Small is the New Big
Somehow, over the course of the past two years, in a sequence of events I cannot clearly remember, I ended up selling my nearly 4000 square foot, five-bedrooms-and-a-swimming-pool suburban house outside Chattanooga, Tennessee, and moving my two dogs and myself into a 180 square foot tiny house on wheels. Much like deciding to have a baby, it seemed like a good idea at the time. And yes, yes, I knew I'd have to make adjustments and it would “change my life,” but also like having a baby, I had utterly no idea how much and to what extent. This narrative is an attempt for me to remember some things I'm already starting to forget, and try to make some sense of (justify?) the adventure, even though it's barely begun.
The tiny house move was a good idea, initially. I was at a transition point in middle life, divorced, with grown kids and a house that was way to big for me. I'd been wanting to downsize for years. It would enable me to be debt free, put some money away for retirement, and pursue a new career. I had a great aunt in San Diego who needed some home health care, and I planned to park my tiny house on her land, help her as needed, and go back to graduate school.
But it took a year and a half longer to sell my big house than anyone thought, and during that time, my daughter and her husband decided to start a family. So, instead of going back to graduate school in California, I'm going to Florida to be a grandmother.
And here's where the fun begins. I don't have a great aunt with land in Florida, and Florida zoning laws are different from California. There are a couple tiny house communities in the state (Orlando, and Rock Ledge) but none near where my daughter and her husband are in the Panhandle. I don't want to buy land of my own because it's expensive and I'm only going to be down there for about 10 months, so, I'm going to live in an RV park.
It's still hard for me to say that with a straight face - “I'm going to live in an RV park.” Actually, I already do. The dogs and I have been at Holiday Trav-L-Park outside Chattanooga for the past two weeks, and although we deeply miss having our own yard, (never mind having running water inside, or a working toilet or shower) it has been a wonderful experience. I may have drastically reduced the size of my living space, but my community has expanded in ways I'd never anticipated.
In the past two weeks, I've met kind, interesting people I would never otherwise have encountered. People who share their stories, offer camping and travel advice, and smile at my crazy aqua and lime green caravan. Thelma from Florida thanked me for making her smile after a family tragedy. Larry from Oklahoma helped me measure the height of my house, and hung out at my picnic table drinking Yuengling beers and watching me paint words on the side of the house. Joe gave me a special cap for my grey water line and offered to help me find my water bypass valve. (I've since learned I don't have one.) I met Reuben, a metal artist from Birmingham who makes whimsical menoras, and lamps from old musical instruments (check out www.reubensmetalart.com.) His granddaughters stamped their painted hands on the side of my house, and kept asking where my “real” house was. In addition, I have spent more time socializing with family, and friends I already knew, patronizing local restaurants, coffee shops, book stores and other businesses I'd never known about like Camping World, and Wally's Restaurant. And I've gotten to know my dogs better. I've learned, after nearly 4 years, that my adopted dog who takes forever to go to the bathroom on a leash will go readily on pea gravel. Who'd have known?
Yes, it's been something of an adjustment to live in a mega RV forest with neighbors 8 feet away on either side, to keep an air conditioner running 24/7 and keep my windows closed, to use shades at night, and have to wear a bathrobe and walk 50 yards to the bathroom and shower. But as for size matters, so far house square footage seems to be inversely proportional to community size. Small is indeed the new big, and I'm a happy camper.
I would hardly have said that 2 weeks ago though …. My next piece is currently titled, "What the Hell Was I Thinking"