Wednesday, August 6, 2014

    The tiny house movement has been described as "white people discover trailer parks".  I forget who described it that way because I'd love to quote them, but my Google fu is not up to the task of tracking it down.  I like the idea of the tiny house movement though, the rejection of ever larger dwellings to house ever larger collections of stuff required to maintain giant houses and lawns and accessorize a properly materialistic lifestyle.  That said, I have 3.5 bicycles, 2 motorcycles, 2 snowboards, a half a dozen pairs of skis, SCUBA gear, several desktop and laptop computers and a hang glider that I acquired in a moment of irrational financial optimism, and that's only my half of the household goods.  I want to fit my life into a pocket sized dwelling, where my housing costs aren't the biggest single item in my budget, and I can focus on my true goal of... pursuing excellence in dilettantism? or whatever my goals actually turn out to be.  I don't want to share walls with my neighbors, I want to be able to store my stuff and I don't want to spend every non-career moment as a groundskeeper for Chateau Monotreme. 

    And yet, the popularity of the movement is partially attributable to the increasing inaccessibility of that house in the suburbs with a white picket fence.  With real wages stagnant since the late 1970s and a succession of bubbles and recessions where none of the recovery seems to make it to the lower and middle classes, this movement, to me, is a revolution of lowered expectations.  It is a fraction of American consumers surrendering to an economy that no longer supports a large prosperous middle class.  And maybe it never could.  Maybe the post WWII boom in prosperity was a fluke. Perhaps now that the industrial and digital revolution has reached every corner of the globe, and organized labor is a shadow of it's former size and power, and cheap energy is a thing of the past, the historic advantages of the USA no longer apply.

     Tiny houses seem like a way to make lemons out of the lemonade life has to offer.  They are a way to tailor the size of one's dwelling to the size of one's needs.  But they are- to a greater extent than a larger house, dependent on location.  A tiny house offers no place to hide from a tornado, would be completely submerged by a flood, and given that many of them are actually on wheels, are possibly subject to the mercies of aggressive parking enforcement.  A tiny house in a bad neighborhood is still in a bad neighborhood, and a tiny house in a good location, may not save much money over a full sized house depending on the cost of the lot.

If there is home ownership in my future, I am betting it involves a tiny house.


  1. Just as (no matter how much moolah you have) you can only wear one expensive suit at a time, you can only be in one room at a time (Two if you're stretching, but you're really in no room at all then.) so why bother w/ more?

    Bedrooms are excess.

  2. Also too +: The full quote must be "monied white people" discover trailer parks, as I believe most of them are already filled w/ honkies.