A topic popped up again. I wanted to write about it because it fascinates me, but I’d already written about Shrinking House Dreams and alternative economies. Yet, the topic comes up in conversations, news reports, and celebratory events. That’s the nature of trends. Those are the very things to talk about: the new in news.Within the last few days, about since the beginning of the year, tiny houses, alternative financial lifestyles, even the concept of job and business growth have been daily considerations. Very little of the conversations have extolled living in a 3,000 square foot house while working a job for life and then expecting an insured retirement income. Friends are talking about smaller homes, living in quieter places, and shifting from workweek jobs into self-employed vocations. The constant is people continue to dream, but they’re dreaming for themselves instead of copying and pasting a life from an ad.
Most of us don’t recognize our voice when we hear it played back; or, if we do, we know we don’t sound that way in our head. Yesterday I stumbled across the podcast of Kathy Baxter’s interview of me. She’s the radio host on KWPA for the show, “Spirit Talks On Whidbey“. With the podcast in place I could pass along the link, but I wanted to check the link first. Well, the link clicks straight through to an audio file that begins playing as soon as it downloads. That’s an easy check to make. It was about a half-hour show; so, I listened to it while I paid some bills and did some chores. That was the idea. Our conversation was about Spirit, and how people’s increasing awareness of their values and the resulting increase in personal consciousness awareness may be making micro changes that will effect the macro.
There were two parts of the interview. You can only hear the one about alternative economies (with a side discussion of dancing, white linen suits, shorts, and Gregory Peck.) Other means of trading value are being exercised: local currencies, barter, pay-it-forward, reputation, etc. We also had a separate, unrecorded session that we may try to replicate or use as inspiration for a subsequent show. In that one, we talked about the people who are actively moving towards debt-free lives, increased self-reliance, increased connection with community, and decentralization.
Envisioning such a lifestyle is entertaining. I’ll describe this for myself, but see if it is appealing to you, too: living debt-free, with more than sufficient income from work I’d enjoy doing anyway, and in a simple enough fashion that the care and maintenance of my life, relationships, and stuff all fits into a reasonable day. I’m an imaginative guy. I can envision many scenarios that fit that mold. Some involve corporate jobs, some involve entrepreneurship, some involve winning the lottery, and I leave open the possibility for variations that are better than I can imagine. The universe is full of wonders. I wonder what it can do for me.
For many people I know, such a lifestyle means finding a smaller house that’s easier to take care of and heat, (I’ve started a pinterest board for Shrinking Houses) finding a job that pays well enough without costing too much, only buying what they want and need instead of what they’re told to consume, and connecting with people who feed their spirit. That’s the basis of the work championed by New Road Map Foundation and a movie coming out soon called Money & Life, that I was happy to preview.
After I listened to the interview I reflected on my housing history. In the last decade I’ve gone from a 2,600 square foot house, to a 1,500 square foot house, to a 868 square foot house (Home For Sale Alas), and could live in less if I used a storage unit. The funny part for me was that Kathy Baxter, the radio host that I was talking to about this, lives in less than 500 square feet (as I recall), and that I have two friends who have built sub-200 square foot houses. (Noeticraft, Mighty Micro Built) That may sound too tiny for many, and for some it is, but that’s about the area available to people who live aboard their boats or in RVs. And the fun part about boats and RVs is that moving is easy and entertaining. With the ubiquity of the internet and telecommuting or virtual work, it is possible to work and live from anywhere a boat or RV can go and get a signal. Follow my trend and maybe I’ve living in about 400 square feet soon. Good thing my brother’s Christmas present to me was a book about how to live aboard.
As part of my dreaming I’ll play the real estate game; head out to a realty web site, plug in my desirements, and see what properties appear. I find phenomenal properties, right here on the island, because I like sunset views, the mountains, the sea, the quiet, the wildlife, and the space. And then I am presented with the details of the house, and I wonder what I would do with most of them. Any house over 3,000 square feet feels like a burden instead of a blessing. If I hired staff to tend and clean it, the staff would spend more time in that extra space that I would. (Though there was one house that had an excellent use of 1,500 square feet. It was a dance floor. Yes!). And I can’t imagine tearing down and throwing away all of that extra work and wood.
Trends start with, “Cute. That’s a silly idea, but don’t let us stop you.”; then a bit of defensiveness when folks realize the change may be disruptive, “No. You can’t do that. The regulations won’t allow it.”; then reach a tipping point when looking back elicits the reaction of “Why did we ever think that was a good idea? This new way isn’t for everyone; but, well, go ahead I guess.” Eventually the world accepts cars, airplanes, computers, and cell phones.
I suspect I see more of this because I live on island on the left coast of the “New World”. My friends are more likely to be artists and entrepreneurs, advocates and adventurers. Many are finding themselves busier than ever. So am I. Many are busier without being more profitable. So am I. But that can also be a sign that the money, or the currency, or the value is about to be delivered for the effort expended.
I don’t know if this trend will become a movement or a new paradigm. The consequences of smaller economies, less reliance on old institutions, and a crowdsourced exploration of new possibilities means that there’s plenty for me to watch, wonder, and write about. My book, Dream. lnvest. Live., was about how I invest so I can live my dream and I’m aware that my dream may be shifting. Maybe that’s true for many of us.
(Okay folks, so now the song “Dream A Little Dream” is running through my head. Ah, undoubtedly inspired by Angela Ramseyer’s title for her tiny house blog. Hmm, I wonder what it would be like to dance to.)