Tiny Homes

Tiny homes are all the rage right now. And us farmgirls probably aren’t all that surprised. After all, downsizing, living responsibly and sustainably, saving money, leaving a small footprint, and going “off the grid” are all things we old-fashioned gals cherish. The average U.S. home is around 2,100 square feet, and the average tiny home is between 100–400 feet. That’s a lot of downsizing for some of us! But then again, before you panic at the thought, consider pop-up trailers, Airstreams, and glamping. We heart those things. Could you live there, not just vacation there?

Could you, would you, should you?

Millions of Americans are, and they aren’t looking back, either. When you think about actually owning your own home, instead of paying rent or a seemingly never-ending mortgage to the bank, the daydream starts to take shape.  For most Americans, 1/3 to 1/2 of their income is dedicated to the roof over their heads; and because of it, 76% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. (Check out this site for more statistics.)

And getting rid of stuff and clutter has been shown to be a huge stress and depression reliever. Tossing all of those Halloween decorations, Aunt Sybil’s ashtray collection, or 10 years’ worth of Better Homes and Garden ‘zines can really soothe your soul. It’s science!

But the tiny house is trend isn’t really a trend. After all, tiny houses go back hundreds of years.

photo via Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

photo by Simon Burchell via Wikimedia Commons

Varda wagons were tiny houses used by the British Romani gypsies, most often during the 1850s through the first part of the twentieth century, which was their day in the sun, so to speak. Outfitted with cast-iron stoves and usually decorated lavishly, they make some of the tiny homes on the shows featured on television (Tiny House Hunters; Tiny House, Big Living; Tiny House Nation; and Tiny House Builder, to name a few) pale in comparison.

photo by Jolanta Dyr via Wikimedia Commons.

Some of the best and most impressive varda wagons are gone forever. The Romanis have a tradition of burning the wagons, along with all the owner’s possessions, after the death of the person. Our loss!

The Romanis still travel to this day, but nowadays, they mostly prefer caravans, with long lines of modern looking campers, glampers, trailers, Subaru Outbacks, and Costco tents. Occasionally, you’ll still find the horse-drawn vardas, especially for special occasions like the Appleby Horse Fair, pictured here:

photo by slippy via Wikimedia Commons.

If you’re lucky enough to find one for sale (whether it be a real gypsy wagon or a modern tiny home), snatch it up. You can be like the beloved children’s author, Roald Dahl, who bought a varda for his children to play in, then later, transformed it into his writing office/nook.

Just promise us you won’t have it burned after your death, okay?


Leave a comment 8 Comments

  1. calle says:

    Our grandparents lived many times in very small cabins, soddy’s and even caves.
    Think of Laura Ingles Wilder and the cave on Plum Creek.

    There are different times in our lives for different sizes of homes.
    My Glamper is my tiny home. The land locked RV for the family is another example.

    I can stay or live for a short time in a tiny space, but my art whether fiber, painting, photography or wood, all needs space, equipment and storage space.
    Canning, drying and brewing equipment is not small.
    Land is another example! A small garden may be nice, but range land and large gardens sustain my soul.
    Last night high winds, strong pouring rains and hail remind me I love a solid well built strong larger home.

  2. Winnie Nielsen says:

    I am ambivalent about how well a tiny home would work for me . While I like the concept, efficiency, and financial aspects of it, I remain uncertain if I would eventually end up feeling cooped up in the long haul. That being said, I would absolutely love a gypsy wagon for a fun option to camping! There is a B&B out in Montana on a Sheep farm that offers rooms in little wagons like this with bathroom accommodations similar to what you offered with your WallTent B&B. I think sleeping out under the stars for a week in such a setting would be awesome. Want to know my real heart’s desire?? An authentic Log cabin made livable again with a large room and smaller kitchen in the back. Now that would make my heart sing and I think I could get behind the idea of making it a permanent residence. Except for one problem……. my other half……well he, not so much! LOL!

  3. Bobbie Calgaro says:

    What an interesting article. I always loved reading about the gypsies in the Miss Read English novels about small town life. (If you haven’t discovered them they are a treasure.) never realized that they burned them though. What a loss to history.

  4. Karlyne says:

    I remember reading as a child an absolutely magical book about a girl who was, if I remember rightly, either an orphan or perhaps an unloved child, and somehow made it into a situation where she found herself the owner of a gypsy wagon in the back yard. I would gladly have given everything I possessed to have it. And, although the title and words of the book are lost in the recesses of my memory, the picture of that wagon is still there!

    As far as living in a tiny home, I could definitely do it by myself – but not with anyone else!

  5. Krista says:

    My parents lived in there trailer for quite some time traveling the states for my Dad’s job. My mom actually really enjoyed it. Tiny homes are not for me. I definitely need my space from my husband, 2 boys, and 3 large dogs. I don’t think I could last all day in a 400 square foot area without pulling my hair out! The plus side to smaller living areas is that there isn’t too much time spent cleaning!

  6. Teri Schneider says:

    Now that all the children are married and out of the house, my husband and I have thought about cutting back and selling our huge house. We gather as a full family unit once or twice a year, so still not sure if we should make the jump yet. But I’ve definitely started “minimalizing” and definitely feel less stressed about the clutter. I’ve also tried to embrace the outdoors in the winter now. I’ve always been an outdoor gardening/hiking/exploring person during the warmer months. But nowadays I’ve tried to include the cold, crisp winters. So, moving to a tiny house in the future might not be that hard to do if I just continue to enjoy the outside!

  7. Sandi King says:

    Wide open spaces, and small comfy comforting spaces, I think every one needs both. I have always talked about wanting huge rooms and huge houses to hold everything I have, but even then it wouldn’t be big enough as my son tells me I would fill it up – probably so! Small comfy areas where you feel safe and warm cannot be left out. A place just for one, with quiet, peaceful, soothing and relaxing atmosphere is like floating through warm water in a sleepy dreamy mood, or walking through a shallow creek of running water, the warm air of summer drifting through the leaves of aspens, the sun dappling the area with spots of brightness and duskiness and birds winging from tree to meadow and back again and the sounds of nature all around you. Oh, for the pleasure of living in an area devoid of city life and loud noises and running to and fro in such a hurry that so much is missed and lost in all the turmoil. Give me space, wide open space with nature as my companion for a short time to renew and rejuvenate my soul.

    • calle says:

      Well my thoughts are we need what we need at different times in our lives.

      Having lived in a dorm room, a cottage, a large country home and a camper, they all fit for different reasons.
      As I return to my creative fiber arts roots, I need space.

      Glampers today fit the gypsy wagons of years ago.
      Today I am spread too thin and am working through my needs.
      A place to be ones self, to breathe to be fulfilled is my dream.
      We stayed at a university last week, and I ask myself how they could live in that small a place. They sleep in that room, but their lives are in class rooms, cafeterias and with friends.
      Out of door rooms are my love, but they get so dirty.
      Limits work well with many, they do not work well with me.
      So tiny houses are not my dream.
      And some of the shows that feature people who live in them are staged. When you don’t see dishes or clothing etc you know it is stashed in their cars.
      Having worked in commercial photography all magazines and homes are staged.
      So I want real.

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