As the nation recovers from the housing market bust, homeowners seem to be asking themselves if they can be happier with less and in less space. The shift away from McMansions to more modest housing caught our attention because the possibilities to use micro housing for emergency preparedness or off-the-grid living are virtually endless.

A micro house is defined as having less than 1,000 square feet of living space. Some are much smaller – as small as 120 square feet! However, many of these houses are thoughtfully and beautifully built from quality materials. They are designed so that every square inch is functional. One of the best parts is, many of them are built for off-the-grid living and are completely self-sustaining.

For example, this cottage in Maine (photographed by Eirik Johnson) is entirely self-sustaining through solar power, a composting toilet and an innovative water catchment system. (See the entire slideshow here.) These houses, and many tiny houses, are built in remote locations in order to take advantage of privacy, solitude and occasionally, formerly uninhabitable parcels of land. On the other hand, micro housing offers benefits to communities. Several of these small dwellings can occupy the same acreage as one large house and share a community garden and social space. Micro house pricing starts at around $20,000 but can go up to around $150,000 depending on the actual size, location and the customization.

Can a person actually live in such a small space? What do you do with the holiday decorations? The kids’ toys? The sports equipment?

“Automatically everything becomes less energy-demanding,” architect Dennis Fukai says. “Almost all consumption becomes reduced when you move to a very small house,” he says.  He and his wife moved to an 800 square foot house from their 3,000 square foot house and he says they don’t even keep extra pairs of shoes. He says they consume very little energy, spend less time cleaning and are able to enjoy more time together doing what they love to do. Entertaining is done outside on the deck, a space that Fukai says is important in micro houses.

Also important are creative storage, staying highly organized, being ruthless about clutter, using vertical space for storage or sleeping, and furniture that folds away or does double duty. Of course, IKEA has mastered the art of small space living. This Swedish retailer has been catering to European small-space dwellers since 1943 and has plenty of inspirational photos for those dreaming of a tiny house.

If you’re interested in micro housing as part of your off-the-grid emergency plan, for a change of lifestyle or just for fun, here are some other links to investigate:

Tumbleweed Tiny House Company

Nomad Micro Homes



Minim Micro Homes

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