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Mindful : June 2015
Like in traditiona l Japanese homes, the floor is raised 20 inches, with storage underneath. The mid- dle floor panel lifts to transform into a table. A ladder climbs up to Dawn’s sleeping loft. Below, the kitchen has an oven, three-burner stove, a nd sink. At the front of the house, the bathroom is just big enough for a shower, composting toilet, and sink. Dawn’s housing cost is $10/month, for wood and propane. She has no mortgage or taxes, and gener- ates all her own electricity. “I’ve left power genera- tion up to someone else for my entire life,” she said. “So far, their solutions—build a mega da m, build a nuclear power station, burn coal—haven’t cut it for me. I think local and micro is the way of the future.” Dawn stepped outside as four women rode up on touring bikes. One of them dismounted, stricken. “This is what I fa ntasize about,” she said, swooning. “I have a burning desire to buy one of these.” Her friends are interested but less enthused. “ It’s very nice,” said one of them. “I could certainly go camping in it.” Dawn supposes the reaction of these four women is representative of the ra nge of reac- tions of most people. Out of every four, three aren’t that interested. One falls in love. Queen of the Kasl At 7 a.m., Kim Kasl rouses in bed to the sound of the front door clicking shut. Her husband, Rya n, is off to work. Story, her five-yea r-old daughter, and Sully, her seven-yea r-old son, are still fast asleep in bed. She falls back asleep for another hour of rest. When she wakes, after eight, Sully is already downstairs and dressed, eating a breakfast of bananas and pea- nut butter. Kim wakes Story and starts the day. The Kasls have lived in their tiny house in Minnesota for three months. They moved into the 207-square-foot home after realizing they couldn’t afford their mortgage a nd their student loans, even with both parents working full time. “ We were going to cut one of our big bills,” says Kim. “ We couldn’t cut the student loans—that’s permanent—so we got rid of the mortgage.” The Kasls had a 1,900 -squa re-foot house, many dozen pieces of dishware, and hundreds—if not thousands—of books. Plus two growing children a nd a dog. Real estate agents push houses with la rge foyers and dining rooms that, they say, are import- a nt for resale and special occasions. When Kim realized she was forgoing her fa mily’s ambitions, like homeschooling and traveling, for their house, she jettisoned those long-held assumptions. Story and Sully spend much of the day running up and down the stairs. From the loft, they launch paper airplanes and drop rocks tied to helium balloons. They tidy their sleeping space and lower a basket of dirty laundry to their mother on a pulley system. “I wa nted them to be somewhat independent,” says Kim. “That happens more here. When we moved in, they started asking things like ‘Mom, can I take the trash and go outside?’” Kim homeschools Story and Sully. After breakfast they do math problems, make art, and play outside. Kim starts lunch in the kitchen, which has a full fridge, t wo-burner stove, toaster oven, and dou- ble-basin sink. Since moving into the tiny house, the kids like to help in the kitchen, so they chop and stir. Each member of the family has one fork, spoon, bowl, plate, and cup—all picked out at the thrift store. When Story and Sully a re done eating, they wash their dishes. “Three years ago, I bet I had 40 plates,” says Kim. “I was so tired of dishes.” The kids also got rid of most of their toys. They each kept one tub of playthings, but more than any- thing they’re happy to play with sticks. Story once wrapped one in a blanket and nursed it for severa l days. “ I think they’re more creative now that they have the opportunity to create,” says Kim. “They’re not relying on being entertained. They’re creating their own entertainment.” In a small kitchen, dinner takes extra fore- thought, so Kim starts roasting vegetables in the → The Kasls left their 1,900-square-foot house after realizing they’d sacrificed their ambitions for their mortgage. Sully Kasl, left, and Story Kasl, right, in their loft bedroom, where they’ve devised a pulley system for lowering things like laundry to the main floor—one of the many new ways they’ve started helping around the house. June 2015 mindful 53 home