Woman looking at books on a tiny home shelf

This is your year of living better and freeing yourself from materialism. It’s your year to experience happiness and warmth outside of the material world. And materialism—its expression, its antidotes, its eventual acceptance—permeates some of the more undesirable qualities we all find in ourselves. Now, let it go.

It’s simple. You only need to begin valuing everything that brings purpose and meaning to life. It may seem like a lot to do but that’s all it takes. Spend 1% of your day thinking about what matters most, then look around to see if the nearby materials or products support that.

It’s simple because the obvious weakness of our modern material industry is that it requires so much from us and accomplishes so little. It’s extraordinarily inefficient at promoting human and social well-being.

Even the most human-based designs are less about value, and more about furthering dependency on the products we are being designed to want, use more efficiently, and need more of. We are assaulted by materialism and human ideals get the back seat in this social and economic siege. No longer!

But don’t get me wrong, material items can meet basic needs. So identifying needs outside of the material sense is the first step in moving away from materialism and toward a celebration of the materials that matter. Those that foster connection, love, experience, family, adventure, and health all rely on equilibriums of consumption. You get what you give. Like a friendship.

What have you experienced through your material possessions? Are you feeling closer or further away from the emotions that make you feel happy and alive?

Ultimately, we are constantly in a state of activity with the material world. But with an awareness of your inner inclinations toward meaning and connections, your material surroundings will inspire you to own only that which amplifies your life. Then, you can watch the meaning found within your most important materials grow.

Most things will start to feel unnecessary, excessive, and ‘extra’. But a few will shine as a material or product that embodies and commemorates new, increased self-esteem.

Thinking about the craft work that went into your couch, or memory associated with a piece of art, or the use of the dining table for gathering loved ones together— when you think about how these materials inspire, even for a small percentage of time each day, you’ll begin to recognize the significance of your buying habits and materials. They’ll gain value and significance and feed you rather than feeding your desire for more.

The inspiration behind tiny homes is this: life is short. Who among us, reflecting upon the life we have lived, would choose to be surrounded by our possessions rather than our people, recalling the shared experiences of our lives? Tiny homes are about bringing that which matters most to the forefront of our daily living: developing autonomy, living debt free with economic responsibility, flexibility and freedom to travel,  change careers, cultivate work life balance, time to read and learn, always accruing experience, not more stuff.

Downsizing, which can seem a daunting undertaking, is one of the most empowering things a person can do to restructure and redesign one’s life.

Our modern society is insistent in its messaging,“Acquire a little more and you’ll be on the threshold of happiness. Look around you, others have that, you deserve it too.” It is easy to be swept up by this kind of thinking. We spend much of our waking lives working, preparing, setting ourselves up for the future, climbing out of debt, compulsively buying the next new thing before it’s no longer new enough.

Most of the things we buy are tools. Even lavish clothes and obscure gadgets are put to functional use. The inherent value of tools is in how they are used, not in the objects themselves.  They should simplify our lives, rather than distract us from the pursuits and relationships most important to us.  The size of tiny homes gives us natural limitations on how much we can acquire. These constraints are liberating, not restricting. Because there are no huge basements or 6 closets to store all those things we don’t use, they invite us to go forth into the world. They welcome us to be intentional about what and how we purchase.

Capitalism is far from perfect, but it isn’t going anywhere in the near future.  So we have to wake up. We have to start paying attention to how systems work and how our individual actions affect commercial patterns.  On the scale of society, it’s easy to become jaded about how little our individual voices matter. In commerce, however, we can control our contribution and involvement in the process. How we spend our money is how we vote on what exists in the world, how we show our support for companies to stay in business.  It goes further than that.  Whenever we purchase products and services, we are directly financing how that product or service is created and distributed. We must demand that business perform transparently and ethically in regards to all practices from production, to supply chains, to distribution and fulfillment methods.

Because of technology, the world is more open to us than ever before. Our generation cares about travel, organic foods, local products, free range eggs and pasture raised beef. We care about sustainability and green energy. We are moving forward, rejecting stifling work lives, creating new ways to do business, crushing old prejudices, doing nearly everything differently than the previous generation. So why are we still buying and building houses the old way?

The ecological impact of our current building practices is atrocious. While many of us make efforts to recycle aluminum and glass, you may be surprised to find out over 50% of landfills are construction waste and building materials. Our giant empty homes require a staggering amount of energy and they produce far more greenhouse gases than any automobile on the road.

Continuing to build homes with ONLY the traditional model causes negative ecological effects, but that’s not all that is affected by the build big model. Our finances are at stake too. The average home mortgage is $250K at 30 years.  After taxes, repairs, improvements, etc., we will pay over $1 million on that $250K mortgage.  Most of the cost of a house is in the kitchen and bathroom, yet builders charge us by the total square footage, giving us even more empty rooms and financial burden. All of this in spite of the size of our families shrinking.

About 1/3 to 1/2 of our life’s earnings will go to paying off our homes. We take on this mountain of debt while also launching our careers, starting a family.

The interest in tiny homes is exploding right now. Whether living in one, putting one in the backyard as a guest house for friends and family, renting it out on Airbnb for supplemental income to go enjoy real things, or taking your home with you to park it as you like along the journey.

Tiny homes alone cannot make us happy. But they allow us time and energy to focus on the things that do make us happy.