Small homes have become a big deal in this country. Just when you think this trend has reached its apex, a new tiny home program hits the airwaves. On the HGTV alone, where the Hawai‘i Life program airs, you’ll find Tiny Luxury, Tiny Paradise, Tiny House Hunters, Tiny House, Big Living, and Tiny House Builders. On FYI, you can catch Tiny House Nation, as well. There are several driving factors behind the popularity of the tiny home and the what’s being called the tiny house movement. The most important of these is the desire to enjoy a simpler lifestyle.
Why Choose a Tiny House?
The idea behind this proliferation of tiny homes, and programming for those obsessed with a leaner, simplified lifestyle can be summed up in the expression “Less House More Life”. In Hawai‘i and across the country – indeed, around the world – many people have made a conscious move away from the pattern of previous generations. That is to say, the idea that life follows a single path: grow up, go to college, get married, find a job, buy a home, spend 30 years in the same job paying off that home, and then retiring.
Instead, many are choosing to downsize their home (not to mention their mortgage payments) in favor of less work, more travel, more variety, and more free time for family and creative pursuits. Not to mention more luxury in other parts of their lives. Many are choosing the tiny home so they can afford to give back more time and energy to their community, engaging in volunteer and charity work in the extra hours they gain from having a lower cost of living every month. It’s a trade-off between extra space and extra…life. The idea of staying in the same job or working for the same company for 30+ years seems like a hardship to many. Millenials expect to change careers many times throughout their lifetime and are totally happy with that.
One of the many added benefits of moving to a tiny home is less clutter. Life in a small space requires a more minimalist approach. As families consider the many benefits of downsizing, ridding their lives of unnecessary clutter is high on the list. The popularity of Marie Kondo’s best-selling book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up is a testament to America’s new focus on minimalism and our desire for a simple life. We are beginning to understand that less stuff can sometimes mean more joy. It can also be better for the environment, so some are making the switch to a smaller home due to a personal commitment to reduce their carbon footprint.
Whatever your reasons for doing it, downsizing on a such a dramatic scale requires a mental downshift, too. It means letting go of possessions, sacrificing some privacy, and getting used to the idea of a composting toilet. However, the benefits of simplifying one’s life can be enormous. In Hawai‘i, where the cost of living is one of the highest in the nation, we have an affordable housing crisis. For many island residents, a tiny home is a perfect solution. It allows kama‘aina to focus on some of the most important things in life, like family and leisure time. When you live in paradise, it’s important to find time to enjoy the beautiful surroundings and appreciate why we choose to live here in the first place.
Tiny House Living in Hawai‘i
Many Hawai‘i residents are jumping on the bandwagon, ready to give up a little space so they can enjoy more of our year-round sunny weather and supernatural beauty, too. Besides, so much of our Hawai‘i life is lived outdoors anyhow. Many people are expanding their outdoor space and shrinking the indoor space of their Hawai‘i hale. With our year-round great weather, we have the advantage of being able to live on the lanai or in the garden for much of our time, saving money on the high cost of square footage.
If you’re wondering whether you and your family could successfully make the jump to a tiny home, here are a few things to know about tiny home living in Hawai‘i. A tiny home is generally defined as a residential living space smaller than 400 square feet. However, it can be as diminutive as 200 square feet or as large as 800 square feet. Every county in Hawai‘i has unique regulations regarding tiny homes, so it is best to check with your county’s planning department. Specifically, you’ll want to look at your county’s zoning and enforcement divisions. Most building permits relate to the actual dwelling itself, so you’ll also want to check out the specific zoning requirements as they relate to your parcel of land or the area where you’re considering building your tiny hale. You’ll also want to check your county’s codes that regulate a new build minimum square footage and ceiling heights. If you have a tiny home or are planning to build one that is on wheels, county regulations may vary, and often there are restrictions that mirror those related to house trailers. Another consideration in building a tiny home in Hawai‘i are the permits needed for utilities, such as water and electricity. You’ll want to explore your county’s regulations before deciding whether a tiny home is right for you.
Some other practical considerations: propane is often a practical and inexpensive option, in lieu of electric power for cooking needs. Mini refrigerators offer a compact solution for perishable food items. Laundry can be done at the local laundromat, though some tiny homeowners choose to purchase portable, non-electric washing machines. Tiny houses are about freedom of movement and freedom from clutter. If you don’t like your neighbor, you can move your home somewhere else. If your tiny home is perched by the ocean and a tsunami warning ensues, hook up your tiny house and drive to an evacuation zone. How many traditional homeowners have that option?
One of the best features of tiny homes is their design and innovative use of space. This is, in part, the reason for the popularity of so many tiny home programs. We love watching to see how people are squeezing their lives into 400 square feet of space. The creativity and ingenuity that goes into designing a tiny home – from the floor plan to the crafty storage solutions – is indeed impressive.
The fun part is in shopping the multitude of creative design options that the tiny house movement has brought about. But to determine if a tiny home will fit your needs, you need take stock of your priorities and current lifestyle and decide what’s best for you. If you’re looking for more time to spend on travel, surfing, and enjoying the outdoors in Hawai‘i, then a tiny home may be a good option. In our ever-evolving world of over-stimulation, over-consumption, sky-rocketing home prices, and climate change, the tiny house movement may just be the answer for many families. Could a tiny house be in your future?