Tiny home dwellers prove that less is more

These tiny home inhabitants have discovered that less really is more. Less stuff, less cleaning, and more time to spend doing the things you love.  

Spring cleaning. We roll up our sleeves, hunker down, and spend the entire weekend scrubbing down every infrequently used nook and cranny with the intensity of a mom in a paper towel commercial, who just found out her in laws are on their way over. 

What if we eliminated those infrequently used things and spaces from our lives altogether? What if, we only allowed ourselves room for the things we truly need? 

More and more people are doing just that, as society welcomes the tiny home movement. 

“It’s so much less work,” said Kirsten Doherty, who lives in a fifth wheel travel trailer along with her husband, Brett. “Everything has to have a place which is different than a house where you can kind of just throw things around on a counter. I feel like it stays organized a lot easier.”

Inside the Doherty’s fifth wheel trailer. Photo credit- Kirsten Doherty

“It definitely shapes the way I consume, the way I live my life. It’s kind of like a tailored suit, you know, it really doesn’t allow for any frivolous objects or consumption,” said Mark Erickson, a tiny home habitant, about living in his 700 square foot dwelling.

It’s kind of like a tailored suit, you know, it really doesn’t allow for any frivolous objects or consumption.

Following the second world war, houses began growing steadily in size. From the sprawling bungalows of the 1950’s, to the reno-boom of the 1970’s, to the McMansion of the 1990’s, the average home was getting bigger and bigger.

As house sizes were growing, so was the number of women entering the workforce. According to Statistics Canada, in the early 1950’s, only a quarter of women aged 24-54 were working outside of the home. As of 2014, that number has grown to 84 per cent, which means most of us no longer have someone to keep house full-time.

The Doherty’s originally moved into their fifth wheel when Kirsten was in school, and Brett was working in the Coast Guard. 

“[Moving into the fifth wheel] really helped me to be able to study whenever I wanted, however long I wanted, because I didn’t have any yardwork or cleaning to worry about. Then when I did have time off from studying, I wasn’t worried about that stuff,” said Doherty.

Women’s careers and educations aren’t the only way our society’s priorities have changed over the years. While the 50’s were all about having the house, the car, and the latest washer/dryer set, younger generations are prioritizing experiences over possessions.

For people like Erickson, living in an inner-city community close to all the amenities allows for the experiences they crave, and they’re more than willing to give up square footage in exchange for easy access to all the things these neighborhoods have to offer. 

 “Instead of having a big house, that you have to fill with all this stuff, and you’re constantly thinking about consumption and what you’re going to buy next… Instead, you’re thinking about how you can use your time, quality time,” said Erickson. “All the sorts of amenities that inner-city neighborhoods have. Being close to the river and being close to really great restaurants… all the great sort of rich qualities of life that the inner city affords you.”

Erickson lives in a “laneway house” in Calgary, AB. He is also one of the founders of Studio North, an interdisciplinary design and build practice that’s known for its laneway builds.

A laneway house is a small home built on the property of an existing house. The homes are often built in the backyard, facing the back lane, which is where they got their moniker. Studio North wants you to think of them as “‘urban cabins’- modest, comfy dwellings in inner-city neighbourhoods.”

The city approves laneway homes at the discretion of the planning authority. Interested parties can visit their website to find out more about the requirements to add a laneway home to their property.


Artwork by Daniel J Kirk

Inner-city living may spark joy for Erickson, but for the Doherty’s it’s being able to travel, especially with their dog, Isla.

“We’re able to bring our dog without having to worry about a hotel or accommodations for her, leaving her and having her bark or feel uncomfortable. She’s like our child so we like her to feel at home,” she said. 

While these tiny home dwellers have had to downsize when it comes to possessions, neither of them is mourning the loss. 

Doherty, who has a knack for interior design, was able to pull out some of the furniture from the fifth wheel and put in some of the living room furniture from their previous home. 

When Erickson downsized, he stored some boxes of things at his parents’ house. “If it disappeared tomorrow, I wouldn’t even blink,” he said “and I’ve realized that a lot of things aren’t necessary for your happiness.”


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