Tiny house movement becoming a bigger player

Tiny Go Lightly

Big Tiny, Tiny Footprint, Tiny House2Go, Tiny Consulting, Tiny Go Lightly. The names are too cute to be true but according to Jan Stewart, cofounder of Tiny Non-profit, an advocacy group for tiny homes in Australia, there’s a small industry of tiny home builders springing up around Australia. An educated guess, she says, would put the figure for these homes at about 150 Australia-wide, but interest is growing.

Thousands of people visit tiny home open home events like the one she and her partners are organising, as part of Melbourne Knowledge Week next month. Three tiny homes have been towed in and will be on display.

The impetuses are several, but mostly, it’s about environment and cost – for people wanting to get their foot on the housing ladder or wishing to have a small footprint and live more modestly.

A tiny home, Stewart says, is generally defined as up to 12.5 metres long and 2.5m wide. It has to be self-contained, with a kitchen, bathroom and bedroom, and can be on or off the grid. They can cost between $30,000 and $80,000 to build, with the cost of land on top of that. Some people build a tiny home near an existing house, like a granny flat. Others build in the country to have a tiny home away from home. Others build in “collectives”, with a few homes clustered together to make a tiny community.

In different states and depending on local councils, would-be builders work in different legislative frameworks. In Victoria, in Mount Alexander shire, there is a proposal to put up a few tiny houses with the site classified as a “multi-dwelling”, while in NSW, Stewart says, it is easier to work within the boarding house regulations.

Tiny houses can be on wheels or not. On wheels, they are generally classified as caravans, but, for example in Victoria, it is illegal to live in a caravan for more than six weeks. In NSW, a court win against Camden Council in early April has reportedly paved the way for “mobile structures” in backyards by upholding a Sydney family’s right to put a small holiday cabin on wheels (which could be classified as a caravan) on their land without development consent.

Stewart became interested in tiny homes when she was living and working in Sydney and teaching yoga at the Wayside Chapel, and had to watch her “yoga friends” go out into the street, homeless after the class.

“That got me thinking… [at first] it was about looking at this for disadvantaged people, but then I realised the movement was much bigger and people were choosing them for their smaller footprint and environmental reasons. They tick all the boxes. Many people find they just don’t need a big home. They are “super cheap”, less space means less stuff, they’re easy to clean and fix, cheap to heat and cool and you can pick them up and move them.”

She hopes one day to build one for herself. While there are builders who specialise, many tiny houses are DIY and use recycled and sustainable materials. What distinguishes a good tiny home is clever design, Stewart says.

“For myself, I’ve always been a minimalist. I like the idea of living in small space. I like the aesthetic, the small footprint, that it’s simple and cosy.”

America is way ahead of Australia, she says. The movement is huge and has been growing since the GFC, and she feels very positive about her organisation’s mission here.

To get back to cute: “Great minds make small footprints… Tiny homes do more with less.”


Anne Susskind 11 April 2018



Clothing Story Swap: 21 April North Fitzroy Library

Want to pass on your unwanted clothing to someone who’ll love each piece the way it deserves? Bring your clean dresses, pants, shirts and skirts to the Clothing Story Swap. Drop adult clothing off before 1:45 on the day and receive up to 5 swap tokens in return. Share a short story about a piece you’re swapping for the chance to win a prize! Return at 2:00 to browse the racks and leave with something new.

Remaining items will be donated to charity. To qualify for swap tokens items must be in as-new or gently used condition without significant stains or faults.

Date and Time

Sat. 21 April 2018

1:00 pm – 3:00 pm AEST


Bargoonga Nganjin, North Fitzroy Library

182 St Georges Road

North Fitzroy, VIC 3068



1. Minimalist Me

Over the past decade I’ve been interested in living in a tiny space close to the city and making my life a light as possible. It’s required me to be mindful about my every possession. Organising my life in tune with my values has been a huge part of my journey. I will be posting here more often about this in the future.

Hoping you’re all doing well. Community and connection is everything.



The best gift you can give someone is time, when you are genuinely fully present.

Geoffrey Szuszkiewicz told his family he didn’t want anything for Christmas. But when he opened his stocking to find a roll of duct tape, some cling film and tin foil, he relented. “I was ecstatic. I could use everything,” he says

The 33-year-old dancer from Canada was in the middle of a “buy nothing” year when he opened his present, and had managed to cut out spending on anything except a pre-defined list of basic groceries and necessities for 12 months.

Szuszkiewicz is part of an anti-consumerist movement, known as minimalism or mindful consumerism, that has been sweeping across the globe via blogs, self-help books and social media. This move towards buying less often attracts new converts during the festive season when people balk at the scale of Christmas spending.

