As a wife, I have many irritating qualities. One of them is my tendency to read long passages of a book to my husband. I had no idea of how horrible this was until my own children started reading me long passages out of the books they were enjoying, and then suddenly I realized I’d been torturing my husband for more than a decade.

Sorry, dear. So sorry.

I’ve tried to get control of myself lately, but sometimes a book is so good or funny I can’t help myself. Sixteen pages into The Big Tiny I lost my resolve to keep my reading material to myself and started reading to Eric.

It might have been earlier, actually. Perhaps page 2. I’m hazy on the exact page.

But the book is just so good and funny that I can’t help myself. Dee Williams, the author of The Big Tiny, had a health emergency (a wonky heart), causing her to choose a new life path. She literally doesn’t know if she has a year left, a month, or an hour to live. (Neither do any of the rest of us, but at least she has one of her issues labeled by the medical community).

So, of course, she built an 84-square-foot house. By herself. With a wonky heart. 

Photo courtesy of
Photo courtesy of

She sold her big house and got rid of almost everything, from her beloved art to her extra soy sauce. Now she can work part time and spends her life investing in the people around her– caring for an elderly neighbor, playing games with the kids next door, and volunteering. Also watching a lot of crappy Netflix, just like the rest of us.

I picked up this book because I have this not-so-secret burning desire to get rid of everything and live in the simplest, least-chaotic way possible. I don’t want to have any bills to tie me down, I want insurance to be a thing other people need, and I don’t want to trip over 19 pairs of flip flops and a garden clog when I try to let the cat in each morning.

Nor do I want a cat. But we’ve already discussed this.

As I read this book I get lulled into Williams’ prose, then startled awake by conflicting thoughts: I can do this, too. Wait a minute, no I can’t. Then I go back to reading and find another paragraph like this, which makes me want to try anyway:

Moving was hard, but not impossibly horrid, and in fact, over the long haul I found it incredibly liberating. After a short bit of time it became more like stripping naked on the beach, kicking off your clunky shoes and pulling your shirt off while simultaneously using your foot like a hand to yank off your sock, preparing for the way the warm sea will feel against every dimple and fold of your body. Letting go of “stuff ” allowed the world to collapse behind me as I moved, so I became nothing more or less than who I simply was: Me. (The Big Tiny, pg. 175)

This sounds wonderful, but is this for me? More importantly, is this for us? I’m not operating in a vacuum, here. Dee’s circumstances (single/no kids) allowed her to shed her old life and then invest more in relationships and people. Her choices have enriched her loved ones. I’m afraid that if I did this I might traumatize my children and husband. They apparently have no interest in getting rid of everything except two spoons and a toothbrush, sharing a wheeled home so we can glean fruit and take it to the homeless shelter each week.

Is there a happy medium that works for families? What do you think? What burden or responsibility would you most like to shed, and what would you have to do to release it?

Then [Jesus] said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Luke 12:15

17 Comments on By the End of Today We Will Own Two Spoons and a Toothbrush

  1. Cheri Fields
    June 23, 2014 at 1:46 pm (4 years ago)

    What a timely post!
    We’re moving (again) and I’ve been tipping to the “hate” side of my relationship with stuff (again), too. For a few weeks we’re going to get a taste of living like this lady at a campground. I have the feeling by the end of the experience I’ll have a healthier view of it all and just hold a garage sale for the stuff we’ll do better without, while finding homes for the things that actually enrich our lives. The difficult part for me is kids’ ability to pull every article we own into the middle of the floor in five minutes flat!

  2. Jessie Clemence
    June 23, 2014 at 4:36 pm (4 years ago)

    I want to hear how it goes, for real. The irony here is that we lived in a 900 square foot house for 9 years, and I couldn’t wait to get out of it. Now that we’re in a larger space I love it, but constantly feel guilty. To be fair to myself, we had 900 of the most badly planned square footage imaginable– over a hundred years the owners had just tacked room after room on to the back. And now we have a better space to offer hospitality, which we do pretty often. It’s not all bad. But I wonder if we could do better…

  3. luanne
    June 23, 2014 at 5:24 pm (4 years ago)

    So, you probably realize that I move every 3 or 4 years working for the Air Force. In fact, I have moved 4 times in the last 10 years. And every time we move, I spend several months going through boxes and drawers and closets and we have a garage sale/donation run to the local goodwill. And, you know what? We STILL have too much stuff! I don’t know how it happens.

