The Tiny Home Movement in a Nutshell

No single person or event can be credited with the origin of the Tiny House Movement in the United States. Two individuals, however, did make significant contributions during the late 1990s, and their ideas and actions significantly helped shape the movement. In 1998, architect Sarah Susanka published the hardcover version of her book, The Not So Big House: A Blueprint for the Way We Really Live [1]. Its thesis not only advocates living in smaller homes but also embraces a simpler lifestyle.

During the next two years, Jay Shafer published his germinal ideas in his first book, The Small House Book, self-published in 1999, with revised versions in recent years[2]. Then he built his second tiny home, which he subsequently named “Tumbleweed” (Figure 1, below). It was a small, 110 square foot beauty, described by the New Yorker writer, Alec Wilkinson, as “a Gothic cottage from a children’s story.” (Shafer’s first tiny home was a used fourteen-foot, self-modified Airstream.)

Figure 1. Jay Shafer and “Tumbleweed,” his first, self-built tiny home.

That tiny home, where Jay Shafer lived for five years, met his own needs as a young adjunct professor at the University of Iowa. His book showed that a tiny home (one smaller than 400 square feet) can be the escape from the over-indulgences and hyper materialism of today’s American society. It can also be a solution for those whose income will not allow them to live in communities close to their employment.

[1] The Not So Big House: A Blueprint for the Way We Really Live (1998) ISBN 1-56158-130-5

[2] The Tiny House Book, 2009-2012 edition, iTunes, ISBN 978-1-60743-564-8

Kendall W. Corbin, Ph.D.


September 27, 2017


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