According to the Nationwide building society, people on average spend roughly half their monthly pay on Christmas. One in three, meanwhile, pay for Christmas using a credit card or overdraft.

Mark Boyle bought a smallholding in the west of Ireland with the proceeds of his book, The Moneyless Man, after spending three years living entirely without money. “I generally don’t spend anything at all at Christmas now – and I’m much, much happier,” he says.

“I didn’t buy or spend anything for those years – I’d grow or forage my food. Now I let people come and stay for free in my home, and run a moneyless pub. At Christmas, everyone from round here brings a bottle and we get together and have a shindig. For me, that’s what Christmas is about – meeting up and sharing food and drink. I avoid shopping at this time of the year in any way I can.”

Moneyless Man Mark Boyle says he needs nothing and now puts a much greater value on time
 Moneyless Man Mark Boyle says he needs nothing and now puts a much greater value on time. Photograph: Leigh Pearson

Also among those who have embraced the more frugal lifestyle is financial journalist Michelle McGagh, who has been blogging about her “no-spend” year, and detailing the challenges and benefits of her new lifestyle. The savings she made helped her to pay off a substantial chunk of her mortgage. Last Christmas she spent just £14.53 on a meal for six people, did a “presents amnesty” with the adults in her family and made toy cars to give as gifts to her nephews.

Similarly, this Christmas will see Boyle make a few useful gifts for close friends and family out of wood, but he has stopped buying gifts completely and never receives any shop-bought presents. “There isn’t anything I need, even though I am supposedly living below the poverty line,” he says.

Like many minimalists he now values time over money. “I think the best gift you can give someone is time, when you are genuinely fully present. Step off the treadmill of rushing around earning money to pay for stuff and you find life goes much slower. I have so much more time now to do the things I love doing – and not just at Christmas, but all year-round. I feel liberated,” Boyle says.

Szuszkiewicz feels the same way. “You experience this huge release and liberation from cultural norms when you stop spending, especially at Christmas. I used to feel obligated to spend money I didn’t have on gifts I didn’t know whether my family needed or wanted. Now, everyone knows my policy is to not buy any gifts, so I no longer feel that obligation and I enjoy Christmas much more,” he said.

He is generous with his time instead, and during his “buy nothing” year made batches of chocolate, dried fruit and pickled vegetables which he gave to friends and family. “Consumables are great because they get eaten – and then they’re gone.”

Geoffrey Szuszkiewicz
 Geoffrey Szuszkiewicz saved £24,000 during his no-spend year. Photograph: Cris Cerdeira

Szuszkiewicz is currently using the £24,000 he saved over his no-spend year to travel around the world, and owns no possessions other than those he carries in his backpack. But he doesn’t want anything for Christmas.

“Physical things are literally a burden for me – and that’s not what Christmas means to me anymore. It’s about being with the people I love.”

He acknowledges that he makes a choice not to spend, rather than being forced into that position by circumstance. “But I think there’s nothing wrong with living this way, if you do have a choice. Why should you buy stuff that you don’t need to buy, just because you have more money to spend than other people?”

For people with children, the idea of an abstemious festive season might prove difficult. However, Sarah Koontz, a Christian writer from South Dakota who has two young children, says it teaches willpower. “Completing two no-spend Christmases taught me that it is OK to accept a gift from someone knowing that I cannot reciprocate, or that I’ve spent far less on them. Everyone is entitled to their own gift-giving strategy, and comparison is a trap I prefer to avoid,” she says.

She says that she has been called stingy – or even Scrooge – from time to time, but her convictions carried her through. “Our family is able to enjoy the traditions of Christmas more now that we have eliminated consumerism from the holiday. We still exchange small gifts, many of them homemade, but we have learned that true generosity requires more than a credit card. Spending less money on Christmas forced us to be generous with our time, energy, and talents. Those are the best gifts of all – because they are priceless.”

Sarah and Ryan Koontz, with daughters Anya, left, and Nadia, right
 Sarah and Ryan Koontz, with daughters Anya, left, and Nadia, right. Photograph: Kristi Foreman

She is not alone in feeling this way. Sal Crosland, a 33-year-old holistic therapist from Huddersfield, writes the minimalist blog OneEmptyShelf.com. She has got rid of everything in her home she doesn’t need, and now focuses on giving experiences and making memories with her loved ones at Christmas.

