Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Difference Between Buying a House and Buying a Tiny House

I have not always been poor and rural.

My life has gone through a number of socio-economic phases. I started off as a middle-class urban kid, transitioned to being a poor rural kid, then I was a working-class (but educated) urban young adult, then a middle-class urban adult and now I'm a rural adult artist (more fun than working- or middle-class, but much less financially stable than either).

Almost ten years ago, back when I was a yuppie, I bought a house in Toronto with my then partner. Now, I can't even fathom how I had the gall to do that. That house cost more than 30 times what I paid for my tiny home last month. It was a relatively inexpensive Toronto house, in a neighbourhood that was gentrifying, but still fairly working class. The house was nice and big: 3 bedrooms, 1.5 baths; it had great lines, fit our furniture and was relatively easy to heat. We bought top-of-the-line stainless steel appliances and settled in for the duration. We thought.

We both had decent jobs (my then partner's job was particularly well-paid), and we figured we could carry it. And, financially, it was manageable.

It seemed like a dream come true, owning a Toronto house in our mid-thirties. But let me tell you, buying and owning that house was incredibly stressful. We fought about buying it. We fought about how to paint it. We fought about whether to buy a giant flat-screen TV to put in the living room. We fought about how to pay for it all.

And, in the end, we fought ourselves right out of love with each other. (Admittedly, it was not only about the house. There were some other issues that I won't get into here. If you want a general sense of what the end of that relationship was like, you can listen to the break-up album I wrote about that and some of my other relationships here: Love Bites on Bandcamp).

But at the core, there was something that went wrong in that relationship that was directly related to the house. We didn't own that house. The house owned us and after a couple of years, the house, and the stuff inside it, had become more important than loving and supporting one another. I couldn't tolerate the hollowness of it. I couldn't love a house instead of a human being.

It was such a relief for me to walk away from that house, that mortgage and that relationship.

I am struck by the contrast with my experience of buying my tiny home. I feel like I can love this little dwelling. It's almost small enough to hug. And I can afford it (thanks to a kind, informal, interest-free family loan - thank you! thank you!). No stress. No arguments. And, since it isn't big enough for another person to stay for more than a few days: no risk of territorial disputes.

This house is the right house for me. At 232 square feet, it is just the right size. It isn't about impressing anybody. It isn't about all of the "supposed to's" of home ownership. It has everything I need and nothing I don't need.

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