For my husband and me, 2014 has been all about downsizing: we got rid of 80 percent of our belongings, moved out of San Francisco and into my parents’ home, and are currently building a 131-square-foot tiny house on wheels. While this path to minimalism is winding, our goal remains clear: to experiment and create a home that makes sense for us. Here are four pieces exploring different approaches to space and home—from living on wheels to escaping the grid.
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1. “Lets Get Small” (Alec Wilkinson, The New Yorker, July 2011)
For tiny house owners, less is more. With no mortgage and the debt of a big house—and more time and money to spend on things that matter to them—tiny house enthusiasts are paving their own paths to simpler, self-sustainable lifestyles. Wilkinson talks to self-proclaimed claustrophile Jay Shafer on living small, and his journey from unknown artist to today’s leader of the tiny house movement.
2. “My Road to Hell Was Paved” (Ann Patchett, Outside, May 2004)
Author Ann Patchett tours the Big West, through the Badlands and Yellowstone, in a rented 29-foot Winnebago called Minnie. Initially ashamed by her adventure in a giant, gas-guzzling RV, she grows fond of Minnie and the convenience and comfort of her motor home, believing it has set her free. “I feel like I went out to report on the evils of crack and have come back with a butane torch and a pipe,” she writes.
3. “The Ghost Commune” (Michelle Nijhuis, Aeon, October 2013)
Over 20 years ago, seven friends bought cheap land in Colorado: 80 acres to make their dreams and DIY lives a reality, to live off the sun and rainwater, and to escape from a wasteful society. Nijhuis lived there with her family for 15 years before reaching the limits of the land, finally moving on. “Unplugging from the electrical grid was easy, or relatively so. What we didn’t realise was that we needed the human grid, too.”
4. “Earthship, New Mexico” (Samara Reigh, The Brooklyn Rail, June 2012)
“I love America so much that I want to see it reborn.” Reigh recounts her experiences in dry, desolate New Mexico, living in Taos in an earthship: an eco-structure built halfway into the hill, cooled and heated by the earth. In a neighborhood of pyramids, tin castles, yurts, teepees, and other earthships—where building codes are not enforced—Reigh learns that in New Mexico, nobody is watching, yet everything is possible.