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Tiny Gets Real

'We have everything we need and nothing more, and somehow that makes everything simpler'

By Jennifer Allford, '84 BA

Photo by John Ulan

'We have everything we need and nothing more, and somehow that makes everything simpler'

By Jennifer Allford, '84 BA

May 28, 2019 •

When Melissa Zerbin, '13 BA, Kenton Zerbin, '09, BEd, '11 Dip(Ed), and their cat moved into a 34.18-square-metre home on a farmer's field near Edmonton two years ago, she said she was going to hate it for three months. "And then I'd make my assessment on whether I was going to keep hating it," she told Kenton.

But she loves their house. The couple designed every square centimetre - all 341,800 of them - from the solar panels on the roof to an extra-wide interior so they don't have to "shimmy past each other." They sleep in the loft above the kitchen and overnight guests stay in the smaller loft above the bathroom. There's a couch and a fold-out table for games nights with (no more than five) friends. "We use up a lot of storage with our board game collection," Melissa admits.

There can be tension over who gets to sleep on which side of the bed, but there's nowhere to storm off to. "My wife and I work hard on our interpersonal skills and we don't get into many arguments," Kenton says. They just figure things out, like Melissa's growing wardrobe. Doing her master's in occupational therapy, she needed spiffier clothes for practicums. So Kenton rolls up his clothes and stores them in a hollow in the bathroom wall, near the drying rack, washing machine, shower (they truck in water) and composting toilet (not as bad as you may think.)

Kenton gives workshops about tiny houses and the Zerbins are thrilled with their small environmental and financial footprints. (They pay for their water and rent their spot by undertaking some significant yearly farm chores.) More municipalities are making room in their bylaws for tiny houses as more people invest the $40,000 to $120,000 it takes to build one. "It feels like a shoe that fits," Melissa says of their home. Speaking of shoes, those not in season live in the shed.

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