Part 1 of 4 – Living Simply in Toronto: Cultivating Space and Place

You may have seen them on FYI’s Tiny House Nation or on HGTV’s Tiny House Big Living: homes cleverly built and designedaccording the specific needs of the owners. You may have even considered this kind of living for yourself. But tiny house living is not for everyone: in Toronto where real estate is at a premium, plopping a tiny residential structure—less than 400 square feet—on a pricey parcel of land is untenable. Although lucrative (and so damn cute!) for many, tiny houses are a dream, not a practical reality.

(Image: moneysense.ca)

Yet everyday city living shares many similarities to tiny home living. Homeowners living in downtown Toronto condos with a small footprint (500-1000 square feet) know very well the sacrifice and prioritizing demanded by a small space. In these spaces, the elements of the simple Living ethos find application in everyday life. (Un)consciously, small space dwellers often achieve become financially independent by consuming less and choosing sustainable alternatives, and in doing so, self-create the bespoke homes prized by the tiny living community. Thus, even without the tiny house, you may be living out the tiny house spirit, however unwittingly, in your everyday practices and ways of thinking.

This is the first in a series of articles that will explore aspects of tiny living and how they apply to cultivating unique living space. Our goal is to show a different and unique perspective to living, one that you might be able to identify in your own living practices, ones that perhaps you want in your life, and ones that you can identify in others’ living practices. Whatever living style you seek, ArtHouse Realty, with our focus on curating homes, can help you to find your perfect fit!

What is the Tiny House Movement?

(Image: tinyhouseliving.com)

More than just pared-down living, the tiny house movement is a social phenomenon whereby individuals construct their residence as an extension of their lifestyle. A privilege usually limited to the wealthy, bespoke living spaces can be attained at minimal cost in a scaled down version with an exponentially smaller budget. It is, as one commentator notes, the way to achieve the dream of property ownership for less: customized living with financial freedom.

Trading in the 2100 square foot home (the average home size for Canadians) for a tiny version (tiny homes are typically less than 400 square feet) demands a more intentional approach to organizing living space. Careful consumption (buying less) and sustainable choices (using less) to create financial autonomy are the pillars of the ethos of simple house living. A customized, symbiotic space that embodies these principles in creative ways is the end result of the deliberate engagement with things and space. Let’s look at the unique ways homeowners have achieved these objectives.

“Buy less, Choose Well, Make it Last”

(Images: tinyhousetalk.com; mediabookbub.com; tinyhouseblog.com; domino.com)

This might be the collective war-cry of the tiny house community. But just buying less is not enough; when space is at stake, owners choose to have fewer, higher quality items that can be used for multiple purposes. A staircase is also storage; a bed is a couch; and levers and pulleys optimize space by adding levels.   This living style that forces us to de-clutter to optimize space also requires that we eliminate our fast-fashion habit in favour of fewer, quality articles of clothing, and ditch the books for an e-reader.

 

Determined Salvaging

(Images: thirtybirdsartanddesign.wordpress.com; tinyhousetalk.com; littlethings.com)

Tiny home owners are relentless in their pursuit of viable materials ready for a second life. Scrapyards, recycle depots, nature, and even waste disposal areas are all fair game for projects that aim for economic feasibility and environmental symbiosis. Keeping the house moveable (usually on a trailer); sheep’s wool for insulation, corrugated metal, compostable toilets, and re-purposed vehicles are some creative builds modelling sustainability, many operating off-grid using renewable sources of energy

The Tiny Road to Financial Independence

Modern conservatism initiatives are good for the wallet as well. Conscious consumerism and reclamation efforts equate to less money spent over all. Coupled with less money spent for land and less property tax paid, individuals can have a unique home customized to their specifications for much less. Tiny living seems to be the answer to competitive real-estate markets: the average price of houses soars in comparison to the extremely modest tiny home price tag.

Drawbacks: Is Living-Simple living better? 

Tiny houses: a panacea to the challenges of modern living? Maybe not. Get used to fraying, worn edges, sagging, and loose springs, observes one tiny living cynic, since constant exposure speeds up the life-use of objects, exposing the underside of the ‘buy less’ myth: you may buy fewer products, but you may have to purchase/reclaim them multiple times.  Some have even noted the health risks associated with living in small spaces, creating psychological issues for inhabitants (unless you are in your twenties), issues so severe that people have (literally) abandoned tiny home living.

And the answer to the question of whether less space, mobility, and sustainability contribute to financial independence is not as clear cut as proponents of tiny living claim. First of all, zoning laws and building codes may prohibit the structure. Also, depending on geographic conditions, a tiny home could end up costing much more than you think. Financing is also a problem, as conventional mortgages often do not apply to moveable property. 

Living Simple or Simply Living

Weighing the benefits and drawbacks, it is undeniable that the tiny house movement is gaining traction as a global social phenomenon. The question then becomes, how can we apply some of these principles to pursue our own ideal living solution? 

Part of the reason I went into real estate was to create living solutions for real people. Small house living embodies many of these objectives by integrating personal identity within space and place. Curating ideal living space for you is the Art House objective!

Over the next three weeks I will look at how we can bring some of the bespoke principles of small house living into play into our own lives, looking at laneway suits and garage units in Toronto, floating tiny houses and off-grid artic living in Canada, and intelligent living around the world.

Until then, share with us how you manage your space: what unique challenges do you have, how do you face them, and how can we help you to live your real life?

READ THE ENTIRE SERIES:

Part 1: Living Simply In Toronto: Cultivating Space and Place

Part 2: Tiny Toronto: Small and Simple Living in the Downtown Core

Part 3: Going off-grid: How Canadians Live off the Land in Tiny Homes

Part 4: The World is your Oyster: Intelligent Living Around the World in Tiny Spaces