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Are Our Lives too Easy? How Simple Living Can Make us More Engaged

The Convenience of Modern Living…


…and why I don’t like it.

We just spent the last two months living away from our tiny house with Matt’s mom for the holidays. Two months was an awful long time to spend in someone else’s home and while I was grateful for her hospitality I was also quite ready to leave Michigan and go back to Asheville.

There were a couple of things that I had started taking for granted living in the tiny house. They are opposite what most would expect but they were troubling to me.

  • How easy it was. I immediately missed my chores. I loved the simplicity of emptying our gray water bucket into the artificial wetland each day. I had become accustomed to breaking up my work day by going outside to handle my daily chores about 10am. As soon as we got to Michigan I felt unbalanced. I suspect that conventional life has become much too easy. Technology allows us to be hands off. As things are becoming more convenient are we becoming more disconnected with our own lives?
How Important is This?

How important is this? Photo by Laura M. LaVoie


  • Television, my old friend. Unfortunately, it didn’t take very long to fall back into one of my old habits. I had actually been afraid of giving up TV when we moved into the tiny house but it turned out to be great for me. I had spent a lot of time with my television. There were several levels of things I would watch and not all of it was quality programming. At one point I realized that television wasn’t the cure for boredom it was the manifestation of it. Moving into the tiny house removed the temptation. Embarrassingly, it didn’t take me long to get back into that habit for those two months in Michigan. I’m glad to be away from the constant stimulation again.
Wash a couple of mugs?

Wash a couple of mugs? Photo by Laura M. LaVoie

  • The waste. It was astounding the amount of waste three people could generate. One of the things that surprised us after being in the tiny house for only 6 months was what we perceived to be an over use of the dishwasher. In our tiny house we have very few dishes. After we’ve cooked and eaten our dinner we immediately washed, dried, and put away the dishes. It was never a problem. This winter, we started out washing our mugs and setting them aside to use again but they still ended up in the dishwasher. It was easier to get a clean mug than to fight it. The shower also felt wasteful. I became accustomed to our two gallon shower sprayer which automatically conserves water that a traditional shower seemed a little overwhelming for me. I found myself taking very short showers to try to curb the water use. Not to mention all the trash.
Can we turn off the faucet? Photo by Laura M. LaVoie

Can we turn off the faucet? Photo by Laura M. LaVoie

This, I suppose, is a chicken or egg argument. Was it the act of building and living in a tiny house the thing that made us aware of these issues or did our awareness and desire to change them lead to building a tiny house? I don’t suppose it matters. Everyone can take steps to change their consumption habits. We can turn off the TV and go for a walk. Or we can allow ourselves to do a few dishes by hand as we use them. You don’t have to live in a tiny space to profoundly change the way you interact with your own life.

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Laura LaVoie is a writer who has been living off the grid in her own tiny house in the mountains of North Carolina. To learn more about her visit her blog.

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Laura LaVoie

Contributor and Tiny House Owner at 120SquareFeet.com
Laura M. LaVoie is a professional writer living in the mountains of North Carolina in a 120 Square Foot house with her partner and their hairless cat, Piglet. Laura graduated from Western Michigan University with a degree in Anthropology. She has been published in magazines and anthologies on the subjects of mythology and culture. She spent nearly 15 years in the temporary staffing industry before deciding to become a full time writer. Laura works closely with the Zulu Orphan Alliance volunteering her time and the skills she's learned building her own small house to build a shelter for orphans and other vulnerable children living near Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Laura also enjoys simple living, brewing and drinking craft beer, and popular culture.




{ 21 comments… add one }
  • ST December 31, 2012, 11:32 am

    Tell me more about your 2 gal shower sprayer. How does it conserve water? ….

  • Casey Friday December 31, 2012, 1:29 pm

    Fantastic write-up. I think it’s the awareness in general that gets you excited about living responsibly. My wife and I are living with her parents while I finish building our tiny house, and she’s already started a compost pile in the back yard. We’re both also extremely stoked about not putting out 50-100lbs of garbage each week.

    Point being, we don’t even live in the house yet, and we already have these feelings. On that note, I’m going to go install some more Hardie siding!

    • Laura M. LaVoie January 1, 2013, 9:11 am

      I’m glad to hear that you’re embracing not only the tiny life but also the simple life for yourself. I would love to hear more about your build – bookmarking the site now!

