Making Space: Living and making art in a tiny house, by Walker

Its Walker's turn to write for the Mv times!

    We had seen plenty of cute photos on Pinterest showcasing the adorable tiny houses of other couples around the country. I do feel Danielle has done a great job making our little home cozy and quaint. However, the real challenges of tiny living come down to hard numbers, tough choices, and unique problems with elusive solutions, and its these logistical issues that almost exclusively become my responsibility.

    We knew space was going to be tight moving into our trailer. At twenty five feet long and eight feet wide we have exactly two hundred square feet in which to squeeze our entire personal and professional lives. Clothing and living supplies have been easily managed, as we both have been preparing to downsize for over year, and I only really wear one pair of boots (they’re Blundstones like a typical boho Islander) so no problem there. Being the son of professional chef, this was leanest my kitchen gear has ever been.

Art supplies are an entirely different story however. I can go without that jacket I really like but hardly wear, but discarding that second tube of Prussian blue paint I have’t reached for in a year seems unthinkable. As a painter my supplies consist of paint, panels, and brushes. Since Danielle is a multi-media, mask making, costume designing, fiber-artist-film-maker-wizard every item at the local recycling center becomes a potential art material. As a result I have two cabinets for art supplies, she seven, plus half my closet. Had we only needed to pack out personal lives, space wouldn’t have been an issue. But with two full art studios of supplies every nook and cranny is packed, and tupperware of every shape and size has become our new best friend. 

    Not only is space limited but every pound is tallied with a scale by the door (and yes, I did use a second scale to weight the first scale). After doing some quick arithmetic accounting for the weight of full water tanks, propane, solar panels, batteries, and built-ins removed during our renovation, cargo capacity comes in at a tidy 1000lbs. Allowing an extra 250lbs of wiggle room for consumables like groceries and toiletries or anything we just plain forgot. We currently have 999lbs of stuff, so if either of us wants a new book some other possession must be jettisoned. We have to seriously avoid home decor stores, as Danielle is still in nesting mode and wants to make everything beautiful. I end up being the weight Nazi, the scale never lies.

The means of acquiring and consuming resources also radically changed with our new lives. Electricity hasn’t been much of a concern, as our solar panels produce plenty for our use. Water and propane for heating and cooking are very limited though. Our rig carries two 30lb propane bottles and 46 gallons of fresh water. With such limited capacity every ounce of each is used purposefully and deliberately; no more ten minute showers. A single propane tank lasts about 2-3 weeks depending on how cold its been and who is winning the fight over the thermostat. Water can last any where from 4-10 days typically depending on how indulgent we might feel. While in New Hampshire however, we were unable to fill our tanks for 3 weeks because of severe drought effecting most of the state. Our self-contained composting toilet has made us more aware of our waste then ever; and no, it doesn’t stink.

Each of these changes in lifestyle accumulate into some minor daily inconveniences, such as having to dig paints out of a cabinet, taking apart the dinette to access felting supplies or never being able to leave stuff lying around since there’s only one table. The upside to this however is the increased degree of intentionality we live with daily. Each task must be completely fully before another can be started, simply because there is no room to do two things at once. As a result, to-do lists have become shorter, and we have more free time.

    While tiny mobil living hasn’t magically made us into unmaterialistic minimalists, we’velearned a lot about ourselves, our priorities, and what using less looks like.