Even with all the focus these days on mental health and wellness, we as a society are still reticent to talk about how we feel.
Mental health, mindfulness. How much of this is still about the left brain? What about our heart, soul, spirit, and joy? What about feeling right about our lives, feeling togetherness with our communities, and in harmony with our environment?
When Shannon bought her tiny home, it was with these questions in mind. The tiny home movement is an experiment for a lot of people in living differently. For Shannon, the tiny home has been a physical manifestation of rethinking what’s important in life. When you can physically live differently, can you also live differently mentally and emotionally?
“I think of the opportunity to own a tiny home as a rocket ship. I read one time that when Sheryl Sandberg, who worked at Google before she went to Facebook, was offered the job at Google, she asked, “Well, what kind of a job is it?”. The person interviewing her answered, “When you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, you don’t ask which seat it is.”
The tiny home that Shannon bought was no other than the legendary debut of Fritz Tiny Homes, the Fritz. Kevin and Heather Fritz were building this home around the corner. “I recognized that their tiny home was a rocket ship and I was inspired by that moment. So I climbed on and bucked up! I really did not know then what I would do with the tiny home.”
Since then it has served as a lab for the builder as well as the owner to try out off-grid systems and figure out how to deal with the elements. However, the tiny home is not just a lab of testing out building materials. It is also a lab of the human experience. “What is it like to put our focus on how we feel in the space? On art, on joy?”
“When I bought the tiny home, I knew that it was a ticket somewhere. It would allow me into the conversation about tiny homes. Which would allow me into the conversation about sustainability, and about simplifying life.”
Sharing the tiny house on AirBnB, one night at a time
For Shannon, the tiny home was an opportunity to share an idea and an experience with other people and she is doing that by making the tiny home available to book on AirBnB.
“It’s really become a place for couples to reconnect with each other. They come to test out what it is to simplify. And I think they come away with the thought, “This isn’t doing without. This is doing with. All these things that we’ve surrounded ourselves with do not define who we are. We are who we are.”
The Fritz is a beautiful, sculptural creation that attracts a lot of attention. Shannon says, the staircase alone is a work of art.
“I think initially, people are intrigued by the beauty of these structures, by the aesthetic precision. And that aesthetic precision can follow you into all aspects of your life.”
“I think we need to remember that we don’t have to go to Hawaii to travel. We just have to access the awe that we have when we travel. We live in a rich tapestry of stories. It’s all here.”
The unassuming genius of a tiny house owner
Talking to Shannon, you are showered with glittering wisdom that comes in such a humble, conversational package that you don’t even notice. You only notice weeks after, when you are still reconsidering your life’s choices.
Shannon’s philosophy is what really sets her apart.
“I think I have a greater sensitivity to that sort of unhappiness that comes with compromising on something that is important to me. So, I try to follow love and joy. Love-based decision making instead of fear-based decision making. I try to notice when everything feels just right, and make more of it. Like, when you notice something and you help it look more like itself.”
“For example, the tiny home wants to be a beacon for sustainability. So,I use products from the Rocky Mountain Soap Company. They have a program where they take their plastic bottles back, clean them, refill them, and sell them again. And one more little place in my life is zero waste.”
For those who can’t make it to Edmonton, Tiny Vinatarta is a lovely, reassuring presence on Instagram. Shannon says her most popular reel is the one about a Buffalo release.
“Buffalo being released in the wild, donated by an Alberta rancher to a First Nation in Saskatchewan where bison have not been running for 150 years. It’s a gift. It’s reconciliation. It just gives me chills. I want to grab people and get them to love what we need to do for our world. This is the healing that I want to highlight.”
Shannon also posts about events in her local community that she helped organise, such as a neighbourhood festival of lights.
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“The idea was to inspire a neighbourhood of people to do a collective activity that is beautiful in a strictly sensory way. It’s not about eating or consuming something. It’s just paper and candles and when we all do it, we create this magnificent thing.”
What is the tiny home experiment? The fractal geometry of joy and healing.
To Shannon, the tiny home movement holds enormous significance and potential to influence our society and future. That’s because it’s a physical manifestation of something bigger – a need to simplify, find peace and healing, and reconnect with the things that are important to us.
“I have a math background. And one of the things that mathematicians do is notice a trend and watch where that trend could go. I’m particularly taken with fractal geometry, where a starting point (the fractal seed) is acted upon by a rule that is applied over and over (recursively). What if we consider tiny homes as seeds and our way of interacting with them as the rule? “What are the consequences of our actions? What are the consequences of having a great big house that I have to sustain?” And, in contrast, what are the consequences of living in tiny homes? What kind of a world will this lead to?”
“A question that is asked in Indigenous cultures is, “How do my choices affect seven generations?” It’s very important to me to recognize the fundamental connection to the land. What can be more fundamental than where your feet are on the ground? I recognize that when I put my tiny home on land here in Edmonton, I am planting it on Indigenous land. How will I show gratitude for that land? It is important on a fundamental level. It is part of making peace and finding peace….I don’t know what the future of tiny homes and tiny home communities will bring. But I know that when people in my neighbourhood see the tiny house, they smile. People are smiling a lot. I think, a community with more tiny homes would bring an influx of thinkers that are closer to their heart.”