Coming Home – Letters from a Tiny House

book cover

Hari Berzins who with her family of four has been living in a tiny house for some time and who has been writing their story over at the Tiny House Family blog. has just launched her first book. I had the privilege of reading it recently and wanted to let you know about it.

Hari writes in a journalistic style that I really enjoyed and she has a way with words that pulled me in to each day to day experience. Hari shares how the family made the change to tiny house living, the struggles that came along with it and the joys.

This is a book that anyone considering downsizing should read. I have attached an excerpt from her book below so that you can read a little bit of her book.

Her book Coming Home is available at Amazon for purchase and you can check it out by clicking this link.

Something Hard about Living in a Tiny House

 

Chapter photo with kids

It’s a good question, and I get it a lot: “What’s the hardest thing about living in a tiny house?” I’ve said the hardest thing about living in a tiny house is answering that question, but here’s something hard: sleepovers. Not the adult kind, but the kid kind. We had some sleepovers last year in spring, and it wasn’t as hard. I think a lot of it depends on the weather, like so much does when you live in a tiny house.

Why was it so hard having Ella’s school friend, Sally, for the weekend? For one thing, it was two nights, and I need a lot of quiet time. If it had been one night, just when I needed that quiet, it would’ve been time to send her home, but she was here all day and another night. Other factors that added to the difficulty were that it rained all day and Ella bugged me incessantly, “When can we make taffy?” I held a firm no about making taffy since I knew that it was more than I could manage.

fruit and sause

I had to sauce up the last of the apples and can them as well as cook three meals and clean up after all of them. The laundry was on the line when the rain started on Friday night, probably totally dry and ready to be folded, but I was busy starting a fire in the fire pit, wanting to get it going strong before the wood got too wet.

I guess I had my priorities right for the night that ensued. Some dear friends came over to enjoy fireside deck time, and we had a lot of fun. Since Karl is a chef, I’m on my own for much of the weekend, so having adult friends come over is a nice treat for me.

The kids were fine on Friday night. They had a little tea party, watched movies and roasted marshmallows, but the rain didn’t stop, and then Ella’s friend said, “I’m bored.”

“Ahhh,” I said. “There’s that word. Boredom is in your mind. What can you do to stop feeling that way?” She started reading a book.

I tell Ella and Archer in my own words, something like this:

“‘I’m bored’ is a useless thing to say. I mean, you live in a great, big, vast world that you’ve seen none percent of. Even the inside of your own mind is endless, it goes on forever, inwardly, do you understand? The fact that you’re alive is amazing, so you don’t get to say ‘I’m bored.’”
-CK Louis

I haven’t been bored in a long time. I do remember feeling bored when I was a teenager and into my twenties, but now I suffer more from having so many ideas that I don’t know where to start, or feeling frustrated because I want to act on an idea, but there are kids needing my attention or laundry getting soaked on the clothesline.

family at the table

I think boredom can come through when there is something you’d like to be doing, but you can’t, so everything feels boring. For example, Ella really wanted to make taffy and I said no, so she had a hard time finding anything else fun to do. When Sally said she was bored, I felt edgy. Like there was something I wasn’t doing, like I wished she understood or that I could teach her that boredom was in her mind.

I realize that living in the tiny house is actually harder than I think it is. It takes slowing down, clear communication and mutual respect. We’ve had the luxury of time to adapt to living in this way. But when Sally was thrown into living in the tiny house and not having the space to run around and be loud with her friends, she didn’t know what else to do, so she felt bored. It took her until late in the second day to settle in to reading a book, and then she read the whole thing.

tiny house

When other people come to stay in the tiny house, they haven’t had the time to adjust and learn how we live in this space. It brings me back to those first months when we were figuring out how to share the space.

It’s a bit like dancing. If I’m in the kitchen doing dishes, then the kids know that’s my space, my stage. If they dangle their feet from their loft and kick me in the head, I won’t like it, so they adjust, slide back into their loft a bit, and keep their movie turned down. It’s hard to teach the dance in one or two days, but it can be learned with time.

