Jay Shafer

Jay Shafer

Photo by Jack Journey, copyright of Tumbleweed Tiny House Company 2008

Jay Shafer will make you a house smaller than most people’s closets. It will have a sleeping space, a living space, a kitchenette, and a bathroom…all in as little as 65 sq. ft. It will provide light, warmth, energy efficiency, and good proportion and, Jay says, it will be more luxurious than any mansion. Such is the mission of his business, the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company, founded in 2000. Tired of vacuuming and dusting big spaces and concerned about the impact of larger homes on the environment, Jay began creating blueprints for a simpler, more sustainable lifestyle. The first house, called Tumbleweed, was 89 sq ft. and he has since expanded his plans to almost 9 times that size.

Jay believes that Americans have an overwhelming habit of “going big”, living in homes on average 4 times as large as the international norm. As a result, we pay high mortgages for space we rarely use, go into lasting debt and contribute 18 tons of greenhouse gases each year from our houses alone. Jay says:

For decades we’ve been duped into buying more house than we really need. It’s more clear now than ever that our housing system is failing. Even worse, we are all paying for this mistake in the form of government bailouts.

Jay thinks of our excessively big homes as “debtors’ prisons” (I love that) and claims that living in small houses has allowed him to reinvent his life:

Living small is really a luxury in the sense that I have a lot of time now that I didn’t have before. I can focus now on other things I want to do in my life rather than just paying a mortgage and taking care of a house.

One of the things he’s found most interesting in his work is the legal backlash against small buildings. Housing codes, which are often developed by the housing industry, mandate a minimum of 220 sq. ft. for living purposes. That makes living full-time in his smaller homes illegal! But why prohibit people from reducing their consumption and occupying homes they can actually afford if that’s what they want to do?

So far, Jay is still working on transforming these rules and hopes that the laws will change as more people embrace smaller lifestyles. Currently, taking into account the average American’s spending practices, only 5 out of every 100 people will retire financially secure. As more people get fed up with chasing the American Dream (and failing) by traditional methods, perhaps more will try out these tinier homes. I know I sure don’t want a large house to worry about! Visit Jay’s site to learn more about his homes- you can see pictures and layouts of all the different models and purchase plans or homes pre-assembled!

Here’s a tour of his tiny house:

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