By Patricia Stepaniuk
Cluttered closets, overflowing cabinets and dirty dishes. Worrying about where you will find the right pillow to accent your curtains and how that can transition into the placemats your mother gave you for Christmas last year. Every time there is a sign roaring “New Collection”, you jump at the chance to see what is new in stock and how that dress will look on you- or rather how it will look in the back of your closet after you purchase it and never look at it again. We’re all guilty of over consumption, or rather being an ideal consumer. We concern ourselves with the excess rather than the essential.
Sam Wishlinski and her fiance Brandon have made the transition from “ideal consumers” to a more essential way of life within the past year. They have decided to fit their lives into a 120-square-foot home built on a custom trailer. When you walk in the door, windows engulf your gaze, taking up almost the entire wall. They embrace the natural light that comes in during the day while simultaneously cutting down on energy costs each month. Recently, the couple installed an air conditioner, because in their words- and the thoughts of all Texans- “You can’t live in this state without one.”
As we speak, Wishlinski excitedly describes other details around her home, pointing to a simple, unfinished wooden window sill and stating, “I saw that by a dumpster at a concert and dragged it into the car. People thought I was crazy, but look, it works and it’s functional.” The couple continues to detail the different, unique things that they found on Craigslist or through connections in their art community, and speaks of the encounter they had with the man who gave them their cedar siding. “He had this ad on Craigslist for months, turning away people until he found ‘the right home’ for his wood,” she says, “He developed Parkinson’s and couldn’t continue with his craft.” Finds like this have helped the environment, cutting down on the new creation of goods and the number of pieces that would otherwise end up in a landfill. The couple was not out to have the newest products in their home, but rather items with substance and a back story so as to carry on the tale of the giver while building on one of their own. “We wanted to do something unique to us, to our family and the situation that we have,” says Wishlinski.
The couple has gotten rid of a lot of the “unnecessary” in their lives, cutting down on the amount of furniture they own, their clothing, and even the amount of shopping they do for the home. “I used to get a high from going to the store and just buying something; it was an addiction and it needed to end,” recalls Wishlinski. They have also found that, in order to really live in a tiny home, you must innovate the way that you dispose of things and how you utilize the resources at your fingertips. They have plans to put in a composting toilet, and to put in a system to help recycle the water they use in their home as well. “We have a long way to go, learning how to use the space and what will work best on a day-to-day basis, but for right now, I think we have a good set-up,” states Wishlinski.
The couple started out as ideal consumers just like the rest of us. Four years ago, Sam Wishlinski was a stay-at-home mom with a newborn baby, and she needed something more to fill her time. In addition, both Wishlinski and her fiance wanted to begin eating healthier and start leading a more natural lifestyle for the sake of their daughter. She began upscaling clothing she found at thrift shops and selling those pieces online through her business, Sam Wish. She expanded her business to lip balms, lotions and bath soaks after taking an essential oils class at a local co-op. “I was hooked after the first class,” says Wishlinski. “I wanted to get rid of all the unnecessary chemicals we were putting in our bodies.” It was an easy transition for the couple, as they knew they had to make a change if they wanted to have the longevity to enjoy their daughter Eliza’s life to the fullest. All it took was cutting down on processed food and over the counter medications while downsizing their dwelling to just the essentials.
In addition to expanding her business with the essential oils class, Wishlinski and her fiance also gained a family member. “The teacher of that class became part of our family,” explains Wishlinski. “He introduced us to the PHARMM (Philanthropy, Health, Art, Retirement, Meditation and Manifestation), which is a community close to downtown Houston where people can do all of those things with like-minded people.”
In the future, Wishlinski would like to move her family out to the PHARMM so that they may be closer to the family they have gained and the circuit of shows at which they work selling their crafts. Additionally, they realize that one tiny home might not suite all three of them in the long term. “Someday Eliza might want her own trailer or I could want a space of my own to create my essential oils and products to sell for Sam Wish, but right now, this is perfect for us,” ends Wishlinski.
This article was originally printed in August 2014 in Austere Awake. The tiny home has since been completed. Illustrations by Molly Ford Coronado, photos by Patricia Stepaniuk.