tiny aphorisms

Idealism without critique = complacency.

I recently had the honor of being interviewed by Jeremy Beasley, a documentary photographer and filmmaker working on a film about the human side of the tiny house movement (check it out here). I was not only impressed by the crew themselves – Jeremy and the production manager Kelly Nardo are just LOVELY – but also the questions they asked. There was an honest responsibility to the lived tiny house experience, both the benefits and criticisms, in every one. Reflecting on our discussion, a few adages seemed to emerge:

* Every object you own is a relationship: I have mentioned before (here) that getting rid of almost everything I owned gave me a new appreciation for the truly meta – as in beyond – physical value of some possessions; some objects are not the same in memory as in your hand. Not because the object is the memory, but because the object informs the memory. You need some things. You miss some things. Yet, what’s wonderful about life in the tiny is you do really get to know your “things.” You have to consider the use value, emotional or physical, for everything you own. That awareness begins to infiltrate seemingly insignificant daily decisions.  At the end of the week, you only have a quart’s worth of garbage (that’s nice). This tiny life brings a subtly massive reorientation of perspective; small moves add up, though some objects become worth their thingy-ness because they feed what is beyond the immediate – what is a relationship between you, your possessions, and the lives beyond and before them. Tiny living means owning less stuff, but the stuff you own begins to mean more than possession.

* Our most expansive needs are not material: Many people have remarked on the “let down” of tiny house building – the abrupt transition from the communal that comes in seeking out help, expertise, tool shares and material gathers, to the actuality of living in a tiny house, typically alone, parked in solitary. I realized in talking to Jeremy and Kelly that I suffered unknowingly from that very phenomenon when I moved into the tiny. While building, life had developed a rhythm that was constantly adjusting to the many people gifting their time, energy, or gadgets. Even for a person who adores alone-time, the isolation after experiencing such generous community was an insidious infiltration into my first months of tiny living. It felt lonely. Fortunately, with the growing popularity of the movement and the desire of many current tiny-housers, there are people developing communal “parking” spaces for tiny house communities, organized around a common building.

* The smaller the space, the harder the corners:  Shared spaces for tiny houses to plant have the potential to address many of the more problematic nuances unique to tiny houses – aspects preventative to sustainable living. Two of the easiest examples are the difficulty of bulk food preparation, like canning, and bulk food/household storage. It often feels like a game of tetris to fit a small amount into the crooks of the tiny, and while that was one of my favorite video games as a child, now confinement complicates the environmentally conscious ethic of most tiny house dwellers. A communal space could simplify some of those complications.

* Screened windows are importantThey filter what comes in when the windows are open. They spread out the sounds of the seasons – tonality that drifts, like light, into our most quiet spaces, from crisp to sultry to shadowed. As my first year in the tiny rounds into my second, I am realizing how subtle – like moonlight moving in – the ease of home has settled into the expanses of the tiny (expanses, yes – even though it can’t store much, it can also feel quite spacious).  Just as many aphorisms play with juxtaposition, the tiny life is itself a continual re-acquaintance with the dialectic of human life. It makes of your porch a viewing platform for feisty squirrels, dopey opossums, and also manymany insect-y insects. It simplifies by its very nature, but confronts with the comfort-costs of simplicity. It plays with you in romance, and stubs your toe on realism. It slaps you, like a sharp and hail-filled wind as you’re distracted by the lightning’s brilliance.

So, screened windows are important. And so is the painful honesty of what it means to live the tiny life, and to fall in love with it. Idealism without critique is equivalent to complacency (and isn’t that an oft-cited precursor to divorce?).

There have been some great get-real blogs about tiny house difficulties, one of my favorites from Macy Miller here. But here and here also (about Portland and their “love” for tiny houses here). And another of mine here. Also check out the first EVER Tiny House Conference – EXCITING.

Huge blessings from the tiny house,



2 thoughts on “tiny aphorisms

  1. Dear April, I love what you have to say about living in a tiny house. I’m researching a feature about small homes for Financial Times/House and Home section. Would you be interested in taking part? I’d like to take a quote or two from your blog and/or interview you directly by email. Please let me know. My deadline is 20 March. Best wishes
    Paul Miles

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