Why TINY: Peace and Calm

Upon my return from fifty-eight days of the trekking across North America, the calm that had pervaded my existence began to become less permanent as it had for the two months prior.  In all fairness, moving into a new home, setting up a classroom, and beginning a brand new school year are not the most serene of experiences.  What that quick shock to my system allowed me to see was that situations can be sculpted to allow for the space to feel more at peace.  My road trip confirmed that feeling that I would prefer to pursue.

Tiny houses had been on my radar before my trip.  In fact, when I was planning and booking, I had hoped to stay in the relatively new tiny house hotel in Portland, Oregon.  Unfortunately, the weekend that I had routed myself to pass through Portland was the only one not available on the hotel’s website.  My tent therefore served as my own less permanent tiny house that I stayed in on the trip.  Especially towards the end of the adventure, my tent became everything I needed.  It kept me dry during rainy nights, had a placed for my cot and sleeping bag, and gave me a place to change clothes as needed.  (Without the ability to stand up, this became a creative maneuver.)  There was no need to worry about how little the tent had to it, as it met everything that I needed from a shelter.  Ultimately, I didn’t think that living permanently in a tent was a solid solution.  That was when my mind really began thinking about the practicality of designing, building, and occupying a tiny house.

The moments in my life that I have been most content have been the ones where there are few worries.  Something tells me that is true for nearly every other person.  (What an epiphany, right?)  Having never lived in a tiny house before, I am sure that worries and concerns will still emerge when that time comes.  A tiny house is not a forcefield for life’s unpleasant parts.  However, logic tells me that the worries connected with the upkeep and finances of a traditional home have the potential to be more extreme.  If I can knowingly pursue an option that can help minimize these stresses, then that is certainly the pursuit worth exploring.

Should I live to a ripe old age, I hope that I will be able to reflect back on my life and determine that I had more serene days than worrisome days.  In some ways, that may be out of my control.  I truly believe that we are not able to control our lives, but we can control the circumstances that may ultimately steer our lives towards the path that we desire.  I am a better person when I am calm.  I am a better son, brother, friend, and teacher when I am calm and at peace.  My hope is that going tiny will help foster that existence that makes me a better person.

Tiny House Jamboree

To the organizers of the Tiny House Jamboree:

At first glance, I have no business submitting an application to speak at the Tiny House Jamboree. I have no tiny house. In fact, I have never even set foot in one. (If you don’t count an imaginary footprint of one that Jay Shafer created out of masking tape in a parking lot in Boulder, Colorado.) I have little building experience, except for helping my father build decks and my two years of set-construction as the stage manager for the middle school that I teach in. What I do have is a vision.

Several years ago, I became quite stressed with life in general. The decision to move out of my apartment, put everything in storage, and use my summer away from teaching to travel around the continent was a life changing moment. Those fifty-eight days allowed me to step away from my existence and see just how little I needed to feel at peace. Along with family and friends who joined me for parts of the journey, everything I needed fit into my small hatchback car. It was the simplicity and peace that I felt that ultimately sparked the idea that I could create change to foster this feeling on a more permanent level. Before this trip, I had been aware of tiny houses, but did not see how they could fit into my life. After all, I live on Long Island, NY. The tiny house movement has yet to sweep the area. The trip was the initial catalyst that has helped shift my way of thinking about what a home needs to be.

After the trip, I moved to my current apartment and began the process of purging many of my personal belongings. A significant dent was made, but I have held on to belongings that I simply have no need for because I currently have the space to store them. Once I got to a state that I felt settled in the apartment, my attention turned to everything tiny. I began sketching. I began watching YouTube videos. I began researching. I began dreaming. All of this led to me signing up for a tiny house workshop with Jay Shafer two summers ago in Colorado. As I was planning this trip, I also became aware of the Tiny House Jamboree taking place a few weeks later. Unfortunately, finances would only allow one of these two events to be attended, as they were too far apart on the calendar. Over the course of two days at the workshop, I learned as much as I could about going and building tiny. Then I went home.

The year following the tiny house workshop was uneventful. The decision was made that a tiny home would be cool, but the logistics were challenging to wrap my mind around. How would I pay for it all up front? Where would I build it? Where would I live once it was built? These questions and more kept any real progress and planning from going forward. By the time June came, I was frustrated with myself. Going tiny is just one of my dreams. I had started a blog on my road trip, with the intention of maintaining it afterwards. That did not happen. Writing is something that I thoroughly enjoy, but I can get stuck at certain moments which prevents anything meaningful to be written. Over the previous few years, there were two separate book projects that I had started to work on only to keep them tucked away in folders on my computer’s desktop. I was starting to think that going tiny would be another idea that would just get tucked away in my brain for me to regret much later in life.

