A year in my twenties I lived without a permanent address. It remains one of the richest years of my life.
I strung together a loose line-up of house-sitting, dog-sitting, cat-sitting and kid-sitting gigs. All that sitting helped contend with my unshakable habit of eating and enabled me to hit the road for a multi-month backpacking trip through Europe. I then headed to California and lived with friends as I worked for a non-profit.
I survived on baguettes and yogurt and surveyed some of the world’s finest art and architecture. It was a season in life when all my belongings fit into a couple of suitcases that I stuffed in my little Honda.
But I was in my twenties.
While I still relish adventure, those days are 10, 000 purchases ago. Fifteen or so years later, what could that life of simplicity look like?
I recently got to interview an extraordinary woman who is living one extravagant life…with less. And, she’s beyond her twenties.
Dee Williams resides in an 80-sq ft house. Her home fits into a parking space; it’s the size of an area rug. It contains approximately 300 items, a lower count than many junk drawers.
Dee’s journey to less came rather unconventionally. At age forty, Dee was living the American dream. She owned a three-bedroom house with a bloated garage and had a fulltime job, with heaps of stress. And then, she had a heart attack.
Instead of a massive medical procedure, she opted to radically minimize her life. With the precision of a surgeon, she removed anything blocking her joy and causing her anxiety.
She sold her house, cut her belongings to bare essentials, and reduced her work to part-time. She built herself a tiny house for $10, 000, customizing every inch. Her utility bills are approximately $8 in the winter; her electricity comes from solar panels.
She’s now liberated to lavish time and resources on family, friends, neighbors, and causes.
I loved meeting Dee; there’s nothing self-congratulating about her. She seems to live with a generous smirk and light-heartedness in the midst of all her intentionality.
Yet, as I reflect on Dee and her tiny house and big life I’m enticed to ask what does her story call out of me, especially as I endeavor to live 365 Days of Wonder.
Dee’s life seems to brim with wonder—spacious with gratitude, relationally rich. Radically reducing clutter and drastically cutting down stress has freed her to be more present to people, and to the life she has been given.
So, a question that emerges for me: Do I have a relationship with my belongings that liberates me or limits me to love others–from those next door to those around the world?
If I pay attention to this question, I suspect there are closets to clean out, goods to sell, neighbors to invite to diner, and causes to more intentionally engage.
Thanks, Dee, for a snapshot of a more expansive life, one packed with wonder.
Here’s a look at the trailer for the Lifetree Café story I did on Dee Williams:
If you’d like to explore Dee’s story further she wrote a winsome book called The Big Tiny. I highly recommend it. Her story will also be shown at Lifetree Cafes across the country.
Can’t resist the question: What questions/responses does Dee’s story ask of you?