set up: a background story

Living in a tiny house necessitates organization. Organization, though it might fall along the spectrum of OCD, was a trait that blossomed early in my childhood.

Dad and I called it “set-ups.”

colored pencils

A set-up, to me, was about preparing my art supplies in boxes and totes around me on the kitchen table in purposeful spots and piles (though I did actually create a lot of art, too). On road trips, a set-up was organizing a nook for my drink, a spot for the fries, and a no-spill spot for my ketchup and mustard, all centered around my Chicken McNuggets on the wrapper, lying on a pillow in my lap.

Pure joy radiated off of me when I had organized a functional and encompassing set-up.

It’s seems commonplace now, with everyone staging their desk or their meals or their crafts to look just right and posting on Instagram. It’s an interesting social norm that mixes a look of casualty and of being busy or motivated, all at once. I’m sometimes guilty of it myself!

Looking back to my house-playing days, one could attest that I took the most pride in setting a scene. My friend Summer and I would carve out our house forts in the snow by crawling around to cut out the shapes of the rooms. While I was still busy making a chair, a bed with a pillow, a desk, a computer, secret rooms, and puppy beds, she was beyond ready to “play.”

I always lost snowball fights, too. Or, I guess you could say I missed battles completely. I had a whole arsenal of snowballs ready to go, piled in pyramid shape, by the time everyone else was being called for dinner.

I drew and sketched a lot as I grew older, becoming more annotated and thoughtful. The memory I have of one drawing is like it came from a dream. On grid paper, I had sketched out a personal-sized spaceship. It included everything you’d ever need (as far as a kid’s needs go). The main deck of the ship inside was a folded, cushioned chair. It extended out via electronics to be my bed, and from both positions I could watch movies. A mini microwave could make any food out of a SpyKids-like bars wrapped in tin foil, like spaghetti and garlic bread. I had a marker and pencil dispenser that would materialize any color I wanted in either type when I pushed a button. In another corner, I could scoot over and go to the bathroom—not a clue where I had planned for the excrement to go.

This thing was elaborate and compact. I had everything drawn into this spaceship idea, and yet I couldn’t re-create it if you asked me to. Oh, the powers of childhood imagination.

Adult life is not nearly as imaginative. A creative layout is hard in a cookie-cutter apartment. Cooking inspiring meals has to depend on your grocery budget or available garden space (of which is not available to me). Even traveling from here to there, we rely on our vehicles, which must be brought to the auto shop, instead of a mothership, for repairs.

However, with a tiny house, I could take one tiny step back into my childlike imagination and still function as an adult.


living room




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