Coming Home


Almost every day I see a new city initiative to bring tiny homes to those who need them – not for accumulation, or even for saving money to secure a place in that shrinking category we call the “middle” class but for those who are truly in need: for the precariously housed, and the unhoused, for students signing their life away in student loan contracts, for the elderly who want and need to be close to family, for the young who recognize the insanity of a life working to pay for a roof you barely sleep under, for all those who want to envision different ways of being in places… new, different, and exciting examples are happening everywhere.

For now, check out Time Magazine’s recent article on tiny houses for the homeless in Portland here.

More personally, in the beautiful Fall in Eugene , we held the first Sustainability and Housing Justice Forum. This event explored the intersections of HOUSING JUSTICE and SUSTAINABILITY and offered opportunities for community organizations, activists, and volunteers to connect. The event also featured a CONESTOGA HUT on site, open for the public, as a way to learn more about the simple and transformative solutions for the unhoused in our area. Activists, academics, students, scholars, and many community members came together to connect, idea share, and discuss how we (all different versions of that word) can do better. It was inspiring and encouraging. If the tiny house does nothing else, it helps us reimagine.


The history of the tiny house on wheels is as old as the wheels underneath them; that is, they emerged almost simultaneously with automobiles. They are, as a friend so astutely noted, the American Dream collapsed into one mobile object. It should be no surprise that much of the (justified) critique takes up the fraught nature of the American Dream: issues of access, privilege, whiteness, property, consumerism, etc. It’s all there.

There have been many take-downs of the movement as of late that are ill-informed, hasty, and seem to be working more as click bait than journalism. However, there are smart and nuanced critiques as well.

In my opinion, one article in between those poles is here.

And today, a compelling critique from Jacobin here.

I’d LOVE it if y’all compare to my chapter written over two years ago and send me your thoughts!

Critique should make us more thoughtful, more responsive. Hip hip!


the force. of space, honestly.

Admission: I haven’t seen the movie yet, but because it’s everywhere in our cultural imagination, it is shamelessly used here as attention grabbing material.

Warning: Like the franchise of movies, this post keeps going and going.


As family disperses and the new year closes in, I am reflecting on how fast the last three months have gone. Almost every weekend during that time, I’ve meant to write this update. But, as a testament to the effectiveness of what I have to update about, I have been busy. New friends, new geographies, new goings-ons.

The last three and a half years I have been living in the tiny, parked in my grandmother’s backyard. Living in such close proximity with family has many benefits: support for the bad days, kitty-sitting for the gone ones, and quotidian remembrances of the days upon days gone by which all add up to make me. In this space, the first few years in the tiny were incredibly challenging but even more so insightful. I wrote through a lot of both on this blog. I learned to confront, more materially, my privileges of idealism, of impatience, of pride. I learned how comforting it is to have a grandma’s shoulder to spill tears over and then go straight to sleep, how special it is to stare up from my bed at two trees planted by my aunt and uncle when they were kiddos, how fortunate I am to be able to experience place, and history, and family, through an enduring plot of (historically stolen) land.

But. That specific spot, nurturing as it is, is also located about a 20 minute drive from campus. I hate commuting and looked so forward to biking when I moved here. Yet, I found myself driving almost every day for the first three years living in Eugene. Moreover, because the tiny was parked so far away, I rarely left my house once I was home. My life quickly became even more insular than the misleading quotes of Thoreau on tiny house blogs make his (and our) life out to be (see here; Walden was built in Emerson’s woodlot on Walden pond and Thoreau ate at the Emerson’s house almost every night; Thoreau’s mother and sister did his laundry [see here]; and Thoreau was NOT the proponent of self-reliance that American myth has made him to be [that was Emerson]. My point: Thoreau, albeit imperfect, was far more radical, community and land oriented, and critical of the idea that anyone could “go-it-alone” but we often misread his “live-deliberately” as a solo endeavor. It never was.).

After more than three years of living in isolation, this summer I became more and more unhappy. I was crying a lot, complaining even more, giving in to negative energy and giving it out as well. I hit a breaking point.

To be fair, I could feel it building over the last year. I wrote less, reflected less, grew less. Here I mean both senses of “grew less”: the tiny house was not giving up her lessons to me as easily – she and I settled into a largely unconscious relationship that I became accustomed to – AND I grew less in the sense that I became energetically smaller, or less full in my livingness-nesses. I discovered that what made me, me had slowly atrophied. Now, this degeneration was: 1) Not the tiny’s fault but my own – it was easier to ignore the sides of me that sews, crafts, hosts dinners and poetry readings, cooks, stores stuff for random projects that I then spread out to get to making, all this was easier to forget than to find a new way to do it within the space of the tiny or seek out a space not my own. Also, 2) Not a sudden shift – I had my eye on a particular neighborhood ever since moving to Eugene, a neighborhood close to my favorite bar, coffee shop, pizza place, university, PEOPLE.

Though it wasn’t a sudden break, it felt like that. I woke up one morning and just knew I had to change the way I had been living the last three years. I didn’t have enough money to pay rent on someplace new. I didn’t know how I would make it work. I just knew I needed to get out of the isolation, into the thick of the beautiful communities where I live, and back to cultivating my whole self. I knew it needed to be immediate, before I had time to find a place to move the tiny.

After one day of hiking on it – I climbed, wrote, meditated – I knew I needed to rent an apartment in that neighborhood I so loved. For the length of the hike up and down I repeated one word: trust. Though I knew that moving out of the tiny was financially irresponsible, and given the many interviews and writings I have done about tiny house movement, it felt a little fraudulent, but I knew I had to do it in the deepest form of knowing. I had felt this sort of feeling before – the crushing weight, the fear of knowing what I need to do but no idea how the seemingly irresponsible decision would turn out, the promise of transformation but the first necessary leap into the void. I moved in on September 20. Trusting that the path would appear in the nano-second before my stride touched forward.

It did. Within a month I found a wonderful person to rent the tiny house and a roommate for my new apartment, making the year break from the tiny house an affordable one.

And, that promise of transformation came through once again. I feel full, abundant, grateful. I am incredibly, incredibly happy as I plug more deeply into community, bike everywhere, and frequent the coffee shop and bar on foot. Life these last three months has been very, very good. I am still unsure if the good is because I am out of the tiny space, or because I am closer to town than where the tiny was parked. I would venture to guess that most of the positive change is just location.

There are, though, some WONDERFUL things that come from the actual space of the apartment: baths! on site laundry! couch! BIG clothes closet!! coat closet! full size refrigerator!! All these things, though, are available in a carefully planned tiny house. Which is another long-term dream: build the perfect one for me, knowing what I know now about what I need to live abundantly.

I do miss the comfort of the simplicity of the tiny, though. To me, she is like a person, and I miss her company and cradling comfort quite often. It helps that she is occupied by a wonderful women who adores the space and a kitty, too. So the space is getting love – even in my absence (and maybe because of it). Here are a few pics of the tiny at her new home:



So, this has been another enormous lesson that the tiny has gifted me: nothing is permanent, space is changeable, we are teachable, and life longs to be energetically lived.

Go get it, people! Happy holidays, and happy early New Year!

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.


Continue reading

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