Life in a Teacup: A Tiny Home Memoir

Do you recall the first place that felt like home, once you left your parents? For me it was a Lilliputian cabin in my mid-20’s, after several uninspiring apartments.

I lived in that stucco cabin for a year. Smaller than most bedrooms at 7’ x 14’—all of 98 sq. feet—the ceiling was so low that tall visitors had to duck. Upstate New York’s deep snows made the tiny building a white bump on a white hill. Heat leaked through visible cracks in the single-pane window’s aluminum frames, and I could barely turn around in the shower stall. Hardly a place you’d expect fond memories to attach, but they did.

My new book Life in a Teacup: A Tiny Home Memoir starts with that cabin, shares my dissatisfactions after buying a suburban home, and details the return to minimal living in a home I designed and (partly) built. Some of the stories are as manic as those in my memoir about my apprenticeship, Post-Dated, so if you like revealed insanity, you’ll like this one.

I talk a lot about my attachment to belongings, and the weep-fest on letting many go. Like Post-Dated, writing it took me to places I didn’t expect. I wondered, researched, and wrote about the psychology of space. Of how we rest. Of our assumptions of home. And there’s plenty of ill-adventured tales involving emptying composting toilets, design mistakes, and road height limits for wheeled things.

It may seem strange that I’m writing about a non-bonsai subject on a bonsai blog. I have my reasons. When Bonsai Heresy was in post-production I had several conversations with students along the lines of “So, I’m finishing up this bonsai book. You might be interested.” “Ya, that’s nice. Good for you. Tell us about the tiny home book!” Hence this post.

One thing I’ve learned about manuscripts is that you write until you’re finished. Publishing waits its turn. You get excited, “Great! This is going well, I’ll be done by Christmas. Or Thanksgiving. Whichever comes first.” Well. They came and went. Twice. After three years I was positive it’d be published in 2022. Then this spring I realized it had more to teach me.

I’m still writing. Rewriting. Repondering. I HOPE this memoir will be out in 2023. Having attempted to crystal ball this before, that’s far from a guarantee. I will report closer in. Until then, wishing everyone well from 192 sq. feet.

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12 Comments

  1. My heart and imagination are equally stirred by your musings. Madness is not the word. Passion suits better. Yours are thoughtful deviations. Not erratic, just daring and unknown at the onset.

  2. Ray says:

    That first little cabin prepared you for Japan.
    Tiny space and cold drafts.
    I think letting go of a house and building a tiny home leaves time to do so much more without clutter and obligations.
    Just my thoughts.

    • crataegus says:

      Ya, I write a lot about that. Though I didn’t believe it myself at first, the lack of fussiness in a tiny home does give a breath of air in the daily schedule.

  3. Roseanne Moresco says:

    LOVE this post!! Where in upstate NY?

    • crataegus says:

      Hi Roseanne— Alfred, NY, in Allegany County. I was just out of graduate school for ceramics. Set up a studio there for about 5 years. Alfred was in a deep ravine, the winter sun never arrived being so low, and the Native Americans called it the valley of the insane. Naturally that’s where the university was. Though windy, that little cabin was up on a hill outside of town. Sunny. I read a lot there. It was a memorable year.

  4. Hey Mike! Delighted to hear this–you don’t rush your trees, after all. I’m glad you are giving this the time it wants. Just allow me a couple months of wiggle room whenever you finish, or get close, and let me know if you need anything in the meantime!

    Happy spring!

    Mary

  5. Micha says:

    I want the first copy, autographed and with a whimsical doodle too! Cheers, Micha

  6. Love this & Can’t wait for the book!

  7. Beverley Goffinet says:

    Hi Mike, I look forward to reading your memoir. Had the pleasure of meeting you at Alfred many year ago. Such a delight to see how well you are doing.

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