Last night we ate dinner with a sweet lady who said, “We are ‘tiny house people.’ Our place is only 1,600 square feet, with a full basement. It can be tight.”
I had no reply.
Our home is 700 square feet, and we didn’t use the upstairs for the first two years of Prim’s life in fear of her falling to her death. So we basically lived with two large dogs, a medium sized dog, a killer cat, a dirty tank with two goldfish and two hidden snails, a host of flies we can’t seem to exterminate, and three humans in a 400 square foot space. It is hairy, sandy, and cluttered. It is perfect.
We do our best to keep up with the chores. We sweep once or twice a day, keep the dogs off the furniture, put our clothes where they belong so they don’t get too hairy, do the dishes at least twice a day, and try to find a place for everything–but still, it is certainly messy. We joke all the time that we are artists and it is an expression of our creative process. Savanna mops regularly and cleans with gloves and Bon Ami, we do our laundry in the cold water machine and hang dry them because we haven’t found space for a dryer, and we try our best to keep the books in the library. All of this takes time, energy, and regular practice. Or else it gets backed up and we all start feeling and acting stressed.
The challenge comes when you add garden chores, chicken chores, part-time work, managing a bed and breakfast, vehicle maintenance, beekeeping chores, dog walks, parenting, and marriage. We basically excluded adventure, fun and play for the parents.
So we went through a ten day excursion into the possibility of selling our home, buying a travel trailer and moving out of state. For a family that has less than a thousand bucks in the bank, the idea of selling our paid-off home for hundreds of thousands is pretty appealing. So we set a price based on the crazy market, which was four times more than we paid in 2012, and we settled on moving to Vermont, even though neither one of us has spent any quality time there. After the ten day research project, we came to the realization that we were searching for a place just like the one we already own. And what we really needed was to refocus our priorities on things other than work and duties. We needed add two things to our life: Adventure, and a bigger house. So we decided to stay right here in paradise, because it’s a lot easier to achieve adventure and a bigger house than to start all over.
While I understand that some people would see our life off-grid out in the Alaskan countryside as one heck-of-an-adventure, it has become the norm over the years. You turn on the generator to pump the well and run the toaster, and run off bears, moose, and owls with shotguns and prayers.
We are now making time for daily adventures, weekly camping trips, and seasonal excursions out of state, and to save money for an addition, so our 700 square foot home can maybe break a thousand.
Since that decision, everything has changed. We are bike riding, walking, making art, going to festivals, camping, and saying “No” to work and “Yes” to play. We reorganized the house, turned the back room into Prim’s room, and turned the loft into mom and dad’s room.
We have been through this before, and we have to continue to make the choice as a family to focus on building a memory bank full of good times rather than a bank account full of numbers. (Because as our dear friends reminded us of lately, the market isn’t doing too hot and people are losing a lot of money.)
To digress, I received an invite today for a twenty-year high school reunion in Eagle River. And while I don’t think I will make it, it was a solid reminder of the invisible passing of time that will certainly end in my death. So while I’m here, especially with a beautiful daughter who loves the heck out of me, and a gorgeous wife who I’d rather hang out with than anybody- I better enjoy it, and take the lead on a reprioritization of our values.