Tiny: A Story About Living Small

A few years ago, I wrote a blog post about paring down my possessions and buying items more intentionally with the hopes of living a simpler, fuller life. Since that time, Nick and I moved from our 2-bedroom apartment into a larger 3-bedroom home and had a baby, which meant acquiring a whole new breed of stuff. (Boppies, Bumbos, and bassinets, oh my!) Even so, we tried to be conscious of what we were bringing into our home, borrowed some larger baby items that could be returned to their rightful owners when we were done with them, and generally tried to continue being conscious consumers.

But still. When you move into a house with a basement — that wonderful, unfinished cavern of spaaaaaace for storing belongings out of sight — thing slowly start to pile up. A few baby outfits turns into bins of baby outfits, turns into disassembled baby gear that was used all of five times, turns into seven bins full of stuff that your mom brings over from her basement now that you have your own basement in which to keep the entirety of your childhood memories…

It adds up.

Over the last few months I’ve attempted to tackle a new room or space each weekend and unclutter a bit, and it’s felt good. Really good. Nick even noticed a change in my demeanor after the basement and mudroom, two of the spaces that were getting to me the most, were majorly cleaned up. I donated a bag of my clothes to Goodwill, sorted some of Graham’s clothes for consignment, got rid of a bunch of plastic things in the kitchen that we’ve slowly been replacing with glass and stainless steel anyway, and generally felt like I could breathe again after freeing up a little space in our home. It felt liberating, and again forced me to reflect on the fact that we actually have far more space than we truly need; it’s just that our space is not always being used to its full potential because of the things that we choose to put in it.

This past weekend, we watched a documentary on Netflix called Tiny: A Story About Living Small, which follows the story of a man who builds his own “tiny house” to live in — a 130 square foot house built on a trailer bed — and tells the story of several others who have decided to live in tiny houses. Apparently, there is a whole tiny house movement happening; these are not mobile homes or RVs or small vacation getaways, but genuinely tiny houses that are lived in year-round and have been planned out in such a way that every inch of space has a purpose. They are often built on trailer beds because that allows the owners to get around building codes (most towns have a square footage minimum that must be upheld for new construction), but for the most part they stay in one place.

Tiny: A Story About Living Small via Claremont Road bloga tiny house | source

We loved seeing how people used their spaces creatively, how they still managed to make them feel warm and uncluttered, and how genuinely happy the homeowners were to be living in such a small space. Some chose to live in a tiny house because of financial reasons while others made the decision based on environmental impact, but the overarching theme was one of a peacefulness and contentedness that the tiny house owners shared.

So… we’re building our own tiny house!

I’m kidding. We’re definitely not. It’s cool and all, but whoa. We couldn’t do it, especially with a toddler. Admirable, for sure, but a bit too extreme for me.

Watching the documentary has further inspired us, though, to strive less for a bigger space and more for better use of our existing space. It’s a conversation we’ve had a lot in the last several years: preventing ourselves from feeling like we “need” a certain amount of space because it’s what others have, and how thoughtful planning and being fully conscious of every item we bring into our home can make all the difference in feeling like we have enough space. It’s so easy to get caught up in feeling like our home should be a certain size based on how others around us are living; when our parents were kids, didn’t their parents buy a modest home when they got married and just pack in as many kids as they ended up having? Today, there seems to be some unwritten rule that you start out with a starter home, and move your way up to a forever home, and the amount of space you have is much more important than the way you fill that space.

Tiny: A Story About Living Small via Claremont Road blogthe interior of the tiny house from the documentary | source

The most important factor to us in where we choose to live is our quality of life. Because of that, we currently rent a 3-bedroom rowhome in a town that we love. Now, don’t get me wrong: 3 bedrooms is plenty of room! I fully recognize that it is much, much more than so many people have. Still, to some, our home would probably be considered a starter home because of its square footage, the lack of a garage, the small yard, and the fact that we share walls with neighbors on either side… but the more we’ve thought about it and talked about it, the more we’ve realized that we could continue making it work for us for many years. We want to make it work for us because we love where we are geographically, and that happiness is much more important to us than any walk-in closet or 2-car garage could be.

