Wednesday, January 13, 2016

1 Step Backward = 2 Steps Forward (and more): The Tiny House Movement

Airstream-inspired retro RV as affordable backyard tiny home 

This video shows an attractive, reasonably sophisticated, charming, middle aged woman giving us a tour of her home. She shows little regret, but a good deal of pride in revealing that she lives full time now in a re-purposed Airstream-type trailer from the '30s, something that was originally intended to be a Recreational Vehicle, a sort of 2nd, vacation home on wheels. And it looks comfortable, with all of the amenities, and not a bad share of style, to boot.

Early in the video she shows us her ‘living, computer/office, relaxing with a friend and a glass of wine space’, inside and explains that it's small, only 8 feet by 8 feet. But it looks good to me. She giggles with self effacing modesty as she shows us the equally small kitchen, which, by the way, also looks good and pretty much fully functional.  She explains though, the she has to be very creative and uses the "stove as a counter" demonstrating how she puts a cutting board over the burners before she cooks and uses that as a counter top (makes good, convincing sense to me). The tour continues with more explanations of the space utilization compromises she has to make in order to cope; but it appears to us viewers like she is living a good life in this "Tiny House." She has a double sink, a four burner stove, a microwave, a refrigerator with freezer, bragging ever so slightly that she's cooked for 6 people on occasion in her kitchen. And YES, she has a full, although 'tiny, little ‘bathroom” as she describes it, onboard, too (permanently hooked up to a municipal sewer line, as any other house would be, so she experiences no 'plumbing compromises' :) 

Two and a half minutes into the video the plot of her personal story begins to thicken a bit as she explains that she doesn't even go to her storage unit anymore, she simply doesn't need "all that stuff! ... I don't miss things that I've got rid of. Living here and having to simplify my life has made me really look at what I was doing." She explains that over the 2 years she's lived in her home she's gotten rid of a "LOT OF STUFF" as she's re-examined her life and gotten insight into (what I'll describe as) the culturally acquired, unconscious habit that so many of have of perpetually acquiring, hoarding, and co-existing with material evidence that we actually exist and manifest enough power in the Universe to collect a never quite sufficient quantity of things... what the late philosopher and comedian George Carlin called in one of his most famous monologues, our "shit!" She shows us the still-not-full, small closets in her trailer turned house, explaining that now she only "buys things that she needs." no more "Shopping Therapy!"

What's even more interesting to me, by far, is not what's in this video, but what it represents. Our heroine in this one, as gutsy, self-assured, and willing to face life's challenges as she may be, is less an iconoclastic cultural revolutionary and more of an enlightened, practical soul. And importantly, very importantly, what we see of her in this video makes her not only a rugged individualist, but part of a cultural movement of the moment, The Tiny House Movement. I'm not sure how many folks are directly involved in this movement (I'm not one of them, at least not at this point in my life, I don't have to be). Certainly, if one uses the number of YouTube videos currently online that introduce us to people who are living this way, there are hundreds of thousands of them. But, if we look at the number of subscribers the producers and posters of these videos have drawn (these folks very often produce them in ongoing series) AND we look at the number of views, "likes", and "comments" those videos have gotten, we can only conclude that people interested in this new lifestyle (and I AM one of them) number in the millions. And the numbers are growing.

What's the appeal to us? I came across this video recently while lying awake one night plagued by a bout of insomnia. I was surfing Youtube, indulging in short items that appealed to me while staring at my iPad in the dark. What should I take a look at? Travel videos? Guitar Porn? Food Porn? So many choices. Alternate Lifestyle videos like this one offer something special. First, these are not fantasies, but the actual lives of real people - and while these folks are not exceptional in personal talent, they are exceptional in the life niche they are carving out for themselves. Watching these is not only to indulge in a bit of escapism, but to get real, actionable knowledge about how to escape. They feature people who have, if not left if all (debt, bills, mortgage, the responsibility of owning far too much, competitive consumerism, etc.), then enough of "it" behind so that, as many of them relate, they can now, finally enjoy life doing the things they've long wanted to do. Their new lifestyle allows them to do this because they no longer have to invest their lives in the tremendous efforting required to maintain the materialism dominated American lifestyle. And, of course, some of them are involved in this sort of intelligent economy as a way of recovering from having been downsized, divorced, or otherwise marginalized economically. This is the great Silver Lining of our times. NOT being able to afford the flashy car, the expensive vacations, the mini-mansion, the designer clothes is f*&%ing liberating! That's what the people in these videos have decided... and they are rather convincing.

But hey, these new, alternative life values aren't really new. This is what we, the kids who came of age in the '60s, were after with much of that counter-culture, hippy commune, making crafts for a living, Whole Earth Catalog dreaming we did in a haze of Marijuana smoke back in the day. Dr. Timothy Leary, the so called "High Priest" said it eloquently over and over, and, in fact, I heard him say it live once when he was a guest lecturer at Long Island University in my freshman year: "Turn On, Tune In, and Drop Out!" The Tiny House movement is today's, intelligent, well thought out version of dropping out, and in many ways it may be our salvation. 



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