Why I Left The Teeny Greeny

Robin Greenfield walking outside his tiny cabin.
PersonalRobin’s TransformationSan DiegoSimple LivingTiny Home Living

I spent one year living off the grid in my little 50 square-foot tiny house in San Diego. I moved in January 29th, 2015 and left one year later. A fair number of people have asked why I decided to leave The Teeny Greeny and this blog is for everyone that is wondering.

To start with, my plan was always to leave The Teeny Greeny. When I moved in, I planned on staying for one or two years and that’s exactly what I did. I was open to staying for longer but never thought I would. When I decided to leave, though, it wasn’t really my tiny house that I was leaving. It was San Diego. I moved there from Wisconsin in January of 2011 and never really planned to stay for five years. My time in San Diego was up.

It’s not that I didn’t love San Diego-I absolutely love the city of San Diego-however, I felt very limited there in living the life that I wanted to live. My five years served me extremely well, but with a new way of thinking it was no longer the place for me. One of the most important reasons is because, when I do settle somewhere again, I want to live somewhere that I can naturally produce an abundance of food. My little homestead was not the place for that, as it didn’t receive much sun and had minimal planting space. It could have been done through aquaponics or vertical gardening, or even just much more crafty gardening than I have the skills for, but I personally want to grow food in the most natural and simple way and this was not the spot for that. Possibly more importantly was the water situation. San Diego is a very dry place with few natural water sources. 85% of the water is taken from hundreds of miles away and San Diego’s water situation is extremely unsustainable and detrimental to the environments that the water is taken from. When I settle again I want to live in a place with an abundance of clean water. That could be through rain, lakes, rivers, or ground water. With that being said, most people would be blown away by the amount of rainwater one standard house roof in San Diego can harvest (about 10,000 gallons per year). I did meet my water needs easily from rain and could have grown a very substantial amount of food with it, but I desire to live somewhere where water is naturally abundant and can be used as needed to grow food without having to ration. As the 7th largest city in the USA, San Diego also separated me too much from nature. Remote nature was a car ride, or very long bike ride, away and I want to have easy access to the ability to immerse in nature. There certainly is a good amount of nature for a big city, but not the kind of deep nature I want to connect to.

I could have lived there very sustainably for decades to come if that’s where my heart was, but that’s not where it was. I do want to say, though, that I learned that 50 square-feet, and a roof too short for standing, is too small for my full comfort. I knew that going into the situation, but wanted to test my boundaries. I believe the smallest I’d want for a long term house is 75 square feet with a roof tall enough to put in a good loft. 150 square-feet would be about as big as I’d comfortably need. If I had to guess, I’d say that sometime in my life I will have a simple tiny house of that sort.

Another reason that I left is because I wanted to simplify my life to an even greater extent. I now own just 111 possessions and have set myself up to live very sustainably in a more mobile manner. I believe that the more I simplify my life, the more deeply I can live in the service of the earth and others. I dream of one day not owning a single possession and traveling in the service of others. I don’t know if I’ll ever take that leap, but I am a huge step closer to it. The reason that I have kept these 111 possessions is to aid in keeping my environmental impact low and maintain a level of independence. I can currently live comfortably off the grid and meet all of my needs with little to no money without depending much on others. On the other hand, I can choose to be dependent on others and at the same time give to them as much as I receive from them via non-monetary exchanges.

I have been asked, “What is on the other side of getting rid of all your possessions?” and “Won’t getting rid of these tools (bicycle and laptop being two important ones) leave you unable to continue your mission?” People said that by leaving The Teeny Greeny I wouldn’t be able to live a self-sufficient life, outside of the destructive systems that I speak out against, and that I might not be able to live as environmentally friendly. All of these are very worthy points and worth discussing. The other side of me getting rid of most of my possessions is the complete freedom to be at the service of others and the earth. I am less tied down to a particular location and to possessions. Getting rid of these possessions does not hinder me because sharing is always an option. Having a laptop is wonderful but I’ve set things up where I can do a majority of my work on this little iPod touch. When I need a computer, I can go to an Internet cafe or borrow someone else’s. As far as the bike goes, I’m certain that I’ll own a bike again but, at this point, I feel that one is not necessary in my travels. When I need one again, I will work out a way to get one. I intend to keep very few possessions but, if there is a tool that I find is necessary in my mission, I can always find another. There is no shortage of any of the items that I could need. Overall I feel that one of my greatest tools is not what I own, rather, it’s what I don’t own. My off-the-grid setup did allow me to live a very non-consumptive life, but I can do this while traveling by using resourcefulness as well as staying at places that believe in treading lightly on the earth. My mission to inspire others to consume less and live with more happiness, health, and freedom will not be hindered by leaving The Teeny Greeny. I’ll just be showing another way that all of this can be achieved.

Lastly, my method through my adventures and activism is to start little fires all over the world with the intentions of them growing into great fires of change. I do this by genuinely immersing myself in experiences and, in doing so, provide an example for others to stoke their fires with. Living at The Teeny Greeny was one of these many adventures and activism campaigns that I’ve immersed in, and one of even many more to come. Living with few possessions is one of them. I am expanding my knowledge now on off the grid, and will certainly immerse myself in similar life adventures. In April, I am taking a Permaculture Design Course and I think I’ll walk out of there with vastly more skills than I walked in with. One of my future experiences will be to set up a simple place where I’ll live for one year, and eat only food that I grow myself. I also plan to canoe the entire Mississippi River surviving solely on foraged and hunted food. If you are interested in what I’m up to now, read: My Plans Now that I’m Home Free. I believe that I am taking the right steps to be a positive impact on the people around me and that moving on from The Teeny Greeny is very much a step in the right direction. Count on me continuing to move forward.

P.S. The fact that I was able to turn my tiny house into 10 tiny homes for people without homes also played a small role in me deciding to give up the place!

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