The healthy person has a thousand wishes, the sick person has just one.
Health, Wealth, and Happiness
The tiny house dweller has a thousand wishes, the hopeful resident has just one.
In a way, these two statements are versions of each other. People who live in tiny houses report being healthier than they were before they lived in their new smaller home.
I have spoken to women who are disabled and with chronic illness who have reported that they are better able to move through their homes and use the space they live in because the house has been custom built with their specific needs in mind. They talk about how their financial burdens are so much less now that their experience of stress is significantly reduced.
A vibrant 60 years-young woman living in Oregon told me:
“I’m disabled and I was forced into early retirement. I’ve been able to manage my health care independently and I believe because of this lifestyle I’ve been able to improve my health care.
I’ll never say never but I don’t see wanting to live in a foundation home ever again. This lifestyle has afforded me to have to have everything within my reach, to spend less time cleaning my tiny house and more time outdoors. It’s ideal.”
Quality of Life
We are all generally striving for health. Tiny house residents describe this by talking about wanting a better quality of life.
What does this mean, I ask?
They explain that it means more time outside, less time sat down in front of screens, in offices, under fluorescent strip lighting or being paid minimum wage for a demanding and low status service industry job. It means time spent reading, writing, painting, walking.
“Sometimes I just get home and sit in the silence. You don’t realise how infrequently you actually hear silence.” An American woman in her 30’s explains to me.
“I sit there and honestly sometimes just cry. The tears just come, and it’s from relief and gratitude.”
Do Tiny Homes Offer Peace?
It is not an original observation to say that the modern world is frantic and noisy. It is normalised that we should be constantly available through ubiquitous smartphone technology and a tessellating social media network which is always on.
Several of the women I have spoken with in the course of this research have talked about the quiet of their tiny home. It is something deeper than the physical quiet of a small space away from the sounds of traffic and other people, they talk about a sense of peace that comes from being debt free, from knowing they could leave the job they are in at any moment.
A young single-mother talked to me about being able to leave her full-time job to raise her daughter.
“I really wanted to raise my kid. My mom had to support four kids, and my dad was there but he didn’t work. So, I watched her work like a dog and we didn’t get that family feeling growing up. I really wanted to give my daughter that, but I was seeing her maybe an hour a day. And I was like this is not it, so I quit. And because my bills are so low I can live off the savings I have.”
Getting Rid of Stuff
Other women talk about health by explaining how their relationship with ‘stuff’ has changed and how they have felt themselves become freer, more liberated as a result.
A student from the Netherlands explained that she herself was not a natural minimalist, but was looking forward to the peace that she expected would come with owning fewer things.
“Sometimes this not being a minimalist is very stressful in my head, so I’m also hoping to find a bit of peace and quiet in a home with a limited amount of stuff.”
A woman in her mid-thirties in Alabama told me how escaping from an abusive relationship was an important step in her learning about simplicity and tiny houses:
“So four years ago I was in a bad marriage. It was just one of those things, I woke up one day and I walked out and literally left everything I owned. I packed a couple bags of my clothing and I realised I didn’t need anything. It’s just stuff you know, my safety and my mental health were way more important.”
Tiny Houses as a Social Intervention
In the cases reported here, tiny houses have functioned as an effective social intervention for women with specific physical needs, family needs, financial needs, and safety needs.
The more I research, the more convinced I become that tiny houses can provide a quick and inexpensive way to provide dignified and beautiful homes that can change the direction of the residents lives.
Enabling their ability to pursue a life full of health and vitality is one important component of this.