With the newest tiny house trend, minimalism goes to the next level with houses smaller than some of our bedrooms. It’s easy to think we could never downsize to just a couple hundred square feet, but according to Will Johnston of the MicroLife Institute, this downsize could really upsize the quality of your life.
Johnston is the executive director of the MicroLife Institute, which hosts the program Tiny House Atlanta that he founded and directs. Tiny House Atlanta is “dedicated to educating and helping individuals, groups, and cities embrace the tiny house movement.” Will fell in love with micro-living after backpacking through New Zealand five years ago.
“I eliminated three-fourths of my possessions,” he told the Georgia Voice. “I sold my car and downsized to a 10×10 storage unit. I enjoyed the freedom and the weight that was lifted off my shoulders, so I wanted to know who else was doing this.”
Thus, Johnston got involved in the tiny house movement. These tiny houses are actually called Accessory Dwelling Units, and in the city of Atlanta, they can be no larger than 750 square feet. And don’t let those HGTV shows fool you; the houses on wheels commonly seen in association with tiny living are actually qualified as recreational vehicles in Georgia.
To many, it can seem daunting to live in such a small space, but to Johnston, it’s liberating. “I don’t think we need that much space,” he said. “We’re marketed to and told that we do, but happiness is not stuff or space; happiness is experiences and people.”
“A home should not be a burden,” he continued. “So many people believe they need to get in the rat race and buy a home so that it increases value. I firmly believe that we need to get back to homes being an area of respite, an area that helps us in life, and not just be seen as a financial asset.”
To Johnston, the one thing holding many people back from living smaller is a societal inability to live together. “Honestly, to reduce our carbon footprint, we need to actually learn how to live together,” he said. “We just need to learn how to rent rooms, live with each other, and be neighborly.” However, the minimalist recognizes it’s not for everyone. “It’s a mindset,” he said. “I think people fall in love with the idea but aren’t able to actually handle downsizing into a smaller space. The drawback is one’s own experience.”
If micro-living isn’t for you, you can still incorporate minimalist practices in your own home, no matter how big. As Johnston said with gusto, “Less is more, people! You need to downsize your possessions to create freedom,” he explained. “I’m not saying give up quality, I’m saying give up quantity. You don’t need that much to be happy.”
But for those who think they could do it, a bounty of benefits await you: “More money, more time, less stress, more adventure,” according to Johnston. Not only are there personal benefits but environmental as well. Because you’re living in a smaller space, you use far less power to heat, light, and cool your home and your carbon footprint, or the impact you personally have on carbon emissions, is smaller. There can be some drawbacks, particularly in getting started.
Even though they’re small, tiny houses aren’t as cheap to build as one would think – they can range anywhere from $30,000 to $200,000. Not only that, there aren’t any bank products for building ADUs, “so you either need to have equity in your home or have the cash to pay upfront,” he said.
If you’re interested in learning more about micro-living, Tiny House Atlanta will be hosting its fourth annual Tiny House Festival and Home Tour at Atlantic Station on May 11 and 12 from 10am to 6pm both days. The festival will include a true-to-life tiny house neighborhood that attendees can tour and more. You can buy tickets at tinyhousefestival.com. You can also learn more about micro-living at tinyhouseatlanta.com.