Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Tiny House Living One Year Later

I have now been living in my tiny house full time for a year (and two months). When I moved in I was uncertain if this home would work out in the long run. I had never lived alone before. At f first I had been afraid of being alone. It went against my upbringing to live out of community, outside of family. I felt loneliness when I returned to my tiny place. I would joke that I came home to an empty house, but it was so tiny the moment I got inside it it wasn't empty anymore. 

The cultural ideal of being in partnership was still strong in my mind so when a new love who had reintroduced herself from my past engaged my heart I willingly committed myself. Love is a potent incentive to reorganize and reshuffle one’s life and the mental exercise of envisioning what was possible forces you to consider every possibility.

Our love was such that we felt compelled to explore how we might make a life together, but soon the challenges of our geographical separation stymied us. We toyed with the idea of shipping the tiny house to Hawaii where she lived and where I could continue my business, but I soon had misgivings. It had taken me 20 years to build my extensive social network here in the Bay Area and I was not ready to give it up only to start again in a strange place. I also knew instinctively it would just increase my loneliness to rely on a single person as my sole emotional support. On my own turf my tiny house was obviously too tiny for two and the housing crisis here in the Bay Area was just as financially impossible. The urgency of being now in midlife with no time to waste seemed to put a deadline on us. Within nine months of our correspondence she was telling me she didn't think we were meant to be romantic partners after all.

I was crushed, but enough had been revealed to give me a new perspective. It was not I who had been in such a hurry. I didn't need to make a new life. I already had one. I thought I wanted a life with a partner, but I'd done that already. There was a reason I had built the tiny house with just me in mind. It was the only vision I had ever built for myself. I had too often just fit myself into someone else’s vision.

Part of my journey into tiny house living was to come to terms with what I could make sustainable given the resources I had. And this goal had brought me to a very different way of living. One so different from the norm of flush toilets, showers, upright refrigerators and real closets that people did not quite get that anyone would entertain the idea of living without these amenities. This was a huge assumption on their part. I had given up these luxuries in order to embrace a more radical way of life. One that had long been in my mind as a way to change a centralized economic system that all our lives revolved around particularly the waste and excess of it.

And now that I had manifested this life, the tiny house had become a retreat from all things that were not me. Inside it I was me in everything I did from loading ice into my cooler, to lighting the candles of my flower pot heater, to the maintenance demands of my composting toilet system (which my new love had helped me finesse as described in a previous post). This was a lifestyle that wouldn't suit most Americans. And I did not need to be rescued from it. I wanted to explore it further as my personal experiment in minimalism. Not that I was a purist. In fact tiny house living was often about how I could spend more time in other people’s houses.

It was an integral part of my physical comfort to be able to go to my ex’s house to take a shower, do laundry or some sewing and any other project that required space. (In return I walked our dogs while she was at work and fixed things.) Some might think this was cheating in terms of being self sufficient, but tiny house living isn’t necessarily about being completely self contained. It was more about seeing what I could do in community. I had maintained a friendship with my ex to the point that we could have dinner once or twice a week and watch The Crown on her large screen TV. I cooked casseroles that I could portion off and freeze to heat up in my toaster oven on other nights. I joined a permaculture discussion group that met once a week and visited friends for dinner too so more could enjoy my company and facility for discussion. 

Once I realized that living alone didn’t mean being alone all the time my community became richer and more diverse. As a single person my life was much more flexible and accommodating to whatever opportunities might crop up week to week. And when I travelled alone I was more aware of where I was and enjoyed the camaraderie of other solo travelers. I began to feel liberated from the dominant paradigm. Taking care of others in a partnership in the domestic sense had grounded me and made me feel useful. But I had to use my mind and my projects to carve out a space for myself.

Now not only could I take care of my original household I could extend my care to my clients or friends as needed. And having a tiny place to retreat to meant I didn’t have to work so hard to maintain my own perspective and peace of mind away from the anxieties of a partner. 

I turned to books for companionship filling my mind with new knowledge and the storytelling of erudite writers. In this cocoon like existence I felt myself expanding further off the mainstream, questioning everything, wondering if all I had been taught was a flawed compromise if not outright wrong and needing to be reinvented from the ground up. I felt on the cusp of adventure with these new eyes. 

As for my first year in my tiny house, having worked out the bugs both metaphorically and literally after an infestation of fruit flies, I could turn to another aspect of my tiny life—gardening. 


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