If it were easy to identify locations, get loans for, and build small homes, this little web journal wouldn’t exist. It is truly a privilege to be able to put down roots somewhere, and there’s no way for most of us to forget that. The sad thing, I think, is that this crazy bureaucracy is taken as a given. In Jay Shafer’s “Viva la Tiny Revolution” that he posted last year on his site (or as I like to call it, the “tiny manifesto”), he said the following:
“As long as the law ignores justice and reason, then just and reasonable people will ignore the law. At this point civil disobedience is not only justified, for many it is the only option. The people of this purportedly free country will live in houses of any size that suits them whenever reasonable egress and land ownership or a landowner will allow. Thousands of Americans are already living beneath the radar in structures commonly regarded as too small to meet code. These folks live largely outside the system of imposed excess, and they do so within the rights granted to all of us by the Constitution of the United States. It now remains for our banks, zoning and codes to catch up.”
The question is how do we get these huge systems to embrace what we know is a more sustainable model? For the last few months of graduate school, I became involved in an urban studies research cluster. There were other grad students working in geography, sociology, history, etc., dealing with fascinating topics that I see overlapping in so many important ways. A fellow photographer is working on documenting the rise and fall of Victorville, a desert community between LA and Las Vegas, once the second fastest growing U.S. city, and now quickly becoming deserted itself due to the housing bust. Another project is looking into transition towns in England and the U.S., while still another studies how cities change or don’t change following natural disasters. One of the questions these students asked me when we talked about the Small Home Movement was, so what’s being done about it? And I was sorry that I couldn’t say much beyond, well…we’re talking about it.
Most of the people I’ve met in the Small Home Movement are creative and thoughtful people. We are problem solvers, but also tend to keep to ourselves. We engage in this little revolution quietly and for our own reasons and purposes. I’m writing this entry in my 400-square-foot apartment that I live in alone (with Leelu the Cat). In the last 2 years, I went over $30K into debt for the privilege of grad school; I spent $19K just on rent. And the thing is, I accepted this as necessary, rather than finding another way, like Elizabeth Turnbull. But to make progress, we’re going to have to do more than think outside the box. We’re going to have to go against our natures and learn to be collective in action, because, the truth is: the importance of living small is barely a blip on most people’s radar.
We can’t wait for banks, zoning, and codes to catch up to us. We have to rebuild the box.