2. Insights from Other Lifestyle Movements (LMS)
2.1. Voluntary Simplicity (VS) Movement
4.1. Demographic Characteristics
4.2. Prior Strains and the Need for a Reexamination of Life
I can’t understand why I’ve spent so much money this long and why my family is doing the same thing … all under the illusion that something is being gained, but really, they just have a bunch of junk in their basement that they never look at and they’re all really unhappy with their houses.–Natalie (age 18–34)
In the wintertime we were paying to heat rooms … we never used … in the summertime, we were paying to keep them cool … sometimes I didn’t even look into … [the] rooms for … months … because it was basically storage … [I] kind of felt like this … [for] ten years and maybe back then it was like … a mid-life crisis … I was working a job working ten twelve, thirteen, fourteen hours a day … trying to maintain a home and vehicles and … never having any time … to enjoy … what I wanted to do … you get up in the morning, go to work, come home at night, eat dinner, take a shower, go to bed and … you know … that’s just how it was.–Jim (age 35–54)
Losing my house played a role. The economy collaps[ing] played a role. The fact that I have so much education and I struggle to find a job, all those things back in that time played a role in my interests in living smaller.–Ashley (age 18–34)
[H]aving my own property and not … [being] shackled down for my whole life … I feel like that’s … what really drew me to … seriously pursue this [tiny house living] … I have a serious amount of student loans and having that debt follow me around wherever I go … is very crippling … I can’t even imagine bringing on extra debt with a mortgage. My credit score’s ridiculously low and that’s why I’m having to save money.–Tessa (age 18–34)
[R]ight now we’re at a standstill of we can make it work … with our 15-year mortgage … money is super tight … we can re-finance into a 30 year, and that frees up a bunch of money, [but] … me being the nerd, I don’t want to do that.–Artemis (age 18–34)
[Divorce] it’s probably one of the key factors … [the] gal … was the love of my life … she asked for a divorce and … that was kind of a shock, I kind of dusted myself off and … said okay I really got to make a change here. So, minimalizing my lifestyle was the key ... So that’s where the whole tiny house … really came into play.–Abraham (age 55+)
4.3. Core Motivators and the Search for the “Good Life”
4.3.1. Motivator 1—Financial Security
[W]hen you look at the way that a lot of people live their lives … they’re tied to … student loans and … mortgages and all of this kind of stuff and … you work to have something to impress somebody you don’t like, for what purpose?–Rick (age 18–34)
I don’t want to pay the rent … I would rather own my own than pay … rent so … the bottom line for me is … [I want to] live a more debt free [and] responsible life.–Jane (age 55+)
I think I would be reducing, certainly I would not have a mortgage I wouldn’t … rent or if I did, maybe [at a] much reduced [cost].–John (age 55+)
[A] 30-year mortgage ties a person down … one is pretty much enslaved to one’s home … at 51 years of age, I don’t want to tie myself to a 30-year mortgage.–Larry (age 18–34)
My actual expenses yearly are a little less … than $15,000 so there’s a $35,000 savings [from my yearly income] that I’m just putting in the bank and it’s making money for me so I can do things … travel oversees … Give gifts to my family you know. It’s just a freeing experience.–Tim (age 55+)
4.3.2. Motivator 2—Freedom and Autonomy
Well, as opposed to continuing within a job I hate, making a lot of money … I got to a point where, you know I’m working sixty hours a week, I’m making a good salary, but I don’t really love it … [today] I’m no longer a slave to my job. So, I have you know twenty hours or more extra in the week to live or do things that I want to do. Instead of being stuck in Jobville forever.–Sebastian (age 35–54)
I don’t need to work 40 and 50 and 60 h a week and be able to still save and invest for you know for my future, but my monthly costs are so minimal … So yeah so some of it is freedom, but definitely economic and being part of you know being impacted by the economic downturn.–Tom (age 35–54)
If I ‘m not drowning in debt or having a whole bunch of stuff to maintain then I’m free to just live, that’s what’s attractive about that [the TH lifestyle]. I’m free to go do things, I’m free to get out there in life … and do things that I want to do.–Dan (age 35–54)
4.3.3. Motivator 3—Meaningful Relationships
I’d personally would love to get to know ‘em [other people], I’m a people person, I love talking to people and I love to hear peoples’ experiences.–Samantha (age 55+)
[S]o the experiences with each other and the growth that we’ll be able to experience as a couple hopefully because we’re so focused on each other and these experiences I think it’s going to be something that … spreads to other people around us.–Barbara (18–34)
4.3.4. Motivator 4—Simple Living
[I]f we can … live off renewable energies then essentially our bills should be nothing … so we’re hoping that we can do the earth a favor and it can do us a favor by lowering our bills.–Barbara (age 18–34)
4.3.5. Motivator 5—New Experiences
[I]t’s all about experiences and … the time that you spend with people or the time that you spend having those experiences versus the time that you are taking to manage your possessions.–Nancy (age 35–54)
[T]here are so many people that have a focus on the things that bring you happiness and I want my experiences to bring me happiness.–Barbara (age 18–34)
I’m an experience person. I have nice things, but I don’t love my things … I’d rather spend $2000 on a trip to South America than on a TV … I have a $300 TV … I’d rather take that other $1500 and spend it on an experience.–Bernie (18–34)
5.1. Simple Living as Functional Pragmatism
5.2. Strive for Autonomy
5.3. Centrality of Experiences and Relationships
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Tiny house enthusiasts usually make a distinction between small and tiny houses. True tiny houses, in this view, are dwellings (whether on foundation or wheels) smaller than 400 sqft. Small houses, by contrast, usually range from 400 sqft to 1000 sqft.
