Compliments of: Colorado Springs Independent
At August’s Colorado Springs 2014 Parade of Homes, locally based EcoCabins earned the People’s Choice Award for its Quandary model, the first “tiny home” to appear in the annual event. It was real-world affirmation of a fascination that often plays out online, where tiny-home slideshows attract gobs of people — even those unlikely to ever commit to a diminutive dwelling. Voyeurs aren’t we all.
Just the idea of tiny homes makes us warm inside; it’s like timeless kitten or puppy appeal for an abode. But the movement isn’t aiming to be warm and cuddly as much as it’s taking aim at excess and waste: a smaller footprint to heat and cool also forces downsizing and more mindful consumption patterns. To many devotees, the homes are as much counterculture as creature-comfort.
Part of that lifestyle rebellion inspired Andrew Morrison, 41, to leave behind a 15-year career as a contractor and builder to become a straw bale and tiny-home mentor. A nearly half-hour tour of his “hOMe” has now surpassed 2.9 million YouTube views. He and his wife Gabriella ditched the majority of their family’s possessions to live off-grid in Oregon, and he now consults, teaches courses nationwide and sells how-to materials to fund his more humble existence.
We spoke to him by phone in Winnemucca, Nev., while he was driving to present at TEDx Colorado Springs on Saturday. Here are some excerpts.
Indy: We’ve been talking about simplifying since Thoreau retreated to Walden Pond, and times like the 1973 energy crisis, when E.F. Schumacher published Small Is Beautiful. But most of us aren’t good at it. Does the tiny-home movement show that we’re making progress?
Morrison: It definitely shows that some people are. If you look since 1973, the average house size has actually gone up, by 62 percent or something like that. Now 2,600 square feet is the average size. At the same time our household size has dropped, from like 3.5 to 2.6 [people]. It ends up being an average of 1,000 square feet per person now in a household. If nothing else, those of us who are doing it will help bring averages down, and it’ll bring awareness to others.
Why is everyone freaking out about tiny homes? Is it Barbie’s Dreamhouse syndrome? The same reasons we like snow globes — because they’re small and cute?
There’s some of that. … For those of us who are in it and really enjoying it, it’s a much deeper reasoning. … We won’t ever have a house payment again. That’s a huge freedom. … It takes like half an hour, and the whole house is clean. Everything’s easier. We have less stuff. … It’s a much bigger cause-and-effect and reasoning to get into a tiny house, and that really revolves around simplifying and looking at what matters. We can spend time doing the stuff we want to do, not the stuff that we have to do.
My walls at home are filled with art. I can’t imagine my space without it. Do you miss having wall space for art, or anything else?
I think it’s one of those things that, you have to look at what’s important for you. It may mean a 200-square-foot house isn’t viable for you. But you might also find that a 300- or 400-square-foot house would work. And maybe you set up a few walls specifically for artwork, and they rotate through. Maybe you decide it’s worth having a small storage unit on your property. …