|By Allison Batdorff, The Record-Eagle, Traverse City, Mich.|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
She banished the practice of "bargain shopping" and no longer goes to Target for one item and leaves with six.
The pair pared their lives down, finding that the essentials fit tidily in a 200-square-foot house that they can pull on a boat trailer.
The "Ritz on Wheels" project taught the couple -- both veterans of divorce and 2,000-square-foot living -- a lot about what they "need," Hanson said.
"I used to be a compulsive shopper. I loved sales," Hanson said, who works in sales and marketing. "Tiny living puts things in perspective -- I have to ask, 'do I need this?' And then, 'where am I going to put it?'"
Hanson, 49, and Russell, 50, toasted their one-month anniversary in the Ritz last week. It still has that "new house" smell. The low-cost, low-maintenance home on wheels allows them to travel more yet curiosity keeps everyone coming to their place, Hanson said.
"People and family want to visit us because they are intrigued by this lifestyle," Hanson said.
Living little is getting big, as proponents cite both McMansion fatigue, energy costs and mortgage crisis backlash as propulsion for the tiny house trend. Tiny houses can be constructed of traditional housing materials, eco-friendly designs or fashioned from other things, like shipping containers.
Current tiny homeowners tend to be older -- 56 percent are older than 40, female (55 percent to 45 percent) and well educated, as reported by a
Russell and Hanson chose tiny living for its economy, flexibility and adventure, they said. Both are from northern
The "Ritz" cost them
The couple wanted to maximize efficiency without sacrificing all of their creature comforts. The Ritz boasts a full-sized shower and oven, plus a flat screen television for streaming movies.
"We got down our footprint to just what we needed. What do we do in the house? We sit on the couch. We eat. We sleep. We go to the bathroom. That's about it," Hanson said.
Russell's marine expertise figures prominently in the design, from flooring (pontoon) to flushing (marine toilet). Russell also has the spatial knack for incorporating dual-, and triple-purposed features like the fold down, cord-hiding table that then folds up to become the dining area/entertaining/card space. The wall hides a floor-to-ceiling closet and office space. Wheeled furniture lets them easily reconfigure their space. Good thing -- 11 family members dropped in for a visit the other day, Hanson said.
But to be tiny is also to be caught in territorial limbo. Building codes and restrictions on dwelling size -- put in place to discourage RVs and mobile home parks -- often mean tiny houses have to move, even if the homeowner owns the property.