We live in a tiny house.
as in, somewhere around 230 square feet.
Yes, 230 square feet, that is not a typo.
It’s a 1 car garage converted into a 1 room cabin.
And yes, that means our garden is much larger than our house.
When my parents bought this property 5 years ago, Wil and I, longtime lovers of the little house movement, drooled over the 1 car detached garage behind the main house. We marveled at what a perfect little home it would make.
And then we moved away, and moved back, and started a business, and ended a business, and almost moved away again.
And in the shuffle, somewhere along the way, we started to eyeball the little garage.
So, eventually, in between apartments, and wanting something more harmonious with our ideals, we drew up some plans and pitched the idea to my parents. And they said yes.
So now they live in the big house and we live in the little house and we share the property. And it is hectic, and peaceful, and annoying, and fun, all at once.
And yes, I will discuss extended-family living at some point in the near future. It is a subject close to my heart.
But back to the little house.
It is up to building code, and lovely inside, and our baby son was born here, right at the foot of the bed.
So what is it like living in a tiny house?
1. It makes you go outside.
No matter how cozy it is, no matter how nice, there’s just not much space. And so outside becomes an extension of your home.
“Outside” becomes the living room, project room, dining room, any kind of room.
Having visitors? Go outside. Kid is bored? Go outside. Baby fussing? Go outside.
And remarkably, and magically, outside starts to feel just as comfy as inside. And that makes you feel like you live in a mansion, with ceilings of blue sky, and pink sunsets, and carpets of green grass and yellow wildflowers.
2. It makes you deal with your stuff.
(And by “stuff” I mean interpersonal relationships, and the actual things that we own)
Living in a tiny house forces you to resolve any relationship issues quickly. When you share a tiny space with someone, there just isn’t any room for unresolved issues, personal hang-ups, or lingering arguments. You learn to get over, and work through, disagreements quickly. You choose your battles carefully, and learn to let things roll off your back. You quickly realize that an evening of tense silence feels like an eternity and makes the walls close in, and you learn to avoid that at all costs.
(Although, if you’re mad enough, there’s always the option of stomping out the front door and closing it behind you with a satisfying slam. In which case, refer to the “it makes you go outside” category.)
When you live in a tiny house you must constantly, exhaustingly, and endlessly, sift through the parade of stuff that flows through your life. Clothing? Keep the bare minimum. Books? Narrow them down to the ones you absolutely cannot live without ( it may still be hundreds). Paperwork, mail, documents? You toss as soon as you can. Baby toys? Well, here you can be a little indulgent, because he’s just so cute you know?
But it is alarming, in both amount and speed, how odds-and-ends and random junk accumulate. You quickly realize that we are, quite literally, drowning in stuff.
3. It challenges you to be better.
There is no such thing as real personal space in a tiny house, so you learn to live without it. A corner of a bookshelf, or an empty drawer can serve very nicely as a spot to store treasures and keepsakes. Notebooks, easy to stash when not in use, small, and portable, offer endless pages for exploring innermost thoughts.
You must clean up a million times each day, put away everything as soon as you’re finished with it, and keep the bed made. Otherwise, just folding laundry can make it look, and feel, like a bomb exploded.
Living in a tiny house with someone else forces you to cooperate, to deal with each other’s and your own shortcomings, teaches you to share.
It makes you be a better you.
4. It makes you thankful.
You often realize, with startling clarity, that most of the people in the world live in spaces much tinier than yours, and much less nice, without running water, or heat, or electricity, and with far larger families.
You begin to understand that “home” is actually made up of the people who live within the walls, not the structure itself.
And you love your little house, especially at night, with the heater humming, and your sleeping family all around,
And it makes you feel so thankful. That your belly is full, that your baby is safe, that you have a roof over your head.
That you get to live on this great, big, beautiful planet.
Voluntary simplicity is a revolution in itself. We do not have to participate in this insane consumer culture. We have a choice. We are more than just our “stuff”. Examine your life, figure out what you NEED vs. what you want, and challenge yourself to do without. I promise you, riches await.
Thank you for listening,
Beth W.K., your words sing with the clearest voice. You are amazing. Thank you for this guest piece, and your work in the world. I love you.
I have written this poem before. The one about the Open Bowl. How I will hold the circle of my heart to encompass it all.
Not just the little birds singing the dawn into being or the silent toad under her litter of leaves, not just the achingly beautiful green of the fields in spring or the blue eye of the speedwell, not just the snugglesome child or the soft feathers of a hen.
Not just that. Not only that.
But also the brooding ache of estrangement, and the dull thud of the impossible choice, the anxiety over an ill child, the grieving of a friend. Also the deaths of the bees, the scarcity of monarchs, the oil-covered ducks. The deep sadness of all that we are losing so wantonly. The rage, the helpless and blinding white fury at the destroyers, the greed-mongers, the war-profiteers, the glibly malicious purveyors of illness and oppression.
This is why I write poems and gratitude lists. I will hold all of these stones in the Open Bowl of my heart. Some moments, the bowl is so brimming with the rages and the despairs that I don’t know if I can bear it. And then comes a moment of pure numinous wonder and delight, not to erase the other things, but to ease them. To make the bearing of them bearable.
These difficult ones, they are there for a reason. I hold them, too, because they demand my soul’s attention. They call me to my work here in the world. I refuse to walk the world with blinders on. But there is also so much joy to be found in the midst of it all.
So much joy. So much love.
I have written this poem before, and I will write it again. Perhaps every day I will write it, until I understand what I am writing.
April 8, 2013
Goldfinch Farm, Wrightsville, PA