(By which, of course, I mean matters of size)
After 6 panoramic hours on buses and trains, gazing out the windows at Dutch architecture and cartoon-worthy verdant parks, waterways and streets we found ourselves getting used to the dreamscape of rural Holland. We were on our way south from Amsterdam to Ouddorp to meet Martijn Wenting and his girlfriend, Irene, who together had recently finished building their first proper home with their own hands. But we didn't come only for the view.
Fascinated by the idea of minimalism - the philosophy that owning less material yields a higher quality of life - I had been communicating with Martijn (rhymes with "nine") online for a few months as he and Irene built their Tiny House. At a whopping 20 square meters (65 square feet), it is indeed tiny.
Tiny houses have been growing in popularity lately (you may have heard of the Netflix series "Tiny House Nation") as more people move toward a less-is-more mentality in order to make room for more freedom in other areas of life and reduce their environmental footprint.
When we arrived we were struck by the expert craftsmanship - it looked like a live re-creation of a house in a picture-book. We couldn't believe that this 100 percent green masterpiece was built entirely by hand, and was their first attempt at home-building. Inside, every nook and cranny is crafted with care, without an inch wasted. The wall-space along the staircase to the bed-loft is a set of ingeniously Tetris-fit storage cabinets; the wall over the fold-out couch is a surf-board rack and the rafters form an attic. The bathroom decor is impressively modern, featuring a composting toilet and sleek, black-tiled shower. The television swings out from the kitchen wall to be watched from the fold-out couch, drawing power from the solar panels on the roof. The whole house is on wheels and can be hitched to a car and taken to any new plot of real estate. The atmosphere of the place is warm and welcoming, just like its gracious inhabitants.
We sat down for dinner together in close and cozy quarters and shared our stories. The couple is passionate about kite surfing and the freedom to live the lives that give them joy, and also getting the hell out of town when the now-picturesque Holland turns interminably gray in the winter. In such close proximity and wrapped in the warmth of hand-laid red cedar wood, it didn't take long to feel that we were long-time friends. Martijn explained that this is the magic of the small space. People can't help but open up, there is no room to hide.
That night, Martijn and Irene made Karim and I a bed out of the convertible couch. The home held us all for a comfortable sleep, and we woke to sunshine and bird song streaming in through cracked windows. It was easy to understand how Martijn and Irene have found such peace here.
After breakfast, we had tea in the garden and spoke with our new friends about the meaning and importance of freedom. To them, it is important to recognize that everything is transient - our desires and needs evolve as we change over time. There is no way of knowing what new arrangement of location and lifestyle will yield the highest quality of life in any future phase. And so, perhaps true freedom is the flexibility to adapt to these tides of desire. For our two new friends, their home gives them just that.
Our time with Martijn and Irene inspired me to be more conscious about separating what I think I need from the things that I love, and to more effectively follow the impulses that guide the way to more expansive moments. Thanks guys.
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