Sitting on an unsaleable trailer, Kirsten Shaw and her husband decided to do something radical: following a growing trend in the U.S., they eschewed the Calgary-standard McMansion and instead started to build a portable tiny house. Mrs. Shaw, who works in a Calgary health food store, and her husband, a contractor, are constructing their new home paycheque by paycheque. When it’s complete sometime next year, the fort-like dwelling will take up about 200 square feet. Along with a converted van, that’s where the family of three (which swells to six when her husband’s children from a previous marriage join in) plan to live and travel. The Post’s Jen Gerson spoke with Mrs. Shaw in this edited transcript…
It seems like this tiny houses have become more popular, do you think that has anything to do with what you just described, that people aren’t really getting ahead?
It could be for us it’s that I guess I really have taken a good long look at the fact that you’re very much in a relationship with the government that you’re very vulnerable…If there was an oil crisis and the food stopped getting trained in and trucked in here well we can’t really grow things here in Calgary.
It’s more like giving us the security in that we have the power to do what we need to do to survive as a family and always make sure we’re provided for. If that means picking up and driving somewhere where food grows in the southern states or even out on the islands we can do that and not have to worry.
Here is the twist to this downsizing story: the family is worried that they will need to be more mobile in order to respond to changing economic conditions. Owning a home ties you down too much; not only does it require a much larger financial commitment, it takes more time to move since this involves selling the home, finding another place to live, and doing something with all the stuff one can accumulate in an average new home of over 2,000 square feet. This would seem to match up with some commentary that part of the problems with the recent recession is that possible employees can’t easily go to where the jobs are because they are tied down by underwater homes.
Perhaps we could envision a future where more workers have to be mobile, both to cut expenses but also in order to find temporary work…not exactly the typical image of the American (or Canadian) Dream.