Posted on July 21, 2016 in Blog
The Tiny Life Movement: What I Learned From My Own 200 Square Feet
There is a tiny house movement that is growing rapidly throughout our country and around the world. It is a movement for all ages of people who are choosing to downsize the space they live in and have simpler living in more efficient spaces. This new American dream that shrinks 2,500 sq ft to 400 sq ft includes environmental, financial, benefits as well as more time with loved ones and freedom in living debt free.
I am curious – Is this movement from grandiose to smaller homes in parallel with the idea of living our lives more authentically and leaving behind the heavy mortgage of obligatory striving toward social perfectionism? Has the idea of Fame, Power and Notoriety stolen our true, innermost dreams? Is chasing after socially acceptable homes, occupations and ways of living in general in fact squandering the very essence of our lives ?
I recently lost my father. The grief, sadness, mixed feeling and exhaustion threw giant buckets of cold water on my momentum and plans underway for my work before his final illness brought things to a halt. I couldn’t think straight or properly tend to my personal needs, much less hold space for 20 people for a weekend or show up at a public event. Though I struggled with the idea of pushing through, bucking up and “getting through,” I knew I had to surrender to the slow, sometimes meandering, ride of grief that losing someone you love takes you through.
Enough. Slow down. Stop.
What became important during those hours, days and weeks was my family and my contribution to those closest to me. Listening to my body and the waves of exhaustion that took my usual energy down into mid-day naps became utterly essential. My social and professional “footprint” shank to the small close quarters of living close to my heart. My own “200 square feet” became the space beside my father’s bed, then casket, and grave, along with close spaces between myself and others who came alongside to comfort and mourn, too.
As I occupied this tiny life space, I realized that my father may have lived what some would call a “tiny life.” He was a quiet, gentle provider. He willingly and without complaint sacrificed enormously for us over many decades: a wife, three daughters. Yet what became too apparent after the loss of his life was he was loved by many people of many ages. His “tiny life” yielded fruit in unexpected ways and places that came clearly into view in the process of our gathering to grieve and remember. He never ran for office, made millions or held a prominent social position. He never had a Facebook account. But he loved and was loved consistently with his own “tiny life” as his launch pad. He took time to help others and indeed, I came to see that his influence had been enormous overall.
Meanwhile, “Keeping up with the Kardasians,” MTV”s “Crib,” and the national race for presidential power blared on around me as we escorted my dad from this life. Messages kept bombarding me: “Are you making enough? Make six figures in six months!” and “12 things you have to do today to be cutting edge in your business” emails kept rolling in. Such messages would supposedly push us onward to social perfectionism with relentless bleating: “Are you enough? Why aren’t you enough? When will you be enough?” Was my 200 square feet of life enough? Was my father’s? Who’s to decide when enough is enough??? The one who lives a life or the ones who hold the mortgage?
Eventually I returned to “work” with questions growing in my inner self:
Is our measure of success ours or someone else’s?
Are our actions driven by fear or inspiration? I
s it our heads or our hearts that lead us on our path of life?
If we are content to live a “tiny” life – one that has no spotlight, camera, stage or mega wealth – then what is our life about?
Do the glowingly happy inhabitants of tiny homes have a key that can help us take stock accurately?
Is the thought of a tiny life scary? Or is it freeing?
Living in our own tiny life, living a life with no one else to please or placate, no need to win anyone’s approval and no mortgage lender or banker to have to show our bottom line to – I wonder, living this way, would one feel freer?
I’m beginning to think that the death of a loved one or any circumstance of life that forces us to “downsize” can be a time of precious new understanding and reflection, if we use the pared-down space we occupy during such times to pay attention.
What freedom can we find in the “tiny house” of our body, mind and spirit?
That sweet house of the heart where there is no need to defend, explain or appease?
That place that is home. That home of the heart. What more do we need, after all?