S ome of the happiest times of my life have been when I lived in the smallest possible space.
For starters, my shared college dorm room, freshman year, which was pinchy even by dorm standards at 10 by six feet. Then there was the one-room apartment I had outside of Osaka, Japan, furnished only with a futon, a table and a bookshelf. There was the tiny cinderblock duplex on Prospect Road during grad school. Later, a one-bedroom condo my partner and I shared as newlyweds, where our baby slept in the living room and we stored our bikes, grill, skis and baby toys in a hatch under the stairs we called The Doghouse.
Despite the romance of it, the tiny thing didn’t really stick. We needed to get the baby out of the living room. We currently live in someone’s idea of an ’80s dream house that’s got enough wasted space to make any minimalist weep and enough bathrooms to clean to make me weep. I love our home and we’re very fortunate. But it’s my constant partner, as I work from a home office, and it fills my thoughts. Declutter it. Clean it. Pay for it. Stain it. Replace the roof. Repaint the walls because someone had a Sharpie and an artistic vision. On it goes.
I once worked at a magazine where we profiled a doctor who studied happiness. “Do you know,” he asked, “what people say their number one barrier to pursuing happiness is?” Answer: “I have a mortgage.” Meaning, sister, I’ve got commitments. I can’t just do what I want because I’m accountable to a bank every 30 days for the next 30 years.
Which is funny. The thing so many of us in Colorado dream about—finding and affording a home here—can become the thing that ultimately keeps us from dreaming further, like opening a bakery, sailing the Carribean, or taking that volunteer teaching gig.
I think back about those tiny-room days. What was the constant? I didn’t worry about home. I spent as little time and money as possible on it; instead I was focused outward. They were times of big change and great adventure and the little rooms were just places to sleep and regroup as I built my life. New people, education, travel, love, motherhood—that’s where I “lived.” I was so busy building who I was that I didn’t have the time or energy (or Pinterest account) to focus on a bigger, better house. I was forced out of the bubble of a domestic haven and into the world, and those days changed me.
In the pages that follow, we explore the tiny house movement; it’s fascinating from both a philosophical point of view and a practical solution to our housing challenges, suggesting that less can totally be more. But we don’t just leave the exploration there. This issue is full of stories to prompt us to shake off our perceptions and leave the bubble, whether it’s by looking at how women’s voices are being heard in new fields and conversations, thinking about our communities and how they’re shaped by immigration, or pairing edible bugs with gourmet dishes.
It’s easy, sometimes, to retreat inward and not look out as much as we once did. But we’d miss out on the unfamiliar, the new, the uncomfortable and the different. And in the end, our lives would be so much smaller.