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Thoreau’s cabin redux: tiny homes and happiness

Henry David Thoreau went to live in a 150-square-foot cabin in the woods because he “wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life.” His essentials for his home were a bed, a desk and three chairs: “one for solitude, two for friendship and three for society.”

Today, 150 years later, many from the Small House Movement are again embracing his idea that “most of the luxuries, and many of the so-called comforts of life, are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind.”

Jay Shafer is a founding member of the Small House Society (and the owner of the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company), and for most of the past decade has lived in homes smaller than Thoreau’s cabin. Though in his current 96-square-foot home he has more chairs than the 19th century author (He has 5 total: two armchairs, a desk chair and two on the porch).

For Shafer living simply isn’t about sacrifice, but about finding quality amongst the clutter. He describes his goal for life as that of a great work of art: where all the parts work for the whole. “A well-lived life is one which is considered and all the parts of it are working towards making a high-quality life and if you have a lot of extra crap lying around it just really diminishes the quality of life.”

In this video, we take a look at Jay’s tiny home on wheels (comparing it to images of the replica of Thoreau’s cabin at Walden Pond) and talk to Jay about finding happiness, and even luxury, in a small space.

We also have a video tour of Jay’s tiny home, an article on the Small House Movement and a video on Thoreau’s simple life at Walden.