Last Wednesday morning I was awoken by one of the dogs licking my nose. This was her saying “good morning, I miss you, wake up and scratch me”. All you dog owners out there understand. We always find them on the bed come morning time, no matter how fancy their own bed, they always sneak onto ours as soon as we’re unconscious. They want to be close. A few hours later, and I find myself filled with dread at the various tasks and deadlines of the work day ahead, and something in me shifts. I look from my laptop with it’s expanse of meaningless spreadsheets, to the deep loving gaze of my beloved pet who is desperate for a stroll in the fresh air with me. Next thing I know, I’m phoning the boss and handing in my notice. It was one of those moments. One of those “I’m never going to look back on this day and be glad I ignored my dogs needs over those of big corporate”.
Animals provide us humans with so much. Often willingly but often without any say in the matter. We depend on them for nourishment and food, for centuries they have given us the clothes on our backs, and then there’s all that unwavering devotion and loving companionship. There’s very little more a human needs, on a fundamental level, and we have done very little as a species to be deserving of it. For me, the corporate lifestyle was stealing the basic pleasures in their short lives, and I was completely responsible for that. You might say, “don’t have dogs if you have a full-time job”. But which choice truly makes you richer?
Anyway, we’re set up for it. Me working freelance that is. Some 2 years ago I began breaking down my husbands resistance and now we are living the minimal tiny house life. No rent, no mortgage, no electricity bills, just 24 sq meters of floating freedom and lots of roof space to grow fruit and vegetables.
The downsizing was easy for me, I’d been practicing it for a number of years. When you are forced to choose only the minimum of belongings, you find yourself with only those things you absolutely love and it’s more fulfilling than a cluttered space of 80% crap. There’s also less washing, less ironing, less vacuuming, less mopping. More time to read, drink wine on the bow and watch the sun set. Working freelance can reduce your control over how much you earn, but you are always in control of how much you spend.
I see clients who need two incomes to support the mortgage in a large house that they consider too small for 2 young children. They use maybe 40-60% of their footprint, but want extensions. More power to them. I don’t judge and am lucky to work with them. But as they dig out half of their garden to lay concrete, I wonder what is being lost. The children now have a larger den, but no space outdoors for a goal post or a run about with the dog. In a high pressure capitalist world, where each pay-rise chains you tighter to the desk, the need to spend and accumulate is an understandable response. We must translate the stress into something tangible, so we feel like it was worth it.
What can we do?
The most responsible thing anyone can do is live in as small a space as they possibly can.
“But you don’t have kids”, I hear them say, “you don’t understand”. No, but I have a 6’3″ husband and 2 dogs and the 4 of us live in 24 sq metres with more than enough space for everything we need. A bedroom with a king size bed converts to a cinema room as needed, the breakfast bar seats 2, which is the case 90% of the time, and the sitting room sofa converts to larger dining should we have guests. There is a 1 metre wide office, holding just a wall mounted desk, a comfortable office chair and a printer.
All documents are digital, so this room can become a nursery should it ever need to. There is also a wet room and a 1.5 metre run of kitchen and it’s more than enough. Simple tricks help; we have a miniaturized Candy Aquamatic washing machine which holds 4 kg. No issues there because we don’t have an excess of clothing anymore. The oven is miniature as well, with 2 gas burners instead of 4, and a slightly narrower grill and slightly shorter oven. I’m hard pressed to remember a time I needed more than 2 rings, the grill and the oven all at once and felt I needed more. I usually use one stock pot or one large oven dish and cook 3 or 4 days worth.
Living small has a significant impact on the environment. For example, we generate 80% of all our electrical needs with solar panels. We installed a composting toilet, and buy as little packaging as possible, which is usually the stuff that comes in compostable wrapping. I use a washing machine Eco-Egg and solid shampoo bars. to reduce storage of bottles, and consequently have no plastic to dump. We each consume about 300 litres of water each week, which is about 60% less than the average in this country.
This is, admittedly, not the lifestyle for everyone, but I’m addicted to small spaces and making them work no-matter who you are, what you do, or what size your family is.
And there’s no point preaching what I can’t practice.
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