Creating Shelter in Modern Times

If you plan on being anything less than you are capable of being, you will probably be unhappy all the days of your life.

~ Abraham Maslow


In 1943 Abraham Maslow proposed a psychological theory in his paper titled “A Theory of Human Motivation”. It argued that all humans are motivated to achieve certain basic needs. Some needs are prioritized over others, however if one satisfies all four basic needs then they can reach “self-actualization”. Self-actualization refers to a state of being where one realizes their potential and has the desire to be the best that they can be. Only once their basic needs are fulfilled can they look beyond themselves and reach past their immediate necessities towards their greatest potential. Maslow coined the term “Metamotivation” to describe this exact state of being, and this innate pursuit that humans possess.

Creating shelter applies to the first basic need according to Maslow. Although, it can be linked to subsequent needs depending on the type of shelter in modern times. It is related to how we grew up, the social structure we live in, and how our shelters meet our specific personal needs and desires.

Tiny houses are an interesting example of shelter and of how different one’s desire and needs can be expressed in a home. However, it’s the reality that to be able to build a tiny house for oneself, the initial basic need of shelter must already be met. It is then possible for the idea of shelter beyond the “basic need” to take shape in a way that connects Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

The level of creativity, while maintaining a very similar footprint/foundation demonstrates what people prioritize or feel that they need most. Living in a small space creates the opportunity to asses basic needs. It’s a process of choosing what is the most necessary and important. This in itself is a process of privilege, to be able to know what it’s like to live with and in excess, and then to choose otherwise. At first the process felt limiting to me, but the simplifying aspect created clarity and eventually nothing is missed.

Creating shelter for oneself in modern times is unique. To know every material, or that each screw was drilled in by your own hands (or friends and family), that the built-in-furniture was designed to fit your own body’s size, and that each decorative item is something you absolutely love, is probably the most empowering process I’ve been through in my life. Looking around my house and knowing the story behind each part of the build is like a living and functioning story book. A collection of memories, histories, and emotions coming together each time I look at the floor or the 107year old cow skull hanging on my wall. Not many people can say the same for their own homes, which fulfills their basic need for shelter but possibly not much more.

Tiny homes form a shelter that can encourage simplicity and peace. The ease of a life with minimal environmental impact and less possessions clears the mind for introspection and self-work. When I began to design my build I chose to build a house that was made for me, by me, so that it would be a comfortable and easy space for me to live in. After building a shelter that supports me, I knew that I would have more energy for cultivating relationships, spending time with people I love, focusing on personal health, and reaching for self-actualization. This is how Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs have been interconnected for me, and it’s a theory I’ve kept in mind throughout my build.


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