Livin’ Little

There is a grassroots movement afoot that would have you believe the way to simplify your life is to simplify your living space – and by “simplify,” they mean “burn down everything but the bathroom and live in it.” This is the battle cry of the Small House Society. At first glance, their idealistic appeal seems innocuous enough – I quote: “Our desire is to support the research, development, and use of smaller living spaces that foster sustainable living for individuals, families, and communities worldwide.” Okay. So they want us to simplify, plant a tree, hug a badger, and all will be right with the world. Fine. I can get on board with that. And the poster child and president of the movement, Greg Johnson, lives in a ninety-six square foot house. And that can’t be that bad, can it? After all, Oscar the Grouch managed – even with Slimey the Worm as a roommate, so why not the rest of society?

However, the Small House Society fails to disclose the single caveat that makes this idyllic lifestyle possible: you must be a bachelor living in your parents’ front yard. Yes, there are two things that enable Mr. Johnson’s diminutive domestic lifestyle: 1) the fact that his ninety-six square feet of “home” is parked on a trailer on his parents’ lawn and 2) his lack of a wife to smack some sense into him.

An NPR column ( regarding Greg’s living arrangement notes, “Next door to Johnson’s small, sturdy domicile is his father’s much-larger structure. Johnson showers and uses the bathroom there, or at work, to allow for more storage space in his house on wheels.” Here we pause a moment to bid ado to our misconception of Gregory as a rugged, individualistic Grizzly Adams hewing himself a modest, Spartan home using only his bare hands, spit, and trees he tore from the ground. Instead, we are left with the image of a grown man holding a perpetual backyard campout with occasional refreshments provided by his mum. For all we know, she swings by to tuck him in at night.

The Small House Society further neglects the exploration of the social implications of the tiny tenement lifestyle. Why does Mr. Johnson remain single? His self-founded society fails to explain why, but the scene writes itself.

Wee Little House Man: Hey, baby – you want to come see my tiny house…on wheels…parked in my parents’ yard? My mom might even stop by with some milk and cookies. Of course, I’ll tell my dad to leave the porch light on in case we need the phone…or electricity…or the bathroom. And you might wanna dress in layers – I don’t have electricity, and these fall nights, they can get a bit nippy.

Unfortunate Female: Er.

The Small House Society is, at best, an attempt to legitimize grown, single men living with their parents. Their rallying cry might as well be, “I don’t live with my parents – I live in their front yard. I’m part of a growing, ecologically-minded movement dedicated to consuming fewer resources through simplified living.”

Yeah. You just keep telling yourself that. It keeps the mid-life crisis at bay.


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