— a Tiny r(E)volution.
To one degree or another, we’ve all been active and willing participants in America’s Culture of Debt. Just in short sight:
- Sunday ad supplements are thicker than the Sunday paper itself.
- Once you arrive at the store you are immediately encouraged to save pennies by signing up for a high interest store credit card.
- The Christmas consumer free-for-all begins a month before Thanksgiving, with people waiting in line to gobble up merchandise at 2:00 am.
- Most teens can’t tell the difference between a credit card and a debit card as they both bear the VISA logo.
As for food, health, employment, cost of living, the lists are no more encouraging. But that is beginning to change and it is happening on all levels; even with rural, Carolina couples, who constantly talk about how to pay off consumer debt, choose to live in a Tiny House, work daily to establish their micro-homestead, and never forget that relationship is the center of it all.
The first home I owned cost just $52,000. For that price I got a 2-bedroom, 1-bath, fixer-upper that was on .35 acre in the middle of a post-war neighborhood in Norfolk, VA. It was built in 1953.
At the time my home was built, America was reestablishing itself. Men had returned home from the war and were now firmly rooted in their post-war career. Women were homemakers and mothers, not CEOs and business owners. Homebuyers were encouraged to look to the future and stretch themselves as far as they could to buy a house. It made more sense then.
My wife Crystal, on the other hand, never purchased a home but spent over 5 years in the hospitality industry watching people spend seemingly absurd amounts of money to escape the complex lives they had created for themselves. They entered her resorts begging for the simple life and for a way to reconnect with themselves and their loved ones.
Fast forward to 2010.
The Issue At Hand
The nation has been in a recession for almost three years and unemployment is at a thirty year high. Real estate has become a risky investment, and those who do own homes are seemingly stuck in a vicious cycle of working just to afford the home they currently have — homes that are often larger than needed.
Since that first home of mine was built… never mind. Since my parents purchased the home I was raised in (a 1100 sq. ft., post-war, cracker box) much has changed.
- Rapidly rising prices in the 70s and 80s meant you could count on hefty annual raises. Today, you simply can’t rely on double-digit income boosts to make your mortgage payment less of a burden year after year.
- A generation ago, single-income families were far more common. If the breadwinner lost a job, the other spouse could go to work in an effort to save the house. With more two-income families needing both paychecks to match the mortgage, there’s no one on the sidelines to possibly take up the slack.
- Thirty years ago, it was tough to get a mortgage for more than you could really afford. And while lenders have recently learned their lesson after the “swinging arm” loans, they still seem to push, knowing that the vast number of borrowers will do whatever it takes to pay their mortgage – even if it means trashing the rest of their financial lives.
- A much bigger portion of the American work force was covered by traditional, benefit pensions thirty years ago than they are today. Social security is becoming more of a myth and most workers have little to no money left at the end of the paycheck to invest in 401k plans and IRAs.
From New York to Georgia to North Carolina, we have worked hard at simplifying our lives. We have minimized the number of clothes we own by joining Project 333, the types of food we eat, our dependency on cars and travel in general, the number of square feet we need to exist indoors, the amount of books we surround ourselves with, the number of CDs and DVDs we buy (largely for one-time use), and the overall debt we have amassed.
In this exchange we have maximized our quality of life, our love for each other, our concern for the world around us, our ideas of entertainment, our health (mentally and physically), and our general dispositions.
And so it is that we have decided to alter our own course in life and spend the next 24 months (or so) of our life building our own Tiny House of 284 square feet.
Simply put, our tiny house plan is this: We are going to build a home on a trailer that will feature sustainable building supplies and techniques, solar power, a modern bathroom and kitchen, a sleeping loft, passive solar heating/cooling, and our own sense of style. And we’ll do this for less than $10,000 by recycling, upcycling, repurposing, enlisting the help of family and friends, and doing the work ourselves.
Through our Tiny House and our choice(s) for our life from this day forward we are not trying to create a movement or even enlist in one but rather rethink our perspective on life, love, community, relationship, and consumption. Are you ready to join us or even start a Tiny r(E)volution of your own?