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Henry David Thoreau’s Tiny Cabin in the Woods

As you probably already know, Henry David Thoreau has always been an inspiring role model for those of us seeking to simplify our lives.

So right now in this post I’m showing you what his tiny cabin was like in case you ever wondered. In addition, I’d also like to share some of my favorite quotes from Thoreau that might be inspiring to you.

His house was 10′ by 15′ with 8′ high ceilings. Below you’ll get to see how simply Thoreau lived during his time at Walden Pond. Please enjoy, be sure to watch the video below, talk about it all in the comments, and re-share if you’d like to. Thank you!

Henry David Thoreau’s Tiny Cabin in the Woods

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Image © mgstanton/flickr

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Image © Gary Lerude/Flickr

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Image © Chris Devers/Flickr

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Image © Benjamin D. Maxham (1856)

Video: Henry David Thoreau’s Tiny Cabin and Simple Life at Walden

Quotes on Simplicity by Henry David Thoreau

Our life is frittered away by detail. An honest man has hardly need to count more than his ten fingers, or in extreme cases he may add his ten toes, and lump the rest. Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb nail. In the midst of this chopping sea of civilized life, such are the clouds and storms and quicksands and thousand-and-one items to be allowed for, that a man has to live, if he would not founder and go to the bottom and not make his port at all, by dead reckoning, and he must be a great calculator indeed who succeeds. Simplify, simplify. Instead of three meals a day, if it be necessary eat but one; instead of a hundred dishes, five; and reduce other things in proportion. [Walden]

I do believe in simplicity. It is astonishing as well as sad, how many trivial affairs even the wisest thinks he must attend to in a day; how singular an affair he thinks he must omit. When the mathematician would solve a difficult problem, he first frees the equation of all incumbrances, and reduces it to its simplest terms. So simplify the problem of life, distinguish the necessary and the real. Probe the earth to see where your main roots run. [Thoreau to H.G.O. Blake, 27 March 1848]

What you call bareness and poverty is to me simplicity. God could not be unkind to me if he should try. I love the winter, with its imprisonment and its cold, for it compels the prisoner to try new fields and resources. I love to have the river closed up for a season and a pause put to my boating, to be obliged to get my boat in. I shall launch it again in the spring with so much more pleasure. This is an advantage in point of abstinence and moderation compared with the seaside boating, where the boat ever lies on the shore. I love best to have each thing in its season only, and enjoy doing without it at all other times. It is the greatest of all advantages to enjoy no advantage at all. I find it invariably true, the poorer I am, the richer I am. What you consider my disadvantage, I consider my advantage. While you are pleased to get knowledge and culture in many ways, I am delighted to think that I am getting rid of them. I have never got over my surprise that I should have been born into the most estimable place in all the world, and in the very nick of time, too. [Journal, 5 December 1856]

The savage lives simply through ignorance and idleness or laziness, but the philosopher lives simply through wisdom. [Journal, 1 September 1853]

The rule is to carry as little as possible. [Journal, 22 July 1857]

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Do You Have a Favorite Quote from Thoreau?

We’d love for you to share it in the comments below.

Resources

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Alex

Alex is a contributor and editor for TinyHouseTalk.com and the always free Tiny House Newsletter. He has a passion for exploring and sharing tiny homes (from yurts and RVs to tiny cabins and cottages) and inspiring simple living stories. We invite you to send in your story and tiny home photos too so we can re-share and inspire others towards a simple life too. Thank you!
{ 28 comments… add one }
  • Otessa Regina Compton October 8, 2014, 1:56 pm

    We should all remember our humble past and remember that big things come from tiny beginnings. Thank you Alex for the history, children and old people alike could still use these lessons.

  • Susan October 8, 2014, 3:18 pm

    Wonderful! Thanks for sharing!

  • Erica Woo October 8, 2014, 4:05 pm

    I really enjoyed this piece. It is a constant work in progress for me to remember to live simply. Thanks Alex!

  • Beth DeRoos October 8, 2014, 4:24 pm

    Bear in mind he ate at friends home and basically used this temporary cabin as a home base. Unlike someone who lives in a small place year round for years and years, and grows/hunts their own food, preserves and cooks their own meals with NO help from friends, family or strangers.

    • di January 12, 2015, 12:36 am

      Cooking in one pot on the wood stove seems very manageable.

    • di January 12, 2015, 10:32 am

      I believe the first image also shows a trap door in the floor near the entry. This door led to a shallow root cellar.

      • di January 14, 2015, 8:37 pm

        A cooler, without ice, inside a shallow root cellar may be sufficient for certain items.

