Tiny house DIY ethos

In an age of experts and specialization most of us surrender to the complexity of a new problem and pay to have a professional repair the issue for us. However, there is something about living small and striving for simplicity that has changed my perspective and given me a sense of empowerment. Experts call this improved “self-efficacy”, which means, you have greater confidence in your ability to understand problems. When I run into a problem now I try simplify it and make it easier to understand the parts that make up the whole. Recently I have noticed that many tiny house dwellers share a similar do-it-yourself (DIY) ethos. Some people go so far as to build their own homes without any construction experience. In this article I want to share a recent DIY success I had and describe the limits I see to the DIY ethos.

I will be the first to admit that I use complex technology that I don’t fully understand daily. I do prefer tools that I understand for obvious reasons, if it breaks I can fix it. Recently, I had a tragedy occur to one of my favorite tools. I broke the glass touch-screen of my iPhone. After getting over my feelings of clumsy ineptitude I realized I could learn how to repair my phone. After all, the glass is only one part and parts can be replaced so how difficult could it be?

Even only twenty years ago it would have been difficult to accomplish a similar task because of the lack of information. What tools are needed for repair? Where do you order these tools and parts for the repair? How do you perform the repair? Experts were experts because they had more information than others on a topic. With the advent of the internet information age, combined with the altruistic nature of other people documenting their knowledge in blog posts and YouTube videos, anyone can address their ignorance. With the help of DIY websites called ifixit.com and powerbookmedic.com I was able to order used parts and tools and learn how to fix my own device. Further, I used my new skill and tools to repair my teenage cousin’s phone and teach her what I learned.

The success of my DIY project was fun to share with my cousin, however, it begs one big caveat: What are the limits to DIY projects? When learning a new skill I try to imagine the risks of a mistake. If I damage my iPhone during the repair, I can correct it with minimal consequence. However, if I repair the brakes on my car and the repair fails, it may be fatal. You can certainly learn how to perform complex tasks with greater risk, but I would advise getting an experienced teacher to help check your work and lower your risk of harm.

My simple and smaller living philosophy doesn’t mean I have to grow every bit of food or repair every tool that breaks. It means I enjoy living deliberately. By becoming smarter about my ignorance I can help others and obtain more meaning from my contributions to my community. In this way I can worry less about my personal value being tied to my financial spending power. I believe my greatest contribution to society is not the money that I spend but how I spend my time.

iphone fix

6 thoughts on “Tiny house DIY ethos

  1. What a great thought enveloped in this post. I too have a DIY ethos and while I sometimes get frustrated, use inappropriate words, or make the problem worse I always take comfort in the fact that I tried. It is a great feeling of success and malpractice!

    • Thanks Drew! What Tammy will tell you is that this repair was satisfying once it was done but it took me about 3 hours of cursing from start to finish. ;) It will likely take me half the time in the future and with less cursing. DIY is satisfying but not totally pain-free…

  2. It is SO satisfying to be able to fix things yourself (or with minimal help – like you did with the internet). My old car’s turn signal started acting funny, I called mechanics who quoted me $$$$ to fix it. So, I researched it myself. Through the power of deduction, I figured it was a $10 part (turn signal relay box). It was a bit of a PIA to get to the old box (took the lower part of driver side dash apart) but I saved $$$, fixed it on my own, and felt proud…more confident! It’s true that you need to know your limitations tho – and assess the risk factor with attempting a DIY project. That’s VERY important. But if you have the resources and an expert to help teach you (i.e. a mechanic showing you how to change your brake pads) – go for it! I’m a woman – and I encourage EVERYONE to think DIY first. It’s empowering, no matter how “small” the DIY fix may be.

  3. Pingback: Learning to Invent: Building a Custom, Modular, Workstation for a Tiny House | Smalltopia

  4. Pingback: Learning how to learn | Smalltopia

Leave a Reply