We could certainly have a larger home in a town that we love less, and we could maybe even own that home, but what would be the point? If having the ability to walk to the market, the park, the post office, and my favorite gift shop all in one fell swoop makes us happier day in and day out, and that means renting a slightly smaller home, we think that is a pretty amazing trade-off.

We may not live in a truly tiny house, but I look forward to making it feel tiny in all the ways that really matter.

comments

  1. Don’t these people ever get sick of their spouses? Like, I love my husband dearly, but sometimes we can’t stand one more second of togetherness. At least at my house he can wander off to his office and we don’t have to listen to each other breathe.

    … No? Just me?

    • Haha! I do wonder the same thing… but I think many of these people set their tiny houses up in areas where the outdoors offer a lot, so you don’t HAVE to be indoors all that often. And it frees up money to travel. But yes: they probably need to leave the tiny house every so often to get away from their spouse ;)

  2. I LOVE this post Brooke! The small home idea definitely resonates, something I have been thinking about a lot with the move. When telling people that we were moving from a 2 bedroom to a 3 bedroom with basically the same square footage, I got a lot of puzzled looks. But I am absolutely in agreement – that I am much happier with less space and less STUFF. My Wednesday night plans now definitely include a Tiny House viewing :)

    • Yes! We started chatting about this last week when I saw you, didn’t we? :) I’m sure it’s going to mean a lifetime of keeping myself in check because it’s so easy to revert back to my packrat habits, but the genuine weight I feel lifted off my shoulders when I come home to an uncluttered space works wonders for my soul. It’s totally worth it.

  3. Have you ever seen the “little house” that Rob & I lived in for the first 10 years of our marriage? Elliot was three when we moved. We didn’t even have a bathtub. But I loved that little place! (So did Nick!)

  4. Brooke! Loves this blog! Tim and I have been watching Tiny House Nation on the FYI channel in awe of how these couples/families are able to live in such a small space.
    We were afraid to move into a small space (3 bedroom apartment – 1349 sq/ft) with a toddler and small dog after having lived in a spacious 3 bedroom 3 story house that included a 2 car garage and a huge yard. But we have managed well in a smaller space. and really like it. All though we still have a garage and storage until full of stuff that we don’t use! Ugh! We will eventually move into another house but I think this smaller space has taught us to keep what is most important closest to us.

    • Someone else mentioned that show, too, Lisa! We got rid of cable so I hadn’t heard of it, but we’ll have to track it down :)

      I really admire that you guys took that leap to live in a place that suited your lifestyle better, even if it meant moving to a smaller home (especially with a toddler and a dog!) A lot of paring things down is just about finding the TIME to sort through all that stuff. Let me know how it goes once you are able to tackle your storage unit :)

  5. This speaks to my heart, my husband and I just bought a house in Austin and while we could have spent the same amount and gotten a house 3x bigger in the burbs, we opted for an 800 sqft 2 bedroom/1 bathroom in a historic neighborhood that’s less than 4 miles from downtown.

    Its really forced us to reconsider the furniture pieces we own, get rid of all of the tchotchkes we’d gathered over the years, and downsize the things we’d been hanging onto and didn’t need. A major perk of the small house that I’ve discovered is that cleaning is a breeze, I keep things neater since we don’t have space for clutter and it takes me almost no time to vacuum the whole house.

    I’ve gotten SO many crazy looks from people when I tell them how small our house is!! But, we love being so close to work downtown and so close to so many wonderful things in our neighborhood and the ones around us. Its all about geography!

  6. Such a great post! We live in the Bay Area (California) and the cost to buy a home is about $700k to start (for a 2 bedroom if you are lucky). So, we rent – while many of our friends own really beautiful homes. I like your outlook on quality of life over what you ‘should’ be doing. Really refreshing to read! Thank you :)

  7. I love tiny houses + became fascinated with them after the HGTV designer challenge with them! It is very admirable to live small, even if we have the space to live larger. ;)

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