  • Saint Phlip October 8, 2014, 5:04 pm

    Yeah. He had quite a support network, of people “of his class”, who essentially took good care of him. Poor people, such as indentured servants living in similar circumstances would not have lived a tenth as well. There is a big difference between living in a tent in your back yard, and living in one somewhere in Alaska.

    That said, there is certainly something to be said for reducing the crap we burden ourselves with. I have, due to interesting circumstances, lost most of my possessions more than once, and discovered how little I truly need to be comfortable, and how easy it is to acquire more.

  • Martha L October 8, 2014, 9:46 pm

    Delighted to read this posting tonight…, resting at Beth Ireland’s airb&b offering in Boston area (turns out she has done plenty of tiny house/van living with her project Turning Around America) and planning tomorrow to go again to Walden pond and Thoreau’s cabin…:) finding so much to be inspired about. Sorry to have been away from home and missed Jay Shaeffer’s Bay Area workshop recently – but will be returning to California soon with more ideas including outfitting my backyard yurt for simpler living. Thanks as always for your newsletter, Alex.

  • Kathy D November 10, 2014, 6:18 pm

    Alex I love your site. I am a high volume Real Esate Sales person and Broker/ Owner, former owner of Mortgage Center in Florida. I would love to sell these houses..

  • di January 12, 2015, 12:32 am

    This is the only place I really like, because of its completely open concept. Everything can fit under a bed, including a wardrobe, ktichenware and groceries. Most designs lack this type of simplicity. The hardest thing to do is to make things less complicated.

    • di January 12, 2015, 10:41 am

      A table, desk and chairs may not be needed. For example, two daybeds or a daybed and futon couch may be sufficient to sleep, dine, study and entertain. Prepare food with a cutting board in your lap. Dine with a plate in your lap. Rather than a desk, try a clipboard or handheld computer; you could work anywhere in the forest.

  • di January 12, 2015, 11:03 am

    I would add a door to the left of the fireplace. This would provide quicker transport of the wood to the wood box. Wood is very messy. Limiting the area of transport results in less clean-up.

    Naturally, a larger wood shed, that held at least five cords of wood, would be more appropriate for New England weather. A shed on the back side of the chimney may be handy. Very few resources may be needed for a wood shed. A shed roof with a tarp to cover the opening may be sufficient. Doors on a wood shed tend to get stuck in the snow.

  • Rhoda October 4, 2015, 2:50 pm

    Such an inspiration….but what happened to
    Thoreau’s cabin? I visited it several years ago.
    Wasn’t it deemed a national heritage site?

  • Marsha Cowan October 17, 2015, 8:15 pm

    I have great respect for Thoreau and appreciate the simple lifestyle to which he wanted to become accustomed, but at some point, some “sticks” had to be cut to build that cabin in which he lived and studied. To make use of trees for essential lumber uses is not evil. It is the unnecessary use of our resources that we want to stop: houses too large, businesses too wasteful, excessive consumption, excessive restrictions on the freedoms to house ourselves and our families in a reasonable way, etc. He talks about not wasting time on anything nonessential, and to spend our time on interesting and mind enriching things, but then who will cook, clean, change the baby diapers, chop and bring in the wood, fetch the water, tend to the chore of disposing of wastes, mend and repair those things that inevitably get broken or damaged, keep the roof from leaking, balance the ledger, tend the garden so there will be food, etc., etc., etc., …unfortunately, life consists mostly of drudgery that must get done; we work, then we play. How peaceful would his walk in the woods have been had he children to attend. It is easy to spout all this simplistic philosophy when it is only about you and your own needs, but in reality, we take care of many people in our lives, and simplicity has many forms and definitions, some of which would not fit into his book very neatly.

    • Salma October 17, 2015, 10:58 pm

      “…life consists mostly of drudgery that must get done…”
      That’s his point!

      “It is easy to spout all this simplistic philosophy when it is only about you and your own needs, but in reality, we take care of many people in our lives…”
      One chooses to do these things.

    • Alex October 18, 2015, 12:38 pm

      Great points, Marsha. I love it. Very true.

    • Varenikje October 30, 2015, 12:23 am

      Oh, Marsha, so is this to say that Thoreau had no children? Oh, my. Yes, that does make a difference! We are all, after all, grown up children.

  • Catherine October 17, 2015, 10:18 pm

    I’m with you Marsha! Unfortunately it’s usually women who do the “drudgery” and the men who get to write philosophy!
    He did grow his own beans though!

  • Salma October 17, 2015, 10:51 pm

    Yes!!!

  • J Bailey October 19, 2015, 4:55 pm

    He owned a lot of chairs.

  • Marty October 23, 2015, 7:35 pm

    “To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.” – Thoreau

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