What does “living simply” really mean? That was one of the questions on Aldo Lavaggi’s mind when he set out to design and build his own tiny house on wheels. He purposefully chose a very simple design with no running water and no shower, curious about how it would feel to carry in his own water, and how difficult it would be to shower at friends’ houses instead.
But a simple design doesn’t necessarily mean a spartan one. He also designed a space for a collapsible hammock chair to provide “squishy comfort”, which can be rare in tiny houses with lots of built-in wood seating. He installed solar panels as his primary energy source, and used several large and interesting windows so the house could be heated by the sun as much as possible, a technique called “passive solar” heating, even in the cold winters of New York State. He also rigged a retractable stepladder to his sleeping loft, and added an external storage area over his trailer hitch as a small shed for tools.
Young Man Explains Simple Living in a Tiny House on Wheels
When I met with Aldo, he spoke very thoughtfully about how he’d experienced the benefits and challenges of his experiment in living simply in a tiny house.
Aldo: “A tiny house, it’s not some silver bullet, like all of a sudden your life gets great…. It makes some things easier, and it makes some things harder, and the two are really intertwined.
I have plenty of friends who own large houses who are always like, ‘The squirrels have gotten into my so and so,’ and, ‘These double hung windows are stuck, and I’ve got to get storm windows for 25 windows.’ And I’m like, ‘God, it’s nice not to have to do that.’
But here’s the trick, for all of us, right? It’s, can we be aware of our good situation? The truth is, the common man in America is wealthier today than at any other time in history, by monetary standards. But our levels of anxiety and of expressed dissatisfaction with our lives are also higher than ever. The two are not in correlation. So I might be having a hard day, whether I’m in a tiny house or a large house. But to really see my blessings for what they are, and have an appreciation for my good fortune? That’s going to be a challenge whether I’m in a large house or a small house.
However, I will say this: My appreciation of public spaces and larger houses has really bloomed, because I’m living without them. Society has gotten wealthier around me, even though it hasn’t changed at all, because my lifestyle has stepped down. So on the one hand, life can be harder in a tiny space. But then you go to the library, you know? And you use their state-of-the-art bathroom. And you turn on their faucet and hot water comes out. And you go to this giant room and sit in their chair and read literature, it’s like, ‘Yeah! How much does this cost? Free!? Right on!’ [Laughs]
No outer situation is going to ultimately make us happy, whatever the outer situation is. So long as that [outer situation] is the perceived cause of our happiness, we’re going to wake up one day and realize, ‘I’m not happy. I want something different. I want the thing I left two years ago, that’s what’s going to make me happy.’ And we start to realize: Tiny house, large house – none of it is going to make me happy. It’s dependent on my inner activity, and my inner ability to wake up and perceive the blessing in my current situation.
So this tiny house has not made me happy. Nor has it made me sad. But it was a conscious choice which has intensified some of the hard things, and also intensified some of the joys and appreciation of what’s in my community, and what’s in my life.”
You can read more about Aldo’s tiny house experience at his blog Gold Thread Tiny House. You can also see more of my interview with Aldo, or learn much more about his imaginative house and thoughtful perspective in my Life in a Tiny House Ebook.
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