Tiny House Spirals: How a Window Fan Taught Me Everything I Needed to Know About Living Tiny
Tiny House Spirals Might Not Be What You Think...
It’s Alaska, AKA The Tiny House Concierge, and I’m back with one final article to round out this five-part series.
I have enjoyed getting to know you over the past ten weeks! Thank you to Tiny House Expedition for graciously sharing their platform and to all of you out there manifesting your tiny house dreams. I truly believe that together, we are changing the world.
We’ve covered some complex topics in this series, including how to protect yourself when buying tiny; how tiny houses are lowering carbon footprints, and how the tiny house movement could protect against major system collapses.
For this last installment, however, I’d like to keep things simple: I want to tell you about the moment I realized a tiny house had changed my life forever. It started with the world’s dirtiest window fan.
Lessons from the World’s Dirtiest Window Fan
The fan was disgusting. When I pulled it out of the closet, large clumps of black dust fell at my feet. It was the kind of dirty that you take one look at, apologize to the Gods of upcycling, and throw in the garbage. I know that’s a terrible thing to do to a functioning piece of equipment.
Still, the reality is that I haven’t historically had the time or emotional bandwidth to clean something like a window fan. How would I take it apart? How would I get into all the cracks and crevices? It was like a too-dirty-to-donate situation, you know?
I set the fan outside to await its demise on trash day and walked back into the house. That’s when it hit me: I lived in a tiny house.
As I stood in my living room, I remembered that I no longer lived in California. I no longer rented an apartment that was bleeding me dry. For the first time in my life, my life felt manageable, like I might actually be OK after all.
Friends, I’m telling you: the bandwidth you get back when you go tiny is life-changing.
As I looked down the length of my beautiful, tiny baby, I realized something profound: I actually DID have the time and bandwidth to clean the fan. Or at least enough time and bandwidth to try.
Twenty-six seconds. That’s how long it took to take the fan apart. Thanks to YouTube University, I learned that disassembling a window fan is as simple as removing a single screw.
An hour-and-a-half and 50 Q-tips later, the fan was in mint condition. Had solving my problem really been that easy? For funsies, I decided to Google the unit to see how much money I’d saved. Friends, it was a fifty-dollar fan.
This was the moment I knew my very small house had changed my life forever.
Let’s examine how the above story would have played out in my life before going tiny.
If my housing had still been bleeding me dry, I would have been too stressed out to clean the fan and would have thrown it away. If I’d thrown the fan away, I would have created trash AND needed to buy a new fan. If I’d had to buy a new fan, I would have needed an extra fifty dollars.
Needing an extra fifty dollars would have caused me to spend even more time at work, making me even more stressed out, and thus the cycle would continue. Oh, and in that process, I would have been developing fewer skills while creating more trash.
Is this American culture or what? Friends, what we have here is an ever-growing spiral. It’s the reason our lives are getting bigger and more expensive, while we are becoming broke and more stressed out. How can we be expected to make changes- or even question the system- when we have to work at 8 a.m. the next day? As a culture, we barely have time to sit down, much less figure out how to take apart a window fan.
But this is tiny house magic. This is where a tiny house steps in and puts a hard stop to the American narrative.
Let’s now examine how this same scenario unfolded given that I lived tiny.
Because I lived in a tiny house, my life and bills were manageable- this gifted me with time and emotional bandwidth. Because I had time and emotional bandwidth, I was able to clean the fan.
Cleaning the fan gave me a shiny new skill set and saved me fifty dollars while preventing trash creation. Because I didn’t need to buy a new fan (and because of my shiny new skill set!) I now need less money and can therefore spend less time at work. Spending less time at work means I’m even less stressed out, which gives me even more time, and emotional bandwidth with which to tackle the next project that comes along.
Friends, I call this reversal of energy a Tiny House Spiral.
It’s something I discovered by accident, and in no way did it happen because I am some kind of exceptionally conscious, eco-human. No, a Tiny House Spiral is simply the natural outcome of a manageable lifestyle. Instead of my life getting bigger and harder to maintain, I’m constantly forced to bring life back into my circle of control.
I say “forced” because a tiny house does kind of force this process. Now that I live in 267 square feet, I no longer have the option of solving my problems by adding “things” to my life or seeking external fixes.
Instead, I have to use what I have, add skill sets where needed, and reckon with my waste- human or otherwise. Everything I do requires that I turn inward and view myself as the solution. It makes me think of the classic adage: everything you seek is already within.
Tiny house living is not always easy, but Friends, please believe me when I tell you how transformative it is. Since going tiny, my levels of peace, joy, well-being, and self-sufficiency have skyrocketed. This house has led me back to my core values; it’s giving me my life back in the form of time, money, and energy.
I can’t help but wonder what a few more years of this lifestyle will do for me. Will I be growing a significant portion of my food in the future? Will I have the skillset to build a chicken coop? Will I need so little money that retiring is not only an option but something I could even do before age sixty-five?
Three years ago, I was just a girl living in a concrete jungle who was spending 56% of her take-home pay on her half of the rent. It seems surreal that my life has changed so radically, and yet, here I am.
Before you all move into four hundred square feet or less, however, I do want to mention two caveats.
The first is that you do not need to live in a tiny house to create a Tiny House Spiral in your life. Tiny houses might facilitate their creation, but ultimately Tiny House Spirals are made whenever we stop outsourcing our problems.
The second caveat is that while saving money might give you more time and emotional bandwidth, a tiny house is not always the thing that will save you money. So, before you plunk down your hard-earned cash, it’s important to consider the specifics of your situation.
Whew! Friends, I could talk about tiny houses for a lifetime, but I promised you I’d keep this article short and sweet.
There is no road map for changing the American narrative. We will have to work together to make a new plan and share what we learn along the way. I feel privileged to be living my life in a Tiny House Spiral now, and I wish you one of your own. The peace we are after is possible, but it will require that we forge a new path forward. When we get overwhelmed in this process, let’s remember the story of a humble window fan.
Before I go, I want to say one more thing. I know it’s terrifying to radically rethink your life, but I know you can do it if you want to. Sometimes I wish I could reach back through the space-time continuum and hand a note to my past self. For what it’s worth, this is what I’d tell that girl:
The spiral is reversible. Housing is key, and tiny house magic is real.
We are going to be OK.
All my love,
Alaska is a writer, realtor, and tiny homeowner living in the great state of Colorado. She is the founder of The Tiny House Concierge, a company that provides education and consultation services for people looking to re-think their housing and re-write their lives. You can find her on Instagram: @tinyhouseconcierge.
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