Housing Justice and University Life, oh my!

Firstly, early in negotiating life in the tiny, I did some writing to help me sort through my thinkings. One of those writings turned into a little something that was included in the 2015 issue of The Ecotone: Journal of Environmental Studies  (pgs 16-18). I’m still not quite happy with the piece, but that’s both a testament to the never-done-ness of writing and because living in a tiny house continues to change me.

Nextly, a recent article focuses on university students (myself included) who have chosen a tiny house as a way to *begin* to afford higher education. While a tiny house cannot solve skyrocketing tuition, it can certainly ease some of the strain. Check it here.

Most importantly, I am so proud and excited to announce the Forum on Sustainability and Housing Justice, October 16th in Eugene, Oregon.


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Late > Never

Waaaaay back in April, the first ever Tiny House Conference was held in Portland, Oregon. Though I didn’t attend all the sessions, I was present for the premier of Small is Beautiful (a gorgeous film I’ve written about before – see below). Attending the screening, I was overwhelmed by how many people were there, how open everyone seemed to considering ways the movement can grow in responsibility and to more creatively engage with the ideals that gave rise to the movement way back when (the “when” is super debatable, see this – page 298).


One lesson reinforced by the conference was – as cliche as it may sound – the greater the gifts, the greater the responsibility. Tiny house villages for the homeless are popping up all over; tiny house dwellers are finding more creative and ecologically responsible ways to build and live in community; people are constructing with more reclaimed/upcycled/repurposed materials; the general awareness of the movement is growing; people inside the movement are asking how they can do it better.

I am reminded. When we experience the blessings of being a part of a group, a relationship, a place, we must honor that being-ness with not just our presentness, or whole self, but with questions of how to better our whole self – how to grow as giving back. To engage, we must do more than show up; we must be willing to listen, learn, and loosen the grip on “comfort” – a guise for excess ego that, quite believably, parades as necessary.

Small is Beautiful now available!

The documentary Small is Beautiful is now available online! Find your preferred method here and get to watching this stunningly vulnerable and inspiring treatment of three different tiny house builds.

I’ve said it before, but I will again: this film is the most honest depiction of what is transformative about building a tiny house – and the most radical potential inside the movement itself. Watch it and revel!


The doors of the tiny are more open than most. So should ours be.

“Dirt used to be a badge of honor.  Dirt used to look like work.  But we’ve scrubbed the dirt off the face of work, and consequently we’ve created this suspicion of anything that’s too dirty.” -Mike Rowe

Last holiday season (that is, over a year ago), I went to Trier, Germany to see some very special people in my life for the holidays. I was gone for a total of 2 weeks and didn’t have any one staying at the tiny house, loosely considering the fact that two felines run the joint. My mother and grandmother stopped in once a day at least to feed and love on them. No problems were reported. When I arrived home, it was very, very late and I had been traveling about 34 hours straight (between bus, flight, flight, flight, shuttle, taxi). When I finally stumbled in, I noticed the floor in front of the doors (human and cat) was filthy. So was the ladder – dirt was caked on the rungs so thick it was as if my cats had a hopscotch contest in the muddiest of muds and then ran directly up the ladder as a test of their leftover springy-ness. In my jetlagged state, I shrugged it off and crawled in to bed, brushing off the dirt enough to secure a semi-clean sleep.

I woke up perhaps an hour later to a low familiar growl directed at some loud smacking and crunching coming from the food bowl. Realizing both cats were laying on me, I jumped from the bed toward the sound of scuttling claws, then fur shoving out through the cat door – opening the door just in time to see an enormous raccoon jumping off the front porch and into the night. He came back two nights later but was promptly refused entry by both my dumbly-territorial cat and the fact that I was awake. I haven’t seen him, or his evidence, inside since.

As I was trying to get to back to sleep that first night, I realized that another unintended consequence of the tiny house being so small is that not only do I limit my own space, and that of my feline owners, but I expand the space in which I am a guest. For all I know, I invaded that raccoon’s area when I moved my tiny to where it now sits. His dirt-laid-tracks in my house should perhaps be more righty read as his re-marking his domain. In all likelihood, He was there first. While I cleaned the dirt’s traces off the wood, I’m trying hard not to erase the beauty that is being – quite literally – un-settled.

