There's a big revolution afoot that involves the least amount of livable square footage possible. In Outside magazine, Mark Sundeen takes on the tiny-house movement, a push that's evolved from "hipster alternative to mainstream phenomenon faster than an Amish barn raising." Sundeen, who's lived small himself (including in a Subaru wagon and a Toyota pickup), headed to the National Tiny House Jamboree in Colorado to interview devotees of this niche approach to residency, getting to the heart of their downsized-home philosophy and fervor for itsy-bitsy abodes that "approaches the religious." The undercurrent in many converts' stories: Before "Turning Tiny," life was bogged down by too many bills, unhappy careers and marriages, and endless home upkeep; after "Turning Tiny," there was freedom, satisfying relationships, and more time to do the things they loved. But Sundeen wondered, how much of that is truly attainable, and how much of it a not-so-tiny facade?
For investigative fodder, Sundeen tapped into the jamboree, where he saw suspiciously polished tiny-home models with not-inexpensive accouterments. Some of the aficionados' motives gave him pause, too: As he watched casting agents do meet-and-greets for various tiny-house-themed shows, it led him to speculate, "perhaps unfairly, that people on these shows are less interested in dismantling the consumerist paradigm than in getting on teevee." He also delves into the legal issues with owning such a diminutive dwelling, leaving many people stuck "buying what amounted to an RV and still not owning land." While conversing with Jay Shafer, the "godfather of the movement," Sundeen caught a glimpse of the essence of tiny-house living—what he deems an "expression of our longing to find our place in the universe, to become as beautiful and functional as nature itself." In the end, though, he concludes: "Maybe tiny houses don't make good homes so much as they make good stories." Visit the jamboree with him in Outside. (Read more Longform stories.)