For me the Minim House project was first brought about through a love of many things.
- Design: I’ve had a long fascination with materially spare living, ever since spending 6 teenage years in a 5500 square foot suburban Houston McMansion (with the attendent lawn mowing, chores, and horrendous carbon footprint). Efficient use of space and energy captivate me, all the more so after a recently completed DC rowhouse rehab project. With the last touches recently finished, there was no more compelling idea than wrapping the mind around something smaller yet equally functional.
- Place: DC has been my home for 10 years, and while it’s often belittled by those who know it least, it is the finest of cities. It’s racially, economically, and culturally more diverse than Portland (and sunnier), more sustainable than Burlington (and warmer), and more liveable and at ease than NYC. Yet to engagingly spend more than a few years anywhere seems to require a continual exploration, an asking of questions, a revolution in place. The project promises to build connections between tiny house dwellers, architects, builders, urban planners, and supporters in the region, discover a new neighborhood, and to deepen my appreciation of our collective home.
- More space: It’s clear that were one to move from a 1400 square foot rowhouse to a 200 square foot tiny house, living space would decrease. But what I really crave is more gardening space and lots of fruit trees, and a 1/10th of an acre lot will vastly expand my current gardening options. I also really want a workshop, which I currently lack, so we plan to construct one in the shipping container.
- Satisfaction: I recently thought through all the most meaningful things I’ve done in the past decade, and it was humbling to realize most of them occurred outside of paid employment. So it appears to make sense to reorient so requiring and making money is increasingly optional, while engagement in the most satisfying areas of life is mandatory. If this project could one day lead to a lower cost of living to more fully engage all these other areas, all the better.
- Affordability: The past decade has seen a wave of gentrification in DC that has made it difficult for anyone to live cheaply. So be it low income residents, recent graduates and interns, retirees or anyone without a $80K/year job, the city is not getting more affordable. And when we’re all putting in long hours just to survive it seems we become worse neighbors/spouses/parents/friends/lovers, and often just a bit less interesting. It may be that nothing can replace subsidized affordable housing. But given the current lack of it, it’s compelling to picture the potential of hundreds of vacant lots and partially used alleyways dotting the city. Is it possible we could align zoning with strict architectural guidelines to have small scale, affordable, attractive urban infill? Could we eventually develop a DC-based network of small house contractors building and financing mobile studios with a $300 monthly payment?
What this project is not about for me:
- Being greener than thou. If our goal is to slow climate change, reducing carbon emissions is far more efficiently served by us raising more political hell for a national carbon tax, flying less, and having fewer to no biological children.
- Enjoying my self-reliant prowess. It’s very cool that so many folks want to build a tiny home themselves. I loved every page of Crawford’s ‘Shop class as Soulcraft‘. I just personally am burnt out on construction projects, and would love to help build a network of local contractors far more talented than I am in designing and building these structures.
- Being hipper than Portland. Because in our own DC way aren’t we already hipper than Portland?