However, serendipity has a way of shaking things up. In July of last year, I went to the city for one of my wandering days. They mean so much to me. A day of wandering about with no set plans calms me. Having lost the Hamilton lottery in the morning, in addition to the numerous losses each week in the previous six months, I went to my fallback location. The Metropolitan Museum of Art offers me reminders. I am reminded about creativity, beauty, quirkiness, perspective, and patience. Although it was a hot day, I found the last available spot on a bench on the breezy rooftop garden to read a book. After awhile I realized it was after 4pm and I needed to check my lottery results for Hamilton. Disbelief. Then horror. I won. Well technically, my mother won. She had given me permission to enter her name to increase the chances of winning. So, we won. Only I was already in the city and she needed to get there pronto as the win was under her name. All worked out and I got to see Hamilton from the front row.

The several days immediately after seeing the show generated a burst of creativity and clarity that I had not experienced in my entire life. The inspiration that came from seeing this unique show that was so carefully crafted and clearly took a great deal of time to create offered a new perspective for me. A set timetable does not always exist for creation. This thought allowed me to begin thinking that all of my projects delegated in a stuck mode perhaps were not resigned to being left behind. This thought allowed me to see that these separate projects of mine were perhaps meant to be part of one larger project. Those few days and weeks that followed jump started a project that is in the midst of its run.   (Project link:   A TINY Journey: Building a Home )

So that leads me to today. I woke up early and decided that today was as good of a day as any to devote time to my project. I have had this thought many times over the past few months, but have found plenty of reasons to say that I will wait until later. I spent some time changing a few words on the project’s site, only to discover that due to a technical glitch anyone who may have hoped to be a part of the project would have been unable to do so. For six months a significant part of the project had been offline, without me even knowing. I quickly updated what needed updating, and began reevaluating my project’s priorities. During this process, I decided to see when the Tiny House Jamboree was taking place. You see, I am driving to Denver this summer to help a friend. My original hope was to start heading back home towards the end of July. When I saw the Jamboree was so early in August, I knew that it would make sense to stay to be inspired. After a few minutes of looking around, I saw the link to apply to be a speaker. Another wild idea occurred. Why not me? What could I offer to others who are intrigued by the tiny phenomenon.

A vision. As I have said, I have nothing tangible in connection to the tiny world, other than some books, a notebook, and thousands of tiny cards in an IKEA storage box on my bookshelf. What I can offer is a story of looking forward in regards to tiny. I cannot share a story of how I built my home. My home does not exist. Yet. Something tells me that there will be many people at the Jamboree this year who are in a similar situation as me. People who are curious about tiny houses and are taking the first steps to see if it can become a reality for themselves, and not just some pipe dream.

If I was given the opportunity to speak, my hope would be to focus my thoughts on the following questions from the perspective of someone who has not officially become a part of the community of tiny dwellers:

-Why tiny? (Ten main reasons for me.)
-How can singular moments change the direction of one’s life?
-How do the experiences that we have and the people that we meet shape our opinions and worldview? (With the focus being on going tiny and the desire to travel.)
-How can taking those frightening first steps turn a dream to a reality? (Hopefully.)

Thank you for considering my proposal to speak. As a teacher, public speaking is something I do everyday. Should you require any other feedback about my ability to speak in front of a crowd, I can provide additional references. Regardless of the decision about the speaking opportunity, I look forward to attending the Tiny House Jamboree this year!

Thank you for your time.

Gregory Sewell

Getting Started (Again)

Originally, my plan was to write this entry about eight months ago.  That clearly did not happen. Hesitation was a contributing factor in the delay, as was the beginning of a new school year.  My plan was to share on the blog the project that I had begun back in late July and get things rolling once I returned from Maine.  Every few weeks, I simply delayed the writing process connected with my project.  In all fairness, I had been organizing and writing offline, and have continued to do so.  The publishing process has been delayed.  There was something that kept holding me back from getting a writing routine going.  This post is my metaphorical leap into the ocean without feeling the water first.

Over the next ten weeks, I will publish a weekly blog entry in a series called “Why Tiny?” that explores my reasons for wanting to simplify my life and build a tiny house.  I look forward to sharing my ideas in the coming weeks and overcoming that hesitation that has sidelined me over the past few months.  These blog entries, and the ones that follow the initial series, are just a small part of a larger project that is still evolving. I welcome you to read about this project that began last July and has been underway since by following the link below.

A TINY Journey: Building a Home