Living the tiny life has a lot of benefits but it is certainly not without some difficulties. Living in roughly 200 sq. feet makes it unrealistic to have certain conveniences. Cedric and I realized from the beginning that in order to live our lives the way we did in larger spaces, we were going to have to reach out to our community.
We have been living in La Casita in a city setting, in the middle of downtown Charleston. It’s centrally located, we have a great landlord and our neighborhood is not only welcoming, but genuinely interested in LaCa. Folks yell out to us on the daily, “I love your house!” As I am sure you can imagine, it didn’t take long to get to know the neighbors when everyone was curious to find out what we were doing living in their hood.
Because that is where we live. In a hood. At least that’s what all the neighborhood children tell me. We live here because to live in a tiny house in the heart of this city, as in many cities, we have to live where there are bigger fish to fry than zoning issues, mostly in terms of drug crime. We knew getting to know neighbors and building community was going to be key to lying low from city officials and their substantial list of zoning laws but we also needed avoid tension within our neighborhood. It helped to have a longtime family friend living a block away but we certainly didn’t realize how much positive attention La Casita was going to receive and how it would help us find a home in the neighborhood.
We live in a pocket neighborhood in which most of the home owners are older black folk and their families. Reaching across the racial divide in Charleston is still a sticky situation that, at best, is breached through religion or work. I’m still trying to figure out if tiny houses can help bridge some of the social and cultural differences among the citizens of a city whose economic roots stem from slavery. From what we’ve experienced LaCa certainly starts many a conversation that steers toward deeper issues. I’ve had conversations about cypress siding that lead to a discussion on material reclamation and the economy of freeganism. I was chatting to a neighbor about road regulations and tiny house mobility ultimately leading to a debate on zoning and low-income housing possibilities. It’s rather amazing the doors opened through such a tiny space!
Whether old, young, black, white, rich or poor, we’ve had every kind of person come up to our home and ask us what we are doing and how we did it. It sparks interest and has helped us break the ice on many occasions with neighbors. We would tell them our story and in turn they told us theirs. It just seems to make sense to a lot of people we meet that having a space that is payed off, can be moved around and doesn’t cost much in resources is a great way to live.
Once we settled in, we had an outdoor party and invited friends and neighbors for a bbq. We had a great time and since then I’ve enjoyed endless porch conversations with my neighbor on the corner, helped fix the bikes of the kids on our street and shared countless good will in the form of cookies, dinners and beers with the people who live near us. Without their support we certainly would not have found such a comfortable, fulfilling space in the city. To live in a tiny house for us is to often rely on others for help in situations such as hosting a friend or a family member who comes in to town or throwing a dinner party or just doing a banal chore like laundry. We experience larger living through community and it meets basic as well as social and spatial needs that can not always be met by a tiny house. For us, it’s the best of both worlds.
- Do you think community is essential to the Tiny Life?