“When I was doing my no-spend year and I thought back to past Christmases, I realised I couldn’t remember what I got, but I could remember where I was and who I was with,” she says. “Now, instead of stressing about buying presents, I place more importance on relaxation and family time and I look forward to Christmas much more.”

She always asks her family not to buy her anything for Christmas, and even when other people are given gifts in front of her she says she doesn’t feel like she is missing out. “I know it is my choice and my decision to opt out – and that makes all the difference.”

The act of cutting back on giving gifts at Christmas can be catching. Canadian blogger Cait Flanders went on a two-year-long shopping ban to try to pay off a Can$30,000 debt (£18,000), and in solidarity her family stopped exchanging gifts on Christmas Day. This year, even though the ban is over and the debt repaid, they have decided not to exchange gifts again. “It took so much pressure off everyone, and resulted in a much more meaningful holiday.”

Now she says that she would prefer to give someone a random gift on any other day of the year. “I hate feeling like I need to give gifts out of obligation.”

Regina Wong, founder of the Live Well With Less website, has similar motivations for reducing her spending at Christmas this year. “I have become uncomfortable with the highly commercial nature of Christmas and the general pressure and expectations of the season. I’m not against consumption – I’m just against mindless consumption, and consumption one can’t afford. I’ve realised I already have all I want or need.”


Making the Change

■ Tell people in advance that you won’t be buying gifts. “When I explained why I wasn’t spending at Christmas, the general reaction was relief,” Geoffrey Szuszkiewicz says. “People respected and understood my decision. If anyone doesn’t understand your reasons for cutting back, and still wants you to buy them something, I would recommend re-evaluating that relationship.”

■ Don’t underestimate your skills or the value of a homemade gift, says Mark Boyle, especially one that celebrates what you think is wonderful about the person you are giving it to. “Every single person alive has got some sort of skill or hobby they can use to give someone a gift or an experience. And I think there’s a lot more heart and soul in something you make yourself for another person, especially if it is something unique and distinctive that you think that particular person will like and need.”

■Remember that your presence can be a present too. “A kid might want a computer at Christmas – but is that going to be the deepest longing of that kid’s heart?” Boyle says. “At another level, perhaps without even knowing how to articulate it, what that kid may really want is a deeper connection to his or her parents through quality time. Try to understand the person you are giving to, and what they long for, instead of feeding an addiction to consumerism.”


Tributes flow in for Bill Mollison

Tributes are flowing from around the world for the Tasmanian man who co-founded the global permaculture movement.

Bruce Charles “Bill” Mollison — known as the “father of permaculture” — died on Saturday in Hobart, aged 88.

His system advocated agricultural ecosystems that were sustainable and self-sufficient.

Mr Mollison rose to prominence after publishing Permaculture One with David Holmgren in 1974.

The book advocated a system “working with, rather than against nature” when producing food, and favoured cultivating species suited for local conditions.

He founded the Permaculture Institute in 1978, his ideas influencing hundreds of thousands students worldwide.

Well-known horticulturalist and former ABC Gardening Australia host Peter Cundall described permaculture as “an all-encompassing method of actually living without in anyway disrupting the environment”.

“The greatest contribution Bill made was as an outstanding marketer and a brilliant public speaker.

“So he not only toured different parts of Australia, but then went overseas and went to Africa, India and other places.”

Mr Cundall said the biologist helped grow Tasmania’s reputation as the birthplace of the environmental movement.

“Tasmania is in many ways unique because it started this whole business of trying to live within our environment without destroying it,” he said.

Mr Holmgren lived and worked with Mr Mollison as they were writing Permaculture One.

He told 936 ABC Hobart Mr Mollison was unlike any other academic at the University of Tasmania, and it was his “ecological thinking” that struck the young student.

Mr Holmgren said there was a lot of interest in what the pair were doing in the late 1970s.

“It was also a time with a huge interest in what we would call sustainability today,” he said.

“There were six mainstream publishers who approached a rambunctious Tasmanian academic and a completely unknown graduate student wanting to publish Permaculture One in 1977.

“Bill was actually really the father of the permaculture movement because of his genius in setting up the teaching system that he described and it all being outside academia.”

Mr Holmgren said he would be remembering Mollison at the Australasian Permaculture Convergence in Perth in next week.

“It will be a huge point of reflection and a celebration of his contribution,” he said.

Social media has been flooded with tributes, and a page “In Memory of Bill Mollison” has been created on Facebook.

“May his words and teachings of permaculture continue to spread like chickweed in our gardens,” read a post on the Facebook page Women Who Farm.

“Thank you Bill for providing humanity with an education that no other leader has been able to achieve. RIP,” Glenn Shannon Kett wrote.

