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Tiny Can Be Terrific

Tiny homes can be good places to live!

Tiny homes are getting a lot of attention. One apartment for sale in London is just 8 feet by 10 feet and it’s been profiled on CNN. Amid great fanfare, Mayor Michael Blumberg has called for the development of 275 to 300 square foot apartments in New York City to ease a housing shortage.

People living in larger spaces sometimes have difficulty understanding that people can happily live in small spaces – under the right conditions.

The discussion that follows is based on the premise that tiny apartments have appropriately diminutive monthly rental/house payments and that the small homes have been thoughtfully designed so that residents can indeed use the spaces in the way they’re intended to be used – e.g., a full-sized human fits into the shower and the oven door can indeed be opened wide enough to pop in that Thanksgiving turkey, or Cornish game hen.

For best results, people must choose to live in the small spaces. Agreements voluntarily entered make positive outcomes much, much more likely.

Choice and control are prime reasons why tiny spaces can work well. Control of our physical environment makes humans comfortable, very comfortable. Many of the people who live in tiny homes do so for financial reasons, and if they weren’t living in a small space, they’d be living with someone else who might have very different opinions about standards of cleanliness or where the trash can should be placed. Even people who don’t need to be sharing with someone else benefit from being able to decide when lights should go on and off, etc.

Having control is important to people, in part, because it means they have the ability to be alone when they want to be alone – this is known in the psych biz as privacy. When we’re alone, we can sort through the recent events in our lives and integrate them into our concepts of the world. Without this time alone, we quickly become mental toast and living in a tiny place may be the only opportunity that many people have to think without being disrupted by others.

Tiny places need to be well designed or they quickly become chaotic. That careful planning can lead to the creation of spaces that are less visually complex, and a moderate level of visual complexity makes us calmer and helps our brains work better. Confused about visual complexity? Think about the television show Two and a Half Men. Charlie’s mothers’ living room is a lot less visually complex than Charlie’s. It is moderately complex.

Living in a tiny house can help people achieve personally important objectives. Organizing and living in a tiny house can clearly be a challenge, and many people really enjoy solving puzzles and completing this sort of logistical work. People who want to live in an environmentally responsible way can find it very satisfying to “live tiny” as it generally requires fewer natural resources and keeps discretionary consumption to a minimum.

Some people’s personality profiles include a strong need for uniqueness. They’re the sort who buy things that are different, sometimes just because they’re unusual. Since there aren’t many tiny homes around now, the uniqueness cravers get a big charge out of living in one.

Besides being basically organized, there are several other design features that make people living in tiny homes happier. First, light, cool colors should be painted on the walls and be the dominant color theme throughout the space. They make the small space seem both larger and more pleasant. Tiny homes with windows will have more satisfied residents. Natural light boosts mood and mental performance and if that light is coupled with views of nature or fountains, residents will be able to restock their mental energy after it has been depleted by focused work. They’ll also feel less stressed.

Tiny homes should be evaluated in the context of the other housing options available to their residents as well as the lifestyle and values of the people living in them. Tiny homes can provide big benefits to those who dwell in them.