Our views on the Good Life have been strongly influenced by Skidelsky and Skidelsky’s 2012 treatise “How Much is Enough? Money and the Good Life”. New York, Other Press LLC. The authors define the Good Life as “a life that is desirable, or worthy of desire”. While specific conceptions have varied across time and space, Skidelsky and Skidelsky (2012) maintain that there is broad philosophical agreement on what constitutes the “basic goods [or elements]” of the Good Life (i.e., health, respect, security, relationships of trust and love). Building on Amartya Sen’s theoretical work on human capabilities (e.g., “the capacity to be healthy”), the authors argue that these universal “basic goods … are not just means to, or capabilities for a good life; they are the good life.”
Rodriguez (2017, p. 1) views minimalism as “a broad array of practices that have been labeled differently at different historical moments”. By broadening the term, however, he inflates much of the work on the “voluntary simplicity movement” that documents its unique character. Cherrier and Murray (2002) contend that minimalism and voluntary simplicity are distinct movements that may share some of the same grievances but offer two very different anti-consumerist pathways.
Information on the interviewee’s race, religious affiliation, education level, household income, and political orientation was collected. Rather than using a premade survey item for political orientation, we allowed the participants to self-identify (and coded their responses into a broad conservative, liberal, libertarian, and “other” category). We thought that this information could prove useful in providing further insights as to whether “ideological leanings” create particular affinities to tiny living. This relationship proved to be difficult to disentangle empirically.
To establish the primacy of choice for each individual (and hence assign interviewees to one of the three categories), we considered three key indicators: (1) How early in the interview someone talks about environmental reasons (e.g., first response to the question or later in the interview), (2) the amount of time someone spent talking about personal as opposed to environmental considerations, and (3) the primary reason given for a particular choice (e.g., personal benefits versus benefits for the environment, community, society or others).
The authors assume full responsibility for any problems with the quality of the English translation of Schulze’s German original.
|Pseudonym||Age||Gender||Race||Political Orientation||Household Income||Education||Religion||TH Status|
|Artemis||18–34||female||white||conservative||$50,000––$74,999||college degree||Christian||building stage|
|Frank||18–34||male||white||liberal||less than $25,000||college degree||Agnostic||living in TH|
|Namor||18–34||male||white||other||$50,000–$74,999||post-graduate degree||Christian||living in TH|
|Barbara||18–34||female||white||other||$25,000–$34,999||college degree||Atheist||planning stage|
|Tessa||18–34||female||other||other||$25,000–$34,999||college degree||Agnostic||planning stage|
|Ashley||18–34||female||white||conservative||$25,000–$34,999||college degree||Christian||planning stage|
|Rick||18–34||male||white||conservative||$75,000–$99,999||some post-graduate work||Christian||planning stage|
|Luna||18–34||female||white||liberal||$75,000–$99,999||college degree||Atheist||planning stage|
|Natalie||18–34||female||white||liberal||$25,000–$34,999||some college||Atheist||planning stage|
|Bernie||18–34||male||white||libertarian||$100,000–$149,999||some college||Other||planning stage|
|Tom||35–54||male||white||other||$75,000–$99,999||post-graduate degree||Spiritual||living in TH|
|Ben||35–54||male||white||liberal||$50,000–$74,999||post-graduate degree||Agnostic||living in TH|
|Larry||35–54||male||other||other||$50,000–$74,999||less than high school||Spiritual||building stage|
|Greta||35–54||female||Asian||liberal||$50,000–$74,999||college degree||Agnostic||planning stage|
|Jenny||35–54||female||white||libertarian||$35,000–$49,999||trade/technical/vocational training||Christian||planning stage|
|Nancy||35–54||female||white||other||$50,000–$74,999||college degree||Christian||living in TH|
|Sebastian||35–54||male||white||liberal||$25,000–$34,999||post-graduate degree||Other||living in TH|
|Dan||35–54||male||white||conservative||$35,000–$49,999||some post-graduate work||Other||building stage|
|Brittany||35–54||female||black||liberal||$50,000–$74,999||post-graduate degree||Christian||planning stage|
|Jim||35–54||male||white||liberal||$50,000–$74,999||high school||Spiritual||living in TH|
|Jane||55+||female||white||other||$25,000–$34,999||college degree||Spiritual||planning stage|
|Mary||55+||female||white||liberal||$75,000–$99,999||college degree||Christian||planning stage|
|John||55+||male||white||other||$25,000–$34,999||post-graduate degree||Spiritual||planning stage|
|Tim||55+||male||white||liberal||$50,000–$74,999||post-graduate degree||Spiritual||living in TH|
|Canan||55+||male||white||liberal||$75,000–$99,999||some college||Other||living in TH|
|Venus||55+||female||white||other||less than $25,000||post-graduate degree||Buddhist||planning stage|
|Morgan||55+||female||other||other||less than $25,000||some post-graduate work||Spiritual||living in TH|
|Samantha||55+||female||white||other||$35,000–$49,999||some college||Christian||building stage|
|Shirley||55+||female||white||conservative||$35,000–$49,999||post-graduate degree||Christian||planning stage|
|Abraham||55+||male||white||other||$35,000–$49,999||high school||Christian||planning stage|
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