Teeny Tiny

September 20, 2018

“The world is big but little people turn it around,” – Gavroche, Les Miserables.

The tiny house revolution, popularised by the reality TV show Tiny House Nation, explores the movement to dramatically downsize the home environment in order to sustain the ecological one or to gain financial freedom – or both.

For those unfamiliar with tiny houses, the movement refers to houses that are built less than 46m2 – so think maximum total space of around about a double garage, which is about a third of the size of an average family home. Early inspiration for tiny houses is said to be Henry David Thoreau’s novel Walden – which encapsulated all that was amazing about the tax-resisting, development-cautious, nature-loving great American novelist and philosopher.

The GFC (2006-08) saw the movement take off in America as people lost fortunes, as well as faith in traditional institutions. The need to keep up with the Jones’ and the Kardashians gave way to some serious (and perhaps forced,) reassessment of why on earth we needed so much stuff.

The unofficial mantra of the movement is to “have less, do more”; which is a deliberate prioritisation of adventure and the nomadic way of life. It is probably why so many tiny homes also are moveable.

On Instagram, the hashtag #vanlife is the brand of a new kind of eco-bohemian who have taken the mobile potential of tiny homes to the extreme and made RV and caravan-ing cool again. A hipster sub-culture that centres around the experience of personal, economic and temporal freedom, and all for a tiny capital outlay, small running costs and tiny ecological footprints. There are almost 4 million #vanlife posts on Instagram!

Gaining accurate data on the surge of tiny houses is difficult as many of the structures, particularly the ones that have wheels are not classed as real estate assets, but rather chattels – similar to caravans.

That categorisation is why so many tiny houses are being built in backyards and such as an addition to existing dwellings, in the form of pool houses and granny flats. With such pressure on the availability of housing – tiny additions to big homes could make a big impact to help young people save for a home while achieving independence and likewise, they could help older generations maintain independence while staying close to families and in their communities.


If you have been romanced by the quaintness of the tiny homes or persuaded by the very rational economic and ecological arguments for tiny living – here is some advice from the #vanlife tribe:

  • Firstly, if you are thinking of constructing a tiny home on your own land, you will need to check out what, if any, approvals you require: https://www.planningportal.nsw.gov.au/building-or-renovating/do-i-need-approval
  • There has been a lot of safety concerns with the advent of tiny homes, particularly of the DIY variety. Make sure you are using professional trades to help you with design and construction. If you intend to tow or drive your tiny home, you will need to check what road regulations and registrations are required for your particular type of dwelling.
  • Downsizing your stuff takes a lot of mental preparation and planning, and this means sacrifices.
  • With small space comes the sense of confinement. If you are sharing your tiny space with someone it can also mean that other person can feel all up in your grill. All. The. Time.
  • Think about ventilation. Cooking (and other smells) can hang around a small space and in fabric for a long time if there is nowhere for them to go.
  • Using fewer things more often means that they need to be more hard wearing. Think about this when selecting building materials and bespoke fixtures.  

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