There have been some times over our years of living tiny that Xaver and I have faced some really crazy schnitzel together. Dominant culture tells us that having a lot of stuff equals wealth. And yet, there I was looking around at my tiny house and realizing that I had a fraction of the stuff I used to have. So… does that mean I’m poor? People that knew our living situation sometimes treated us as if we were poor, but were they right to do so?
Culture tells us that a guy with a nice house, a nice yard, and a couple of nice cars is a pretty good guy. A woman with an expansive collection of shoes and handbags, and a business empire is really something special. And Billionaires are gods. They must be smarter, wiser, or maybe they know some secrets the rest of us don’t know or they wouldn’t be wealthy, right? And yet we’re seeing day-by-day proof in our political arena that wealth does not equal wisdom and human value can’t be measured by the mathematical equation of net worth. I knew that a wealthy person wasn’t worth more than me in my head, but somehow my heart wasn’t getting the message.
There we were in our tiny house, living out some sort of intentional homelessness. Sometimes it felt like we were doing something revolutionary. Screw the system! Sometimes it felt like we were being naughty because when people don’t understand your steps outside of conformity, they sometimes pull out the disapproval. But I don’t have to live by their standard. I have to live by mine. When we stayed grateful (which wasn’t always) then it was an amazing and liberating experience. And when I focused on what I didn’t have, it was awful.
Xaver and I have been through some battles that brought us back together at the end of the day feeling like the world had chewed us up and spit us out. In fact, we had a client with a three million dollar project decide that they didn’t want to pay their bill for the work we’d done for them. We actually had to take them to court. It was one of those David and Goliath moments, and believe me, it wasn’t fun. What made it worse was that “Goliath” was a congregation with the meanest pastor I’ve ever met. I’m also a person of faith. Church folk aren’t supposed to act like that! What made it worse yet was that we had earmarked that money to pay a bill… and since that money didn’t come – our other bill got bigger and bigger. The legal battle took forever! We were demoralized, hurt, and angry. There were times when I looked around at my tiny house, and I looked at our clients with their expansive 3 million dollar church renovation project… I felt very small and very poor. There were moments in that season where I hated my tiny house. It was a reminder of what we didn’t have. And dealing with lawyers and the legal system only accentuated the sense that “justice” was beyond our grasp.
I was stressed out. We both were. In that season we created some new habits for ourselves that really helped. These little habits helped us move from the poverty mindset into purposeful simplicity to make our home a haven.
Turning off the Screens
And we’d turn on the news and it would be some crazy “sky-is-falling” stuff and on top of what we were going through. It felt like too much! Twitter or Facebook would be flipping out over this or that new scandalous event. We turned off the screens. We’d make a great meal, and open a bottle of wine left over from the restaurant. We’d light a beeswax candle and put on some nice music. Then we’d pull out the cards and play games for a while. Without really meaning to, we were changing our focus away from the big bad world beyond the walls of our tiny home and placing our focus on the wealth of love that we shared. It was amazing how much it helped to enjoy a lovely meal and unwind together.
We also have some little rituals that have helped us. When we’re really feeling low, we go outside and brush the negativity off of each other as if it were dandruff or dog hair. Sometimes we go inside after a long day and wash our hands to wash away the cares of the day. We pause to say a prayer before our meal and thank God for getting us through another day. These were small rituals, but they have helped us make our home a haven.
In cases where we’re really struggling, but for whatever reason the problems we are facing need to remain closely held, that isolation can become a real challenge. In fact, tiny houses are a great help it keeping isolation at bay! I didn’t realize how great tiny houses were at keeping us connected until much later.
In January one year, the host of our favorite AirBNB invited us to stay at his place for a week. He and his home hold a very special place in our home so of course we were delighted to visit. I spent some time in the kitchen baking apple pies. There was a glorious huge TV in the kitchen, so while I baked my pies, I listened to a documentary on minimalism. Do I know how to party or what?! LOL!
Xaver was in the next room, reading a book. Later I mentioned to him something I’d noticed in the documentary, and he didn’t even know I had the television on! In a tiny house, if the TV is on, everyone hears it! In fact, as that week progressed in that huge house, I began to feel more and more isolated. I was surprised how the vast empty spaces of a beautiful home could make me feel so alone. I was so happy to get back home to our tiny cozy space. That reality of being connected and close is one of the things I love about our tiny home. We’re together. We’re connected. We can hear each other without raising our voices. That isolation just can’t hang out with us. We’re close. Literally. The fact that the space is small and cozy really does focus our connection in a way a big house just cant do. This is to our advantage. We stay connected and bring friends and family into that space through hospitality, and isolation doesn’t stand a chance.
The Dove Family
Years ago I heard a guy talking about a family of doves that lived in his porch. When the family fought, the doves would leave. When the family lived in peace, the doves would return. I suppose that’s true no matter what size your home is.
Through a very difficult season of our lives when our tiny house accentuated our sense of poverty, we learned a few things that helped us remember that our choice to go tiny was about purposeful simplicity. We learned to turn off the screens and enjoy a lovely meal together. We learned small rituals that had meaning to us. And we learned to stay close to each other. In this way our tiny house became our haven-home. It really is possible to use the tender walls of a tiny home to create space that is sacred, restful, and healing.
Peace be with you,