Posts Tagged Life Style

Building Community Continues

Part 2

In my last post I discussed the community Cedric and I live in and how La Casita has brought neighbors to our door. I’d like to continue exploring this topic  in terms of how you create and sustain community.  I’ve been involved with several non-profits and grassroots groups over the past 8 years that have helped me learn about community building. These experiences, especially bicycle advocacy, assisted us in building community around tiny houses in Charleston. My hardest lesson, however, has been learning how to sustain the community we create.

In 2008, Cedric and I along with a group of friends founded the Holy City Bicycle Cooperative (HCBC). It was the first community I had been a part of that found its beginnings on the internet. Cedric had started a website without knowing a single person in the biking community but  a simple site brought together a group who had all been working separately. Through our combined efforts we had a co-op within a month. I actually met Cedric for the first time at that meeting and when I left I was amazed at how quickly the internet had brought us all together. The Tiny Life is a fantastic example of an online community supporting and encouraging a physical community. Hearing stories, exploring other’s projects and being able to stay easily connected is essential to growing and sustaining any community.

Besides the wonders of the internet, networking has been a driving force in my experiences in community organizing. Conferences are an awesome way to meet and learn from others doing similar work.  HCBC members used to attend a conference held once a year called Bike!Bike! Different cooperatives hosted each year for 3 days of workshops, races and potlucks. When we came home we had increased energy and renewed excitement in our projects within the cooperative.  I’d love to help organize a conference for tiny house enthusiasts and have a chance to network and learn from all the rad folks out there that are creating a wider support group for other tiny lifers.

Visiting other projects is another way that we’ve built community which we learned when leading a community garden non-profit. The people behind the projects we assisted were always an incredible inspiration. We experienced further inspiration within the tiny house movement when we stopped in at Boneyard Studios in D.C. this past summer and checked out how they’re attempting to create community. It’s no easy task, with weary neighbors and hostile city zoning it’s persistent work that builds tiny house community. We’ve learned that connecting to people face to face is essential to such growth.

That is what we’ve attempted within our neighborhood-connection. I try to acknowledge everyone’s presence, from the children running through the streets to the dealers on the corner. I look people in the eye, ask how they are doing and acknowledge their presence. I often get the sense that folks don’t expect this. Some people look at me with surprise at being addressed. Being raised in the south where strangers often greet one another in the street, you’d think this would come more naturally to me. Alas, I was raised by a northerner and I was not instilled with this sense of southern manners. I have to push myself everyday to open up to strangers and take a moment, set my intent and actively greet people. And it’s paid off. I hear friendly voices in return, even from some of the most hardened looking of neighbors and that has been my reward.  Friendliness as well as general respect.

I’m excited to see what Jay Shafer has up his sleeve with his new venture Four Lights as well as other community builders such as Boneyard Studios. It will be interesting to watch the progression of these and other movements. For me, living in community is the best way to live the tiny life so I’ll be keeping a close eye on these projects as well as any others that are out there. Collaboration breeds inspirations so let’s work together!

Your Turn!

  • What do you envision when you think of community?
  • What actions do we take as individuals to continue moving towards supporting one another in building community?


Building Community

Part One

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.

 Your Turn!

  • Do you think community is essential to the Tiny Life?

A Present For You

I often talk of the downfall of society, consumerism, political injustice, McMansions and suburban sprawl.  But today I was taking a walk and thinking about things in life and what is really important to me.  I was reminded of a saying that a middle school teacher used to preach to us, but I never really hit home till much later

Today is a gift, that’s why they call it the present.I then stumbled across this video and really liked the message so enjoy.

5 Reasons Why I Am Going Tiny


Freedom from stuff, freedom from excess space, freedom of time, freedom from cleaning.  All of these things take time, energy, money, and resources, going smaller means these demands are reduced drastically.  You then have freedom to do what you want, what is important, what really matters in your life.  Tiny House image


McMansions cost allot of money, I am sure you have noticed.  The average US house costs around $265,000.  But it doesn’t stop there!  In order for you to get into that big house, you have to get a mortgage, which by the time you pay for it; it will cost you two to three times that, so roughly $800,000.  Then add maintenance, insurance, furnishing such a large space, cleaning products, etc.

Then there is the risk that comes with a mortgage, even with buying a house that is conservative for your income, even if you save for 3-6 months of pay in case you get laid off (which 95% of Americans don’t budget for), you could still lose your home after paying it off for 28 out of the 30 years you have on it.  So factor the cost, plus risk, then consider the opportunity cost, you could be well in the hole close to 1.5 million dollars and then be left homeless.

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