Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Post 26 (Jan. 2) - One Year Tiny

Kacey and I have been living in our tiny house for over one year. As I reflect on our year together in this space, I think about all of the ways that we are different because of it and all the ways that we are the same in spite of it.  

In some sense, making the move to 242 sq ft. moved something inside of us. A small adjustment in the tectonic plates of our makeup that, though just barely noticeable, affects all other facets in our lives. For example, we walked into REI and rather than buy the 5 things that we very nearly loved, we delighted in trying them on, realized how much we loved the clothes we already had and left the store empty handed. Rather than feel guilty about throwing away birthday and Christmas cards, we make a point to enjoy them actively, knowing that we can’t hold on to them forever. We anticipate where the other is in the house and where (s)he needs to be next and adjust ourselves accordingly. We monitor the voltage in our batteries 3-7 times each day and use our energy availability to determine when (and if) we’ll dry our hair and do laundry, and whether we use the heater or the dehumidifier. 

In other ways, we are exactly who we were a year ago, and exactly who we would have been had we been living in a more traditional house or apartment. We do laundry, cook dinner, squabble over who does the dishes, walk the dog, watch episodes of our favorite TV show, shop at Costco and obsess over the news and our increasingly disjointed country.

On Permanence
When first learning that we live in a tiny house, people often follow a similar pattern of questions. 

  1. 242 sq ft?? Wow, that’s really small (Yes, it is, thought it doesn’t feel as claustrophobic as you’re imagining) 
  2. I think I could do that, but I don’t know about my husband/wife. He/she has too many tools/shoes. (Yes, it does require letting go of some possessions. Fortunately, Kacey can keep most of his tools at work and I never really caught the shoe bug, so I lucked out there.) 
  3. So this is probably inappropriate, but what about going to the bathroom? (No, it’s not inappropriate at all.  In fact, it’s the third thing most people say! We have a composting toilet that I was worried would be disgusting. And, believe me, I’d be the first to admit it. It’s been totally easy. No smell, low yuck factor, and zero water waste.) 
  4. Do you think you’ll live in it forever? (…) 

At first, I answered without putting too much thought into it, “We are loving our life, and feel that living tiny opens up big possibility and opportunity in so many other areas of our life that we have no plans to make a change. Of course, when we have a family, we will have to reconfigure the space or make the space slightly larger, but we anticipate enjoying living tiny for a long time.”

That answer is still true, but I think about that question more now. It seems that people quickly fixate on the relative permanence of our decision to live tiny without realizing that nothing, really, in life is permanent.

  • Elementary, middle and high school all ended.
  • College ended.
  • My twenties (quite thankfully indeed) ended.
  • Kacey has changed jobs in the last year.
  • Five of my friends have moved in the last two years.
  • Another friend bought and sold a house within 13 months.
  • Three friends untangled themselves from long-term relationships.
  • Kacey and I got married after six years of dating and living together.
  • Our dog, formerly a fan of any human who would pet him or feed him anything with a vague resemblance to food, has now exposed a vendetta against long, dark beards, as if he were Don Quixote and bearded men were his windmills.

I’m not sure permanence exists. In fact, it may be our unfounded insistence on the permanence of the choices we made in the past that locks us into a present and future that falls short of the aspirations we hold for our lives. 

So, will we live tiny forever? Impossible to say. Well, actually, my hope is that we will live tiny regardless of the space we inhabit. For me, living tiny has become less about the limited square footage and more about noticing and appreciating our life, realizing that the things we already have are plenty, sitting with and moving through struggles rather than figuratively moving them into a different room and hoping they’d be gone the next time I opened that door, living within our means and outside of our comfort zone, and doing one thing at a time. If you’re asking, though, about the relative probability that the square footage of our house will remain quite small, then the answer, at least for now, is a resounding yes. 

On Doing One Thing at a Time
I’ve had days at work where I start responding to an email, walk away from my desk to go to a meeting, leave the meeting with 4 immediate action items, answer a ringing phone just as I’m tackling the first of the 4 action items, make a commitment on the phone to resolve an issue immediately, and on the way to resolve the issue, learn about a co-worker’s new project for which they need my input, as which point I spend ten minutes or so providing input. I return to my desk with a sinking feeling that I’ve accomplished nothing, though I’ve been quite busy all morning. 

A bigger house facilitates that kind of task switching. In a bigger house, I could have the TV on in one room while the dishwasher cleans last night’s dishes, the washing machine buzzes in the garage, I’ve a book halfway finished sitting on a coffee table in the living room, and a few recipes mostly prepared for an upcoming dinner. In a house like that, I wouldn’t even have to unpack my lunch box until I needed to pack a lunch for the next day. But even in a house like that, one that can hold that much activity, I couldn’t possibly be folding laundry while preparing food, or even enjoying a book and a TV show at the same time. Indeed the house is more capable of containing the trappings of modern life than its human inhabitant who is, at every turn, pressured to do more, have more, start more, and be more.

No such pressure in a tiny house. It’s an opposite kind of pressure, though. There is a structural necessity to finish one thing to allow space for another to begin. We must wash the lunch dishes before having the space to prepare dinner. We must have unpacked our day’s bags to create space for eating. It’s a discipline and structure that practically forces us to live in the present because the space simply can’t contain cast-aside hobbies, discarded intentions, or multiple work streams.

This discipline can be incredibly satisfying, grounding, and calming. It can also be frustrating, bordering on infuriating. I sometimes want to leave the dishes undone, the bags unpacked, the laundry unfolded.  If that desire won out, though, I’d have neither clean dishes nor space to prepare dinner, no space to sit down to watch TV, play games or eat, and no easy way to shower. Our house requires that we finish what we start. Most days, I love that.

There’s more, I’m sure, but rather than bore you with a novel, I’ll save it for another day. 

On Writing
Writing these posts is a wonderful outlet, a way for us to reflect on the transformations we’re undergoing and make sense of the tensions and discoveries we encounter along the way. From that perspective, I’m not sure if I’m writing for you or for myself. But, as Florence Foster Jenkins is alleged to have said, “They might say I couldn’t sing, but they’ll never say I didn’t.” Thank you for giving me space and reason to write.

3 comments:

  1. Happy to give you an excuse to write such thoughtful posts! Happy to read your thoughts!

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  2. Valueable blog.
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  3. It's so good to catch up and read your posts after being away from your blog for a while. I hope things are continuing to go well, that you (Catherine) did something fun for your special day, and that new challenges always bring opportunities to learn and grow. I have great admiration for your process of learning, your persistence of vision, and your patience and support of each other through the process. May you continue to enjoy your tiny house -- and each other -- for many years to come!

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