Society & Culture / Staff Picks

Tiny Houses, Adventure, & Getting Your Damn Life Back

Image: Barry Shapiro

Image: Barry Shapiro

Ask anyone – I LOVE miniature things. You fall into them, marveling at the magic in their detail; delicate, mysterious, and hidden in plain sight. So when I discovered Tiny Houses (Tumbleweeds) 4 years ago, I looked around my 400sq.ft. loft in the East Village, and thought, “well, this is more room than I need!”

I know, it may sound extreme, but it’s true. A small space makes me feel happier and safer than a large house. And the idea of being able to pick up whenever I want and adventure to new places while still having a space (with a loft!) that is me to come home to every night – that’s perfection.

Image: Tammy Strobel

Image: Tammy Strobel

They don’t say it, but most people think I’m not serious when I tell them this. Maybe because, most days of the week, you’ll find me in heels and heavy eye-liner. But it’s a mistake to think these preferences are antithetical. I can be girly and still want to live in a teenie house hooked up to a generator and portable sewage tank. I can even be scared to live in such a vulnerable place, and still do it. Afterall, my mother raised me to be afraid to cross the street to my mailbox at 8pm and (not surprisingly) I live day-to-day with a very diagnosable anxiety, but in the past 7 years I’ve travelled around Europe alone, walked through BedSty in the wee hours alone, and lived in NYC apts by myself. It’s usually a mistake to underestimate people.

Image: Associated Press

Image: Associated Press

I also love the idea of having only the most meaningful items. I’m not talking about pots and pans and one pair of sneakers, haha, no, that’s not me. I mean getting rid of the 397 tchotchkes that I so love scattering from floor to ceiling, and keeping the 17 that, when I look at them, remind me who I am. There’s something in deciding which items to keep that always solidifies that for me. Maybe I’m dense, or just really visual, or I need to roll an object over in my hands to know how I feel. Either way, I’m super prone to keeping everything that comes into my house, and brining in items just ‘cause I saw them. But as much as I love to have hundreds of necklaces and trinkets and little scraps of paper pouring out of bookshelves and boxes, all this “stuff” makes me worry constantly about keeping track of it, and I hate that feeling more than I love hoarding.

For the past 6 months my entire life has been in a storage unit in Brooklyn. Boxes, furniture, even my upright piano. I’ve been adventuring 3,000 miles away. For 4 months, I moved every couple of weeks between condos, apts, and houses. It was fun, and exhausting, and eventually I needed a place to be that was mine again.


So, I’ve been greeted with this amazing opportunity. Since all I had when I moved in was 2 suitcases, a bunch of embroidery hoops, my tiny dog, and the bed my cousin had sitting in her basement, I was able to avoid all my usual clutter, and make every piece of this studio both a distilled me, and the world I needed now. Both the process of putting it together and its current existence, feel balanced and calm. I painted the walls a soft white, and bought lots of warm grey fabrics. On my walls are all the postcards my NYC friends have sent me, the embroidered poems I make for my poetry press, a muted, embroidered tapestry of tropical fish that my mother made, a macramé with driftwood and bells done by my grandmother, and about 7lbs of silver and turquoise jewelry that my grandfather mined and crafted. After feeling like I haven’t had a home in nearly two years, I finally have one again.

This little apt with its cheap rent, my tiny dog, huge windows, and antique claw-foot tub that takes up the entire bathroom, surrounded by first a stream of bars and restaurants, and then mountains and forest that are ridiculously easy to get to, has been like my Tiny House (though eventually, I know I’ll find someone to help me build a real one). I know soon this apt will be another place that makes me feel loss, because as much as I love it here I miss the home I made in NYC and I have to go back, but while I’m here – I’m here.

My last apt was The Treehouse; this is L’Étui.

étui: a small, ornamental case meant to hold necessary and beautiful objects

étui: a small, ornamental case meant to hold necessary and beautiful objects

Alyssa Morhardt-Goldstein received her MFA in poetry from The New School, and her BS in classical vocal performance and literature from Mannes Conservatory. She was selected by Matthea Harvey as The New School’s 2012 Chapbook Contest winner in poetry, and is the founding editor of SOUND, a daily literary magazine on contemporary musico-poetics. @Elkawildling


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