Tuesday, March 19, 2013

toward tiny: 7 Reasons I Want a Tiny House

Photos above courtesy of Joe Everson at Tennessee Tiny Homes.

I started this blog to document my simplifying, downsizing, and being more resourceful. I've dreamed of owning a tiny house since I was first turned on to them a few years ago. I'm now taking steps to make that a reality within the next eighteen months. However, I realize that the best laid plans aren't always fulfilled. I also realize that much of my anxiety in life stems from imposing a narrative for my future rather than taking life as it comes with an open mind about opportunities and new directions. So, while I'm VERY excited about the idea of moving towards tiny, I also realize that it's possible it might not happen. What is more important, however, is that this process is forcing me to reevaluate and reconsider almost all of my choices. Whether my tiny house dream comes true or not, I'm already reaping the benefits of working towards that direction.  With that preface, here are seven reasons I want to live in a tiny house (seven is my favorite number and the day of the month I was born):

1. Finances

Frankly, I'd probably rather be working towards buying an existing 500-900 square foot bungalow/cottage/cabin rather than an under 200 square foot tiny home. But, thanks to student loans and other debt I've foolishly accrued, I'm not in a financial position to own that anytime soon, at least not in a place I'd like to live. I'm tired of wasting money on rent, and the idea of owning a space that is mostly self-sufficient for a very small fraction of the cost of a "big house" is very attractive to me. I'm also interested in making this home as energy efficient as possible (who knows, possibly off-grid), so that utility expenses, which are already drastically reduced given the tiny size, can be even smaller.  

2. A Sense of Purpose

Like many people, I've often felt a lack of purpose, direction, and meaning as my life hasn't worked out as I'd hoped in many respects. I'm not religious, and I don't have children (things that often give people a strong sense of meaning and purpose.) I do have strong political and social beliefs/frustrations, however, and find myself growing increasingly exhausted with a lifestyle of consumer aspirations and excess. The process of downsizing my life makes me think I'm actually acting with a deeper sense of thought and purpose about my actions, or at least moving closer to that direction.

3. Focused Priorities

In tandem with the above point about having a sense of purpose, going tiny forces one to evaluate their priorities. If you only own a glorified "shed on wheels" to house everything you own, you better damn sure figure out what's important to you and divest all the rest. For me, I've come to realize that my priorities are pretty simple. What gives me the most pleasure in life is playing banjo, socializing with friends and family (my girlfriend is part of my family), spending time with my dog, spending time outdoors, cooking, and indulging my creative outlets. None of these really require a great deal of space, especially if you consider that many of those activities can be done in public spaces or outdoors, which brings me to my next point...

Here's a good intro to tiny houses.
4. Outdoor Living

I never really considered myself an "outdoorsy" person. While I did a bit of car-camping and mountain biking in my younger days, it wasn't a strong pursuit or passion. Over the past couple of years, though, I've been spending more time outdoors hiking, camping, and backpacking. Holy shit, I can't believe how unexpectedly rewarding it has been! I recently realized that growing up before the "digital revolution," I spent HUGE amounts of time outside as a child and adolescent. Whether playing sports, swimming, biking, or whatever, I realize most of my childhood passions involved being outside. As my life changed with college and work, and I no longer had sports as a diversion, I gradually quit spending time too far from an HVAC unit. I realize now that being outside is probably the most nourishing and pleasant way to spend my time. With a tiny house, I can still do all of the things I listed above in my "priority list," I just have to do many of them outside. I can just as easily cook, socialize, play with my dog, etc. on whatever land I park my tiny house. I can entertain with comfortable camp chairs, a fire pit, and grill rather than a big screen TV and leather sofas. As for overnight guests and such, they can have the house while I camp out in a tent or vice-versa if they're so inclined. Not only is this a practical solution to the limitations of a tiny house, I'm pretty damn sure I would find this a more rewarding lifestyle.

5. Mobility

While the idea of putting down roots is very attractive to me, I also like the idea that my home can be mobile, if even for a temporary time. With a tiny house, one doesn't have to worry about selling a house and buying a new one should one have to relocate. Or, even if you do have a plot of land in which to plant roots, you can always take your home on the road for an extended vacation. For students and others expecting to move multiple times, the mobility of a tiny home seems especially beneficial.

6. Multi-Use

So, what happens if I get this tiny house and decide I don't like the lifestyle? Or maybe I decide to have kids at an advanced age or start a business that demands more space? Well, if one finds the need to move to a more traditional home, there are an unlimited number of uses for a tiny house besides using it as a home. It can function as a studio, a guest house, a vacation cottage, an office, etc., etc. Unlike a traditional home, a tiny house can be easily repurposed for any number of uses while still maintaining a small footprint in your life.

7. The Pursuit of Happiness

In a sense, this last item encapsulates all of the above. What I foresee a tiny house offering me is the freedom and space (paradoxically) to focus on my passions and interests. Without having the pressure of acquiring and maintaining a traditional home and filling it with more stuff than I need, I feel a tiny home would free me up to pursue those things I love most. While many people find fulfillment and passion in their jobs, many people do not. I have seen too many friends and family members work their asses off doing something they don't love (or even hate) simply to maintain a lifestyle of relative excess. I would gladly trade having less "stuff" and having more time. The best part, as mentioned above, is this entire process of working towards radical downsizing forces me to really evaluate and understand where my time, energy, and money are being spent. If nothing else, this is an invaluable endeavor for that reason alone.

So, those are some reasons I'm working towards this somewhat bizarre idea. In future posts, I'll discuss how I'm beginning the process of downsizing and how that is affecting my outlook for the better in all areas of life. Ok, I guess that's quite enough of this public self-help therapy hokeyness for one day... Thanks for stopping by!

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  1. I think your headed in a great direction. I can share my story, divorced in 2006, homeless but not jobless, I had my health and career, so I went to work. Saved enough to purchase a small home ~ 500ft2. Put 20% down and have a small monthly payment - also my use of h2o and electric is small. It allows me to work 2 days a week and enjoy the other 5 doing what pleases me. I camp, bicycle, and kayak. Being outdoors is a treat, somedays I just sit in the yard and read while my neighbors (consumers) are at work. It just makes me smile !! Less stuff "owns" me or my time. It's not as bizarre an idea as people think! Lately I've been thinking about building a tiny house in the backyard, or perhaps just purchasing a moderate class A rv to live in and turning the house into a workshop. It's been a while since I worked with wood, and there's a new wood kayak kit that has caught my eye.
    Again, I think you're on the right path to more freedom to do what pleases you when you want to do it. Yours is a great post for people thinking about downsizing and changing the way they live (and view life. I hope to read more of your postings as your life changes.

    1. Thanks for stopping by and for sharing your story, Joe. Sounds like you must be a pretty damn disciplined dude to make the transition you made. That is totally inspiring. Would love to see that kayak kit or, even better, the completed project some day! I'm really excited about working with my hands, crafting repurposed furniture and other objects/storage devices, etc. I spent years making sculpture and haven't for many years. That's definitely part of the drive towards a tiny house or smaller footprint - having the time to pursue those passions. Your description of a life full of free time rather than loads of possessions only helps reinforce my efforts. Thanks!