When I was offered a job in Smithers, I was pleased, but wondered ‘how am I going to be able to afford to live here?’ Newspaper salaries aren’t what they used to be (and they used to be crap).
It is unfortunate that affordable housing has become such an issue.
People used to come to the north, at least in part, for the opportunities and cost-of-living.
At a special meeting of Telkwa council last week on their budget, Mayor Brad Layton noted the average home in Telkwa is now assessed at $257,800.
Of course, those kinds of values, combined with low vacancy rates, also drive up rents like crazy.
In any event, it was not long before I started looking at alternatives, as many others have before me.
People are building tiny houses; buying minuscule condominiums; and repurposing travel trailers, old school buses, shipping containers and other things into homes.
There are shows on television about it. There’s even a business in Smithers dedicated to supplying tiny lifers.
Tiny living has become a thing.
Of course, it has always been a thing.
Lots of people live in tiny houses (we used to call them cabins), trailer parks are certainly nothing new, and there have always been eccentrics pursuing alternative lifestyles.
When I started looking at travel trailers as a potential solution to my housing problem, I identified three main stumbling blocks.
MORE BARKING AT THE BIG DOG:
The first was hookups (minds out of the gutters, please). Fortunately, I have wonderful friends here, to whom I am eternally indebted, who were willing to hook me up with the luxuries I was not willing to give up, water, sewer, electricity and internet.
The second was space. Could I really adjust to what would certainly be fairly cramped quarters? There was only one way to find out.
Which brings me to the final obstacle, the stigma.
Self-esteem being what it is, I grappled with the idea that here I am, a 55-year-old man, reduced to living in a tiny, portable space like some failed golf pro with inner demons and a penchant for “going for it” against all odds.
Kudos to those who got the Tin Cup reference.
At the very least, the stigma makes you examine your life choices such as, say, someone choosing journalism when they could have been a lawyer or doctor or stayed in the high tech business.
Ah, but there’s no turning back the clock, even if I wanted to, and I was born to be a newspaperman.
I’ve been in the trailer about a month now and I am reaping the benefits.
It’s saving me money, but not just in the obvious way. In the past, when I thought about buying something, the primary consideration was ‘can I afford it?’
Now, the first question is ‘where am I going to put the damn thing?’
Even when it comes to food, I’m buying, and thus wasting, less because my fridge and cupboards will only hold so much.
I’m also becoming much more efficient and neat. When you live in a tiny space, you can’t just leave stuff lying around because you very quickly run out of space for living.
And you can’t be a messy cook. I was always taught to clean as I go, but I rarely did. Now I have to and it’s great to live in a place that is always clean and uncluttered.
It gets you thinking outside the box, too.
An example: my socks and underwear drawer is now a shelf in my bathroom linen closet, which is great because when I get out of the shower, there they are.
Finally, it is making me more environmentally-friendly. Again, not just in the obvious way. Not only do you use less of everything because it takes less of everything to run a tiny home, but I have become much more conscious of my use of everything.
For example, it’s easy to remember to turn off lights because you can see the whole house from wherever you are.
As Martha used to say, ‘that’s a good thing.’