Monday, August 17, 2015

The 5 Things I Learned at The Tiny House Jamboree

Has it been only a week since the Tiny House Jamboree? 
My tiny house buzz hasn’t worn off yet so I really can’t tell…..

When the whole idea started, the organizers were pretty sure that around 1500 people would attend.  A few months before the event, registration confirmed that over 5000 people from all 50 states and 14 countries intended to make the journey to Colorado Springs.  A few days before the event started, the Jamboree website groaned with the weight of 10,000 people’s names. 

At the pre-event party, the night before the gates opened, the organizers and speakers debated how many would REALLY attend. The prevailing theory there was that since the event was free, anyone who had registered wouldn’t lose anything by NOT attending.  We couldn’t imagine how many people were vested enough to get in their cars and drive, and  camp or park, and stand in line for an hour just to see a tiny house.

By now you probably know that, over the course of the 3 day event, approximately 40,000 people crossed over the crest of the hill to attend the first ever Tiny House Jamboree.  We were, and still are, stunned.  The speakers, the organizers, the volunteers, and the vendors are probably still recovering. I know I am.  (that’s why it’s taken me a week to write this article)  It was a spectacle, to say the least.

And so they came.
So, without further ado………here is a list of the 5 Things I Learned at The Jamboree:

1)      Tiny House people are awesome….and sooooo many other adjectives that come to mind….fun, funny, supportive, informative, helpful, passionate, creative, engaging, and dedicated.  Watching so many people, with tiny houses in common, bond over a tiny living room design was inspiring.  Listening to tiny house enthusiasts who label themselves as “shy” come out of their shell and chatter like extroverts was fun. Seeing the dedication that the organizers and volunteers put into this, made me literally cry.  I feel sooo privileged to have been included as a speaker.  And, with so many people attending, and the organizers’ attention needed elsewhere, I stepped up (like so many other people did as well) and also helped with the MC duties. Watching the tiny house “scene” from the stage felt surreal.  It was like watching history in the making and I will no doubt remember the FIRST Jamboree and tell my grandchildren stories of all the fun (and even some elusive) characters.

Smiles All Around!

2)      There are way more tiny house enthusiasts “out there” than even the tiny house enthusiasts ever imagined.  Yes, many more people attended than we ever imagined would attend.  But, when you consider that nobody really knows how many tiny houses exist because of their “under the rader” lifestyle, and when you consider that the people attending likely represent only a small fraction of the total number of people who live in them or want to….it’s really staggering to think about. Even Jay Shafer, the proverbial father of the tiny house movement, was shocked.  Zack Giffin, who is no doubt used to being in the spotlight day in and day out, appeared to be nervous.  Actually, I’m pretty sure everyone who got on that stage was nervous to some degree. We were all so taken aback with the enthusiasm of the crowd and the overall feeling of love and support.

Jay, being silly, taking stage selfies!!

3)      In a crowd of tiny house people it takes less than 10 minutes for the topic of poop or sex to come up.  Admittedly, I stole this theory from Lina Minard but nowhere was it proven to be MORE true, than at the Jamboree. Almost every conversation with my tiny house peers, and certainly every expert panel discussion included questions and comments about where to “go” and where to “do it”.  (or, more accurately HOW to “do it” in such a confined space)  As a society we have grown accustomed to the luxury of flushing our waste with drinking water, and having privacy for our intimate moments. We know a tiny house, however, requires sacrifice and nowhere is that as relevant as the sacrifices we perceive that will have to be made with respect to our bathroom habits and our sex lives.  However, after all the nervous questions have been asked, and answered, we discover that using drinking water for waste removal is a luxury and not a necessity. We also discover that sex (after somewhat rousing and fun discussions on the subject) will find a way into our lives in whatever cramped space we inhabit.  Sacrifices need not be made, only habits changed. 

I finally met RJ!!!

4)      Zoning is a BIG deal.  This was most definitely my “ah ha” moment.  I assumed, by no other method than my own casual research, that lack of money was the number one reason why people don’t build more tiny houses.  As it turns out, there appears to be plenty of money out there to build tiny houses but people are very reluctant to do so given the questionable zoning regulations and because tiny houses having been deemed “illegal” to live in, in many jurisdictions. Not everyone is comfortable with the build-and-pray perspective I have taken.  Not everyone appreciates the notion that they’ll have to question authority, push boundaries, and maybe even break a law or two before local zoning laws will change, for the better. Again, in almost every expert panel discussion this subject came up. Lucikly, we had some really great advocates and teachers who spoke with authority and conviction about how to push for the change that is needed.

Zack and his Groupies!

5)      There is no “movement” the movement is YOU.  One of my favorite quotes that I tried (and failed) to remember at the Jamboree was Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has ~ Margaret Mead   Lee Pera also made a quite poignant comment about the diversity of the tiny house movement.  It is not us, it is them. So many people who love tiny houses were not able to attend the Jamboree. So many scholars, and reporters, and researchers, and teachers, and law makers were not able to attend. 

Can you possibly imagine what might happen next year if every person in the world, who has an interest in tiny houses, were able to attend the Jamboree?

Hey, Darin!  We’re gonna’ need a bigger parking lot!!!

As a final note, I met so many amazing tiny house leaders and advocates at the Jamboree and I feel so lucky to have been an integral part of it.  I am tempted to list them all here as a THANK YOU but would, undoubtedly, forget someone.  So, if you were at the Jamboree (though honestly, even if you weren’t) THANK YOU for your support, your encouragement, your friendship, your comments, your feedback and your love.  You inspire me, every day.  You push me, every moment. 

As someone else said it so eloquently, "I have found My People."

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