Create Your Freedom: How the Tiny House Lifestyle Supports Joy
Living tiny has been paradoxical. In some ways, it has created such a radical shift in how we live our life that we hardly recognize who we used to be, while in other ways, it’s been so easeful and natural that it’s embarrassing to reflect on what a huge deal we made of it all initially. What we’ve experienced and learned in that time has literally been priceless. There’s not a morsel we would change.
A SEED SPROUTS IN THE CRACK
I wouldn’t classify us as a conventional family. Rather I’d say we’re more of a tapestry of sporty, outdoorsy, and bohemian, all sprinkled with a solid glazing of hippy. Our nature is primarily optimistic and some have branded us as wanderlusts. No matter what we are though, one thing is perfectly clear: we have a very low tolerance for pain, stress, and suffering. If something’s not right, we’re compelled to fix it. This drive to create our best lives possible has often led us down sparsely trodden paths; we gave up following the herd years ago.
We knew something wasn’t right soon after moving into our “dream” home in 2009. Everything we had worked so hard for was plunged into this behemoth. After just six months our family dynamic was in disarray. Financial stress was getting the better of us, our ability to spend time together as a unit thwarted by our need to work longer hours to generate more income. Fueled by exhaustion, we created the habit of opting for the “easy” way out of each challenge: retreating into the various corners of this large house.
The side-effects of our disconnected life were most evident in our (at the time) 10 year old daughter. We could feel her slipping away and setting foot into a new reality where she was more at ease being combative and withdrawn than in being the warm and open child we had always known. We were losing her to social media, friendship stresses, western society programming, school dramas, etc. Her frequent sulking was a hot poker in our hearts and served as a reminder that our family unit was not well.
An introduction to the tiny house movement came in the nick of time and we we embarked on “Operation Extraction”. Within the course of several months, we had gotten rid of 90% of our worldly belongings, gotten rid of the house, bought a used pop-up tent trailer and created a five month itinerary in which we would explore the beaches of the Sea of Cortez in Baja Sur, Mexico. Our at the time 14 year old son, Paiute, a competitive ice hockey player, had decided that he wanted to play in Colorado for high school. This created an opportunity for Andrew and Terra and myself to go spend a few months focusing on her needs and passions; she had been raised on Jacques Cousteau documentaries and had always wanted to go to the Sea of Cortez.
INTO THE UNKNOWN
We embarked for our Baja trip with a two-fold objective: 1) to reconnect with Terra by giving her an opportunity to re-experience life free from intense external pressure, and 2) to discover what defines home by whittling away all the frivolities that most American houses are encased in.
Our tiny house journey began in earnest October 20, 2011, the date we shoved off from our familiar nest in Ashland, Oregon. As we followed the first bend on southbound I5 and our home town became smaller in our rearview mirror, we could never have guessed the implications of the amazing journey we had just begun. Or how profoundly our lives would change as a result of stepping into our intention of creating an extraordinary life.
GOING THROUGH HELL TO GET TO HEAVEN
As our pace of life came to a sudden halt south of the border and access to cell reception and the interwebs scaled back to a measly 1.5 hours per week, a deep and insufferable itch permeated our beings. For 30 days we tossed and turned, irritable with each other and the world around us. We felt like addicts and withdrawal from our previous busy life and electronics took its long and twisted course. At one point, Andrew and I lay awake in the middle of the night, confessing in secretive hushes so as not to wake Terra, that we had made a mistake in coming down. That it was too hard. That we were probably psychologically damaging her and ourselves.
But some inner wisdom begged us to stay. To be just a tiny bit more patient.
On the 31st day, for reasons still unknown and magical, Andrew’s withdrawal symptoms lifted, the next day mine, and the one after, Terra’s. The toxic fog cleared and we found ourselves standing at the epicenter of paradise. For the next four months we played like children. We swam like dolphins. We ran like pumas.
Our days were spent SCUBA diving, snorkeling, harvesting foods from the sea, making new friends, playing instruments, singing, learning Spanish, drawing, eating freshly made corn tortillas, playing board games, reading, and most importantly enjoying each other’s company. We talked. We talked. And then we talked some more. Our draw to spend time on electronic screens became as distant as the sun. We felt Terra pull in close to us again; a planet falling back into the easy rhythm of its natural orbit. Order had been restored in our universe.
In five months we learned that in living with the least, we were the happiest. That busy-ness and excessive material possessions are high ticket items with a premium we’re not willing to pay. We knew that in order to remain in this optimal state that we would need to create a tiny house lifestyle back in Oregon. Which is what we did.
A FAMILY GROWS UP
We have been living the tiny house lifestyle now for exactly 2,042 days; 5 years, 7 months, and 3 days. The date we shoved off from Ashland into the unknown to radically shift our lives serves as our anniversary. Taking a peak into our future, we see no major forks in the road which would take us from this lifestyle.
Today we are fortunate in that both our kids (now 20 and 17) have been living with us for the last two years. Our son decided he wanted to play junior level hockey here locally in order to be closer to home and to spend time with us before setting off for college (which will happen this August when he leaves to play hockey for University of Arkansas). Terra graduates from high school in just a couple of weeks and will then set off on a year long volunteering adventure which will take her to various countries in SE Asia and Central America.
The changes we saw in Terra all those years ago have stuck. That journey allowed her to experience herself without the intense stresses and pressures all youth must face in our fast paced culture. To this day, she pays us the ultimately compliment by calling us her best friends.
The foundation that our lifestyle has created for both of the kids is invaluable. Moving forward in life, they will always have a unique perspective and an understanding of what brings joy and what works against it.
As for Andrew and myself, we are finally seeing our passion for creating a workshop called “Create Your Freedom” come to fruition. Years in the making, we are giddy with excitement to announce that we will offer our inaugural event in our beloved Ashland, Oregon October 27, 28 & 29, 2017 (more info coming soon).
Our Create Your Freedom workshop is a culmination of everything we have learned in our lifetimes, from the good to painful lessons learned, and all of the best tools and strategies we’ve adopted to create a magnificent life. Living the tiny house lifestyle has afforded us the experiences and opportunity to finally be able to create this workshop and we’re already counting down the days until this goal is finally reached.
In closing, we would love to hear from you and to have you join this conversation. Did you step into a risk at some point in your life and have it reward you with incredible lessons? Do you have a goal/vision that you’re timid to commit to at this point? What have you found has helped you in your relationships with those closest to you? If you’re moved to share your experiences, we’d love to hear them…you can do so by simply commenting below.