YOU CAN’T DO THAT IN A TINY HOME! CAN YOU?
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Can you do that (whatever that is; fill in the blank) in a Tiny Home? Well, probably. You just need to be a little creative about it. For instance:
You can live quite happily with a family of five in a Tiny Home.
You can have a sense of space in a Tiny Home.
You can fit the necessities for life in a Tiny Home.
You can have luxuries and hobbies in a Tiny Home.
You can create healthy meals shopping one and a half times a week (on average) and with only a 4 cubic foot refrigerator.
So what is it that you really give up? Part of that answer depends on your perspective, and how attached you are to a “larger is better” mantra. We lived on the Nickerson Schoolhouse property on two acres for almost ten years. If you add the house and the garage and “game room” space behind the garage, we had around 3100 square feet of usable roofed space on that property. Now, we have around 300 square feet, including the two lofts. Our old house was 900% larger than our Tiny Home. So, those numbers aside, what are the differences in our lifestyle?
Somehow, I’m not seeing very much disadvantage to my Tiny Home here. I gave up my library, space to store things I didn’t actually need, and room to walk back and forth. I gave up a mortgage, an electric bill supporting three forced-air units, and the need for a two-income household. I gave up easily doing an early-morning workout video without waking the kids up. I gave up floor space for a truly epic indoor wooden railway setup (if I want to walk past it without tripping or tiptoeing to avoid stepping on it; I can still be epic with the floor space I have (but I don’t have any pictures of that)).
And I gained. I gained (because I am not required to provide a second income to support a mortgage) time and opportunity to educate my children. To spend quality and quantity time with them. To snuggle on the couch with a book. To hold them when they are hurt or sick. To teach them to cook. To properly handle a knife to cut an apple or make a sandwich. To ride a bike. To visit people out of town on a weekday. To go places when they’re less crowded because school is in session. To leave on a Thursday for a weekend trip without having to make an excuse–because I can take school with us. To allow them time to run a little wild and develop their creativity and their own small societal rules. To write. To read. To dream about creating restaurants and coffee shops (I have mentioned an affinity for both cooking and hosting). To take family trips once a month for a few days. To start a garden (with mediocre success. I mean, I don’t know what it is. My grandfather was a gardener by trade. My aunt is a certified Master Gardener and works in the community garden benefitting the homeless in her city. My mom has an awesome yard. Why can’t I keep a rosemary bush alive in a half-barrel-sized pot? And who knew that a bush cucumber / lemon cucumber hybrid would be inedible? Next time I won’t mix varieties in the same large pot. They cross-pollinated. But the kids learned something about genetics!!) To support friends and family members who need someone with some flexible time. To dream about and take steps toward facilitating similar dreams for other people (Tiny Homes for Sale! Anyone?). To dare to live a life that differs from what is expected.
You can, too. If you have the courage and creativity.
Okay, random side note: They need to make a scanning feature for Kindles and other e-readers, so you can scan the UPC on your physical book, and acquire it on your Kindle. I get it. I know why they don’t. Someone could just go to a bookstore or library and scan whatever they want without paying for it. But they can program it with GPS so that it won’t scan books within a certain radius of school campuses, libraries, and bookstores. I know they have the technology to make that work. Seriously! That’s a large reason why I haven’t yet bought a Kindle or whatever, despite that I am addicted (yeah. Addicted. Could probably be charged with substance abuse. As long as that substance is a book. A story. Heck, a cereal box will do in a pinch. Biblio-abuse? It’s a step worse than being a bibliophile. I bet Jasper Fforde has an official charge and code number for it through SpecOps 27. Thursday Next would know.) to reading. I am also a cheapskate and don’t want to have to buy my favorites (which I already physically own) just to keep them in electronic format. Also, I really do like holding and feeling and smelling (and reading) real books. It’s a lovely experience. But the convenience of having an entire library in one little device!! And the fact that I have very very few real books in my Tiny Home. The Kindle concept does solve a lot of the space constrictions imposed by a Tiny Home. I want someone to figure this out, convince the bigwigs to do it, and make it happen. I would buy (and periodically upgrade to the latest and greatest) a Kindle if they had this feature.
And now back to our regularly scheduled programming…
I think that means I ought to address my opening list of affirmations.
1) Our family of five lives quite happily together in our Tiny Home. “How” is too large a question to simply answer (hence this blog). However, I can say that we have developed some good habits. The kids have two or three stuffies (Stuffed animals. Plushies. Stuffies is courtesy of our dear Canadian friends. I like it.) they each get to have up in their loft, and Beautiful (our daughter; she’s our eldest child) has her jewelry, a flashlight, and whichever book she happens to be reading up there as well. Other than that, there are no toys up in the kids’ loft. It wasn’t working as a sleeping and a play space ̶ there would be nights that they couldn’t find their beds because of the books and toys strewn about, and three beds in one loft is quite enough. They do have outside toys, which get put away in the playhouse (the Tiny Home’s baby…). They have a small selection of toys and books which take up a little below-couch space. Our couch is open underneath so the entire length of it is storage space. Otherwise, except in special circumstances, their toys and books are over in the Fort (which is what we call our outbuilding. We have all of the “living” space we need here in the Tiny Home. Laundry, kitchen, couch, dining table, bathroom, beds, clothing storage. The business of life can and does flow smoothly here. But contrary to the habit of many, we spend a lot of time outside. That’s where the running, bike riding, sword fighting, and digging (okay, so I guess digging happens outside for just about everyone. But we have two boys and a girl who isn’t afraid of being dirty. Digging happens.) occur.
