Every day I spend in the small spaces of the tiny, I confront the costs of my impatience. Because the building was so rushed, I didn’t spend time envisioning the tiny house as living space. From closet doors that open the wrong way to not having a corner to toss my tired self, or stuff, down when I walk in the door, I am paying the costs of many rushed decisions. This is forcing me to adjust some habits, which I knew would inevitably be the case in living in the tiny space. But I have realized my impatience is a luxury. I didn’t have to take into account these costs because I am unaccustomed to recognizing the price of process.
My mother was recently speaking about her garden- she planted a lot last year, tended and pruned, but nothing really grew. She was frustrated. This year, thinking that the lot may just be too stubborn, she left it fallow. But, for the last two months gorgeous strawberries have appeared and appeared, all the way into this cold last week of October. Without water. Without her hand. But possibly because it had time (and compost). Her reflections on her garden reminded me of my tiny house. We both “built” them thinking that was all we had to do. Thinking they would then offer us produce (in the case of the garden, literal produce, in the case of the tiny house, the freedom that simplicity of space would offer). Because that’s what they are supposed to do. But we took the process for granted. You can’t just plant a garden and expect fruit. You can’t just build a tiny house and expect simplicity. You can’t expect these things without preparing for and confronting the costs. There are always pests. They invade a garden that doesn’t rely on nasty chemicals. They require tending. The tiny house, similarly, requires work. I am pestered by things I didn’t take time to consider. I long for more communal space to stretch out. I long for a big fat armchair to toss my clothes or body on and forget about fatigue. Because I am accustomed to forgetting.
Often, we are wooed by the aesthetics of sustainable living- the ball jar carrying our free trade coffee or juiced breakfast, the organic label masking the fuel costs that brought the tomato to our wintered table, the “my other car is a bike” sticker that compliments our bumpers. These, too, have their costs. They participate in an economy which banks on self-satisfaction; yet the true costs of our waste get flushed away before we turn to pull our pants up. We are fortunate. We have the luxury of denial. My mother can choose to buy her food instead of grow it. I can choose to build a tiny house, choose to buy products that fashion my identity as an environmentally conscious citizen. But what does it mean to take the time to honor the process that brings these things to us? What does it mean to participate in that economy, or to pay the price of opting out – dirtying the same hands that craft our identities, the same hands that so unconsciously flush our waste away? What does it mean to be a part of those economies of ease that we have luxuriously forgotten? What do we do with the knowledge that we are always already in the midst of them?
And … what does it mean to admit the discomfort that inevitably comes with trying? Why do I feel like in articulating the difficulties of tiny living, that I am betraying the beautiful spirit that birthed it? Why do we pull the term Sustainable down like a seat cover, sanitizing the digestive process of our products/consumption/waste? Because we can. Because identity is easier to buy than to build, and easier to build than to contemplate. Surely, easier said than done; because it is never, ever done. And those strawberries, while tasty, are a reminder of what a little more dirty work would have produced. The tiny house is a reminder of process, and privilege- privilege of the society I have been cultivated in, the privilege to forget, complain, and at the same time expect freedom.
ps. I do still love it, and so do the kitties. Proof: