It’s an obvious question, if wordy: Why would Tom and I shed our books and microwave and 50-inch TV along with most of our possessions and our connection to modern sewerage in order to live in a 23-square-metre house-on-wheels in a New Zealand paddock?
One reason why I haven’t explained this yet is that I thought you, my 19 gentle readers, would prefer to see pictures of the house. Another reason is that I lost track, because for at least a year, I have NOT asked myself this question.
I’ve been signed up to the plan, certain through all the unpredictabilities that this was a good and smart thing to do. I’ve done the thinking, made my peace with it and put all my heart into it.
So to explain our motivations, I have to step back and remember the reasons. Here they are, in no reliable kind of order.
It Makes Financial Sense
- We did this by selling our suburban house and freeing up our equity in it. Buying and setting up the Mustard Yellow House, with solar power, furniture, fencing, various essentials, fees and accessories, and including seven months’ rented accommodation, adds up to much less than what it takes to buy the cheapest, farthest-out flat in Wellington or put a deposit on a decent house in Auckland right now.
- Land rent for our tiny house, plus temporary rental of a storage locker, add up to far less than our previous mortgage payments.
- With solar power, we have no electricity bills.
- We don’t owe a bank anything.
- All of which is important if…
We Want To Live A Different Way
Having the financial weight lifted means we’re not as tied to the need to be someone’s fulltime employees, or to be near a big city. Sure we’re tenants, but we can take our house somewhere else if we need or want to, and when we do, it won’t take weeks and months to pack.
Tom and I have a chance to do new things, work differently or less, build a brand or a business, while having everything we need.
Can you see why this might make someone feel they have more possibilities? And feel lighter?
Less Is More
The last two houses Tom and I lived in were vast. There were rooms whose doors we never opened from day to day. We didn’t need that space.
Our houses have been full. It was nice, in a way, to have two big TVs and four couches and three beds and shelves full of knick-knacks and a whole room for books. But come on, there are only two of us! (Plus two dogs who hardly take up any space.)
Both Tom and I — him first, then me — got disenchanted with stuff. It weighed us down, made it hard to change.
For me, my lifetime’s accumulation of books and papers and souvenirs and things that seemed a good idea at the time — they made me feel I was carrying around the past with me, all the time.
How could I think about 2017 and 2020 and 2030 if I was constantly weighed down with 1971 and 1985 and 1998?
We downsized. It was hard at first, because I’m afflicted with a bizarrely precise memory, so every box I sorted through took me back to a certain year, place and mood. Those memories were deeply etched and detailed, and it was hard to discard them; after all, my brain had put in such an effort to hold on to them!
There’s more to say on the psychology of downsizing, and I’ll blog on it one day, but now back to the topic of why are we doing this?
I suppose the broad answer is that we wanted to live fresher, lighter, less beholden, less occluded lives. We wanted more autonomy, freedom and possibility. We wanted to make more space for the important and get rid of the unimportant.
By the way, our streamlined life is not some political or cultural statement. Some people “go tiny” as a reaction against capitalism, consumerism or modernity.
I’m fine with all those things! The market gave us this possibility. The abundance of consumer goods means we’ve been able to find products and technologies that make our off-grid life possible. In this modern world, Tom and I can be a married couple living as we like, without fear.
No, we’re not rejecting the world. We’re positioning ourselves differently within it, with more elbow room (metaphorically).
Turning A Light On
One more thing that’s a factor for me. I had depression, for years. After a lot of mental self-rewiring, I’m now largely free of it — though sometimes I’m aware of its remnant, like the whiff from next door of some pungent food being prepared that I used to, but no longer, cook.
Our project to move away from our old life and create a new one is the very opposite of what depression is about. I’m taking things on, not fleeing into a tiny comfort zone; I’m accepting change, not wilting in the face of it. I’m planning more, ruminating less.
So there you go, some thoughts on the “why”, recorded at the bell-lap of the race. Does any of it make sense to you?
Coming soon: More milestones, and a moving date.