What do the following all have in common?

  • The Anti-Tax Movement.
  • The American Revolution.
  • The Abolition Movement.
  • Occupy Wall Street.
  • The States’ Rights Movement.
  • The Women’s Rights Movement.
  • Slow Food Movement.
  • The Tiny House Movement.
  • The Temperance Movement.
  • The Labor Movement.
  • Effective altruism.
  • The Fair Trade Movement.

That’s right. They are all social movements of some kind. And we know social movements as large, sometimes informal, groupings of individuals or organizations which focus on specific political or social issues. But let’s get real. Does the Tiny House Movement carry the same weight as The Temperance Movement? Does matter. It is a social movement nonetheless. Its focus is on a specific political or social issue.

I remember the late summer of 2011 when seemingly thousands of what we now call Millennials donned Guy Fawkes masks and paraded through the streets of some of the best known financial districts in America. They took over Zucotti Park in lower Manhattan crying out their claim of being the 99%. Within days they were media darlings and had captured the attention of our nation. By Thanksgiving though, the park was cleared, the protesters gone, and Wall Street had returned to business as usual. Little was achieved. Why is it then that recent history shows us a similar movement in Serbia (c. 1998) called Otpor, wherein the protesters overthrew the Milošević government in less than two years? Occupy Wall Street certainly didn’t lack any of the passion or appeal that Otpor did. Yes somehow the results were shockingly different. OWS could not translate its passion into action. If we aren’t careful this could be the eventual outcome of the Tiny House Movement as well.

In the last 12 months the national tiny house movement has seen 1 national festival event, 3 regional celebrations, a road show, dozens of workshops, local political standoffs, recognition by a federal building organization, media attention on a number of levels, and countless devotees join up. 4 key factors have to exist though or the tiny house movement will become a footnote in both social and architectural history.



Otpor had one clear goal: overthrow Milošević. Occupy was all over the place. Even they didn’t know what they wanted done. They had plenty of grievances aimed at the 1% (the oppressors), but they never stated just what they wanted that 1% to give in to. It was a movement for movement sake. It started out big and died big. Here is where the tiny house movement needs to organize. What is it we want? Do we want to be able to build our own houses no matter what size? Do we want tiny houses on wheels to be legalized across the nation? Do we want to see an end to building codes? Do we want free reign when it comes to DIY homes or do we want to hand over the construction aspect to a third party such as the RV industry?


In the book Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World, by joint chief of staff General Stanley McChrystal, the general made a point to note a shared purpose is essential to distributed action. “An organization should empower its people, but only after it has done the heavy lifting of creating shared consciousness,” he observed. Does the tiny house movement have this? Is there any sort of shared consciousness? If a tiny houser in New Jersey moves to Nebraska, will he be working with the cause with the same goal or will he be fighting a new fight (should he choose to) thereby leaving the old one behind? If we have a national jamboree are we not suggesting we are a national movement? There has to be training and discipline. In John Lewis’s memoir of his role in the civil rights movement, Walking With the Wind, he stresses the importance of training activists. Protests of any sort are incredibly stressful and often meet with fierce opposition. Training helps activists maintain discipline and focus!
If you are in a small group setting, a focused idea is easier to come to terms with. You are likely to hear another out if there are only a few around. You are also likely to adopt those beliefs in a small group setting. When you are in a large group you tend to feel disconnected and minor. So while movements are noticed after they become large and gain the strength of many (complete with large demonstrations like Zucotti Park), those are actually effects, not causes, of successful movement. When small groups connect (which has been much easier with social media and technological advances), they gain power. A Meetup group in eastern North Carolina is less likely to impact the nation than a gathering of people that represent Meetup groups from eastern North Carolina, the Pacific Northwest, the Bible belt, the Rust Belt, the NE quadrant, etc.
In order for the Tiny House Movement to move anything it has to decide what it wants to move and where it wants it to go. It has gained enough momentum to begin better organizing that will lead to more effectiveness. When a movement stops moving it becomes nothing more than a case study. Just ask those that gathered together in lower Manhattan in the late summer of 2011.


  1. What are these types of political articles doing on this site?
    This supposed be about tiny houses, if this continues, I’m gone

  2. I’m with you, it’s bad enough that we are paying through the nose for some of these tiny houses, now we are going to have a political agenda along with the over pricing and all the other nonsensical bull that has been plaguing us as of late….?

  3. I think we all want to see a greater acceptance of tiny houses. Getting them accepted by city and county governments is important for getting zoning and related regulations changed. It won’t happen without getting involved in local politics, unfortunately. We definitely don’t want to repeat what we have seen in recent weeks regarding the riots and other criminal activity, breaking windows, overturning cars, shutting down airports, defecating on public property, setting fire to things, beating people, etc.. These only hurt the cause of the angry people who do them. We must be polite, well organized, sensible, cordial, and present a cause that’s attractive to communities and local governments.

  4. Eating a lot of fiber can ensure a “successful movement”. Who writes your headlines, anyway????? BTW, I agree with Garth.

  5. I thought Tiny Houses were about simplifying, sustainable living and connecting – with the earth, with ourselves and family and with community. If we push against we are using the Universal Law of Attraction to create more of what we don’t want. It’s time to wake up and focus on what we want, not what’s wrong with everything. We don’t need another movement against anything.

  6. We in Lower Mainland BC, are in the process of trying to figure out how to access land so we can move forward and build with confidence. No point in discussing tiny houses unless you have somewhere they can go.. That would mean learning this very thing – how to make that happen. Hence, movement.

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