When it comes to the typical home, most Americans embrace the idea that bigger is better.
Yet, there’s a countermovement for the “small house” or “tiny house,” where buyers are opting for homes between 400 and 1,000 square feet.
But why would someone choose to live in such a small space? Obviously, financial benefits come to mind.
Financial guru and radio host Dave Ramsey touches on these considerations in a recent blog post, where he refers to the most recent U.S. Census. The data says the average single-family home is nearly 2,700 square feet, which Ramsey compares to the average single-family home size in 1950 as less than 1,000 square feet, even though families were larger.
But a smaller home means savings gained in taxes, utilities, insurance and repairs. AARP.org advises downsizing as soon as the kids leave the nest.
But there are other practical reasons to downsize. Some people weed out their belongings in order to combine households with a new spouse or roommate. It’s also common for older adults to downsize into retirement communities that are considerably smaller than their previous homes. Others must downsize because of reduced income or a health crisis.
A conscious choice
For Dennis and Marie Lund, downsizing was an easy option, and they’ve wholeheartedly embraced this lifestyle, “trying to make a life that we don’t need a vacation from,” says Dennis Lund.
They actually started their life together living in tiny places – even a bus – in order to build their homes and remain debt-free while raising their family of three girls.
When health reasons required the family to relocate from the Willamette Valley to the drier climate of northeastern Oregon, the move was relatively easy.
Dennis Lund recommends the following books for more views on downsizing:
“Your Money or Your Life” by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez
“Living More with Less” by Doris Janzen Longacre
“How to Survive without a Salary” by Charles Long
“Simplify Your Life” by Elaine St. James
He was able to take a job managing a newspaper while the family built a log cabin. To meet zoning regulations, the cabin had to be at least 1,000 square feet, but they later sold that home and built a 500-square-foot cabin, complete with a magnificent rock fireplace and tongue-and-groove pine interior walls.
“It’s all gorgeous,” Lund says. “We don’t have any white walls inside our house. We actually started kind of a tiny house movement. It was already on its way, but were kind of the ‘poster children’ for Joseph and everyone was talking about how we kind of started this move of tiny house people.”
Ten years ago, the Lunds were given the opportunity to manage a very remote wilderness camp for six months of the year deep in the Wallowa Mountain Wilderness. This meant leaving behind his newspaper job and pondering whether the economic gain was worth the time required.
The new job sounded very appealing and, because their simpler lifestyle had left them debt-free, they were able to leave the demands of the 40-hour plus work week while only in their 40s. They began a life they had dreamed would only happen in their retirement years.
“Simplifying our lives opened up the possibilities to make life choices that we were happy with,” Lund says. “Downsizing is one of the many steps that allows us to stay debt-free, which is a must if one wants to have abundant choices.”
For example, they pay all their bills once a year, with the exception of the electric bill, which last month was just $14. They credit the solar panels they installed for drastically reducing that expense.
The Lunds feel fortunate to be living the life of their dreams. They continue to “play wilderness guide” by managing the wilderness camp and hiking an average of 300 miles or more per season.
When they aren’t at the camp, “we play in the desert in the winter and are hot springs hoppers,” Lund says. He’s also finishing a book titled “Off the Well-Worn Path,” in which he writes about their life choices and adventures.
“There’s also crazy, funny little stories about being up in the mountains, about things that have happened up there,” he says. “It’s odd, you think you’re out in the middle of nowhere and nothing would happen out there. And there’s just odd, strange, little quirky stories I put in there.”
And by no means does he believe he knows everything about living small and simple, explaining that different authors have their own ideas and approaches to the tiny house movement.
“One thing I explained in my book is that your story is going to be different than mine,” Lund says. “But you can take some of the basics and plug them into your own life.”