6 Reasons We Live Tiny
I’ve ‘lived tiny’ for six years this June. It started off as a girl and her dog. Eventually my partner, James, moved in and we had some kids, Hazel, almost 4, and Miles, 2. Together, the 5 of us lived in our spacious 232 square foot tiny house until we downsized last spring to a more mobile, 84 square foot, also custom built micro house. We traded our jobs in Architecture for ones we can do online from anywhere. Traded our Friday nights out to de-stress from the week to nightly sunsets in from National Parks. Juxtaposing this next to my last life with the 2,600 s.f. house in suburbia, the picket fence, nice car and dream job is a pretty stark contrast! Each step in life I’ve been openly reminded that we’re not the demographic that tiny houses are intended for but I couldn’t disagree more!
Living tiny is a very easy choice we make every day! When people tell me it’s ‘time to upgrade to a bigger house’ all I can think is how much that sounds like a downgrade. Like most parents with young kids, my kids are my priority and with so many things pulling at our attention today I want to make sure that is clear. It is not all rainbows and unicorns but we do have toilet made if glitter so that counts for something!
It’s Not About The House
I think it is pretty well known that life is more than where you lay your head at night. Yet we’ll work our years away and wear our bodies, often times for little more reason then to pay for a big house that we under-use anyway, because we’re so busy working.
Life is meant to be lived, to do important things, to contribute to the causes that matter to you. To teach, to be happy and to appreciate everything we have been lucky enough to be blessed with. I’m of the belief that your house should be a tool that enables and enhances that. I love my home dearly but when it comes right down to it it’s just a thing that helps me spend time doing what I really want to be doing which, right now, is growing a family.
“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” -Howard Thurman
I know you probably want to know all the nitty-gritty details of HOW we manage four people and a dog in 84 s.f. or even 232 but I’m afraid that’s probably a boring read (spoiler: it’s probably not much different than how you live in your house/apartment), the more important question is WHY we do it.
We Lead By Example
Kids rarely learn by what we say alone, they learn by what we do. The values I implore to my kids are to be bold and brave, to have integrity, to be creative and think outside of the box and most importantly, to be happy. I can’t hope they don’t fall into some circular rat race without showing them at least one way out of it and I can’t hope for their happiness without finding my own too.
Living tiny is not an easy social path to take but each time we get push-back is yet another opportunity to teach my kids how to handle being ‘different,’ among other life lessons. Kids in particular can be cruel and I don’t think anyone escapes childhood without being picked on. There are lots of ways to teach these important coping skills but just being able to be there and experience them together, I feel, is so important.
Following Our Heart
If I’m being honest I have no idea where my family will be in five years, literally. That freaks some people out in this day when ‘true success’ is preceded only by detailed plans and persistence. I think this stage in life is about being flexible and able to adapt to individual needs. Because frankly it is impossible to predict what our kids will need in five years. I want my kids to listen to that little voice in their heart or their head that tries to guide them, so I’m doing my best to do the same. Instincts are amazing and complicated, and in my experience, rarely ‘wrong’.
As time goes by those voices tend to get faint. They are still there though and no matter what we hear from the outside world, any friction faced to date, we still feel like this lifestyle is valuable right now. To us and to others. In more important ways than just financially.
Being Close To Nature
Another thing that is important to me, and hopefully that I can instill in Hazel and Miles, is a respect for nature. It’s difficult to see how you fit in the natural cycle. We’re so removed from day to day processes that we have no concept of our own impact. We throw out trash at our convenience with no connection to the impact that leaves. We use water like it’s endless, and power like it’s a given.
I want my kids to know where these things come from and where they go. The tiny house brings us much closer to knowing our personal affects because we engage closer with the process through our grey water collection, simple power systems and trash collection process. Hazel is already noticing the differences in getting a go-container made out of paper instead of Styrofoam. They are aware that we have ‘enough’ and also aware of being wasteful. I’m pretty proud that they learned those things through examples we set and the experiences we’ve given them.
We Minimize Our Impact
Having less things makes us appreciate the things we DO have, more. We have enough without feeling overwhelmed (and my kids get overwhelmed by ‘stuff’, proven every single holiday). We don’t buy things frivolously which means we don’t support a disposable economy and we don’t deplete our natural resources on disposable nick-knacks.
Our house is almost all reused and repurposed materials, which is hard to tell by looking at it. We take opportunities to talk about what other things can be used for and don’t trash things lightly. Today, Hazel fell down and tore a hole in her pants. She said ‘mom, we need to sew these up!’ I love that her head doesn’t think of things as immediately disposable. We taught her that through living conscientiously everyday, I want to keep doing that!
This one is two-fold. First, I want my kids to feel safe and secure so their heads can do the important work of childhood. I think kids feel safety different than adults and I think the best way to give that to my kids is if I can find a way to be present when they need me. Which is a lot right now. Living tiny has afforded me the opportunity to work less so I can be present for my kids more.
Second, my own mental stability, I want to fully experience our kid’s milestones. I only get one shot at this. I don’t want to be older and regret missing out on these stages, they happen so fast. I want to look forward with pride instead of back with regret. It probably won’t be long until they don’t want me around so I’m sucking it all in while I can.
We constantly learn to communicate effectively and develop interpersonal skills. The only way to maintain a relationship is to work together and living in a small space makes that a necessity rather than an option. I think this will be a huge asset as our kids grow and our family dynamics shift. We have no room to storm off so we eventually have to work out our disputes. We are getting pretty good at expressing our emotions, even the littlest one of us can identify his basic emotions and we have enough time and space to respect each others boundaries but not so much that feelings are lost in thin air.
Living tiny allows us the opportunity to minimize our bills, maximize our experiences and live life fully, together. I spent the first 25 years of my life chasing ‘The Great American Dream’ only to catch it and find a hard truth, it wasn’t for me. Now I’m relearning what is truly important to me in life and that has nothing at all to do with the square feet inside of our home.