For me, the holidays are a time for self-reflection, which is often influenced by larger discussions already happening. I notice a lot of articles begin to circulate that discuss human behavior, our tendency toward over consumption, and its effect on perceived happiness. Lately, a lot of these articles are talking about the Tiny Home movement and its mission to reduce our carbon footprint.
Once you get past the idyllic novelty of the designs of these mini houses, you realize that it’s truly a lifestyle choice. According to Gabriella and Andrew Morrison, two Tiny House converts and business owners, living the tiny lifestyle is about “creating a life that supports joy, health, and environmental stewardship.” In this sense, anyone can take the elements of living in a Tiny Home and apply them to their current situation.
After doing some digging of my own, I’ve compiled my top 3 tips for living tiny, whether you’re in the process of transitioning to a much smaller space or not.
1. Reanalyze Your Spending
This is one of those nuggets of advice that we all hear over and over but ignore, thinking we have a handle on it. From my experience, a significant amount of unnecessary spending slips through the cracks as easily as a loose quarter. We can overlook the literal weight that material possessions and debt put on our shoulders because it seems normal. Along with working with your bank and loan officers, there’s plenty of free online tools and apps that will track your spending and help you devise a debt reduction plan.
2. Need or Want?
This will make tip 1, lowering debt and saving money, even easier. As a society, we need to relearn the difference between a need and a want. This requires having a deep, often uncomfortable level of honesty with ourselves. We live in a consumer-driven era of have-to-have-it-(to-be-happy). While a quick buy can self-soothe in the short term, it most likely does the opposite in the long run.
A need vs. want project and the decisions that come with it can be daunting, but there are some clever ways to approach it. One way is the 365 Day Rule, where you comb through every corner of your house and ask yourself, “Have I used this in the last year?” If the answer is no, it must go. Something that helps me de-clutter is to bring someone over to help who’s not emotionally attached to my stuff. Another (arguably more drastic) way to approach this would be to pack everything up as if you were moving. After a year, anything still packed can probably go. Another great resource that goes into more detail can be found here.
Really evaluating the need for items is important, along with cutting down on the amount of waste you and your family produce. I stumbled upon Bea Johnson in my research on living more sustainably and I find her book Zero Waste Home truly fascinating. She and her family live a lifestyle that produces zero waste.
3. Dual Process
This tip is to get you thinking about the other side of the coin. For those heading to or already in tiny spaces, double-duty designs are indispensable. Lofted beds with kitchen space underneath, tables and chairs that open for storage, multi-purpose surfaces, etc. (However, if you’re settled in a roomier space, I’d actually suggest doing the opposite to avoid simply hiding away stuff you don’t use).
Where there’s an inside, there’s an outside. No matter what space you’re in, don’t forget about what’s beyond it. For Tiny Home dwellers, use the outside parameters to enhance your living quarters. If you start to feel cramped, simply stepping outside is an easy-access escape. For those of us looking to model our lifestyles after Tiny Homers, embrace what living small is meant to allow you to do more of: live. With lower living expenses and fewer material obligations, you can get out to play and adventure in a more sustainable way.
You can look to sustainable architects like William McDonough for design ideas to create a home that is more sustainable. He partnered up with Brad Pitt to create homes in New Orleans that are more sustainable through their Make It Right program.