After some time living in a tiny house, something changed. For months, we’d been folding our clothes differently to make sure that what we wanted to keep could fit into the space we had. We’d been careful about bringing new shoes, new shirts and new souvenirs into the house. We’d forced ourselves to wash the dishes every night so that we could brush our teeth in the kitchen sink without spitting on our dishes. We’d sighed as we turned down this and that kitchen appliance, knowing, with a sinking feeling, that we’d never have room for it.
All that said, we soonish thereafter found ourselves NOT living in a tiny house anymore. Now, we fold our clothes so that they stay wrinkle-free and are easy to find. We buy all the shoes, shirts and souvenirs that we want. We wash the dishes when we feel like it. We have all the kitchen appliances we want.*
As it turns out, it’s not the square footage of the space we inhabit (which has remained consistent for over three years at a spacious 242) that creates the feeling of “having enough space.” We have plenty of room for all the shoes and shirts we want not because we have more room but because we want less. Souvenirs are less important than memories and pictures. We do dishes each night because it’s an intimate end-of-the-night ritual. *The kitchen appliances? Okay, fine, you got me. I still yearn for that totally impractical pancake batter dispensing device that, as far as I can tell, works no better than our good old fashioned ladle. Maybe in another 6 months, I will have moved on from that one ;)
We sit in bed some mornings, sipping coffee and thinking, with one part delight and one part surprise, that the house feels incredibly spacious. Even in 242 sq. ft., there are clothes, miscellaneous bathroom crap and kitchen equipment that we haven’t used, looked at, or even thought of. How crazy. How crazy that so much of life becomes about acquiring that thing that we want. And somehow we manage to think it’s all about that thing when, really, it’s all about what we want. I wonder, what does it say about our level of satisfaction with our lives, that our desire to consume is insatiable? A psychologist somewhere must be having a hay-day.
I even find myself wandering the aisles of the local hardware stores looking up at Kacey with pleading eyes, as if to say, “We neeeeeeeeeeeed this new-fangled rolling pin! We neeeeeeeeeeed this sign in fake distressed hardwood that says ‘When you change what you look at, the things you look at change!’” He gives me a look that I can only imagine he inherited from his mother, as if to say, “Really? Need?” I grumble. If I’m smart enough to reflect later, though, I discover that the item wouldn’t have satisfied the craving. I was using tangible items as a proxy for something else that was missing. In the case of the rolling pin, it was reconnecting with my mom and dad. In the case of the sign, it was a need to get out and have new and different experiences.
Have you had any teachers or bosses that pushed you incredibly hard and you loved them for it because you, on some level, knew that it was good for you even in the moments when you were out on limb, nervous, and working harder than you thought you could? That’s what this home is like. Almost daily, I bump up against some expectation I’d had for my life or some external marker of happiness, or some societally-imposed view of beauty, happiness, success or adulthood. Things like, “At 30, shouldn’t we have a garage and a bright green lawn?” or, “Shouldn’t I have three or four serving platters in case we have company?” These thoughts are almost always accompanied by a little bit of shame that comes over me before I can intervene. I pause and ask myself, “Am I unhappy?” A smile comes over me and I think to myself, “No! I’m quite delighted with our life right now.” It seems that it’s not my true desires that create in me a yearning for the garage, the bright green lawn and the three-too-many serving platters.
I’m learning it’s the 30 years of Other People’s (OP) choices, opinions, trajectories and assumptions that I’ve internalized. This tiny little house makes clear the choices that we’ve made that others haven’t and gives us the opportunity to accept our choices, and OPs choices all the same. Sometimes, I embrace the opportunity to practice acceptance and feel a kind of appreciative calm wash over me. Sometimes, the opportunity passes me by and I sink into the trap of believing that OPs lives are more glamorous, more fulfilling, more garage-full than mine. Damn this little house :)
Here’s the other thing that’s been quite surprising to me. When we first moved in, we exclaimed, “It is so relieving to know everything about this house!” Kacey would point to a wall and say, “Ask me what’s behind this wall.” I, playing along, would reply, “What’s behind that wall?” He would lecture gleefully, “The king stud, insulation, wiring, nails, spray foam, and a rough opening for the window (along with three shims to even out a slight inconsistency)!”
Oh, how ignorant we were. For, as we leave the house for 10 hours each day, 5 days a week, it goes its own direction. Little cracks emerge in the wood, the moulding separates from the ceiling, the oven tilts slightly to the left. The wall boards, getting sun, warp and curve. Its transformation reminds me of the poem “On Children” by Kahlil Gibran that our minister would read each time a new baby joined our Unitarian Universalist Congregation.
“Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.”
|A tiny tree|
|And a guitar and a gingerbread house!|
|So much love for this dog.|