Economy(ies)/Economease

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:

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21 thoughts on “Economy(ies)/Economease

  1. Thank you for your honest reaction to what you have been experiencing! It’s a very dramatic change to make and I’d be surprised if there weren’t some things you liked less than others, some things you miss. I’ve been fascinated by tiny houses for years now, but realistically, I can’t imagine ever downsizing directly into one. I see it as much more of a process, as you note, of deciding what really matters to me in terms of space, belongings, comfort, and finances. What I could physically adapt to as well. It’s wonderful to have such a frank and open post about this experience… at least how it is for you.

    1. Total cost was around ten thousand, though that was including some of the luxuries I chose (like cedar shingles and metal roof) which were a little pricier. I think it can be done for 5,000 if you take your time 🙂

  2. Just like any house, good design makes for happy occupants. You rushed to create it but that doesn’t mean that you’ve not learned a valuable lesson in the small mistakes of design. FIX THEM. If you miss a good arm chair, take that austere bench and give it some oppulence and fluff (ie. a thicker cushion and some fabulous pillows and upholstery. It will feel more squishy and look more inviting: accomplished without an extra square inch of space. Paint the woodwork in a soft ivory/creamy white letting grains come through. Make all the woodwork uniform in color and you’ll feel more space with plenty of natural wood to look at outside. Keep chipping away at perfecting what you’ve already created and then you’ll truly have the prototype to pass along to the rest of us. But Bravo! on the experiment!

    1. Ah, thanks for the encouragement! I am chipping away, and getting more comfortable all the time. I have to admit that I loathe paint, so the wood will stay. But I am definitely finding new ways to make the space work 🙂

  3. I love your writing as much as your tiny house. Both are beautiful. Spare yet lush with meaning and purpose. Thank you so much for being who you are and doing what you’re doing.

    What I esp. love: The arched window with the gambrel wood frame. The dish drainer that fits so perfectly into one side of your sink (small things mean much). The ladder. The bookcase. The loft and comfy looking bed with a window. All the beautiful wood and its grain left as is. The cats. And just the evidence of life, of effort, of care and love.

    Question: Where’s the bathroom??

    P.S. I’m still reading, so if you’ve answered the question, no worries, I’ll get to it!

  4. What an awesome home…and journey! Thank you for sharing. I am hoping to build one myself in the next few years. Do you have any issues with moisture buildup in the colder weather when windows are closed for long periods?

    1. You know, I do have one window that holds a bit of moisture, but it was doing that well before. If anything, the air is actually a little too dry with the heater (I’m cold blooded) :).

  5. Awesome to have found your blog. My 12-year-old is building her own tiny house for her school curriculum this year, and it is so helpful to read about the process with an eye to the product (her blog is http://www.tinymaison.blogspot.com if you want to take a look). I like the dichotomy of having the luxury of being frugal. An interesting juxtaposition.

    Wish you were closer; we are trying to invade as many tiny house spaces as possible, in all stages of construction, to get ideas, inspiration and practical advice. Look forward to reading more about your journey!

  6. Oh, I can relate. I actually planned things out for what seems like years before I had the nerve to start building my tiny house, and I *still* didn’t get some things right. (I started a major remodel, even moving some plumbing, before I’d actually even finished the interior … which we were living in at the time. Living in it gave us a lot of information we didn’t have before.)

    Having a landing strip for when you come home is essential – this is probably why there are so many ‘porn’ photos of remodeled mudrooms on the pinterest, ha!!

  7. I just discovered your lovely blog, via “Ella Harp”.
    I can give you a fairly easy idea to expand your relaxing space. I saw a video about a family of 3 that actually had a “guest bed” in their tiny house, so it isn’t my original idea, but I do think it would work perfectly for you.
    If you take the board your little bench (couch) seat is on & double it, meaning it will have a piano hinge the whole length. It will fold in half the long way. Then have your cushion twice as thick (two pieces), so it can also fold out to fit the doubled size board. On the top board (where your bum will be when folded) screw at least 2 base plates (I think this is what they are called) one at each corner,toward the wall side when folded. You can buy legs with bolts coming out at one end. These will screw into your corner base plates, and even act as handles to help unfold the board. They will make nice sturdy legs. Then add the cushion, and a sheet, or whatever you prefer. For even added luxury, you could fasten a board under the nice little window, the length of the couch and even around the corner. Attach upholstered foam to the board.
    This would make a lovely place for you to relax, and even hold a guest depending on the length of your couch.
    Here is a link to the video so you can see exactly what I am referring to.:
    http://faircompanies.com/videos/view/shotgun-shack-redux-mortgage-free-in-320-square-feet/

    The video is a little over 10 minutes. The part about the fold out guest bed is at 6:56 minutes.

    If that idea sounds too hard, I even have another: You could remove your nice little desk and add a small recliner. There are many great ideas for folding tables, so you could still have a nice place to sit and type, probably from your couch area. Or it could just fold down from where it is now.

    I love your beautiful home! So clever the way you modified your roof line. Seems like it made it a lot bigger. Nice work! Thanks for sharing!
    Kathy

  8. April,

    Great writing, and I love your house. I too am a fan, and in fact I’ve been working on my “large” tiny house for over a year…not much if you break it down into actual hours, but I’m self-employed so life is busy at times.

    I love your realistic attitude, including these very real challenges. It’s true, like love, it’s not always easy but does require continual investment and an attitude of curiosity–how can I make this better? How can I make myself a better fit for this? And, as you’ve said (perhaps indirectly) consciously examining and being an aware person, living sustainably–it’s not just a marketing buzz word that so many make it out to be. We do indeed take so many benefits we have here in the states for granted, and we consume way too much just following the herd–I’m glad to find you’re a fellow Oregonian. 🙂

    Side note, I’m up in Portland and would love to tour your house sometime, if I can arrange a time that’s convenient for you. I too have tall ceilings and I’d prefer a natural wood interior, so it’d be cool to actually see it in real life, to get a feel for it…

    Cheers,
    Jeff

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