I generally don’t get sick, and I even made it out alive during the massive flu epidemic. But last week marked my first illness in quite some time. Oh well, you can’t beat them all!
One afternoon I decided to distract myself from the coughing and nose-blowing by watching an inspirational environmental documentary. I Google searched something like “top environmental documentaries” and came across Top Documentary Films.
There are pages and pages of documentaries on this site, so I committed to finding something interesting in the first few. Scrolling through, I came across this film called We The Tiny House People. I was a bit confused at first upon reading the title and wasn’t sure how it fit in with things such as Can the Gulf Survive? or the very convicting A River of Waste. Curiosity killed me, and I had to investigate. Sounded like it had the potential to be really boring, but I figured I’d give it the first five minutes to make a case.
Can I tell you that I watched this entire movie with my jaw dropped and eyes glued to my laptop? Even still, I am almost speechless. I’m so inspired I don’t even know where to begin! How on earth could someone live in a 90 square foot space? I’m not kidding. One of the women in the film has a clip on YouTube. Can you even begin to imagine how much less “stuff” you would have? I think of “The Story of Stuff” and how it discusses the environmental and emotional impact of our extreme consumerism, and how important it is to make smart decisions about what we buy. How long until it’s in the landfill?
The film We The Tiny House People documents several people living in what are known as “Tiny Houses”- essentially what I consider IKEA houses. They’re super small spaces, but have everything you need in them and plenty of storage.
I grew up in a standard four bedroom suburban home with a basement and spacious back yard. I was blessed to always have more than I needed; and my two sisters and I always left the Christmas parties with loads of presents. My mom was a bargain shopper and always had our fridge, pantry and basement freezer stocked.
Sharing a small dorm space in college was new, but I managed. I found that every time I had to move in or out I regretted having any personal belongings, and always felt I had more than my roommates. I have moved every year for the past 6 years. And again, every time I wish I had ONLY what I needed. How much simpler things would have been!
This past September, my fiance and I moved from what felt like a cramped, 1 bedroom apartment into a 3 bedroom, 2 bath Baltimore City row home. We have a basement to ourselves, our own front porch and our own deck and backyard. When we moved in, we had so much empty space. And what do we silly humans do with empty space? Find things to fill it! We acquired several new pieces of furniture and designated the 2 vacant bedrooms to be our personal office/hang out spaces. We now have 3 times the amount of cabinet space we had before, and managed to fill it all up along with a dining buffet we acquired. Oh, and the portable kitchen cart we got from IKEA. And then there’s the placemats and candles for the dining table and décor for the walls and rugs for the floors. The possibilities for filling the space are endless!
So having admitted that I don’t have a minimalist background, this film was quite a shock to me. Several questions went through my head as I watched it:
- What is it like to not feel bogged down by a house full of “stuff”? You have only what you really need and can spend the rest of your time, money and energy on life and its wonderful experiences! Not to mention you wouldn’t be contributing to the landfill all the useless things that tend to sneak their way into our empty spaces!
- Is there truly peace in this currently unheard of minimalist lifestyle? I mean really, your toilet is in your shower! And you have to pull out and put away your bed every day? One girl even used a chamber pot instead of having a real toilet! I suppose it’s less to clean and less junk going down the drains. And less room to fill with useless things.
- What would the world be like, even if everyone who could downgrade did downgrade? Would we not feel so stressed, worrying about how we are going to pay for more house than we need? Would people have more land and use their land to build more gardens? Would the air be cleaner? Would we have more trees? Would we be happier because we would be out enjoying life instead of lounging on our big couches watching crap shows on our snazzy TVs?
- Could I ever do this?
In general, we are a society of extreme consumerism. We often have more furniture in the house than we need; more food in the house than we need; more space than we need; more clothes than we need; more devices than we need; we eat more than we need; we use more electricity and water than we need; we have more dishes and silverware than we need; we generate more waste than we need to- the list goes on.
What would happen if we only had just what we needed? I’m envisioning a neighborhood of tiny houses, all with gardens and chickens- maybe someone even has a goat or sheep. Plenty of room for kids to play. Probably some solar panels. Plenty of trees. People socializing OUTSIDE of their houses??! Maybe even some community washing machines, since it’s not like we have our washing machines running every day and how silly it is that those big ugly things hang out and waste space. And imagine the stress-free lives we could lead by only spending money on what we need, and the rest on the experiences of life? I wonder how many people would still want that 6 figure salary job. Perhaps debt would go down too, huh? There would be less waste going into landfills and less carbon emissions because we’d be producing less stuff because we wouldn’t need as much stuff because we would have nowhere to put that stuff because we lived with just what we needed. I think Mother Earth likes the sound of that!
I know that not everyone can live in a “tiny house”, but I think we can all think about our purchasing decisions and the impact it has not only on our environment, but on the quality of our lives.
Krista works at multiple MOM’s locations.