How I Live with Books in 220 Square Ft.

An interview with tiny house dweller Sheri Nicholson

Posted by Ben Landau August  08, 2016
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Scaling back doesn’t mean living small. It means living differently.

Just ask Sheri Nicholson. The educational assistant from Chilliwack, British Columbia lives in a 28-foot trailer house that she built with her bare hands, (along with a little help from students, faculty and YouTube of course.)

Since downsizing, Nicholson has seen her world expand in ways she never could have imagined. From reconnecting with nature to rekindling her love of reading, tiny-house-living hasn’t been a challenge so much as it has been an opportunity to learn a new way of doing things.

Nicholson invited us into her beautiful modern home for a look at how she lives big with books in only 220 square ft.

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Why did you move into a tiny house?

The bottom line is I’ve always done things differently. My students can attest to that.

With the rising housing market on the West Coast I knew my only real option for affordable housing would be a small condo. I had no desire to invest in something that really wasn’t mine and the thought of my only outdoor space being confined to a small deck saddened me. So when I discovered the tiny house movement, I was instantly hooked.

And you built the house yourself?

After a bit of research, I approached the high-school shop teacher in my school and asked if he would be interested in partnering. Many students go into construction after high school and he seized the opportunity to teach students framing on an actual house. It was a win-win for both of us!

After framing was complete I took over the rest of the project myself. With the help of endless YouTube videos, Google, and the support of some experienced friends, I completed the house. Over that year I learned how to install windows and door frames and siding and shakes oh… and POWER TOOLS.

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Are you a minimalist by nature?

I knew that by moving into a small space I would be forced to make consistent minimalist choices and really focus on not only what I purchase by why I purchase the goods I do. I’ve come to understand the importance of our consumer decisions and the impact they have on the environment and global community.

When you downsized, did you have to get rid of any books?

I gave away four large boxes of books I had kept sitting around since completing my degree over 15 years ago. I had never cracked one open in all those years. It was time! Now I only keep books if I know they will be of regular use to me or someone I know. The rest are conveniently stored on my Kobo.

 

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What kind of reader are you?

I focus mostly on reading for knowledge and understanding but not in the academic sense. I’m a reader who enjoys personal story; vulnerability and truth. I end each day reading someone’s story. It helps my mind escape momentarily from my own life and glean perspective from another’s. The more stories I read of others’ lives, the better I can understand my own.

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What is one book you recommend everyone read?

I’d recommend any book by Henri Nouwen. After teaching psychology in Yale and Harvard’s divinity schools for a number of years, he left to work in a group home north of Toronto with adults with severe disabilities after becoming disillusioned by his academic colleagues.

It is there that he finally found a true sense of community. His life teachings and understanding of the theology of the heart have left a template for a relational life story that is full of meaning, belonging and intimacy while modeling justice, compassion and service to others. I can’t recommend his writings enough.

I’m also quite partial to Yan Martel’s The Life of Pi and A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller.

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How has your reading life changed since you moved into your tiny house?

Anyone that knows me knows I used to be a TV addict. My PVR would be programed from 5-11 every night. I didn’t even have Netflix because there wasn’t anything on it I hadn’t seen! Since moving into the tiny house I only have one channel through an antenna. Because of this shift I’ve fully embraced the joys of reading more and I’m happy for it.

Where do you keep books in your tiny home now?

I have a small book collection of current reads placed by my fireplace for easy access. The rest of the print book collection that I have decided to hold onto is up in the loft bedroom. Everything else in on my Kobo. Right now I’m reading Out Of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith by Sarah Bessey, a book that is reshaping my current understanding of faith and community and culture.”

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Where’s your happy reading place?

Nothing beats the local lake. Lying in the sand with the glacier lake in front and majestic mountains surrounding bring such a peace and calmness to my spirit. Reading someone’s personal story in that environment makes it feel like they are right there beside me.

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Any advice for other people interested in tiny-house living?

Living in a tiny house doesn’t mean limiting yourself. For me, it has led to a better understanding of my self and the world around me, a better appreciation for nature, and yes, a better appreciation for the joys of reading. Sometimes less really is more…

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