My journey to living a tiny, simpler life.
I was born in a tiny house.
A house with a tin roof, shutters instead of windows, and chickens that did not know the difference between the outdoors and the inside of our home. A place where the door was always open and the shutters were only shut when the rains came.
A house that measured less than 500 square feet and had many inhabitants, including the chickens my mother kept. A four-room structure filled with love, light and memories—not much stuff.
Other than my deep fear of the latrine—or outhouse as most know it (but may have never experienced)—I loved the tiny world I grew up in.
That is where I spent the first five years of my childhood, not understanding or ever feeling the poverty that surrounded me.
I knew of no other life.
I did not know that my parents wanted to leave to the United States to seek a better life—whatever that meant. As a young child I only understood what I saw and felt. I felt safe and free.
I was happy.
This tiny house was in Central Rural Puerto Rico in a small municipality called “Morovis,” otherwise known as, “la Isla menos Morovis” (the island excluding Morovis) in reference to the Cholera outbreak of 1853 that ravaged the island and spared our small town. It was the home that my grandmother, a Taino Indian, and my grandfather, a Spaniard, lived in until they passed.
My mother brought me into the world in the same room and bed where my grandmother left it.
My fondest memories, though I was very young, come from my time there and from the memories easily evoked whenever my siblings and I talk about our childhood. Our mother, now almost 99, not only provided us with a colorful childhood, but also with a deep respect for living simply, the beauty of our bountiful earth and finding joy in all things not material.
We did not have much, but we had so very much.
Our house, made in a simple wood frame, consisted of a main room, two small bedrooms, a tin roof overhead that made thunderous noise when it rained and a kitchen, which by the time I was born had running water. My brother was gifted at climbing high into our guava tree, where the ripest sun-drenched fruit could be had.
Our life there was filled with the essence and beauty of a simple life. I felt safe in our tiny house.
As I enter the second half of my life, I have a deep resonating thought—an almost urgent necessity—to return to that simpler, tinier, happier life.
Hence, I have decided to build a tiny house on wheels.
Telling people this, I receive the gamut of responses from, “Oh my god, my closet is bigger than that!” to, “Really, why?” to, “Wow, that’s brave,” to an astounding, resonating… silence. I can only say that I want to live more sustainably; I want to take less and give more.
I want more of less. Less clutter, less waste, less negative impact on the earth, less “stuff.”
So, how does one know that one is ready to go tiny? I cannot speak for everyone, but this is how I know it’s right for me:
I am overwhelmed with all the stuff in my current home.
No matter how often I have moved and purged, it is amazing how much “stuff” I’ve collected over time. I now go from room to room making a list of what I absolutely need and what is not necessary.
I can tell you that very little is a real need.
I rethink the purchase of anything not necessary and worry about waste constantly.
It always seems easy to buy “stuff.” Emotional shopping can propel us to consuming. It is a temporary filler, in my experience, that in the long run does not fill us at all, thus leading us to more unhealthy consumption. Whenever I pick up something at a store, I ask myself, “Do you need it? How is it going to fill you?”
When I look around my surroundings, I find that I am not attached to most of it.
I have a clear understanding of the things I love and most of it is not “stuff.” Except for a few pieces of furniture, like my bookcase that houses my beloved, well-worn books, the things I love are people and my cherished memories.
My list of things to keep is much smaller than the list of things to get rid of.
Since I am not yet living in my tiny abode, I still have much of my stuff. So, I have gone from room to room and made a list of what I will keep and what I will lovingly give away or donate when the time comes. The majority will be donated.
I went to a Tiny House Conference via Tumbleweed Tiny Homes.
I walked into a tiny house and thought, “It’s perfect and spacious enough.” Knowledge is the most powerful tool in going tiny. Tumbleweed provides a wonderful and informative two-day conference.
The desire is one thing, but one must really experience being in a tiny house to understand just how tiny it can be. It is not for everyone.
I will travel far and wide just to see tiny open houses.
Research and talking to other “tiny housers” has been helpful in my planning and in evaluating if this is right for me. Tiny housers are incredibly generous in sharing their experiences—including mistakes.
Tiny living is not for everyone, but, as one tiny houser said so well, “all you need in life—food, shelter, love and warmth—can be had in a mere 165 square feet.”
The idea and vision of living a simpler tinier life brings me an awesome sense of freedom.
Author: Maria Arroyo Fazio
Editor: Toby Israel
Photo: Flickr/Tracy Booth