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In this two-part series, I’ll write two separate posts from opposing viewpoints.  At issue is the growing trend of micro-homes, spaces 400 square feet and smaller. What do they mean for us? For our environment? For the world? Last week, I wrote about my rejection of small space living.  This post is my argument in favor of  small spaces and why I believe they are critical trend .


Tiny home leafy neighbourhood

image: Artsy Amy

Several of my friends have drastically downsized their belongings, parked a few things in storage, and now live the nomadic world-traveler lifestyle.

They live for the experience, not for the accumulations. They live in the moment, writing or photographing it, not buying things as keepsakes, because getting another thing would just make life more complicated.

I recently took a larger apartment and feel happier in my life, but I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about my future, when I’ll almost certainly be traveling or living in a smaller, more isolated home. I understand why we need smaller lifestyles, tiny footprints on this planet. Lately, these microlofts and postage-stamp-sized homes are all the rage on the web, but is such a small footprint realistic long-term? Should it be?

Living with less to have more life

I like how my friends are living with less to have more life. Live for experiences, not acquisition. Sure, I cringe when small spaces are celebrated as a selfless, noble lifestyle.

But deep down inside, I kinda think it’s true. Small homes might just save the world. The planet seems to be crying out for us to adopt a nomadic mentality, where we own only that which we truly need and use.

From less water wastage to fewer resources used in construction, there are very practical reasons behind this small-footprint lifestyle.

From big homes to big social decline

Historically, we had small homes because it was too hard to heat and maintain larger homes. Homesteading cabins of a century or two ago could be heated by one or two fires — often the difference between surviving a bitter winter or not.

Then the electric age dawned, along with mass production and a global marketplace, sending costs way down. Suddenly the average person could have a large home with bigger rooms. Heat was easier to have, plumbing was cheaper and simple to install. Ever-increasing modern forestry technology meant building bigger homes in greater numbers.

Bigger homes, bigger consumption

Possibly the worst advancement of all is how affordable it’s become to tear old, small homes down and rebuild larger homes sporting big attics and basements and sprawling yards — yards meant to entertain or be showy, but not intended for gardening or food-growing, thanks to ludicrous homeowner association laws found throughout the land.

This need for bigger-better gave rise to the suburban lifestyle. With that came more development, more roads, more power consumption, more waterworks, more roadways, more torn-down trees. More emissions, fewer trees to clean the air.

The rise of suburban sprawl

With our “bigger” lifestyle came a bigger footprint and then a reckoning with wildlife, natural resources, loss of agricultural lands within urban limits, and so many other things that have hastily brought about an end to a world that balanced both rural and urban lifestyles.

Enter urban sprawl, suburb malls, big box stores, highways, and more.

So began traffic jams and rush hour. Stuck in the car? Buy some fast food. Next thing you know, these bigger homes became the reason we were caught in traffic more, working longer hours, eating worse, getting heavier and unhealthier.

Bigger homes, less time spent living

These big homes meant to give us everything we wanted seemed to take us away from everything we needed.

Today, most of us work in cities. Traffic sprawl can consume whole days of your month. My 60 hours of commuting a month worked out to 2.5 days of my month lost to travel alone.

Our coveted suburban lifestyle of big, full rooms means sacrificing in so many other ways, and most of them meaning less life lived, more time lost.

Less home, less debt, less work

Whether you opt for small-space living in the heart of downtown or you adopt a small home  even in the ‘burbs, you absolutely will reduce costs and therefore transform your lifestyle.

Owe less, work less, live more. Yes, it is that simple.

With less room to heat, fewer things to power, less space to fill with materialism, it’s impossible to not embrace a simpler lifestyle and rack up the savings while so doing.

Small spaces mean shunning clutter. You can’t mindlessly buy-buy-buy. No waste energy in unused-but-heated rooms. Choosing small-space living about choosing what to value. It’s about removing external stress from your work life, giving yourself the ability to lower costs but increase time spent living.

Look beyond the marketing spin

Once you get past the whorey way they’re selling small spaces to us, there’s a practicality behind the urban micro loft and the suburban micro home. We really don’t need a lot to live on. All around us, people are proving simplicity not only works in the 21st century, but it’s a financially, socially, and psychologically healthy choice to make. Live with less, feel more full.

Somewhere amidst the ever-embiggening* of the American way, we forgot about the little things that make life worth living. While micro lofts might be a greedy urban developer’s dream housing trend, it’s also a lifestyle that might just save the world.

Want less, live smaller, experience more. It’s a formula that’s making sense to more folks every day, and every time I pay my bills, it’s harder to argue with their reasoning.

(*Ed: In view of my love of the Simpsons, I’ll allow it.)

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Steffani Cameron

Steffani Cameron is a Victoria BC-based writer on a variety of topics. Here on the BuildDirect blog, she specializes in writing about smaller, urban spaces. How do you make the most of your smaller space? How do you decorate it to suit you? And how do you wage the war against clutter and win? This is Steff’s specialty.