Building a Tiny Tiny House with a 2 x 4
A tiny house in the woods, hidden away from the world. That sounds like something I could get used to. A place to read, think and live, without the concern of others. Of course it's not so much a far removed dream at all, because there are many people who are actually doing that. Perhaps not moving out to the woods, but taking back control over their lives, and creating something for themselves that gives them more freedom.
People are taking back their skills. While you may hear on the news that people are unskilled – there are many people who are re-learning what their parents and grandparents tried to get away from while they hid away in the suburbs or packed themselves into the cities. Skills on how to build, grow food and live independently were seemingly lost to the industrial process.
There's nobody telling anyone to go and pick up that hammer and learn how to build a tiny house. They do it often because they want to take back their economic power. They don't want to work a job they don't necessarily love, just to keep up a standard they don't necessarily need. I think it comes back to freedom ultimately here, and people are revolting, it's just not very loud, or large.
I hope it stays quiet though, and underground. I think the danger would be to institutionalize these efforts. Under a false premise some want an authority involved to create laws, incentives and kickbacks to get people to do something they already are. But it is better to leave it alone. I love that people are trying new things, however I think it's when you want everybody to act the way you think they should, that it becomes a problem. I think we should watch out from trying to make a movement like this too formal, that's when you make it worse. The beginning is always better than the end.
When you build a house for yourself you are confronted with things you normally don't interact with. Most people are far-removed from the process of building and construction, they generally don't think about the forces that affect a house. Forces such as weights, wind and water, or resources like electricity are often left for another to think about. Building a house, building furniture – making anything really, is a journey in problem solving. Figuring things out as you go along, because you have no other choice.
When building your own house, you're in control, and for better or worse you don't necessarily have to conform to convention. In my tiny house model I wanted 24 inch centers instead of 16. It is funny how we tend to see the number of timbers as important but fail to realize the most damaging force affecting a structure is water. And then I also realize how I can fit 2 foot wide windows without needing headers, saving material and weight. As you can see in my 1/12 scale model, it definitely looks proportional. When building a structure you're forced to think of spacing - wasted space is unappealing as is wasted wood. It's appealing when things are in order, when it fits, and we usually just know when it does.
It's not that I think that using less material is good in and of itself, especially if you need it. But if you don't, then why waste them. Along the same lines – I don't think that living big is necessarily bad. As someone who does a lot of projects – you often need a lot of space to do things, and there is nothing wrong with that. Even though you can write a book in a tiny house – you can't necessarily build large things, piece a quilt together or paint large canvases. But then again, not everybody wants to do that.
In many ways, the individual does not need much to live and thrive. Every great thing started with a table and a chair. You can sleep on the ground, you can leave comfort behind, but you work at a table, sit on a chair, write with a pen, study books and observe the world around you.
Fundamentally, I don't want a world where anybody tells you what you should be doing, you should do what you want. And if you want to learn how to build your own tiny house and live differently from the way your parents did, you should, and that's just the kind of dynamic world we should want. I think this whole process is very much about learning and realizing that success is not necessarily income. So many people who have contributed great amounts to the world were not well off – it's much more interesting to be curious and learn things along the way. So in that sense – success is about knowing more so you can make better choices for yourself and your future.
So what does a structure mean to a human life? I think a home, a house, a place of your own, is so fundamentally important to one's happiness. If freedom is the control of one's self then you must have the space in which to exercise the self-control to be free.
While listening to the news, you sometimes get a sense that people are no longer interested in have a home. Well, maybe to some extent that's true, but perhaps only in the conventional sense. I think most people want something of their own, they might just not want a mortgage and the limited freedom that comes with a traditional life. The tiny house movement, while being focused on sustainability and one's environmental impact, I think when it comes down to it, is really about people taking control of their economic future, and taking back their skills and independence, striving to live more authentic lives.
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