Sean and I are going to buy a house.
Not a tiny house. A regular, mortgage inducing, on the grid, in the suburbs house.
It’s not something that’s been very high on the list of priorities for me recently, for obvious reasons. But now that we’ve both committed to working full time here for the next little while, we’re rearranging some plans. There are lot of factors feeding into this decision, some of which I’ll go into here. Mostly though, this post is an attempt to work through the feelings I’m having about the decision.
What does this mean for the tiny?
Truthfully, buying a place most likely means we’ll have to move out of the tiny and store it somewhere for a few years. The places we’re looking at now have smallish yards, they’re close to other neighbours and are close to town (a regional town, but still not bush blocks with privacy to stealth live). Since we started looking at properties the reality of the situation has set in – it would be hard to find something in our budget that would be suitable for the tiny as well. This would most likely mean storing the tiny somewhere else. At the very least, it means moving out. And this is a little heartbreaking.
An impossible goodbye
In so many ways it feels like I’m still getting to know the tiny. There is still a bunch of work to do to finish it off. I’ve navigated barely two cycles of the seasons in this off grid house and I have so much more to learn. We’ve built a vegetable garden that is starting to show fledgling rewards in its second growing season and I know the best is yet to come. There are so many more people to meet and conversations to have that spring from the platform of this tiny house. Sharing the space with Sean is another layer to the adventure that is only just unfolding in the most wonderful way. How do I let go of all of these things?
How do I step away from a house that represents everything I believe in, to buy into a system that I don’t? Is it possible to make this decision without compromising my values and what I stand for?
Right now, that feels like the million dollar question.
Why buy property?
The balm to my heartbreak lies in the belief that the tiny is a long term commitment. While the decision to buy in town isn’t very compatible to tiny house living right now, it’s a step that gets us closer to our long term dream set up. A bigger property, further out of town, where our tiny house (and maybe others?) can be set up and incorporated into the design.
While tiny houses are symbolic of a challenge to the current status quo (bigger houses, more money, more stuff), there are limitations to what a tiny house can achieve on its own. Tiny houses are designed to be part of a bigger organism, a community, a shared commitment to change. We must nourish that organism to grow bigger and stronger so it can become self sustaining, so that tiny houses are not existing on a tenuous periphery but are a viable housing option. I also believe that there are important things that tiny houses can’t do. I want to see more co-housing, more community hubs, more people opening their homes to people in need and more rental properties that allow tenants to connect and contribute to the earth. The tiny house has also been symbolic for me, but symbols should not limit what comes next.
Finally, there are some pragmatic elements to this decision. To be completely truthful, buying a property is appealing for the security it provides. I have found there’s a fair amount of anxiety when you build your home and life in a ‘grey area’ of the law. I have lain awake at night worrying about the neighbours, about my family getting sick of me, about the council finding out, about negative comments on social media, you name it. The less romantic side of tiny houses is rarely shared but it’s there and it can be scary and tiring. Tiny houses are not currently a very secure housing option and until we see changes in legislation and council regulations, this will remain the case. There are amazing people working in this space to create greater security for tiny houses and I’m excited to see what the future brings. Right now though, a lot of us are living each day without knowing who might knock on the door tomorrow.
On top of this, communal living is an incredible opportunity and beneficial in many ways, but it can also be hard. I feel incredibly fortunate that it has worked out for me as long and as smoothly as it has. But living this way relies on more than just my desire to live in the tiny house. My lifestyle choice draws resources from and creates risks for other people too. I do my best to give back as much or more than I’m drawing from those people, but this is not a black and white equation. Leaving this situation does not make it a failure. Leaving this situation before anything goes wrong means the past two years have been an absolute success.
I find comfort in knowing that there are many ways that the tiny can continue contributing to communities and projects even if I’m not the one living in it. I know there are ways we can make the decision to buy a house align more closely with our values. I know that a property would bring new opportunities for growth and change. It doesn’t mean the decision doesn’t terrify me a little.
I’m scared that we’ll never live in the tiny again. I’m scared that this house will be a bigger commitment than I’m ready for. I’m scared it will lock me into a lifestyle that doesn’t feel right for me and I’m scared I’ll lose sight of what I’ve learnt from the tiny.
There are so many ‘what if’s, but I have to tell myself there’s no point playing that game. The tiny house has already been a life changing experience and one of the best things I’ve ever done. That won’t change, even if there’s no guarantee that we’ll live in the house again. What I’ve learnt from this experience has changed my interest in having a house of my own. It has given me skills and the tools to create things I’d never dreamed of. It has given me the freedom to try out different career prospects and still save money. It has brought new friends into my life and helped me create precious memories with old friends too. Maybe in some ways, the tiny house experience helped lead me to the relationship I’m in now. Ironically, without the tiny house I would probably still have no interest in buying an actual property.
There’s still a lot to come before anything officially changes. We don’t have any plans to move out of the tiny just yet, but it’s an idea I have to start processing. Maybe this is less a time for goodbye than it is for gratitude. I’m not letting go of the tiny or of my dreams for a home and a lifestyle that doesn’t cost the earth. It’s a pause to acknowledge the path that I’ve come down before we speed around a corner. Maybe this is the next level of letting go and trusting that another leap into the unknown will lead me exactly where it’s supposed to.