Sometimes, Less is Less
An essential part of simplifying, living well in a tiny home, is wanting less. You don’t have to believe everything you think.
Some days, it’s annoying. Listening to a coworker prattle on and on about how wonderful her morning shower/steam room session makes her feel can make it difficult to want less. Some days, I just want a damn shower. Hot. First thing in the morning. In my own home. Some days, I just want a bathroom. Privacy. Not sharing a gym-stall, communal work bathroom, outhouse-without-a-door… yeah. That would be relevant and awesome. But not priceless.
I didn’t necessarily choose this lifestyle, this living small, this life without internet or phone service or running water in my cabin. It chose me. It’s been nearly two years and I still haven’t fully adapted. I still have to argue down my frustrations, overwhelm, weariness. It’s a lot of extra work, many extra hours spent hauling water and facilitating personal hygiene for a teenager and for myself.
I’ll admit, I spend a fair bit of time scrolling through Craigslist housing ads and hoping, just hoping, that someone will have a moment of insanity and list a small home for rent that includes indoor plumbing and doesn’t cost more than $800/month. It’ll never happen. Even the nastiest, run down apartments in the most pitiful neighborhoods in town are out of my price range. I had a moment of hope earlier this summer when I saw a small place for sale (dry cabin) in my current neighborhood. I actually contacted the seller and the realtor, hoping against hope that I could find a way to at least own the ground under my feet and maybe, just maybe, start to feel like less of a refugee. It wasn’t meant to be.
For now, I’m living a strange lesson in being uprooted. Temporary. Single. Unattached. Gypsy.
I’m learning to care less about what other people think or say, and care more about how my choices impact my future. I have one pair of pants and two pairs of shorts. Somehow, I make that work for bike commuting to and from and during my working days without doing laundry more than once a week. It’s not easy. It is simple, though. Want less. I don’t have anyone to impress, I’m not dressing to please anyone else- that costs extra.
It gets old. It gets boring. It gets dirty and ragged and smelly. It gets in the way of feeling awesome. And it carries a gentle lesson: how much of my self-worth has been integrated deeply with the clothes I wore, the vehicle I drove, the attachment to a particular career (or sport) and how it defined me? Way too much.
Take any human, take away their most personal and sacred of relationships, take away their career ‘identity”, take away their sports and ability to participate in any of them, take away all sense of home and uproot them with the responsibility of a female child/teenager… and a profoundly limited income capacity… and a mountain of debt… and drop them on their head in the frozen wasteland of Fairbanks, Alaska in the dead of winter. See what they can do with a housing budget of $650/month.
For a long time, I was a wounded animal. Angry. Isolated. Bleeding from too many losses, stretched in too many directions, trying too hard to work two jobs and please all the people all the time. I was waking up at 3:30 in the morning to appease clients who wanted to be in the gym at 4:45 AM. Coaching classes and then driving home to drive a sick and injured child to school because she couldn’t even walk to the bus stop. I was beyond exhausted. I quit. Harassed by phone, text, email, social media… stalked and threatened by someone I once called a friend, I had to change my phone number that I’d had for fifteen years. Give up an email address I’d had for ten years. Delete my Facebook account.
I learned that I can get by with fewer friends- because I had to. There comes a point when a person has no energy to be the initiator, the driver, the navigator, the ‘asker’. There comes a point when you just disappear. Stop. Frequently, that means the relationships disappear completely.
Instead, I’ve directed my energy toward home. Little acts of self-care, whether it’s cooking and preparing all of my own food or bike commuting instead of driving my car… it all adds up to a different focus: making a life, not just frantically trying to make a ‘living’.
That’s the fundamental trouble when we start turning verbs into nouns: they aren’t. Living is an active verb. Life is a thriving noun. When we transpose them or attempt to force an awkward interchangeability, the whole sentence breaks down.
It’s not that I don’t want coffee dates with communicative, funny, active, healthy people… I’m just done searching. I’d rather go climbing and take my chances on sharing a beer with a beautiful sunset, solo, than feel the vacancy that comes with shallow, vapid ‘conversation’ with the disconnected, distracted, disillusioned.
I’m learning to be a friend to myself. To live small, think and dream enormously. To allow the façade to be blown away by the winds of change. To stop resisting the chiseling. To embrace the space, the silence, the unrest.
Make no mistake, these changes have left me heavy and tired. Slow and measured. It’s not a place or person I want to be. Some days, I eat my feelings. It shows. Then I unpack my bike bags at work and savor a homemade minestrone with fourteen vegetables, seven herbs, three kinds of meat and a slow-cooked base that took nearly six hours to simmer in the crockpot… and I smile. Not only have I not lost my touch, I’m a better cook and baker than I’ve ever been. Even with a micro-kitchen, ‘easy bake oven’ and no running water- somehow, I manage to cook and bake and prepare all the meals and show up early at my job every day.
There is no end to this story, no neatly wrapped final paragraph. Just a reminder that whoever you are, wherever you are, you get to choose.
Oh, and if you have a house you’re not using and you want an amazing renter who pays EARLY every month and has a dog that keeps the kitchen floor super clean… be a hero and let me know, right?