Living simply – even when people don’t understand
Envelope. Encapsulate. Nurture.
These words were the guide as I drew a pencil line across the paper, eight feet long, in quarter-inch scale.
The vision of this wall and its floor-to-ceiling bookshelves flashed onto the screen of my mind like a slide in a projector. Yes, this would work: three-feet-six for the width of the hall, plus two feet for the ship-ladder staircase, yes, that would leave the perfect length for the bookcase wall, which would also be just right for the bathroom on the other side.
Each wall, in turn, slid across the screen, and I drew them down in that shallow winter light: a windowed projection for the sofa; another on the facing wall for a banquette at the dining table. Opposite the bookshelves, stretching across the gable-end wall, would be the kitchen. A simple kitchen, just over thirteen feet long, all of it.
I tapped the end of the pencil at my lips.
Then sketched some more.
Under a shower of ideas, necessities, graphite dust, and eraser crumbs, a little house was forming. A cabin, if you will. A cabin that measured out at only 665 square feet, and would become a full-time residence for our family of five.
Say that again?
Six hundred sixty-five square feet for our family of five.
I understand if you don’t quite know what to think about that. It’s unusual, yes. You might even say that it’s far-fetched and a little off-your-rocker, this idea of a family living small – especially in light of the prevalent bigger-is-better American Dream.
But simplicity called. A lifestyle called where we would be less burdened with meaningless things, and more alive in the moment. There was a measure of freedom waiting that we could not experience unless we were willing to take a divergent path. This drawing toward a deeper life was so strong, so compelling, that we were willing to risk the label of insanity for it (thankfully, we discovered that crazy is what we were leaving behind).
But in the process, there was awkward, and there were questions, and many wonderings, because it’s quite possible to be hesitant and jittery, yet be solidly intentioned at the very same time. And when people wondered, too, and asked askance about this cross-grain life we were planning, we couldn’t blame them, really. This was unusual, indeed. Even to us.
So how could we continue toward what we felt held so much potential for us, yet at the same time handle the sometimes less-than-supportive opinions that people felt free to send our way?
First of all, we remembered that this was our life. At the end of the day, we were the ones who would either suffer the consequences or reap the benefits of our choices, and we remembered that, no matter the tradition of our society or the popular opinion of the day, we were indeed free to select a different path.
But we didn’t want to leave it at that. We wanted to invite people into our world, via this different path, in this little house. We wanted them to see this truest revelation of our life and our choice. We found that other peoples’ unsupportive opinions often came from a lack of understanding, and not necessarily from an offensive spirit (though it could sometimes feel that way). The unknown makes people hesitant, and therefore they often conclude based on assumptions, rather than on reality.
Interestingly, as our little house came to completion and we went about unapologetically living this life of simplicity in our small home and friends and family were able to see it in the flesh, those who’d been hesitant were able to come to a different viewpoint and see that this wasn’t deprivation that we were pursuing, but rather, a form of abundance.
And yet, grace still held the highest place. For there is a peculiar circumstance that takes place in which people can somehow feel that, just because you have chosen this life, they are now somehow required to consider, and maybe even pursue a similar life of simplicity in a little house. This can be either inspiring to them, or disheartening. We’re learning to support the inspired, and relieve the disheartened. Because, really? If your freedom is found in greater square footage, there you should be. Simplicity can find you there.
So we live our lives in these 665 square feet, freely, openly, and fully. We embrace the freedom that has come to us because of this decision. We invite people to share in it and experience it with us, to pack our little house with laughter and energy, and we extend grace for others to live in the situation that’s right for them.
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