“Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)” is regarded as a classic hip hop album by nearly every standard of measurement. Released in 1993, it was singles “Protect Ya Neck” and “Method Man” that propelled Wu-Tang Clan to prominence, yet it’s the third single, “C.R.E.A.M.” that has shown staying power and had the longest lasting effect on our culture. The five sequential letters make an acronym for “Cash Rules Everything Around,” which is uttered 11 times in the song and has been repeated by hip hop fans and beyond ever since.
The idea that currency is important or even boastworthy is nothing new, as its roots trace back to about as far as humans do. Yet, as a sort of counter-culture, people have challenged this idea that money “rules everything,” carving their own paths when money is tight. Cheap DIY projects are shared and becoming more creative by the minute. We now use shipping containers to construct homes. “Life Hacks” is a widely known term. But what if you were to stretch money as far as it can go? How about building an entire home with just a few hundred bucks? Could a small amount of cash go THAT far?

Dumpster houses

Building a $420 Tiny House

Liam Culbertson and Rachel Newby of Australia took on the task of building a livable structure with little funds, $420 to be exact, and a truckload of recycled materials. The odds were certainly stacked against them. Neither Liam or Rachel had much building experience, not to mention building a liveable home. Learning on the fly, the two made use of reclaimed wood, unused paint and materials found in a dumpster. The structure was built largely with simple hand tools, meanwhile only making five purchases for things like cement and steel hinges. The three month construction process ended with one tiny house and a short film.

Their experience was captured on camera by filmmaker Jordan Osmond. The four-minute clip gives insight into the process of building the structure and how similar types of living are sustainable and growing in popularity. Jordan made use of interviews and timelapses to effectively display the process of building such a home. You can check out the video below.

Smaller is Better?

Liam and Rachel’s tiny house represents a bigger picture. This counter movement to “bigger is better” is in fact getting bigger itself. As land prices and housing costs rise above what many people can afford, people are choosing to downsize rather than force themselves into debt. As stated by Liam in the video, a 67 square foot tiny house built with recycled materials isn’t the only solution or even sustainable, but it does show that a lot can be done with a lot less. At its roots, that’s what this house represents. It’s probably not suitable for most people reading this post (or all nine members of Wu-Tang Clan), but it does show a potential launching point for this type of smaller-sized living.

“A tiny house forces you to only have what is necessary and to reduce your possessions to things that you really need and love,” said Jordan. “Not many people can afford to build a conventional home without borrowing money. By building a smaller home and using recycled materials, you can drastically reduce the costs of home ownership.”

Reducing with Recycled Materials

The obvious advantage of Liam and Rachel constructing their tiny home with recycled materials is the money saved opposed to buying all the materials new. Motivation to reuse also came from their passion to reduce waste. By recycling and focusing on material sufficiency rather than abundance, the two are able to live a lifestyle that isn’t focused on possessions and overall fits their budget.

“There is already so much stuff in the world and when you buy something brand new, you’re also taking on the environmental cost of the energy used to make it, carbon emissions used in the production and transport of the product, and the natural resources used,” said Jordan. “The current view is bigger is better, when really bigger means more money needed for building materials, more money to heat and cool the house, more time spent cleaning and maintaining, and also more money spent on buying furniture and other items to put in the house.”

dumpster discoveries house

Jordan is currently working on a feature length documentary titled, A Simpler Way: Crisis as Opportunity. It focuses on the community where Liam and Rachel built their house and emphasizes permaculture, simple living, renewable energy and localized economies. The documentary is set to be released in April 2016.