Family Living Off the Grid in a Tiny House in New Zealand

– LIVING THE CHANGE SERIES – Tom: My name is Tom Nicholson and this is my wife Sarah and our 10 month old daughter Neesa. So, the house is 20 square-meters. It started with a sheep shearer's quarters just to the side of us here and that was maybe 20 years ago that that was built. So, our bedroom is the original cabin and then this L-shaped space is our kitchen, lounge, library, office… . Sarah: Everything.
Tom: Everything, yeah. [Laughs] 20 square-meters. We've got a shower just adjoining and a bit of a deck out the back. Sarah: Over the summer, at least, we've had… … we've set up our big tent by the cabin as well. It means that we've got an extra bedroom. Tom: There's a local tower just across the valley that allows mobile broadband and over that we can get a phone line. And so, a few months ago, a friend of mine helped me put a 300-watt panel up on the roof. And so that powers the broadband and telephone… and a bit more light. And hot water is from a gas cylinder and we cook with gas as well.

A lot of people, when they hear about it they think, "Oh my gosh, how is that with a baby," and even before that, "How is that just the two of you?" Sarah: I think actually it's great, with the baby living in a small space in that, wherever she is, she's never that far away. So it's quite easy to be doing whatever I need to be doing and keeping an eye on her. Tom: We had been living in Katikati and I was working a regular job as a GP in the practice there. And then I just found these kind of warning signs that I was starting to get out of balance. You know, I'd be lovely with my patients, but I'd come home and be kind of shitty. I… was feeling quite depressed and we started talking about it and thought, "Well, if it's not working with three days a week, then maybe we really need to kind of… radically rethink how we want to live." We were living in a quite large three-bedroom house and I'd been thinking, "Well, a big chunk of what I'm earning is to pay the rent and the other bills to be able to live in this house and it all seemed to be…

Yeah, just kind of crazy, really. The step to coming here… although in many ways it was clear that it was… it was going to be a really… healthy step for us to take in different ways. There was definitely… It was a process for me to kind of be okay with the downsizing and living in a very tiny space. It wasn't just a… completely straightforward natural thing and now it feels pretty good. Sarah: And being in the small space doesn't really feel like that much of a sacrifice. It just feels nice. I like our cabin. I love that we look out all of our windows and just look out to trees and green and feel like we're just nestled under the trees here.

Tom: We have a… I don't know the term for it. Like a work-trade arrangement with the owners. So about three or four days a week I'm on the farm working in the vegetable garden or… fencing or… pulling out thistles and gorse from the paddocks where we keep some cows… building, digging… . And so that's most of my work and then part-time I work as a GP. In the last 12 months I've done… four weeks, which has been great and financially has been fine. So our costs are… fractional to what they were living in town. I don't have any stress about money, which is a huge benefit. Emotionally I'm healthier. [Looks at Sarah playfully]
[Sarah nods with a smile] [Tom and Sarah laugh] I'm much more in touch with a sense of well-being. Living on someone else's land… we've got no ownership here. I guess in theory we have no security… there's nothing legal keeping us here, but actually, somehow that feels completely fine. I feel trusting… of the way we're choosing to live Trying to learn how to live more in relationship rather than "It's just us, "We've gotta…

We've gotta, you know, make our money, we've gotta… "have our walls tight to have security." And maybe there's another way of being secure through being really embedded in a web of community. Jordan: I think the model of working in exchange for rent is a great option for anyone looking to live a simpler life. It's accessible to all of us whether we come from wealth or not, just as long as we're open to sharing and gifting what we have. With Tom being a GP and Sarah a professional illustrator, they have the option to live a more affluent lifestyle, yet they choose to live in a small house with little money. They've listened to what their hearts tell them will make them happy and have had the courage to act on it and live in away that is satisfying for them. Tom: There's a lovely poem that talks about that we don't have to be good… we don't have to walk 100 miles on our knees repenting in the desert. We just have to do what the soft animal of our body loves.

And I really like that. I really like that. For me, this turns out to be what I love and I have a suspicion that this is actually the blueprint and there's something when people get to it everybody would want to live this way, I suspect, but… it might be a really long journey for some folks to get to that knowing. Jordan: Thanks for watching the second film of our "Living The Change Series". I hope you guys all enjoyed it. If you want to find out more about this series, you can click here and it'll take you through to our website.

I want to say a special Thank You to Rachel Cooper, Mary Pentecost and Mark van Laarhoven for their generous donations to our Crowdfunding campaign. We've also just launched a Patreon account so if you want to check that out you can do so by clicking the link at the bottom of the screen here. So thanks again for watching guys, and I'll see you all in the next film. [Calm Guitar Music].

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