Dee Williams on Dream Big, Live Small at TEDxConcordiaUPortland (Transcript)

Dee Williams, the author of The Big Tiny, presents on Dream Big, Live Small at TEDxConcordiaUPortland.

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Dee Williams – Author of The Big Tiny

I am so nervous. Tammy didn’t mention the National Enquirer article either. So you’ve got to put it all in perspective.

I want you to take a moment. I mean we’ve been talking about sustainability, kind of retooling ourselves, rethinking about what we want in the world. And I want you to take a second and think about what new purchase, what item would you want to hold in your arms, as you die. What favorite room in your house, or a space, could accommodate that last breath?

Can you imagine how our consumer patterns would change, and how small our houses would shrink if we asked those questions a little more often? But that scares us. We don’t want to talk about that stuff. It’s the yucky stuff. Our mortality, we’ll deal with that at another time.

But I’ve got some experience with this, so I want to share with you. And I’m really nervous to share it because we don’t go there. So I’m looking out and I’m asking you guys to just hold me for a moment.

Several years ago, I was diagnosed with heart muscle disease, cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure. And if you’re not familiar with what happens with congestive heart failure, your heart starts to beat erratically, and then it gets harder to pump, it’s working hard, but it’s rigid. All of a sudden, your liver, your kidneys, they’re not getting oxygenated. Your brain is not getting oxygenated. Your lungs start to fill with fluid, and you die. That’s my fate. Maybe. Two million people die every year. You never know. But it’s the thing that scares me, and I have to be honest, it’s not the idea of being dead that frightens me. It’s the couple of weeks, or couple of days leading up to it, that scare the crap out of me.

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I have this fear that I’m going to end up in one of those hospital beds, in my friend’s living room. And all of a sudden, I’m going to have learn what it means to have true humility, and true gratitude, as they change my diapers, and they feed me, and they change my clothes, like I’m a baby.

I’m going to have to discover true love, as they tell me that they’re so glad they’ve had this time to walk with me. It seems to me it’s going to take great courage to die in my friend’s arms. So how do you deal with that?

Seven years ago, my answer was to build a little house. I got rid of my mortgage, got rid of most of my personal possessions, and downsized myself into a little tiny house. One bedroom, four wheels, seven windows, 84 square feet of living space. It’s got everything I need: place to cook, place to pee, place to hang out, place to be Dee Williams, place to sleep. My kitchen is not really elaborate, I’m off the grid. So I don’t have a refrigerator, I have a cooler. Beer half-and-half, what more do you need? And that’s it. That is really true. Especially right now, it’s like I had to have in this morning — coffee — that I’m really looking forward to a beer.

My kitchen has a one burner stove. I’ve never been a good cook, I will never be a good cook. I let go with that mess. I don’t need a chef’s kitchen to make me happy.

The bathroom. So you walk in my house, I’ve got my kitchen layout. The bathroom is directly across from it. One thing you’ll notice is missing, it’s the little flushy part of the toilet. I have a composting toilet which — OK, feel the love, Portland, it’s a bucket.

So I shower at my neighbor’s house or at work. I don’t have water coming into my house, that way I don’t have to deal with water going out of my house.

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This is my living room, and it’s gotten an 11.5 foot ceiling. So even though it’s only about a six by six foot space, it’s got a lot of room. You know, it’s got this skylight up above it, I can see everything that’s going on. It’s an awesome place to hang out. What I don’t have is enough room to do the Bollywood dancing, that we’re going to do later. But I wasn’t very good at it, anyway.

My sleeping loft. So every night, and especially in winter, I carry my dog up a seven foot ladder into the loft. And I can’t stand up upstairs, which is fortunate because, how many times have you cracked your toes on a doorjamb? On the nightstand? I don’t have the health risk involved with it, a room that you stand up in.

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