide a quality of living that Americans sometimes take for granted.

There are many ways that counties outside of the United States are using tiny houses to create a positive impact on their community, however. In Britain for example, Abito created tiny houses that improve sustainable living. Since Britain doesn’t have a lot of land, it is ideal for them to maximize the sustainable living and promote tiny houses. This ensures that the country thrives on its own resources. 

However, there are always draw backs to this type of sustainable living. Though the country might benefit long-term from its citizens living in tiny houses, the happiness of the people might decrease due to limited living space contention.

So far, the tiny house trend is not experiencing a lot of growth or popularity outside of the United States, but who knows if other countires or people will adopt it in an effort to improve the environment or adopt a new architectural trend?

Will the Tiny House Movement Last?

Though we don’t have the ability to predict the longevity of the tiny house movement’s popularity, several articles published on this subject help shed insight into the nature of the trend and how it might pan out.

The tiny home trend only includes a small amount of homeowners in the United States. Often those promoting tiny home living ignore the limitations that come with this adventurous trend. And since there is no concrete definition of what constitutes a tiny home, it can be hard to determine how many are actually following this movement. Some of the common limitations that prevent the movement from expanding further are as follows:

  • A small market
  • Inadequate living space for raising a family
  • Extreme minimalism
  • Zoning issues

These problems often hinder eager individuals and couples after a few years, causing the movement to decline in popularity on an individual level.

A Small Market

Since the market for tiny homes is relatively small, it can be hard for an individual or couple to enter the market and find a place that provides the minimalism lifestyle as well as the practical lifestyle they desire. Those who invest in the tiny house market take a risk because of the markets minuscule size. This lack of market growth could prevent the movement from expanding in a few years, and ultimately, it might bring the tiny house movement to an end.

Inadequate Living Space for Raising a Family

One of the biggest drawbacks of the tiny house market is the minimal living space. With limited space for raising a family, many couples who have embraced the tiny house lifestyle find themselves leaving it once they decide they want children. Tiny house living doesn’t allow room for all of the gear and needs that come with having a small baby, let alone a toddler or small child. Even if you try to be as minimalist as possible, children will still need certain items to help them live happy healthy lives, and a tiny home may not hold those things. 

Extreme Minimalism

Since a tiny home, especially the portable ones, are so limited in their space, individuals and couples are forced into a state of extreme minimalism. Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it should be an important consideration if you are thinking of downsizing. Extreme minimalism may mean choosing not to have certain kitchen utensils or making certain meals in your home because you can store all of the utensils or ingredients to make the food.

Extreme minimalism can also mean not being able to host friends because of the lack of space in your home. It could also mean not having a family because of lack of space. You might also have no live without certain amenities because of the limited space. Before you commit to following the popular tiny home trend, consider all of the things you will need to give up.

Zoning Issues

There are several states that have adopted laws to favor tiny house living, but there are still more that don’t want to be part of the issue. Also, because the definition of a tiny house is so vague, many cities do not have a law that allows for an individual to inhabit a tiny house as their permanent residence. You will have to do a lot of research about this before deciding whether or not you should live in a tiny house.

It is not uncommon for an individual to build their dream tiny house only to discover that their beloved home which they have spent money building and making their own, is not illegal in their hometown. Zoning issues often arise for those who want to build tiny, mobile homes. These tiny homes don’t meet the size requirements of a typical building and can lead to problems for those wanting to park their home on a piece of land. If these zoning issues are violated, you might find yourself paying several fees and making many trips to your city council to resolve the matter. 

Though it is hard to see where the tiny home trend is going right now or if its popularity will last, knowing the issues will help those involved or thinking about getting involved benefit the tiny house community. 

Related Questions

How big can a tiny house be? Generally, a tiny home is no larger than 500 square feet( sq ft). However, this definition is widely disputed by the tiny house community. For example, a tiny house on wheels usually has a total living space of around 120 sq ft. 

How much does building a tiny house cost? The estimated cost of building a tiny house is around $20,000 to 30,000. However, this varies depending on the builder’s specifications. A tiny home can be extremely inexpensive or luxurious in cost depending on what the owner hopes to get out of it.

What is the tiny home movement? The tiny home movement is both an architectural and social movement that focuses on living a simplistic life in a small home in order to lessen environmental resource usage. The movement mostly focuses on living in small homes. 

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