Before we even start to think about floor plans or how you will store all your stuff in a Tiny House, we first need to get down to the basics. What do you really need in this life? It is often a lot less than you think, but I feel it’s also important to point out this isn’t about living without, we aren’t trying to sacrifice things here, we are trying to find the happy medium. When we understand our needs, we then can determine the form and function of our house.
I have talked before about symbols of happiness, the idea that we purchase things which remind us of happy things, of our hopes and wants, of our dreams, but they do not themselves bring us happiness. In fact, internally, I think this actually creates inner turmoil because our desires go unmet. A perfect example is having a desktop or screen saver of a white sands beach, it constantly reminds us of us not being there, and it doesn’t seem healthy.
So what if we were to adopt a lens to view our world through to determine what bring us joy and contentment. With this new lens we need to do a shift in thinking as well. We need to know what things to strive for, to know what things we must pursue, but they should be achievable with hard work. At the same time, we need to be okay with not having things that we will never have and shift focus to the things we do.
I am reminded of a story about a man who sought the wisdom of Buddha.
It is said that the happiest people don’t have everything; they just make the best of everything. While cute quotes such as this one may be fun, we are beginning to see there is a solid foundation in truth to them.
There have been quite a few studies that show that too much clutter has a very negative impact on our well-being. Angus Deaton, Ph.D., a renowned economist, and Daniel Kahneman, Ph.D., a Nobel prize-winning psychologist conducted a study where they were able to determine that people who made $75,000 a year were the most happy of any salary range. They were able to show that above that figure had no bearing on happiness and in fact, it could decrease because additional stress that comes with that job.
Now $75k seems a lot to many, but I would expect that Tiny House people could achieve this same peak happiness at a much lower salary because your money goes further. It isn’t the amount of money here that matters; it is what it affords you that is key. At $75,000 you can afford all of you life’s basics, you can have good health insurance, a good house, some money to take trips and still save some for a rainy day. With a Tiny House you remove the housing from the equation, which is equivalent to many people’s 30%-40% of income; in this case $23,000-$30,000. So if we adjust that $75k we are looking at $45,000 annual salary which is much more achievable.
One way I help people determine what is important to them is propose a scenario. Imagine you wake up one night from a deep sleep and flames are curling up the walls, your house is on fire. You look out the window to see your family and pets screaming for you to escape with your life. What do you grab on your way out of the house, know that all else will be lost?
There are few things in this world that cannot be replaced: those close to you and things that remind you of times with those people are irreplaceable.
Finally the differentiation between wants and needs is a tricky lesson to learn. We are exposed to a consumer culture that makes it hard for us to even separate these things. So this part is a gradual process that many of us still find ourselves grappling with. It has been taught to us from a young age that accumulation of things is better. The more stuff we have, the better we are. The psychology of these things cannot be understated; we need to dig deep into ourselves to examine our motivations.
So hopefully this has let you understand a little bit of what truly makes you happy, what to steer clear of in terms of things that we THINK make us happy and help change our thinking to determine our needs and wants. Once we do this we are prepared to fully determine our true needs and how to arrange our life to live in a Tiny House.