    I would love to be able to get rid of the sentimental attachment I have to stuff that we don’t use or really need. Whether that stuff was a gift that really serves no purpose in our house/life or things I actually brought into our life that I didn’t need in the first place or no longer need but feel like I should hang on to it BECAUSE I actually paid for it. It’s a work in progress, I guess, like most of my life!

  4. David
    June 23, 2014 at 5:57 pm (4 years ago)

    Move to the UK. We have much smaller houses. But for us there is still the challenge of the shoes, flip flops, school bags, etc., in the hall to trip over each morning. Where we do have the advantage is NO CAT!

  5. Shana
    June 23, 2014 at 6:17 pm (4 years ago)

    I just read this book: The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide: How to Declutter, Organize, and Simplify Your Life by Francine Jay. Really put into perspective how much time I spend cleaning, organizing & storing all of our stuff! Why do we have 20 towels?! Why do we have 10 travel coffee mugs? The time we spend shuffling around this stuff could be better used jumping on the trampoline or playing a good card game.

  6. Jessie Clemence
    June 23, 2014 at 9:11 pm (4 years ago)

    Exactly! I was eyeing my closet last night, wondering if I should get rid of the extra linens in there. And then I remembered the night we had puckers all night long who went through every blanket we had (plus a sleeping bag), and I remember why we have a few extras…

    So maybe, with kids, a little bit of extra is okay?

  7. Jessie Clemence
    June 23, 2014 at 9:13 pm (4 years ago)

    I read this week that the average size of a UK house is 800 square feet, while the US is 2100.

    Is this true about English houses? Are they well-planned, or does everyone just make do? Do you have basements for storage and the washing machine?

  8. Jessie Clemence
    June 23, 2014 at 9:13 pm (4 years ago)

    True. At least the military gives you a reason to clean it all out every four years. Just imagine what you’d have if you never moved!

    June 23, 2014 at 11:59 pm (4 years ago)

    Throw off your possessions. They are chains be free. Is that you?
    I think reading those long passages would put me to sleep. I do sometimes tell my wife to read something if it strikes me and occasionally read to her too.

  10. David
    June 24, 2014 at 4:34 am (4 years ago)

    I think English houses are getting smaller – we have to squeeze them all in. We don’t generally measure by square footage, but houses are marketed on the number of rooms/type. For instance 3-bed semi-detached, four-bed detached, etc. Ours started out as a 4-bed detached, but we built an office and another room on the back, divided one bedroom into two, and converted what was a single garage into another room. That’s what you do when you have five kids. But the rooms are smaller compared with the US. And the houses are more expensive.

  11. Shana
    June 24, 2014 at 7:21 am (4 years ago)

    Maybe with the kids, but if I had a pucker all night, and ran out of sheets, the plastic liner would do just fine. I’m just so over holding onto things because we “might” use them.

  12. Jessie Clemence
    June 24, 2014 at 12:44 pm (4 years ago)

    Great, now I have a new addiction– international real estate ads. That was fun! There was a little one bedroom for 110,000 with a blue kitchen. Adorable. but that clocks in at almost $150k for a one bedroom home– holy cats!

  13. Jessie Clemence
    June 24, 2014 at 12:45 pm (4 years ago)

    Now that I’m trying to not read to him, I just chortle to myself and that kind of drives him nuts, too. 🙂

  14. Jessie Clemence
    June 24, 2014 at 12:48 pm (4 years ago)

    A perfect birthday present for the man.

  15. David
    June 24, 2014 at 12:57 pm (4 years ago)

    And this is considered a relatively cheap area of the country!

    June 24, 2014 at 1:06 pm (4 years ago)

    That or an addition to the house where he can get away from this loud wife!