On the Tiny House Movement
Over the school year, I’ve become more and more fascinated by the Tiny House movement. I’ve watched the Tiny movie with the kids at school, as well as Tiny House Nation on Amazon Instant Video at home, and I follow the movement on social media (with much thanks to Zack Jones). This year, I’ve grown to see how “living tiny” is not just a fad of building a cute house with cool storage compartments.
While I don’t live in a tiny house, I do live in about 600 sq. ft (if you don’t include @Charlotte’s room), and am trying to adopt a “tiny” mindset as a practice before I ever do seriously consider living tiny. To me, a tiny mindset is about living your life intentionally, knowing that every material you own will take up space in your dwelling. You have to think very carefully about what you buy and if it’s something you really need. What you do have, you treat with a lot of honor, care, and respect. You don’t have junk, every item you have has meaning and purpose in your life. You carefully and intentionally choose each item that enters your home. The tiny mindset also includes the idea that your life’s value and success doesn’t come from acquiring items, but it comes from how you live and experience your life.
Over this spring break, I organized a community yardsale to help me clear out what I didn’t need in the house and make a little cash along the way. In my own life, I’m working on the practice of knowing everything I own and why I own it.
And since everything in my life is interconnected, it seems that this idea I am trying to embody is also something that is transferring over to how we set up our school environment as well…
A few weeks ago I was discussing with one of the parents who helped me create Mosaic, Vidya, if she had an insights about how we might be able to improve some things at school. Vidya used to teach at a play based preschool, one of the most popular progressive preschools in Charlotte. I wanted input in the flow of our day and also the arrangement of our space.
Vidya came to observe for a day, and then following that, invited @Charlotte to dinner so she could share some of her observations. One of the main observations she had was that she didn’t feel like the kids felt accountable to the materials in many of the rooms. Charlotte and I chewed on this for a little awhile, thinking about how to encourage the kids to feel ownership for the materials we have at school so they would feel inspired to care for them with respect intrinsically.
Fast forward to yesterday after our yard sale: Charlotte and I are in the school, clearing out and rearranging the library in a way we feel improves the flow of the room and has a better organization of materials. Charlotte is bringing up the accountability aspect again: “Nancy, all of this stuff was just given to us. We don’t know what to do with it. Because it’s not important to us, we don’t feel accountable for its care or use. How do we expect the kids to feel that way?”
Then the whole accountability aspect that Vidya brought up really hit me and how it ties to the intentional practices I am implementing in my home life. When I was starting the school, I had so many people donate items to the school, which was so kind and appreciated! I would see items and then think, “Oh, we could probably use that one day!” and then put it somewhere. But all these items begin to add up. As we collect more and more, we forget what we already have and there is nothing thoughtful or intentional about what we bring into our school space.
If we want the kids to feel ownership over and accountable for the items that are brought into the space, they need to be a part of choosing what comes in and how it is used and stored. Otherwise, the things in the school are just things. If something breaks, it breaks. There’s no real upset or meaning behind that because more stuff always comes in.
Charlotte and I thought about this and decided that a new process for items entering into school needs to be in place:
1) Kids finance club purchases all new crafting/art materials (markers, crayons, colored pencils, construction paper, etc). They have enough now and can buy these items as they go.
2) Donations to the school must be presented to children after one of our weekly meetings (or another time that works for the person donating). Kids and staff must discuss why the donated items are a good addition to their space, and decide where to store them and how they are used BEFORE they become “owned” by the school.
Through this process, children and staff will feel connected to each material brought into the school. They will see WHO the item came from. They will see HOW this item has a purpose and use in the school. They will BE A PART of deciding how it is stored, used & cared for.
Charlotte and I feel passionately about embodying and teaching the message that we are all connected. We can demonstrate this to children through the simplicity of showing them that every donated item to the school comes from a person, who used it for a purpose. If we wanted it, we can connect that item to a new purpose that has meaning to us.
We have had a great spring break – including lost of spring cleaning – and we are excited to continue to put into practice an intentional mindset about what materials we have in our school!