  • Deek January 1, 2013, 9:05 am

    Interesting take, as I’ve never really heard people think/feel that modern life is too easy- the opposite actually, and there are tons of studies on how all these modern conveniences actually weigh us down, cost us more money, and eat up our time. V. good article though- and happy new year laura, n’ all!

    • Laura M. LaVoie January 1, 2013, 9:12 am

      Thanks, Deek. I agree – most people don’t react positively when I say things like this. I don’t mean it as a direct attack on the way people live. Individual mileage varies, of course. But what I do know is that I feel more at peace and engaged with my life when I take back some of the things that have made my life too easy.

    • Keith G January 5, 2013, 6:27 pm

      But it’s another case of “living to work” instead of “working to live.” With all these things that we’re so addicted to, the so called labor-saving devices, etc., that have to be bought and paid for, I just wonder where we’re actually saving that labor?!

      To me the biggest example is the dishwasher, especially for singles, couples, and small families. I just don’t get why it’s so difficult to wash dishes. I’ve never had a dishwasher since I moved out on my own over 30 years ago (i.e. my parents had one), and have never looked back. I’d much rather have a clothes washer in house than a dishwasher.

      Thanks for the article, it’s good to see people thinking about these things.

      • Athena January 5, 2013, 10:44 pm

        Keith G:
        “I just don’t get why it’s so difficult to wash dishes.”

        This was funny reading to me, as my family was always too poor to have a dishwasher, and I never even missed having one either as a child or an adult-it doesn’t seem to have devastated us at all(I’m 54). *heh*

      • Garth January 6, 2013, 12:20 am

        Washing dishes was one of the main chores I had as a kid, which is why I hate it now. The dishwasher is more important to me than a water heater, except that it kind of needs the water heater. It does take a lot of room for a tiny house that might only have one or two people living in it though.

  • alice h January 2, 2013, 8:58 am

    I guess it depends on how you define easy. While some of the mod cons make the immediate task easier they add a lot of complications in other areas of your life, especially if you need more resources to have them. You can often come up with ways to make chores easier after letting your mind run loose while doing them. Sometimes making small changes in your routine can have a big difference. Just because “it’s always been done that way” doesn’t mean it’s the best way to do something.

  • jerryd January 2, 2013, 7:30 pm

    Interesting. I’bve always considered timy houses to cut the work to be lazy, my favorite pastime.

    The things mentioned are from just not doing things right, at least how I look at doing things right. For instance running a pipe directly to the wetland for the gray water is much easier than doing a bucket each day.

    Living small means not having to work to make the money needed to live in a larger home as to me spending equals time worked to earn the money.

    The smaller space needs less cleaning, painting, cooling, heating,etc that again means less work, thus more time to be lazy ;^P

    And by lazy I mean time to do whatever I want like learning new things, creating, helping others or just doing nothing.

    So let’s gear it for lazy, a great state of mind , not something to be avoided.

    • Laura M. LaVoie January 2, 2013, 7:55 pm

      Isn’t that a matter of perspective? I enjoy those things and they connect me to my life. I could pipe the water to the wetland or I could walk 5 feet to empty the bucket. And because I work for myself now, a luxury afforded to me by tiny house living, I have time to do these chores and I find I like them.

      If you want a different experience that’s great. That is also the beauty of tiny living.

      • alice h January 3, 2013, 11:27 am

        I think I know what you mean. Emptying the bucket gives you a chance to stop and admire the wetland or the weather, let a fresh breeze tickle your hair, watch the wildlife, whatever. It’s a more direct appreciation than just standing at a sink and looking out the window. If the day comes that you’d rather do something else with the time you can always change the setup but while you enjoy it you might as well enjoy it to the fullest.

  • LaMar Alexander LaMar January 5, 2013, 1:35 pm

    Ha!

    I always feel uncomfortable after a few days in a big house now that I am so used to my small cabin and daily routine.

    About the only time I wish for a different lifestyle is in the hardest coldest days of winter when I have to get out and sweep off the solar panels or change a propane tank. Other than that I enjoy my small house chores which never take too long.

    I like things within reaching distance and I am constantly working on new projects and have dozens of books, computers and other stuff spread out that are in partial completion. I like a clean house but a busy house with lots of activity is usually a little cluttered.

    I am also a pet owner and my kids/dogs (wally and Taz) usually bring something in the house they rolled in or dug up and that is always fun to clean up.

