Size isn’t everything


By Lisa Sugarman

It’s the last day of April vacation and this is a relatively quiet moment for me before work and school picks back up again and the chaos returns. We stayed local for the break, so I’m caught up on everything that needed to get done last week except, ironically, writing my column. So I’m trying to kill two birds here (in spite of being a pacifist) by writing something entertaining and savoring these last few hours of quiet.

What do I feel like talking about? Well, to be honest, it’s something I’ve wanted to talk about for a long time. It’s actually something I fantasize about. It’s something that both fascinates me and appeals to me on more levels than I care to admit. Although I think we both know that I’m about to go very public with it in about two seconds.

I’m talking about the Tiny House Movement. Yeah, I know, probably not exactly what you were expecting, but still interesting nonetheless. Just give it a chance.

Now for those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, the Tiny House Movement is a relatively new phenomenon focused on living simply in tiny houses on wheels with pitched roofs and multiple floors. These tiny homes look and feel like traditional houses but are built on a much smaller scale. Simply put, they’re freaking adorable little, teeny, tiny houses that look exactly like a typical American home, minus about 2,000 square-feet of living space.

This Small House Movement formally began in the late 1990s and grew in popularity with the financial crisis of 2007-2010. The movement attracted a lot of attention because it offered a more affordable house that was more ecologically, financially, and maintenance friendly. Uh, and at less than 1,000 square feet, hella easier to clean. And they have incredibly efficient storage solutions covering every square inch, so for somebody like me who never gets tired of little nooks and crannies it’s like an organizer’s version of Disneyland.

See, the houses are designed to maximize space and give people the ability to own their own home and still be financially solvent. Because according to CNNMoney, 76% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, so the idea of owning a mortgage-free home looks pretty damn good. Plus, any girl who’s ever had a dollhouse would instantly fall in love with tiny houses like I did. Because that’s what they’re all like. They’re like grown-up versions of the Fisher Price Loving Family Dollhouse, but with four actual walls, insulation, electricity, and wheels on the bottom so you can relocate any time you want.

You’re intrigued now. I can sense it.

Now aside from the obvious benefits of a tiny home, like reduced carbon footprint and the amazingly affordable cost, living in a tiny home forces you to downsize your life to include only the things you actually need, which is something most of us try to do around this time every year only to fail miserably because we have too many places to store all the stuff we never use. But with a tiny house, you’re forced to simplify your life and live light. And frankly, that appeals to me, on many levels. See, the longer I live the more I realize how little I really need to function and be happy. Now I wouldn’t formally call myself a minimalist, because when I look in our cedar closet in the basement we seem to have an average amount of crap lying around. And I stopped counting my pairs of shoes after I hit twenty, knowing that anyone who has that many pairs of shoes in her closet will never be labeled as a minimalist. However, and this is a big caveat, I’d downsize my life in a New York minute if I could. I’m at that point in my life where I realize how incidental most of the stuff we have really is and that what really matters most isn’t the number of disposable Lulu Lemon bags you have stacked in your garage.

At this point you’re probably wondering, like I did initially, why someone who wanted the ability to take off and travel wouldn’t just opt for an Airstream and call it a day. Because, after all, Airstreams are the sleekest, sexiest, aluminum travel trailers on the planet. But the difference between RVs and tiny homes is that tiny homes aren’t meant to be driven around every day. They’re designed to be stationary. Well, temporarily stationary.

Even though tiny homes are mobile, the idea is that they stay in the same spot for a significant amount of time, only moving maybe once or twice a year when you decide you want a change of pace. That being said, it only took one look at the floor plan and layout of some of these tiny homes to swing me over to the tiny house side. Granted, travel trailers are usually bigger and less expensive than a tiny home, but they just don’t replicate the real home feel that a tiny house does. Not to mention that tiny homes can be built with a variety of high-quality building materials that you’d enjoy living with and looking at every day. Because as nice as some campers are, there’s no denying that assembly line RVs look and feel mass manufactured. But not tiny homes. A tiny home can be designed to look like a house or a cottage or a bungalow with unique, one-of-a-kind qualities that are representative of each homeowner.

In other words, they’re not cookie-cutter copies of each other. They’re unique and distinctive and adorably adorable.

Thinking back to myself as a kid, I suppose the fact that I’ve always loved the compactness and compartmentalness of airplane food and school lunches should’ve been a dead giveaway that I’d be a sucker for this type of movement. I mean, I’ve always loved things that fit neatly into little spaces. I’m just a sap for efficiency and simplicity.

Now understand, the rest of my family would sooner lop their own heads off than support me selling our house and calling up the folks at the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company for some blueprints. It’s just not happening at this stage of the game. But, it won’t be long before our kids move on to college, giving us more latitude to explore other options that are out there waiting to be explored. And considering I don’t want to retire to any one place, a tiny home on wheels is absolutely perfect. That way, I get to experience every place and that’s my ultimate dream.

So in the meantime, though, maybe I’ll just convince Dave that I need a new “work space” so I can write my little brains out in a more writing-conducive spot than our front foyer. He’ll fall for it, right? We’ll keep it in the backyard. My little home away from home. I could be so productive there in my own little fortress of solitude, complete with tiny living room and tiny bookshelves and tiny kitchen and bathroom. And only you and I will know that my real plan will be to hitch it to the car after the kids go to college. Good, then it’s settled. Just promise me you won’t blow my cover. Who says good things don’t come in small packages?

Lisa Sugarman lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is available on and at Spirit of ’76 Bookstore.




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