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Responding to a comment from a reader

Posted November 1st, 2009 by Michael Janzen and filed in Philosophy

I got an email from a fellow that I wanted to respond to but they didn’t provide a valid reply email address. The issue is important enough that I wanted to publish the comment and my reply publicly because it reveals an important underlying problem in our society. Here is the reader’s comment:

come on now.  While your small house design might seem intriguing how could a family possibly live in nine tiny feet.  As a Christain, I personally believe that God put enough on earth for every family to have a home that meets their home living needs.  Through wisdom is a house builded and by understanding it is established.  And by knowledge shall all the chambers be filled with all precious and pleasant riches.  Proverbs 24:3-4  Meditate on that a while and then draw the plans for a real house.

Here is my response.

Thanks… but I think if you continue reading about this design you’ll find that Nine Tiny Feet is an experiment in searching for the lowest common denominator in housing not intended as a viable solution for a family. It will also be a showcase for frugality, simplicity, and sustainable living… which seem much more in line with the teachings of Jesus than any McMansion or suburban track home I’ve ever seen.

Regarding: “all the chambers be filled with all precious and pleasant riches” … I don’t think that was intended as support for consumerism and greed either. It sounds like it on the surface but this statement wouldn’t support the core teachings of Jesus. I suggest a deeper look into the true meaning of this is needed. My suspicion is that precious would be family and riches would not include money and wealth.

In many ways part of my simple living work is to help those that have forgotten how a frugal and wholesome life brings happiness, freedom, and for some closer to God. I don’t bring religion into my work overtly because I don’t want to exclude anyone from realizing the value of these lessons. While I have some deep personal beliefs I choose not to expose them because I have a stronger belief that working to unite humanity under a banner of peace is the only path to a sustainable future. I suspect Jesus would agree.

I hope that helps you understand another dimension of the mission I’ve found myself on.

If you continue to tinyhousedesign.com you’ll find more design concepts that might better fulfill the immediate needs of our families.

9 Responses to “Responding to a comment from a reader”

  1. Steve W. says:

    Michael,
    As a Christian myself, I would advise you to ignore the nay-sayers and follow your heart. I for one am fascinated by the whole “Nine Tiny Feet” concept, and even though it would never be right for me personally, I can see where different people in different circumstances from my own could benefit. Keep working on it!

  2. Charles says:

    My personal beliefs have nothing to do with having seen families happy to have a cardboard box to live in.
    Small sustainable housing is a better answer than most.
    As a Christian I also believe “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.”
    God has indeed provided enough materials but we are STILL expected to tend our gardens.
    This little plan will work for some not for others, but no one forced me to come look at it and no one is forcing me to build it.
    The market is full of people designing “McMansions” and a precious few advocating minimalist housing for those who choose it, want it or NEED it.
    Thanks for your work.
    Charles

  3. Deena Larsen says:

    You could ask him to mediate on the vows of poverty, obedience and chastity… or read “The Little Flowers” of Saint Clare, or any of Saint Francis works.

    Does he seriously think that all the incredible Christian aesthetics were on the wrong track?

  4. Noname says:

    Michael,

    I agree with you and not the commenter. I think they are using the word of God for their own purposes and not in light of what the scriptures truly meant. I find it very satisfying to live in a small space. In one case Jesus said he didn’t even have a place to live! He was more concerned about taking care of others also the scripture came to mind in Col. 3:2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” God does provide us with all that we need (and more), but that doesn’t mean all that is necessary to lead a wholesome Christian life.

  5. SeanGB says:

    Jesus lived in radical poverty–he was homeless and had no family–and I think what you’re proposing is a whole lot closer to what he calls us to than having a house and two car payments. Detachment from posessions is a major element of spiritual growth, and I’m realizing I can’t be detached from stuff when I keep aquiring it. Looking at our family life, I’m also seeing how much time, energy, and money we’ve poured into trying to maintain a suburban lifestyle, and I think we can do better.

    I’ve become very interested in sustainable living, both out of concern for the poor (overconsumption on my part means fewer resources for others, no matter how you look at it) and a desire to live a simpler, more meaningful life–and one that’s more in line with my values as a Catholic. Thanks for your thoughtfulness in challenging us to take a hard look at the way we live, whether it’s in line with what Jesus calls us to–and whether it’s really making us happy.

  6. kristen says:

    In the early eighties, during a time when people were only dreaming of the McMansion, my father built a house just right around seven hundred square ft. We were a family of four. That is what he thought we needed, that is what he could afford. When we moved in, we had no interior doors or cabinets or central heating/air. A simple wood burning stove heated the house.

    He eventually built the cabinets and built the doors when he saved the money. His vision was back then as it is now, what do we need, what can we afford? WE had a serious.. lacking of funds, he basically learned how to build our house from books from the library. My mother insisted on not allowing him to do the electrical wiring. But other than that….it was all his own doing, all the working of his own hands. (Our neighbor one farm over was an electrician by trade, so he came over and helped my father learn the basics and together on the weekends they did the job) And I would like to add that he did not have an electric nail gun. Every nail was driving in by an old fashioned hammer.

    Ironically, people in our church in a round about way made fun of my father, because everything we owned was always small. But it was sustainable. The way my father built the house was not wasteful. In fact, even to this day, he is the least wasteful person I know.

    People in the church have a huge issue with environmentalists. They are afraid to recycle, because their perception is that this might mean that they will have to eventually talk to dolphins and eventually live in tiny houses. But they do not realize that there is a huge chasm between what they believe and how they act towards the world that God created for their own sustainability.

    People like to scoff at what they do not understand and fear what they are unwilling to do. The point is NOT that you SHOULD live in a 9sqft, tiny, little house. I think what you are saying is that in the exercise of imagining it, there is much to be learned about the difference between what we need and what we simply want.

    My father’s motive has always been….What do I need? He wasn’t thinking about the environment. So this might be a good place to start. Some people are naturally bent towards this mentality and some people are coming around.
    If anything, the Tiny House movement is starting a conversation….and I think it is very cool. This movement is questioning the last twenty years of the “McMansion” housing movement. It is asking people to question “wastefulness.”

    I know it is propelling me to question my own participation in the ‘fill your homes with trinkets from Target mentality.’ In some odd and fortunate way, reading about this movement makes me question my own wastefulness. I think my father would be very proud.

  7. countrygirl says:

    I’m reading this looking for plans for a small get away on some property I have. I by no means live in a tiny house with 950 square feet my two children and I have plenty of room. However having bought he house 7 years ago, I’m sure I could afford a bigger house now. I know I could get another bedroom and two bathrooms. But we do fine and being humble and living comfortably, with debt are some of the christian values I hold dear to me. Being a good steward of the money I have been blessed with. Thank your for your site, I’m continuing to search for ideas to build a small building with my kids that we can spend time at.

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