Here are reasons to inhabit tiny spaces that are even better than being featured on HGTV.
Tiny houses are trendy right now and they fascinate me. I really want to build one in the back yard and move my kids into it. While I admit my motivations may not be totally pure there, the attraction for most people is that these houses are environmentally friendly, cheap to build in and to live, and conducive to a simpler lifestyle.
Not everyone is on board with the movement. I read the other day that rich, young millenials want to live in super-massive houses on the order of 20,000 square feet. For most of us, though, I suspect a few thousand square feet would do well enough and demanding more seems a little gaudy.
For some, even the size of a typical suburban house is much too big. They want to live free of debt and so many possessions. They’re shrinking their living space in style, and I honestly don’t know why we didn’t think of some of these ideas before. We can live in tree houses, and shipping containers, and geodesic domes in the middle of pristine forests — every child’s dream.
There is one demographic for whom the tiny house movement isn’t so new or unfamiliar, though it perhaps wasn’t exactly a “trend” when they were alive. They’ve been enthusiastically living in unusually small or cramped conditions for centuries – these people are the saints.
Here are 10 saints who lived in tiny houses before it was cool:
St. Rose Philippine Duchesne
Rose moved to the St. Louis area in 1818 and helped found a convent. The convent itself wasn’t a tiny house, after all it housed a large number of women, and Rose seems to have found it too spacious. So she confined her personal space to a closet under the stairs in the hallway. In a rare concession to luxury she made a bed of straw, the only thing that fit in the tiny closet.
St. Anthony of the Desert
All Anthony wanted was to be alone. He went to live in the desert to pray, but other monks found him and moved to be near him, so he ran away from the monastery he accidentally founded because “it was too nice” (or he would have said something like that). He eventually found a short-term tiny house by sealing himself in a tomb.
Julian of Norwich
Julian lived in Norwich in the 14th century. It’s amazing we know that much because the majority of her life was spent in a tiny room built into the wall of the local church. This tiny house is for extreme shoppers only. It doesn’t even have a door.
St. Simon the Stylite
Simon is the most hardcore of all tiny house enthusiasts. You say you want a tiny house with a small bed, kitchenette, roof, and walls? Simon didn’t need any of that. For 37 years, his house was the top of a pillar from which he never moved.
Cuthbert was always looking for a tiny house to call home, so he was thrilled to find a small, deserted island off the coast of England. There, he built a tiny house and surrounded it with a wall and moat. There was only one hole in the wall and occasionally if he was feeling social he might talk to a visitor through it.
St. Damien of Molokai
Damien considered tiny houses with amenities like “ceilings” and “walls” to be too decadent, so he made his home in the most eco-friendly, no-nonsense way possible and simply slept under a pandanus tree. His house was so tiny it didn’t even exist.
St. Benedict of Nursia
Benedict’s version of a tiny house was a cave where his friend Romanus had to lower food to him in a basket. Considered a holy man, he was coerced to move into larger digs as boss of a nearby monastery. His rules were so strict the monks tried to poison him, so he quite happily went back to the cave.
St. Kateri Tekakwitha
Kateri initially lived in a longhouse, a type of dwelling common to the Mohawk which housed a large, extended family. Seeking to downsize, she ended up moving into a small hut where she happily spent her days communing with nature.
St. Rose of Lima
Rose also lived in a small hut that she converted into a hermitage. Like a typical millennial, her tiny house was in her parents’ backyard. I’m sure her parents were thrilled to have her.
Bruno is the apostle of tiny houses. He once persuaded a few friends to disappear with him into a mountainous region in southern Italy to live in a hermitage. While there he founded of the Carthusian order of monks, men who upon joining are required to live in a hermitage, meaning that all his spiritual descendants are devotees of the tiny house.
If you long to downsize, or currently struggle to live in a smaller space than you’d like, you might ask these saints to give you a hand.