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"Tiny House Nation" host John Weisbarth on living large in a (really) small space

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When you hear about the new TV show Tiny House Nation on FYI Network, you assume it takes place in New York City. Where else do people voluntarily cram their whole lives into one room? But no, a movement to downsize from the typical American home of 2,300 square feet to 500 square feet or less is actually afoot nationwide. Living small is the new living large (though us New Yorkers knew it all along).  

Every week co-hosts John Weisbarth and Zack Giffin guide people through a move into a home no larger than 300 square feet, including one with sleeping areas for four adults and another with a recording studio. Here, Weisbarth explains why stuff is your enemy and how downsizing can free up your relationship. 

In New York, we think living in a tiny space is a hardship! Why are people embracing Tiny House living?

The pendulum has been swinging from the idea that bigger is better, to leaving a smaller footprint, becoming more environmentally and financially conscious. People are now asking themselves, do we really need 4,000 square feet and seven rooms? Obviously going from 2,500 to 200 square feet [like on the show] is extreme and not everyone wants to do that, but certainly people are saying, I don’t need as much space as I have.

How much of downsizing your home is about finances?

The tiny house movement began more as an environmental one, but then people started realizing other benefits, like huge economic  and time freedom. You can build a tiny house for $30,000 and you own it outright, there is no mortgage or rent. That frees you up to save, travel, and opens up other opportunities. That is hugely liberating.

Above, Zack Giffin and John Weisbarth (left) show off a "smuggler's box" on their show, "Tiny House Nation" on the FYI Network (Photo credit: FYI Network)

Do you think a family can really live in a Tiny House or will they eventually kill each other?

I think with teenagers you can do it if they are close to leaving home! While we build tiny houses on the show, the message is also about  “right size” living. If you are a family of four, 172 square feet is not right for you, but maybe neither is 4,000. Maybe somewhere in the middle.

Toughest thing for those who downsize to one-room living?

The hardest part is paring down your things. We are all guilty of hanging on to and assigning a lot of value to things.  But later people talk about how freeing it is to be out from underneath all their stuff. You benefit from creating space for things that matter. 

Biggest bonus to living small?

We hear that it can improve relationships. You can’t get lazy because there is no closing the door and walking to the other side of the house when you all live in one room. You have to talk things out. 

Best advice for those about to move into smaller space?

Number one, get rid of clutter. Buy furniture that is multi-functional and use all your vertical space. In a dorm room, for example, this is key. Also put your bed on blocks and use the area underneath for storage.

You live in a 1,300-square-foot house in San Diego with your wife and son. Is that the right size for you? 

It’s plenty big, but I  feel that we embody the attitude of living tiny in that we are responsible with resources like water and electricity. 


Above, a Chelsea kitchen featured in one episode makes use of pint-sized appliances (Photo credit: FYI Network)

Has meeting Tiny House devotees changed the way you live now?

Absolutely. It totally got me thinking about clutter and I started to pare down. The toughest is always stuff that has sentimental value. For instance, I built a desk in high school, and while I poured my heart into it, now it was in the garage.  I realized I should donate it and someone else should use it. 

Could you live in a Tiny House?

I would have to get my wife on board! Tiny Houses are beautiful, cozy, and have modern kitchens and bathrooms--they are not tool sheds. I could definitely do it. My idea for a Tiny House would be mini Craftsman style, high vaulted ceilings, with a great deck.  

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