I love sharing the tiny house and giving friends and family a taste of tiny living. Here are some quotes from visitors:

  • “It feels a lot bigger on the inside than it looks on the outside.” -Lane, age 8
  • “The longer I sit in the tiny house, the bigger it feels.” -Becky, my friend of 20+ years
  • “This is a very tiny house, but it is very, very nice.” -James, age 7
  • “It feels bigger in here than the pictures make it look.” -Ellen, my college buddy
  • “We slept better here than anywhere else in America.”—German cousin, Thilo, who slept in a tent on our hillside with his family during his epic American exploration.
  • “Wow, that’s a lot of games. I’m impressed at how much stuff you manage to get in here. It doesn’t even feel like it.” -Layla, age 10, said this when we were showing her all of the board games stored under the couch.

Tips for hosting houseguests in a tiny house:

  • Schedule visits for a time of year when good weather is the norm. If it rains, play games and have movies available.
  • Put up a tent and make beds with sleeping bags for guests who enjoy camping.
  • Limit length of visit if possible. Overnight guests who leave the next day end up having the best experience because we can all adapt for 24 hours.
  • Find a bed and breakfast nearby.
  • Have a tiny house orientation—give a full tour of where everything is and explain tricks and techniques for moving around the house.

For example:

  • “When we work in the kitchen, we try to keep our belly touching the counter edge, so someone can walk behind us to the bathroom or kids’ loft.”
  • “When I’m at the kitchen sink, I need all feet pulled up into the loft.”
  • “If the bathroom door is closed, then someone is in there.”
  • “Please put your shoes in the shoe bench when you come in.”
  • “This cabinet space is for your things.”

What’s the hardest thing about living in your house? What has it taught you?

Excerpt from: Coming Home – Letters from a Tiny House

side view of tiny house

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gmh - April 3, 2013 Reply

Thank you! It’s always good to read about people who are living the tiny life with a family. This is real life stuff.

Shauna - April 3, 2013 Reply

Life with kids is like this in any house – great work being so present with them, real and expressive with us, readers – very intimate – I really appreciate this writing.

Lori Robin Wilson - April 3, 2013 Reply

Reading about actual time spent in a tiny house truly helps me grasp the challenges I may face when i move into a tiny house myself. Your writing style is fabulous and a joy to read. Thank you for sharing all sides of the story with us.

Barbara Ehlert - April 3, 2013 Reply

if I only had a kindle, I´d order this book immediately – sorry I´m still just a print book reader. This sounds really interesting!

    Molly - April 5, 2013 Reply

    If you have a computer, Amazon has a Kindle app you can download for free to read e-books on your computer. I prefer paper books, but it has come in handy for books like this.

alice h - April 3, 2013 Reply

That take on boredom is spot on.If the rest of the book is like that it sounds like a good read. When I was a kid you NEVER told an adult you were bored! Now that I’m taking care of my mom and she starts complaining about being bored I can use all her old lines right back at her Kids, remember all that stuff your parents say, it may come in handy!

    Elizabeth - April 4, 2013 Reply

    At my house, saying “I’m bored” got you a list of chores to do. Now it’s my turn to do the same thing to my own children. It’s the circle of life!

Latvia - April 3, 2013 Reply

Berzins sounds Latvian! Sveiki!

Candice - April 3, 2013 Reply

Just wanted to say that quote is by Louis CK, not CK Louis. Haha.

San Mateo Real Estate - April 3, 2013 Reply

Just bought the book. Thanks!
I love tiny house…

Stan - April 3, 2013 Reply

I don’t know if this helps, but I used to have a friend with one brother and one sister. They had a small house, not tiny, but to make more room on nights I would go over they would arrange sleepovers with other parents where they could send their other two children. I think I only spent the night there once when both of my friends siblings were there out of what seemed hundreds (but I’m sure it was dozens at best) of times. I had my friend over when one of his siblings had sleepovers also, it all worked out. Other parents of my friends wanted worked to do this also but for them it wasn’t a necessity so at other friends houses it never happened.

Stan - April 3, 2013 Reply

Oops, I thought the book and this article were two separate articles. I guess I need to get the book!

