- Posted July 13, 2012 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Living in small spaces
The Foundation of a Tiny r(E)volution
- Jareen, CNN iReport producer
To one degree or another, we’ve all been active and willing participants in America’s Culture of Debt. Just in short sight:
• Sunday ad supplements are thicker than the Sunday paper itself.
• Once you arrive at the store you are immediately encouraged to save pennies by signing up for a high interest store credit card.
• The Christmas consumer free-for-all begins a month before Thanksgiving, with people waiting in line to gobble up merchandise at 2:00 am.
• Most teens can't tell the difference between a credit card and a debit card as they both bear the VISA logo.
As for food, health, employment, cost of living, the lists are no more encouraging. But that is beginning to change and it is happening on all levels; even with rural, Carolina couples, who constantly talk about how to pay off consumer debt, choose to live in a Tiny House, work daily to establish their micro-homestead, and never forget that relationship is the center of it all.
The first home I owned cost just at $52,000. For that price I got a 2-bedroom, 1-bath, fixer-upper that was on .35 acre in the middle of a post-war neighborhood in Norfolk, VA. It was built in 1953.
At the time my home was built America was reestablishing itself. Men had returned home from the war and were now firmly rooted in their post-war career. Women were homemakers and mothers, not CEOs and business owners. Homebuyers were encouraged to look to the future and stretch themselves as far as they could to buy a house. It made more sense then.
My wife, on the other hand, never purchased a home but spent over 5 years in the hospitality industry watching people spend seemingly absurd amounts of money to escape the complex lives they had created for themselves. They entered her resorts begging for the simple life and for a way to reconnect with themselves and their loved ones.
Fast forward to 2010.
The Issue At Hand
The nation has been in a recession for almost three years and unemployment is at a thirty year high. Real estate has become a risky investment and those who do own homes are seemingly stuck in a vicious cycle of working just to afford the home they currently have; homes that are often larger than needed.
Since that first home of mine was built; never mind. Since my parents purchased the home I was raised in (a 1100 sq. ft., post-war, cracker box) much – if not more – has changed.
• Rapidly rising prices in the 70s and 80s meant you could count on hefty annual raises. Today, you simply can’t rely on double-digit income boosts to make your mortgage payment less of a burden year after year.
• A generation ago, single-income families were far more common. If the breadwinner lost a job, the other spouse could go to work in an effort to save the house. With more two-income families needing both paychecks to match the mortgage, there’s no one on the sidelines to possibly take up the slack.
• Thirty years ago, it was tough to get a mortgage for more than you could really afford. And while lenders have recently learned their lesson after the “swinging arm” loans, they still seem to push, knowing that the vast number of borrowers will do whatever it takes to pay their mortgage – even if it means trashing the rest of their financial lives.
• A much bigger portion of the American work force was covered by traditional, benefit pensions thirty years ago than they are today. Social security is becoming more of a myth and most workers have little to no money left at the end of the paycheck to invest in 401k plans and IRAs.
Somewhere along the line the American Dream became defined by owning more stuff than your neighbor and having the best quality money could buy despite the collateral damage? I am done believing it does.
From New York to Georgia to North Carolina and back to Georgia, we have worked hard at simplifying our lives. We have minimized the number of clothes we own by joining Project 333. We have altered our diets. We have minimized our dependency on cars and travel in general, as well as the number of square feet we need to exist indoors. And we have reduced the amount of books we surround ourselves with, the number of CDs and DVDs we buy (largely for one-time use), and the overall debt we have amassed. And we have lived in a 220 square foot converted wood shop preparing to alter our own course in life and build our own 240 square foot tiny house trailer.
In this exchange we have maximized our quality of life, our love for each other, our concern for the world around us, our ideas of entertainment, our health (mentally and physically), and our general dispositions.
Along the way we have had our first child, changed our tiny house design tens of times, met and become part of an amazing tiny house community, and learned the difference between joists and rafters.
Our experience hasn't always been easy and has been full of transition. But it has opened our eyes to the beauty of living in the moment and being thankful for what we have and not what we are told we should have.
We encourage anyone and everyone to join us as we continue building our tiny house trailer and finding out why living small has helped us live big!
Join us at www.tinyrevolution.us