Recently I’ve discovered the TV show “Tiny House Nation,” in which two guys help various people around the country to downsize their lives into 500 or less square feet. I’m hooked. Two years ago I moved out of my three-bedroom townhouse and into my mentor’s house where I spent most of my time between my bedroom and the kitchen, and now I live in a shared house where I do the same. I’d looked into buying my own tiny house earlier this year but wasn’t able to get financing because the only option was for mobile homes, and my hourly wage wasn’t enough to qualify me for that. Now that I’ve discovered there are financing options available for potential tiny homeowners, there’s a part of me that wonders if I should move ahead with it.
I’m pretty sure I’ll wait until after I graduate from grad school, but I love dreaming about my own space on some land just on the outskirts of town—or maybe even in a hidden, wooded area in town, if I can afford the land—with a small vegetable garden. I love the idea of making use of vertical space with hanging herbs, window flowers, magnetic spice containers, and multi-purpose furniture, like the Murphy bed that converts to a table, or the staircase that holds storage under the stairs. Everything has a purpose, and everything has its place. Nothing is wasted.
With a space like that, one can’t collect extra things they don’t need, because there’s no place for them. I’d be more motivated than I already am to minimize my things. Already I’m looking forward to decluttering what I’ve managed to accumulate in the short time I’ve lived in my current space—mostly freebie health and beauty supplies from work. Already I wish I’d gone through everything in my storage space and gotten rid of most of it—though I did get rid of a lot, I kept quite a bit and sent it to my stepfather’s storage area, as he kindly allowed for me. But after keeping my things in storage for over a year, I realized that most of that stuff I no longer want or need. And by the time I get to the rest of it, I won’t want or need even more. All the things that I have held onto over the years, for the most part, I’ve come to realize how little of it I really need.
I want to live in the present moment, but it’s fun to dream. It’s nice to know I have viable living options after I graduate—after I accumulate more debt. It’s nice to feel like there’s a future to look forward to, even if my goal is to focus on living in the present moment. I feel more secure feeling like I have financial stability, even if it’s a somewhat false sense of security, because who knows what the future really holds. It just feels good knowing there are options. There are solutions. And I love finding solutions in the details, like the wood-burning stove to warm my house instead of electricity—though I do plan to have electricity, preferably from solar panels. The water/toilet has been my biggest concern, until I realized I can get well water. The cost of land rent is also a concern, but I like the idea of being able to move my tiny house when and if I need to move somewhere else for work. I can also look into buying land. I like the idea of owning my tiny house and keeping it forever, or for a very long time. If I were to one day acquire wealth and decide I wanted a bigger space, my tiny house could go next to my new place, or I could sell it.
I think that is the new American dream. One of the new tiny homeowners on the show said that nowadays more Americans are looking to do work they love and then live the lifestyle that fits that, rather than work at a job that provides the lifestyle they want. It’s not the things we have that are important, but how we spend our time. I think part of the American dream always has been to find solutions, and so many people are in so much debt now that this is another solution we’ve found in the evolution of how to live.
In the meantime I want to remember to appreciate what I have: a roof over my head, some fridge space, a bathroom to share with only one other person, a shed for my bike. And, more importantly, a boyfriend who I adore, and a community of people who I can turn to when times are tough. That’s what life is really about.