Tiny Tuesday: The Big Tiny

I’ve been meaning to read this book for a long time. As I have mentioned before, I met author Dee Williams in 2013 at the Yestermorrow Tiny House Fair in Vermont, and in the two minutes I spent actually talking to her she made me feel like a close companion. She greeted me – a stranger whom she only recognized because I’d asked a couple of questions during her presentation – with a hug. She teased out that I was a structural engineer and immediately asked me to proofread her other book, a how-to manual for building your own house on wheels. In The Big Tiny, a memoir, her infectious personality comes through loud and clear.

Dee used to live in a big house in Portland, Oregon, spending her weekends on home improvement projects. A cathartic experience at the age of 41 makes her seek deeper happiness, and soon afterwards she meets Jay Shafer and builds a tiny house and sells most of her stuff. Eventually she takes up residence in a friend’s backyard in Olympia, Washington, in exchange for caring for an elderly neighbor.

It’s important to realize these events happened in the early 2000s, when there was no Tiny House Hunters on HGTV and probably less than a dozen Americans lived in one. If you think moving into 100 square feet is crazy now, you can imagine what it was like then, with virtually no precedent. But you don’t have to imagine it – Dee lays her emotions bare, walking her readers through all her tough questions and nagging doubts. Will I be comfortable? What will other people think? Why am I doing this? Moments later she’s a kid again, building the treehouse of her dreams and making the reader pinky-swear not to tell her secrets. In her honesty, Dee proves she’s not a recluse or an environmental nut; she’s a kind and genuine person who had the courage to make a big tiny life decision, the sort of person you’d feel blessed to count as a friend.

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