During my junior year in college I took an anthropology course called “Consumption and its Consequences”. This course opened my eyes to how much consumption is ingrained into American culture, which is not something I had thought much about, even as someone who considered herself to be an environmentalist. During my senior year, I wrote a capstone paper titled "Rethinking the American Dream—Downsizing as a Sustainable Solution," which examined the tiny house movement.
Inspired by this research, my husband and I decided to downsize our lifestyle and built a 324 square foot tiny house of our own.
on the tiny house movement.▲
Before “going tiny” I definitely would not have considered myself to be a minimalist. In general, minimalists intentionally live with fewer possessions — focusing only on the ones they need. Adopting this lifestyle was a necessity for us when living in the tiny house. Living in such a small space forced us to consider not only the function of an item, but also the physical space it would take up.
▲The interior of the tiny home we built.▲
Living tiny also taught me to avoid impulse purchases. It trained me to think about not only the purpose of an item, but also where it would be stored, and the frequency of use. After a few years of living tiny, adding a dog to our family, and taking into account the daily commute to and from our workplaces, we made the hard decision to sell the tiny house. We have since moved into a more traditional sized home, but have brought many of the lessons learned while living tiny into this new chapter of our lives.
▲ A mason jars can function not only as food storage, but also as a container on the go or drinking vessel.▲
While we were living tiny we loved supporting our local coffee shop, Cedar Coffee Co.
, nestled in the woods in Two Harbors, Minnesota (if you’re ever passing through, make sure to make a stop!). Every so often this cute teardrop trailer filled with local goods, called the Maker’s Mercantile would have a pop up at Cedar Coffee Co. I loved checking out all the local items, and had fun intentionally
picking up a gift or two every once in a while – a wooden teether for our tiny house neighbors that were expecting, a beautifully crafted scrunchies for a friend, natural beeswax candles for a candlelight dinner. I was so excited to see that the Maker’s Mercantile was opening a brick and mortar shop in the Enger Loft
buildings, called North & Shore, since it has such a great variety of locally made items, and our favorite low-waste refillery, Ren Market
is conveniently located in the same building!
Trying to reuse, reduce and consume less in a society that constantly tells us new, more and bigger is better can be really hard. Whenever I’m purchasing a gift, I try to make sure it is something that aligns with my values and an item that I myself would be excited to receive. I think about the materials used to make the item, how they were sourced, and what the end-of-life will be (can it be composted, recycled, reused, regifted or landfilled?) As an added bonus, helping support local businesses not only boosts your local economy but it has been estimated that for every dollar spent locally, 67 cents will stay in your local community.
▲ An agate ring that I received as a gift that was made by a local artist. ▲
Our main impetus for going tiny was to live more sustainably by reducing our energy consumption, curbing consumerism, and living a life that aligns with our values.The next time you are looking for a gift, I challenge you to resist the urge to head to Amazon or a big boxed store, and try shopping locally first! There are so many great local businesses and artists to support, and I think you’ll find much more fulfillment in the process.
Happy Waste Free Living,
▲About the Writer ▲
Sophie is a former tiny house dweller who strives to live a low-waste lifestyle. She currently lives in Duluth, Minnesota with her husband Henry, and pups Cora and Rey. They love all the outdoor activities that the area has to offer, the availability of locally grown produce and all the small businesses to support. She strives to live minimally and shares her sustainability journey on Instagram @radtinyhome