A week or so ago, we were browsing through Netflix and came across a documentary I got really excited about and wanted to watch.
It was called Tiny, and as the film puts it, it’s “about home, and how we find it.”
Inspired by the “tiny house movement,” one Millennial set out to build his own tiny house in Colorado. The film captures his journey from start to finish, and throughout it cuts to interviews from other tiny house owners and builders.
What Is a Tiny House, Exactly?
If you don’t know about tiny houses, here’s a quick snippet from the film’s website about what they are:
The “tiny house” movement can be traced back at least as far as Henry David Thoreau, and the publication of his book, Walden.
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately,” Thoreau wrote, “to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
Today’s tiny house movement is less concerned with leaving society to find solitary contemplation. But Thoreau’s ideal of simplifying life, considering which comforts and possessions can be done without in order to live a life that is “more deliberate” rings true for many Tiny House owners.
These ideals that many tiny house enthusiasts hold dear — minimalism, frugality, living more sustainably and deliberately — resonate with me as well.
It was amazing seeing how various people lead their lives with a living space that was smaller than the living room in my house. Although I’m not sure I would want to make the move to a 100 square foot house, I am very interested in downsizing and I want to become more of a minimalist than I am now.
Not to mention, after sharing my thoughts on DIY work last week, it was cool that the documentary showed someone with no prior construction experience could really build a home by themselves.
Making a Lifestyle Change and Leaving Work Behind
A few of the people who owned tiny houses and who were interviewed for Tiny expressed a sentiment I’ve heard more than once in explaining their choice for living situation:
They became really disenchanted with the way our society pushes consumerism. They were tired of the rat race and the cycle that was all too easy to get sucked into: work more in a job you hate to bring home more money to buy more stuff that you don’t really want but feel obligated to buy.
I agree, that’s a crappy way to live on multiple leaves.
But I’m not so sure I agreed with the solution that many have suggested was the answer to the problem — making a dramatic lifestyle change and abruptly walking away from a job that paid the bills in pursuit of a dream or passion.
That’s not to say everyone who lives in a tiny house followed this course of action, or that everyone who chooses a non-traditional way of living must be facing financial troubles.
But many people do chase their passions without considering practical aspects, like financial stability and security.
I’m not trying to pick on tiny house owners. The documentary simply served as a spark that made me think, “you know what? I am really tired of people implying that working hard in a traditional job in order to build financial independence are somehow missing out or just completely wrong.”
At What Cost Would You Chase a Dream?
Millennials are told we need to pursue our passions. We’re supposed to shoot for the moon ’cause if we miss we’ll still land among the stars. Or something.
This stuff isn’t necessarily bad. But working for your dream is one thing. Following it blindly with no thought for your financial future is another.
Some parts of the Tiny documentary irritated me from a financial standpoint. It’s all well and good if you’re shedding your mass-consumerism habits and opting for a simple life.
Or it’s great if you can reduce your expenses to a bare minimum, to a point where you no longer have to hold the job that pays a certain amount. But is that sustainable? What happens in the future? Will you make dramatic lifestyle changes over and over and over again because your financial situation forces you to do so?
It seems like for many of us, our desperation and need to escape one rat race simply creates another.
Millennials are under a ton of pressure to do more and more with our lives. It’s not enough to be content, and normal is a bad word. We have to constantly think and act outside the box, or our peers who are taking gap years to find themselves by trekking across the world or who constantly bragging about their next wild adventure will (intentionally or accidentally) leave us feeling like we’re doing something wrong, that we’re missing out on a crucial part of living.
And hey, if you have the financial means to take a year off work to chase a dream, more power to you! You’re excused until next week, because right now I’m speaking to the Millennials who need some form of income to pay off debts, pay even the small bills associated with living frugally, and have a little left over to put toward the future.
Here’s the reality: we all have living expenses, and we all need to establish a way to handle these expenses. You can opt to put down those who are busy working away to earn a heavy paycheck — or you can keep making as much as you can for a few years today in order to set yourself up for a lifetime of freedom.
A Few Years of Work Can Grant You a Lifetime of Freedom
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to squash your grand plans of running off into the sunset with your own tiny house in tow (or whatever your version of the ideal lifestyle looks like).
And I’m in no way suggesting that anyone slave away in a job they hate, with no end in sight. If you hate your job, it’s time to make a change.
We all need to find a balance between living for today and saving for tomorrow. And that’s not easy — nor does the balance look the same for everyone. I can’t tell you what your balance looks like specifically (that depends on your current finances, your values, and your future goals).
But here’s what I do know:
- Money is a tool that you can leverage to provide yourself more flexibility and time, and freedom to decide what to do with that time.
- There’s nothing wrong with working hard right now to build financial security. You are not somehow wrong or foolish for not getting up and walking away from your job to chase one of your dreams or passions.
- There is a ton of value in the work you’re doing right now, even if it’s not your dream job.
- …but if you want that dream job, you can work to build it yourself. Don’t wait for permission. Make your own opportunities.
Yes, I’m inspired by those who went off and tried something completely different — like living life in 100 square feet or so, and moving around as they please. That is freakin’ cool.
What’s even cooler to me? Getting serious about achieving big financial goals you want to accomplish, and then working to make those goals into realities in a way that is sustainable.
There is nothing wrong in taking advantage of a well-paying job as an opportunity to work hard and earn more. Not for more material stuff, but for your savings, your investments, and your financial well-being. Don’t let anyone make you feel like your life has less meaning just because you’ve decided to make creating financial security a priority, so that you can fully enjoy chasing your dreams to your full ability.
It really is tempting sometimes for me to sell most of what I own, grab my cats, and head off to a one-room cabin in the middle of the woods miles from anyone else. (Or to a one-room beach hut somewhere far south of here; I go back and forth on my ideal spot.)
And then I think, if I continue to work and save as I have been doing for another few years, I’ll be financially set to do that without having to continue to work, or at least knowing that I have the financial stability I need to do as I please without worrying about how I’ll cover some modest expenses.
Instead of demanding that I have the absolutely, 100%, perfect life that I want right this instant, I’m happy to spend a few years focusing on how I can build my wealth so that I can ensure that perfect life I’m building at the same time is one that will last.
Why not slow down, appreciate all aspects — including the hard work — of this current phase of life, and enjoy laying the foundations for my dream as part of the whole journey?
What do you think — is working hard for a few years to build financial security be worth it for a lifetime of freedom to pursue passions and dreams?