Whatever Floats Your Boat

I've been increasingly fascinated, intrigued, even borderline obsessed with tiny homes lately. The fascination hasn't been so much with the size of the accommodations as it has been with the thought process around the concept. 

I wonder who's in the driver's seat when it comes to how people living in small spaces think about lifestyle. Is it their mindset that drives their choice in accommodations or the accommodations that help them see the world in a different way?

Dee Williams's book, The Big Tiny was my first encounter with the concept of tiny living and the desire that drives it (or vice versa). Dee felt like a slave to her mortgage, needing roommates to make her home affordable. Paying her home was a huge drain on her and, when she was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, she knew she had to make a change.

Letting go of ‘stuff’ allowed the world to collapse behind me as I moved, so I became nothing more or less than who I simply was: Me.
— p. 175, The Big Tiny by Dee Williams

Building her own home was not easy but it paid off in a number of ways. Not only was Dee able to enjoy life more thanks to a much reduced participation in the work-debt cycle, she found that her life was much enriched by living in a tiny space. She found she was free to (re)focus on life outside her four walls, paying more attention to living life itself, including forging new relationships, solidifying existing ones, and taking in more about the everyday than ever before. 

Whose idea was it that we should all get jobs, work faster, work better, race from place to place with our brains stewing on tweets, blogs, and sound bites, on must-see movies, must-do experiences, must-have gadgets, when in the end, all any of us will have is our simple beating heart, reaching up for the connection to whoever might be in the room or leaning into our mattress as we draw our last breath. I hate to put it in such dramatic terms, but it’s kinda true.
— p. 283, The Big Tiny by Dee Williams

Financial obligations and stuff in general seemed to present more of a distraction to living than enhancements to living. Less, it appears, is indeed MORE. Since publishing her book, Williams has built her next home, which was at the 2014 WDS conference's closing party (pictured right)*. Yes, it's even smaller because this tiny home doesn't have the loft sleeping quarters of her previous abode.

I recently counted and categorized all my stuff, and discovered that I have 305 things, ranging from my toothbrush and silverware to my truck and all the crap that seems to have accumulated in the glove box.
— p. 234, The Big Tiny by Dee Williams

Williams's book has lead me to look at housing and "stuff" in a completely different way. Our own 2,200 square foot home (it's a bi-level, which means that figure includes the basement), seems GINORMOUS and over half of what fills it is absolutely unnecessary, even energy-sapping. It's this feeling of overwhelm, this idea that our stuff owns us more than we own it that tells me we'll be downsizing when we eventually move. And, because of this feeling, I've been exploring different options, from the more conventional to the extreme.

On the extreme side, I love this site out of New Zealand: livingbiginatinyhouse.com. The abodes they feature are fantastic, in every sense of the word and the reasons for building them and living in them just as fascinating.


You can also stumble upon tiny living just about anywhere. J. Money featured the floating home/houseboat option in one of his blog posts last year. Though the homes he saw were in Victoria, BC, we had the chance to visit similar homes on the Pacific coast while on vacation in Vancouver, BC this past September. We also stumbled upon a "floating co-op" of sorts called Spruce Harbour Marina while reading the Granville Island Echo (article pictured right) over  brunch at the Granville Island Market. The article was so compelling that we took a walk to the marina in question to check it out.

If more people understood how nice it is to have a sense of home that extends past our locked doors, past our neighbors’ padlocks, to the local food co-op and library, the sidewalks busted up by old trees—if we all held home with longer arms—we’d live in a very different place. All over America, there’d be people living in the shadow of older people who know every word to the song “Fly Me to the Moon.” There’d be more people attending middle-school talent shows and walking quickly with warm bowls of soup from one house to another, so as to enjoy an impromptu dinner with others.
— p. 280, The Big Tiny by Dee Williams

Here's how it works: You can turn any boat into a permanent residence. For a one-time fee of just over$50,000 and the cost of a sea-worthy vessel, one can become a member of the 55-member live-aboard co-op—there's a waiting list though. The co-op, the largest of its kind in Canada, offers not only a mooring slip but also a centrally-located community  building that provides access to showers, laundry services, a full kitchen and space to entertain, including an expansive deck with a great view. There's parking available if you own a car and your vessel receives permanent hookups to all the necessary utilities (power, sewer system, water, phone and high speed Internet). The sense we got was that this wasn't just a housing choice, but also a choice to share common facilities with like-minded people. The co-op is essentially a tight-knit, floating neighbourhood of families of various sizes and spanning a number of generations. We must have stood there gawking at this floating community for at least twenty minutes, if not more. Afterwards, we even looked at listings of various boats for sale on Granville Island. I guess you could say we were trying it on for size...at least mentally.

What a wonderful solution this co-op has found to enable a group of people to have it all: living in a wonderful city surrounded by wonderful people without having to pay the insane housing costs that living in downtown Vancouver would demand. Like Williams, the residents keep housing from being a central theme around which everything else orbits. Life appears to be refocused on the individual, the family unit and the community where it belongs. I can't think of a better tool to regain personal freedom and clarity around what it means to be alive.

Until we choose to downsize—I'm toying with the idea of 400 square feet at the moment, though Mr. F2P wants a bit more—I'll keep looking at tiny homes with wonder, imagining what it'll be like to live in a much smaller space. Being prairie people, I doubt that a floating vessel would be our residence of choice but hey, it might just be what you've been looking for.

As the saying goes: Whatever floats your boat! 

*If you want to know more about WDS and see Williams's presentation, check out the following: 

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