Ten Years in Just 89 Square Feet
Jay Shafer and the Tiny House Movement
by Antony Taylor
For ten years, Jay woke up every morning to his bedroom ceiling, just 3' away from his face. After climbing down from his loft bed into his 6' x 6 ½' living room, he would enter his 4' x 2' bathroom. To most people, Jay would appear to be a prisoner, and the conditions might appear inhumane, yet Jay is not a prisoner, nor has he been forced into these living conditions. In fact, Jay not only chose to live in such a small space, he designed it himself! Jay's house for ten years, the “Epu” is the size of a walk-in closet in most of today's homes, yet it contains a living room, desk, fully ...view middle of the document...
Sustainable architecture has gained increasing interest to help reduce the demand on the planet's resources. To see that Jay first moved into his 89 square foot home in 1997, puts him well ahead of the trend. "I don’t want to burn any more fossil fuels or go through any more construction materials than I have to, for space that I’m not going to use anyway. And I don’t want to be putting out any more greenhouse gases than I have to." Jay says.
The idea of living small is not new, one of history's most memorable examples is Henry David Thoreau, who lived in a 10' x 15' cabin on Walden Pond for over two years in 1845. The reason for such a reduction in material lifestyle? In Thoreau's own words:
“I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.”
Henry David Thoreau, Walden, "Where I Lived, and What I Lived For"
So does Jay share a common theme with Thoreau? While some of his desires may echo the sentiment expressed by Thoreau, there was a simpler inspiration for Shafer's desire for simplicity: he hated the nearly 4,000 square foot home that he grew up in. "It was my sister and I who cleaned our house every weekend, and we envied the other kids who got to play while we cleaned the house all weekend long." Jay says.
Another quote by Jay appears to give him more in common with the growing movements of minimalist or simple living: "The more stuff I have in my life that’s not contributing to my happiness, the more work I have to do, which doesn’t make me happy," he says. "So, I got rid of all my unnecessary stuff and just live with what really makes me happy. That editing process is really arduous. But once it’s done, that’s the hard part. It’s all over and you’re just living very liberated from there on out." Proponents of simple living believe that a voluntary reduction of assets is not only better for the environment, but that it is also better for one's own happiness, as well. The old adage of “Less is more.” is their motto. The small house movement owes a lot to the ideal of anti-consumerism, an idea that may seem foreign to some. "It's very un-American in the sense that living small means consuming less," says Jay.
Growing Into a Small House Advocate
Jay built his first small home for himself in 1997. The houses frame sits on a 7' x 14' wheeled trailer, of the type used to tow cars behind mobile homes. The reason for this is because current residential codes eschew small houses. The current International Residential Code requires that a residence have one room that is at least 120 square...