    I live in the very rural country and am an avid outdoorsman and gardener so having a super clean house is unusual and would get me a few looks!

    LaMar

  • Zanab January 5, 2013, 1:56 pm

    This was a thoughtful and wonderful post! Thank you so much!
    Moving to a less developed country drastically changed my life and forced me to re-think so much. I am able to do much more now with less and this feels good. I also have a much better ability to cook delicious meals from basic ingredients in a reasonable amount of time. I even learned what produced grows in what season! That was a mind bender for a while! LOL! But I am so content! Wishing everyone contentment as well.
    Happy new year Alex and everyone!!

    • Charito January 5, 2013, 8:20 pm

      Zanab, I know exactly what you mean! I moved back down to Mexico last Nov. My small farming community is at 6800 ft. It is high desert. We have a limited clean water supply. My casita was 6 meters by 4 meters. It felt like a huge cavernous space to me. No running water,bathroom of any kind or kitchen of any kind. I had one light switch with one bare bulb and one outlet for a plug. I had an electric hot/cold water dispenser and a 10 yr old porta potty ( on its last leg!) I lived that way for a year. I used 5 gal of water every three days. That served as my bathing, morning and night….(think soap up critical parts then rinse) I brushed my teeth with a small glass of water like my Mom taught us when we lived in the desert in Yuma Az. It gave me a cup of decalf in the morning and water to drink for me and my 5 dogs. I swept the floor daily and washed it once a week. I ate alot of Maurocha soup! I left the day before Christmas to move in with my extended family because 2 of my dogs died of poison spider bites. I didn’t want to be next! Now I have two rooms a full including a full modern kitchen ,running hot and cold water,a working stove,and refrigerator, internet connection @ 100 Mbps instead of 1-18 Mbps!, lots of light sources and even a heater! I’m still using my porta potty because it is easy to get on and off of. I do have a private bathroom, but there is no door on it yet . I can take a real shower whenever I want. There is also an automatic washing machine. I feel like I died and went to heaven! I also feel like I’m in a huge space! It was a challenge learning what grew when and who was growing it! I laugh when a recipe asks for a can of this, or a package of that! I got real good at doing things from scratch thet didn’t require refrigeration or an oven. I was able to use dead wood from the orchard for primitive cooking in my 15 brick fireplace out in the orchard! It is amazing what you learn to do without. Honestly though, I LOVE hot and cold running water, and an occasional real shower! Mom used to time us for a three min shower, 1) get wet…turn off water 2)soap up from top to bottom…in that order 3) rinse untill the egg timer goes of. No Exceptions.They used to call it frugle, now it is survival skills.

  • Kristie January 5, 2013, 6:18 pm

    Love this post I felt the same thing going to my parents home for the holidays. I live in a tiny house off grid as well, and because there house isn’t set up to conserve it is so easy not to. Also even though I haven’t had a TV for years, their routine kinda revolves around it, and thus I found myself putting in hours in front of the TV – it was just easier then finding something else to do. I too felt off balance and craving the peace of my tiny house.

  • Kathy Roberts January 5, 2013, 8:59 pm

    Laura, I appreciate you insights. I am just wrapping up my first full week in the tiny house. What I have observed about living off grid is how intentional I must be about all of the daily activities. Have I prepared enough fire wood? Am I using the water wisely? Is it time to clean and organize? What attention does the compost pile need? I left my house and mountain land today to shop, and it seemed that everything was on full volume. It was good to get back to the quiet. I don’t miss the TV at all, but I would be a little lost without the laptop. Kathy

  • Hunter March 29, 2013, 12:33 pm

    The young people, and not so young that belong to this site is what the world used to be about. as people left the rural ways of life the cities called to them about easy this and easy that, which people bought. the rural people and i include myself in that list thought what a waste electic, phone then tv was. it kept you from doing everyday living. chores. physical labor, work. that is also what kept people slimmer and trimmer. now they have to go to the gym or workout doing the same movements that gardening, feeding chickens, mowing the lawn (instead of paying a lawn service ) did. this country needs to wake up to what was and can still be a wonderful life style, rural living. my folks never had a mortgage nor did my aunts and uncles. they build their own homes and raised their kids with the thought of doing for themselves. Debit was created by credit card companies and banks to make money off the people who couldn’t wait to save up for things and wanted. everything now! fast food has taught us all NOT TO WAITE, we want it now! maybe times were slower back when but from what i see, we all could use of little of that now days.

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