We have learned to respect each other’s space. There isn’t a door on my loft.The loft walls only go halfway up. But the kids ask before they climb even the bottom stair. When someone needs a little quiet time, they can be alone in the loft, even though it belongs to all three kids. It’s about respect and love. Living in close quarters means we know each other well, because we spend a lot of time together. That will either make or break a relationship; it has made us stronger.
2) A sense of space in a Tiny Home is fairly simply accomplished. You need three things: a tall ceiling, a large expanse of windows, and the ability to keep (most) of the things you own organized and put in their places. We have kids (um. I know; that is something I’ve stated before. I won’t get over it. Having kids is a miraculously awesome thing.), and they are little tornadoes. I have a tendency to walk inside my home and drop whatever I’m carrying on the nearest flat surface. It tends to make flat surfaces clutter up fairly quickly. So I’ve made a point of purposefully finding homes for things and making sure they go there without much delay. There was one weekend, after having lived in our Tiny Home for about four months, that my husband and I discussed all the things that needed better homes, and figured out solutions for them. A three-tiered hanging fruit basket over the sink got the fruit and onions off the counter. A picnic caddy screwed into the wall next to the pan cupboard got the silverware out of a drawer, freeing up space for the requisite flotsam in life (envelopes, pens, stamps, flashlights…you know, the junk drawer). Magnetic strips under the pan cupboard and potholder cubby hold knives and the most-frequently needed utensils, making the utensil drawer more organized and keeping the knives sharper. Little things make a huge difference.
3) Fitting the necessities for life in a Tiny Home involves determining what really is a necessity for your life. Clothes, dishes, food, and toiletries are given. But how much of each? Are you going to minimalise your entire wardrobe, or will you have a seasonal wardrobe, and a place to store things not currently in use? You need to keep enough dishes to accommodate the maximum number of guests you hope to regularly have. Are you going to have a somewhat traditional bathroom setup, or are your toothbrushes (like mine) going to wind up next to the kitchen sink? I’m a very low-maintenance woman; my “makeup” consists of a tube of tinted lip balm I keep in my purse for special occasions. This makes the toiletries a smaller issue than some would have it be. Food and entertainment are also a consideration, but are addressed in the next two sections.
4) You can have luxuries and hobbies in a Tiny Home. You can’t have all of them, but I’m certainly not deprived. I kept my tea collection. Half a shelf in one of my larger cabinets is tea. But I only have one small teapot in the house, and rather than having both a kettle and a pitcher for serving ice water or juice, I have one enamelware pitcher that I can boil water in on the stovetop. We use that pitcher to heat water for our Chemex pour-over coffee maker, too. Things that have multiple uses are essential when living in a Tiny Home. The couch, which has storage underneath, is a case in point here. We have two laptops, a television screen and DVD player, and a tablet (in addition to our phones) in the house. If you count my husband’s work phone, that’s two more screens than people. My laptop, and my stationery collection (including India ink and a glass dip pen, for when the correspondence is extra special) are in a slim cabinet that also houses a few reference books, materials for my current novel, art supplies I don’t want the kids to find, and the paper for the printer. Our daughter wanted to learn to play piano, so we signed her up for lessons and bought a keyboard. My husband installed a shelf of sorts above the corner of the couch to store it when it’s not in use. The boys don’t have hobbies yet (besides dirt, sword fighting with whatever sticks are available, and “things that go”), but I’m sure we will figure out how to make them work when the time comes.
5) You can create healthy meals shopping one and a half times a week (on average) and with only a 4 cubic foot (dorm-sized) refrigerator. I have learned the glories of actually planning what we are to have for supper each night. It removes a tremendous amount of pressure from the afternoon. I made a list of main dishes, and another of sides, all of which my family likes. I have some that are simple; others are more complex, special occasion foods. I have some for summer, and some that are fall and winter comfort foods. It’s a fairly simple thing to mix and match meals for the week, consulting the calendar to remember which nights supper must be on the table by five so we can make our evening obligations, and which nights we will be having company. If my husband has to be out of town, I leave off a meal for the week, because I will undoubtedly have enough leftovers to feed the kids and not need to cook fresh. I consider which meals earlier in the week may segue into something else to help with later meals. Yes, it is a science, and like any science it takes practice. But for over a year, I have been doing this. Mondays, after the main market run of the week, the fridge is full. But after some trial and error, I developed a good feeling for how much food I can actually buy and preserve in my fridge. One of my two large cabinets is my pantry, and I store a few more things in the shed on the back of our Tiny Home. Many weeks, I need to go pick up more milk (a half gallon at a time and cereal for breakfast many days means you run out) or a special item or three that I had forgotten or something. Largely, though, I shop once a week, and we eat well.
Adaptability, Creativity, Humor, and Respect: if you don’t have these, this life may not be for you. But, I’m proof that this lifestyle works, and works well.
You can truly live in a Tiny Home.
Katrina Jones is a: Wife, Mother, Daughter, Believer, Writer, and the Chief of Strategy for Tiny House Tool- a business that exists for the purpose of helping attain freedom through frugal living, tiny house dwelling, and smart decision making. To Learn more, take the Tiny House Survey Here.