“You started a quiet revolution. You have sown the seeds of change, and you will live in the bounties of nature, in every flower, in every tree, in the soil and the water, and in every hand that nurtures nature,” wrote Vani Bahl, a Facebook user from California.

The author won numerous awards for his work and was also the first foreigner invited and admitted to the Russian Academy of Agricultural Sciences.

Mr Mollison was born in Stanley in 1928 in Tasmania’s north-west, and left school aged 15 to work in a number of jobs, including as a shark fisherman, seaman, forester and mill worker.

He spent his final years at Sisters Beach on the state’s north-west coast.



Eco-friendly “Great Wall of Australia” Naturally Protects Residents from Sweltering Outback Heat

Composed of 230m of simple, natural materials, this earthen structure may look unassuming, yet it is actually the longest rammed earth wall in Australia. Built to accommodate cattle workers during mustering season in the scorching Western Australia outback, the eco-friendly formation represents a shift in the approach to architectural design of this sort. Built by Luigi Rosselli Architects and tucked into the edge of a sand dune, this “Great Wall of Australia” is a brilliant example of simple, eco-conscious design.

The wall is constructed primarily using iron-rich, sandy clay obtained from the building site and gravel from a nearby river, which are bound together using water from a local bore (hole). This ancient technique forms the exterior façade, that is then built into a sand dune which forms the rear and roof of the building. Simple in theory, this results in a structure that naturally stays cool, even in the intense heat of the outback. The continuous building contains twelve earth-covered apartments, separated by angled verandas to maintain privacy. Designer Sarah Foletta creates an interior space with a minimalistic yet liveable style, and a central hub on top of the wall provides a place for residents to meet and socialize.

It may seem decidedly elementary, yet this natural, energy-efficient approach towards housing development will save time, money, and resources. The design has been acknowledged by Australian Institute of Architects, and hopefully represents a shift towards similarly eco-friendly architecture in the future.


161st anniversary of Eureka

Today marks the 161st anniversary of Eureka, one of Australia’s great egalitarian stories.

“The Eureka Rebellion in 1854 was a rebellion of gold miners of Ballarat, Victoria, Australia, who revolted against the colonial authority of the United Kingdom. The Battle of the Eureka Stockade, by which the rebellion is popularly known, was fought between miners and the Colonial forces of Australia on 3 December 1854 at Eureka Lead and named for the stockade structure erected by miners during the conflict. The rebellion lasted for less than half an hour and resulted in the deaths of at least 27 people, the majority of whom were rebels.

The event was the culmination of a period of civil disobedience in the Ballarat region during the Victorian gold rush with miners objecting to the expense of a miner’s licence, taxation via the licence without representation and the actions of the government, the police and military. The local rebellion grew from a Ballarat Reform League movement and culminated in the erection by the rebels of a crude battlement and a swift and deadly siege by colonial forces.

Mass public support for the captured rebels in the colony’s capital of Melbourne when they were placed on trial resulted in the introduction of the Electoral Act 1856, which mandated full white male suffrage for elections for the lower house in the Victorian parliament, the second instituted political democracy in Australia. As such, the Eureka Rebellion is controversially identified with the birth of democracy in Australia and interpreted by some as a political revolt.”


LittlePermies Cards

Beautifully hand crafted, designed and produced locally in Melbourne  Australia LittlePermies Cards help children connect with concepts such as there is no waste in nature.

Little Permies Cards are available to buy from

Ceres Community Environment Park,  Nursery Phone (+61 3) 9389 0111

Corner of Roberts and Stewart Streets, East Brunswick VIC 3057  Australia



Regrow your vegetables.


Scallions  Garlic   Bok Choy  Carrots  Basil   Celery  Romaine Lettuce  Cilantro  Cabbage

These 8 vegetables you can reuse even after you’re done chopping them up. Bet you didn’t know you could regrow your celery just by sticking the butt-end into a glass of water! It does require some time though but the benefits riding on the project are many. It saves money and you don’t even need a garden. Use fresh scraps only. When you regrow plants make sure they have all the sunlight and water they could possibly need to survive!


City of Yarra Annual Grants 2016

More than $820,000 has been allocated for the 2016 Annual Grants Program across the following six categories: community development, community housing, arts and culture, family, youth and children, sports and recreation and the environment.

The grants provide financial and in-kind support for community initiatives and projects operating in 2016 that enhance the health and wellbeing of residents and encourage people to participate in the cultural life of Yarra.

2016 Annual Grants applications open on Monday 15 June and close at 5pm on Monday 27 July 2015.