|All photos are shared with permission from Rowdy Kitten's Flickr page.|
When I was about eight, the new neighbors moved in. This was good news as the previous folks were a little grumpy and, as I recall, a bit obsessed over their inground pool. Many a loud and rowdy party ruined my more contemplative moments of sitting on the warm earth of the vegetable garden, saltshaker in hand, eating tomatoes off the vine and reading one of my Little House on the Prairie books. (The aptness of that title will become apparent in a moment.) The new people didn't have loud parties and, even better, they had a daughter about my age.
The girl invited me over one day and let me explore their camper. This was a pivotal moment. While it wasn't a particularly attractive abode -- it had those garish tones of tan and orange plaid that plagued the seventies -- everything was adorably little and had a domestic, transformer quality to it. Look! This table turns into a bed! And this storage box turns into a seat! It was like a dollhouse come to life. I was in love.
And, I soon discovered, it wasn't just campers that had this cozy snug-as-a-bug feel to them. Boats did as well. We weren't boat owners ourselves, but I often accompanied my mother to the idyllic New England seaside town of Scituate, where we'd buy corn fritters dipped in maple syrup and sit on the docks feasting on them. My mother would usually settle herself on a less splintery corner of the dock and disappear into a book. I, on the other hand, would walk and jump the length of every dock, peering into the bobbing motorboats (that smelled faintly of gasoline), completely fascinated by their tiny fortlike proportions and hidden lower levels. There seemed to be no wasted space. It was a compact house that you could take anywhere! (Anywhere wet, that is.) During every visit, I'd pick out the boat I'd most like to have and would daydream about sailing the world in my fort.
One would think that the infatuation with all homes tiny and portable would disappear with adulthood, but my imagination clung to them just as it has to the thought that maybe, just maybe, I can figure out how to fly by if I only flap my arms hard enough. (If you haven't had nighttime flying dreams, you're missing out.) My eyes always light up at the sight of tiny cottages. The desire for a boat disappeared as soon as I learned how much money and work it was to maintain. Unless, I suppose, you actually lived on the boat.
Recently, I came across an online article about the new Tiny House movement. My fevered fingers quickly led me to Tumbleweed Houses. Talk about cuteness. I wanted to move in to several of these cottages-on-wheels immediately. They were compact and multi-purpose like a camper, but adorable and cool in a way a camper can only dream about. In fact, these bulky cousins suddenly looked like sulky, misproportioned teenagers compared to the tiny houses. Oh, to live so simply and be able to drive your home to a new beautiful location on a whim! The whole world must look so different from that vantage point, I mused. The only problem with entertaining such a venture was what to do with all my stuff. Our stuff.
Ryan and I are relatively good at not letting things accumulate in our home. We're not spartan by any means, but you don't feel overwhelmed walking through our house. (Except for the room that houses all stuff from our half-finished shed, which we are in the process of building. That room is crazy cluttered.) About twice a year we routinely purge our closets, not because we are particularly organized but because you hit that moment where -- ahhh!!-- there's just too much. And the weird part is that we're not big shoppers. A mall trip is a rare and avoided chore. This isn't due to lofty ideals, but simply because malls make both of us tired and cranky. People at malls, particularly those in parking lots, have the tendency to be ninnies. Upon entering a mall, I can practically feel myself starting to morph into ninnydom. It's exhausting.
It's a strange fact that stuff accumulates, even if you do lack the shopping gene. By chance, last Saturday I heard the lovely ladies of the Our Hen House podcast discussing an article from the New York Times that had inspired them to purge their home of excess stuff. "These are my people!" I thought. Though I suspect there's a lot more of us in the world than one would think on first glance.
(And here I will shamelessly promote that yours truly was interviewed this week by Our Hen House for a movie review of Powder, which will air this coming Saturday! Squeal! Jasmin Singer and Mariann Sullivan are two cool gals who are totally dedicated to, in their words, changing the world for animals. Check out their website. And definitely subscribe to their weekly podcast. It's highly entertaining and informative!)
As luck would have it, a book I had seen online and put on hold at our library arrived on Saturday. It's called You Can Buy Happiness (and It's Cheap). The author, Tammy Strobel, describes a journey many of us can relate to, at least the initial part. When their journey began as a couple, they had lots of things. Lots of things and lots of debt. Tammy described not feeling fulfilled by her work or life in general, despite having a super husband, stable job, and overall good health. Ultimately, they saw their possessions as barriers to financial and emotional freedom, and they gradually shed them. They continued to move into smaller and smaller spaces until, one day, they decided to move into a tiny house on wheels, built by the fine folks at Portland Alternative Dwellings. The results they experienced in finance, health, time, career, and overall happiness were astonishing. Astonishing and yet not that surprising once you think on it a bit. In fact, the more you look at their lives, the crazier and heavier most of ours seem.
We are only here on the earth for a very short time. We all say this and understand it, but every once in a while it really hits you, be it a particular birthday, a death/birth, or that random moment when you realize that nobody's asked for your ID in a really, really long time.
This is it. This is your life. Is the way you are currently living one that is intensely satisfying? If it is, my hat's off to you. If not, let's boogie and sculpt our lives into a shape that makes us grin.
I know I'm not there yet. I've got it pretty good and have nothing to complain about. But I'm not at that hard-to-define moment of peace and purpose. It's coming. How, I'm not sure. But I can feel it coming towards me and I'm walking steadily towards it, step by step, like that kid on the sun-bleached dock.
If you want to learn more about Tammy and her journey, you should visit her blog at Rowdy Kittens. (Great name, no?)
P.S. Don't forget to tune into Our Hen House this Saturday! I'm crossing my fingers that I don't sound like a dweeb. If I do, don't tell me.