Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Big Tiny: A Built-It-Myself Memoir, by Dee Williams

Staff Review by Chris Saliba

When Dee Williams downsized her life into a tiny 84-square-foot house, she found her personal life grew immensely rich and rewarding.

Dee Williams was trying to lead a regular, normal life. She had a mortgage, a big house to upkeep and a full time job as a hazardous waste inspector. Then at the age of forty she was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. It caused her to rethink everything. She came to the conclusion that she didn’t want to spend her life working hard to pay off a big house in which she didn’t spend that much time anyway. While waiting in a doctor’s surgery she read an article about tiny house builder and advocate Jay Shafer. A light bulb went off. Dee Williams decided to completely downsize her life and concentrate on the important things: friends, community and the immediate world around her. She picked up the phone and called Jay Shafer.

An amateur carpenter at heart, Williams built her 84-square-foot house, which is set on a trailer, out of salvaged materials. It cost her approximately $10,000. It has a one burner stove, a composting toilet (no shower, she bought a gym membership instead), a loft for her bed and is run mostly on solar power. She pays $8 per month for her utilities. She’s now been living in the tiny house for 10 years.

This is a funny, intimate and inspiring memoir. It’s like Thoreau’s Walden or Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie, but for modern day, green minded urbanites. Dee Williams’ writing has a poetic and thoughtful tone. It’s introspective and meditative, but also reaches out to show other possible ways of living. Who knew that in this era of rampant consumerism that it would be possible to envy someone who dramatically downsized and ditched so many of her own possessions, until there was only a tiny house left with not a lot in it.

The Big Tiny: A Built-It-Myself Memoir, by Dee Williams. Published by Penguin. ISBN: 9780399166174 $26.99

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