“If you’re lucky, and a building succeeds, the real product has many more dimensions than you can ever imagine. You have the sun, the light, the rain, the birds, the feel.” – Peter Zumthor

Small IS Beautiful

I just finished screening Small Is Beautiful. The documentary most certainly lives up to its name, but not in an idealized or trite-and-tidy way. The film is made by, and features, refreshingly honest and wonderfully courageous humans.
Some small, and selfish, ways the work blesses me, personally:
1) It made me think of the first time Nikki and Mitchell walked by my house that summer (2012). I was hot, overwhelmed, and most likely feigned more enthusiasm than I felt. But we chatted and now I have the pleasure of feeling like I had a small part in encouraging their beautiful build.
2) I smiled to see Proper Eats, remembering when I first moved to St Johns and the market had just opened which I took as a major indicator that I was living in the right neighborhood… the neighborhood Nikki and Mitchell would later find me in.
3) It was great to see Green Anchors and flash back to meeting Mark Fisher one day at Anna Bannanas just after he leased the land for the business. I was soooo excited for him and the project, and am absolutely thrilled to see what the property has become.
4) This documentary, and all the people in and of it, remind me that every person makes a difference – very, very literally. Further, the enormity of changes needed in the world do not fall on just one person’s shoulders. There are so, so many people doing important work everywhere. The film is an emphatic statement of this, and an enormous reminder of how to hope. To borrow from, and change, Bucky Fuller: Like us, hope is a verb.
5) The film also truly honors the complexity of the build; in each of the stories, the film treats the emotional labor happening because of, and alongside of, the building journey. This is one of the BEST features of the film… and reminds me there is so much of living in the doing, so much of the doing teaching us about the living, and so much of the teaching coming from listening; so much of listening occurring over vast stretches of time. This film allowed me to listen, three years later, to my own experiences in building.
6) One favorite moment: Karen said, “the lesson that the tiny house brings up for me is in unconscious assumptions.” Karen speaks about finding a girl sleeping in the bushes outside Karen’s place of business one morning. Karen remarks that she just said “good morning” and only later, when the girl asked if Karen was going to call the authorities, did Karen realize that the girl was doing anything “wrong.” Karen attributes this perspective-shift to living in her tiny house (called “Serenity”). I think she is right. In her words, “Suffering makes us more human.”
7) To those featured, Karen, Nikki & Mitchell, and Ben, thank you for your courageous honesty. It was so important for you all to be vulnerable enough to share your difficulties, to show how the build is inevitably about more than just constructing a tiny house.
The build, and the life, fundamentally change people (it did me). This very fact is what makes the movement so radical. And the film so beautiful.
In Ben’s words: “This house is not so much a way to escape as a way to take root.”
What an incredible blessing to be a part of this, and an even bigger blessing to watch the film from the comfort of my bed, rooted cozily in the tiny house that a community and I built – very literally from inside the house that built me.

small universes

This morning I opened Facebook to see a photo of my house in my news feed. The photo heads a radio story on tiny houses here, and reminds me how very small our world can be – in the most beautiful of ways. That smallness should not, however, betray the expansive and radical potential of the tiny house movement – something that I hope my recent chapter on tiny houses communicates. HUGE HUGS from the tiny house and her kitties and her human :)

tiny troubles, getting their due.

Portlandia (the oft cited – and frequently maligned – reason many people are flocking to Portland) will be airing a spoof of tiny living on their show this week. See the clip here. Their spoof gets at, in part, a “rub” between the romantic idea of tiny house living and the more crude realities of having to confront our shit (figurative and, ahem, literal). I take this satire as proof that not only has the tiny house movement definitively reached a level of popular mass, but also the movement is being more complexly represented. Such satire shows the movement gaining greater critical awareness, correcting some of the lapses I tried to discuss in my recent chapter.

“Status is always ripe for satire” – Stephen Colbert :)

Keep the satire sharp, people! (“when it hurts, you know it’s the right thing.” – Milk Carton Kids, a long standing musical obsession of mine)

Singing it now, April