Go tiny or go home….how about go tiny and stay home?
In the past couple of weeks, I’ve talked about what a tiny home is and why you might want to live in one. Today I will talk about HOW to begin the transition so it is successful, meets your needs and doesn’t cause you to quit your dream of creating a more intentional life.
I love helping families create more intentional lives that bring them peace and bring them together more. Downsizing your footprint is a big part of that. Back in 1994 when Stephen Covey published his First Things First book one of the things he thought was important was not having too much stuff. His theory was that the more stuff we have the less time we have because now you’re spending time with the stuff. Tiny houses weren’t a thing back then although plenty of families around the world lived in homes no bigger than the average bedroom at the time, just no one was talking about it in the media. Stephen Covey was the first abundance mindset author that I read that started my journey to a more intentional life. My first step on that journey was to get rid of all the stuff that occupied my time. Over the last 5-6 years I have downsized to a home that is half the size of my old one, got rid of three quarters of my stuff and made the house practically run itself so that I spend no more than an hour or two a week on grocery shopping, cleaning and tidying the house and paying bills. He was right more stuff = more to do. Cleaning takes so much longer because, first you have to put everything away!
Radical downsizing is totally something I feel every family can do to live a calmer, more fulfilled, greener life without spending a fortune or moving into a shoebox. I’m currently in around 1000 sq ft and looking to go tiny, down to maybe 500 sq ft once my daughter is grown up and has flown the nest.
There is no “one size fits all” solution to how much house YOU need for YOUR family but it can be challenging to figure it out how much is enough. The calculators online that are supposed to tell you how much house you “need” are often backed by financial companies or builders who have a vested interest in getting you to go as big as they can. While some people thrive in a big home, others feel lost. But moving is expensive especially if it involves selling and buying a home. I’ve moved twice in one year and trust me, it isn’t something you want to do if you can avoid it. If you’re looking to radically downsize, how do you figure out how much house you need and how do you make the transition to a smaller footprint both in terms of the house and the way you live? My answer is to begin to go tiny right where you are, right now. Once you have tiny-sized your stuff and adopted a more intentional approach to living it will be a lot easier to see how many square feet you will fit into.
One thing I noticed from watching the tiny house building shows and following a bunch of tiny house pages on Facebook and by email is, people that go from 3000 sq ft crammed with stuff to a sparsely filled 300 sq ft in one weekend rarely stay there more than 6 months! The reasons why are divided into two main categories: one half lists the reason they are moving out and selling the tiny home and they are the same reasons they gave for moving in. Reading between the lines this seems to be the group that traumatized themselves by going too fast. They had BIG home filled to the roof with stuff and suddenly they found themselves living in the space previously occupied by their closet with no belongings! It’s too much of a shock and their brains rebelled. The other half usually announce within months that they are suddenly expecting a baby and they can’t see how to work having a baby in a home that has a loft for a bedroom. Good news if one of your reasons for going tiny includes a deeper connection with your partner as apparently it works! But babies and ladders don’t mix.
My two biggest takeaways from five or six years of following and learning about the tiny house movement, are that thinking it through very deeply before you put out any cash for a tiny home and easing into the lifestyle are the two biggest factors in making a successful transition. Because it isn’t just a home tiny home, it’s a lifestyle. It’s a smaller space with much less space to put stuff in but it’s also a different way of living.
Think it through: Begin by thinking about how much you WANT to spend on housing rather than how much the bank or realtor says you can borrow. They have a financial interest in maximizing your housing payment. This may stress you out financially. Take into account all the things you want to be doing with your money aside from paying for a house. Do you want to travel? Is one of your biggest needs to set yourself up for retirement or to make sure your kids don’t get saddled with the kind of college loan debt that you did? All of these things can have you stepping away from the average big home into something much smaller so you can relax and live a little now instead of waiting for a retirement (that you’re not sure you’ll be able to afford).
Assess the space you need by looking at your own life and not the lives of those around you: Kids don't all need a bedroom big enough to park a bus especially if there is public space in the house they can play in together. I have found that kids with so much private space that they never need to use the public space in the house, never have the opportunity to learn to respect each other. And if pretty much all you do is sleep in your bedroom you don't need a bedroom big enough to park a bus either. I divided my standard sized bedroom into sleeping space and office space by putting a tall divider down the middle that also provided storage space. That gave me a cozy haven to escape and read or a quiet space to work.
Think about your needs now and your needs a couple of years down the road. I’ve seen articles that recommend thinking about the house as if it is the only place you’ll ever live. For some people that is a reality but for most of us we will live in more than one house. So I don't recommend thinking about your needs 10-20 years down the road because you can always move before that time comes and, in the meantime, save your money!
Also understand that going tiny doesn't have to be forever unless you want it to. You can totally radically downsize into 500 sq ft or less for a few years and then go bigger again. I know people that live in RVs or boats with small children and love it for a few years and then move to a conventional, slightly larger home.
Working from home does need a space you can escape to for quiet but it doesn't need a dedicated space that is only used for working and nothing else so that in non-working hours it gets closed and not used.
Ease into your best tiny footprint: Don’t try and go tiny overnight or you'll shock yourself so much you'll quit the idea completely. It's like trying to lose weight by crash dieting; you end up heavier.
Decluttering your current home before you think about moving will help you work out how much house is the right fit for you. There's a fine balance between too small of a house so everyone is on top of everyone and nothing fits and a too big house where it is very easy for no one to spend any time together. We’re not taking simply getting rid of all the clothes you haven’t worn in a year although that is a start. Radical downsizing requires you to flip the usual decluttering process on its head. Instead of finding things you can get rid of, find things you need to keep and get rid of the rest.
It’s a huge step to do this and can be difficult to get started so I will be giving you lots of tips on how to do that in the coming months. I also have a 30-day decluttering class and eBook that I have been reworking and will have to ready to publish at the end of this week. Watch out for posts about that. Easing into it means reducing bit at a time. It took me a good year to get rid of ¾ of the contents of my house and do it in away that didn’t have me running to the garage to drag everything back in the house! Also don’t expect to go through everything once and suddenly be ready to go tiny. You need time to adjust slowly to not having so much stuff around you. You’re going against everything the media is telling you that your life should be like which can be scary.
In the coming weeks and months, I will be covering the how tos of making the transition to a tiny lifestyle in great depth so if radical downsizing is something you would love to do please let me know where you struggle most and if you know someone else who wants to please share this blog with them or come on over to my Facebook page where I give daily tips and weekly video trainings to help you create your tiny intentional life.