I recently watched the documentary Tiny: a story about living small available now on Netflix, and I can’t stop thinking about it. The film follows one’s couple’s attempt to build a “tiny house” and raises thought-provoking questions about stewardship and sustainability along the way.
The terms “tiny house” and “tiny living” generally refer to a social movement where people intentionally build or downsize their living spaces to anywhere between typically 100 and 400 square feet. The reasons for joining the tiny living movement are varied, the popular ones being financial and environmental concerns and a desire to live “bigger” with less stuff. While tiny homes come in all shapes and sizes, they generally focus on smaller spaces and simplified living.
First things first, a full disclosure — I hang my hat in a lovely 2,800 square foot home. Nothing about my suburban home resembles tiny living other than maybe our children share a bedroom. What follows is absolutely not a judgment or celebration on big homes, small homes, or anything in between. I’m simply exploring a topic that’s been tugging at me, and so I throw it out here for your consideration and input, too.
Over at my digital home, ThePracticingCatholic.com, I recently wrote about the exhilarating topic of dusting. Yes, dusting. Okay, I didn’t explore the joys of dusting so much (and oh the many joys it brings!), rather, a larger reflection on all the stuff inside my home that collects dust. Then I stumbled upon the Tiny documentary, and it’s precipitated some great discussions with my husband about what Das Schmidt Haus might look like in the future.
An aspect of the documentary I appreciate is that the practice of stewardship is showcased within the tiny house movement. Stewardship is the responsible tending of that which God has entrusted to us. It’s an expression of discipleship and carries with it specific actions; actions that have the power to change how we understand and live out our lives. Catholic social teaching tells us that we show respect for our Creator by our stewardship of creation. The majority of people embracing a tiny living paradigm are incorporating sustainable living practices using renewable energy sources and living free from the financial chains of debt and consumerism.
But there is one aspect of tiny living that brings me pause — of the families showcased, there were maybe two or three with children. I wonder if some dwellers of tiny homes are deliberately choosing that lifestyle over a life that includes children?
In his new book, Saints and Social Justice: A Guide to Changing the World, Brandon Vogt provides some thoughts on how creation and environmentalism exist in harmony and not at odds with each another. Reviewing Pope Benedict XVI’s body of work on stewardship that dubbed him “The Green Pope” by some, Brandon cautions us to not confuse Benedict for a secular environmentalist. He writes, “Perhaps the most distinctive feature of his care for creation is that it places the human person at its center. A truly Catholic ecology doesn’t seek to reduce the number of humans in order to protect the environment. It sees people, animals, and land as interdependent and indispensable to each other.” (emphasis mine)
Certainly, living in a tiny house allows one to be largely free from the attachment to material goods. However, where does that freedom lead? Does it allow openness to life? I’m not contemplating packing up and moving my family into a tiny house like the one pictured above any time soon. But I am left pondering how we can begin to live “small” in the space we occupy.
Am I the only one or does some of this resonate with you, too? What are your suggestions for living “smaller?”
Copyright 2014 Lisa Schmidt