Given the constant noise and interruption of our device-led lives, I expect the tiny house trend, and the simplicity it offers, to explode.
As I prepared for my first year teaching, the envisioning of classroom decor was a source of regular joy. Online, I’d peruse inspirational posters, mainly featuring vintage books overlain with tidy poetry quotes. Exact phrasing varied, but the takeaway message remained incredibly constant:
Learning through Writing: More Important than Food and Water.
Naturally, I overbought. Said motivational posters were laminated, along with pre-fab poster lists of prepositions, other wall-size montages to remind students of more obscure parts of speech (remember synecdoche?), metaphorical layouts of genre structure. Though it didn’t belong to me, I once saw a glossy print of essay by way of cheeseburger. Bottom bun? The Introduction. Mayonnaise? The transitions. Etc.
My first classroom was covered in such paraphernalia, and that doesn’t even account for the bulletin boards and calendars.
I thought it looked great.
After just three weeks of classes, my small corner of the school looked like the thirteen year-olds I taught: chaotic. Stacks and stacks of papers were all over my desk: handouts, reminders, papers to grade, graded papers to return, paperwork for the office, attendance sheets to sign.
8th graders also have a stunning propensity for forgetting things.
Forgetting to return their textbooks to the bookshelf, forgetting to throw their shredded notebook scraps away, forgetting to pick up their pencils, forgetting to discard their illegal gum’s wrapper.
Just crap everywhere, folks.
And with all the clashing colors and boxed information fighting for attention on every available wall surface, the square room felt…
Soul-crushingly out of control.
Next door taught the high school English teacher. She was a veteran and bona fide legend at that tiny rural school; she also had absolutely nothing on her walls. Not one thing. She’d put up a tidy little curtain over the sole window, and occasionally posted unusually neat and thoughtful work from students in an upper corner of the whiteboard.
Some might have called it sterile. But compared to the explosion of junk happening next door, visiting her room felt like a short jaunt at a high-end spa.
My mind could quiet down. Focus.
After that first year, I learned. And with each subsequent year, I put less up on the walls. My mom helped me pick out artwork (as in, actual prints of paintings) that could double as writing prompt material, and we had them dry-mounted. Charles Russell, William Turner, Ansel Adams.
There were several years where those were the only white-wall space interrupters.
Not one of my first year students said anything memorable about all that clutter I’d papered the room with. But I had several subsequent students thank me for the simplicity of the space, and even more who would contemplate the artwork, and occasionally offer rather deep insights as to its merits (or not).
My husband and I are big fans of HGTV’s new series Tiny House Hunters. Why?
The show follows individuals, couples, and families who are trading in traditional apartments and homes for stand-alone tiny homes (somewhere in the 64 – 400 square foot range).
These little cottages are fascinating. Everything you need – kitchen, bathroom, living space, loft bed. All within one 360-degree look around.
I don’t know quite how we got so hooked. Maybe it’s just that a lot of these places are surprisingly clever. Storage below staircases, small built-in closets behind slide away doors, etc. They’re like little mystery boxes.
Perhaps, though we’re intrigued at the idea of downsizing.
It could be the requisite gear (toys, cribs, carseats, strollers) that come with babies and toddlers, but I can’t be the only one who looks around and wonders: what is all this crap? Why do I still have not one, but two sequined belly shirts? When in the world of circumstances that I live will I ever wear the purple one, much less the gold?
What is all this stuff? Surely we could get rid of most, if not all, of it?
And maybe there has always been some of this feeling lying around. Maybe every McMansion owner sensed the need for such massive space to hold such massive amounts of unnecessary stuff was false.
But I think modern technology is a big driver behind the simplification trend. We are always surrounded by the noise of our devices. Apps are always buzzing, texts are always dinging, emails always coming in, popups are endlessly interrupting our interruptions.
There’s no quiet. There’s no calm.
If the online world never sleeps (or even takes a five-minute coffee break), at least a small, de-cluttered house allows for our physical space to be manageable.
And that’s the tiny home phenomenon.