Carol K. - April 3, 2013 Reply

I love that you have written this book and am so excited to get it! One of my biggest concerns (although not really that big) was how to live in a tiny house with kids and how they would get to spend time with their friends. I’m not so worried about that anymore 🙂

mrs.joweaver - April 3, 2013 Reply

It is about adaption and the habit of consideration. My guest tell me they love visiting our little Matchbox Home- its close and friendly and feels like being with a family not just visiting a house. I love the simplicity of your story – “when the bathroom door is closed, someone is in there.

Shane - April 3, 2013 Reply

I have been following tiny house movement for 3 years now and love them. This was to be the year that i planned on building one till i got bad news from my doc. Looks like my dreams of having one is crushed for awhile. I will still follow and admire and God willing i may be able to build one if my operations go well. Glad to so more people are innterested in simple living. May the lord bless you and your family.

jipsi - April 4, 2013 Reply

I believe I’m correct when I mention this *slight* correction: the quote used above (re: boredom) is by LOUIS C K … not C K Louis… right? Louis C K is a comic, writer, actor and parent of two daughters, and I REMEMBER his sharing that wonderful parental nugget of wisdom on an episode of his show (can’t recall the ep or season) on FX.
His name is actually Louis Szekely, but has been known as professionally as Louis C.K. for forever…
Just a little side note, that I thought others might appreciate some clarity on. If there IS a friend or someone else called “C K Louis” that you may have been referring to, I apologetically defer. But I would be even more confused, if there is. 😉
I simply make it a point to NEVER be ‘positive’ about anything, anymore, as I’ve stuck my foot in my mouth a fair share of times in my life and I quite dislike it. 😉

jipsi - April 4, 2013 Reply

PS: Love your book, by the way. And love the ‘Letters From a Tiny House’!
Again, sorry about correcting you; I think it was probably more of a mistype thing, as you DID get his name right, just arranged … er… incorrectly. 😉

Here’s a quick link to more precious gems of humorous insight by Louis C. K.:
http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/l/louis_c_k.html

Deek - April 4, 2013 Reply

Not a huge ebook fan, but I’ll definitely have to check this out, even if just to support a member of the community….congrats on your book, I hope it does very well for you! -Deek

Cassandra - April 5, 2013 Reply

You know we look at people in other countries in one room huts with large families and think, “How horrible that must be.” And most of them seem to smile! True, they need better sanitation and I personally would prefer a floor to just dirt, but when they interact with each other it’s love! They spend their time doing the what I now call ” The Tiny House Dance,” That there is time for each other, to learn one another. To respect and be ever watchful and close to one another. And I can imagine them saying some thing like this of us..” Those poor Americans, they have big houses and cars and all kinds of material things and yet they spend all their lives working to try and keep it! No time together, no interaction, all separate, very little love.” WOW Maybe if we would be willing to have a little less and give a little more we could really make an impact on our younger generations and finally wipe the class inequality with out a single hand from our government. I mean if we can come together as fellows, friends, brothers and sisters of one Nurturing Planet and Caring Father God we would be able to ENJOY life as we were intended to do. Thank you for sharing yourself with us! God Bless you <3

Jamie - April 6, 2013 Reply

My Husband and I have recently been looking at the tiny homes as an option for us and our two young daughters, as the economy has taken its toll on us and low income in my area is very unwelcoming for young children in my eyes, so we would like to stay away from that option if possible. we both grew up in the country and the area for low income seems to have a lot of drugs and other typical doings of that nature and it makes me feel very uncomfortable knowing and seeing what goes on in those neighbor hoods. How did you figure out legal part of living in your tiny home? I would like to be prepared for all legal parts of having and living in one. Do you have any tips or suggestions on where to start? I also look forward to reading your book! Thank you! God Bless!

Penny in SC - April 6, 2013 Reply

I love every bit of this concept, life should be simple, meaningful and enjoyable. Our lives have become consumed by stuff, money and keeping up with everybody! I cant wait until my 1000 sq ft home sells and I can down size to 4 to 600 sq ft. More time in the studio instead of cleaning and working to pay the man.

Anita Clark - April 6, 2013 Reply

My husband lived in an 800sq ft place for about a year as a child (In So Cal) and said it was actually a fun experience because the family played a lot of games, talked more, and were generally closer than when he lived in larger homes. I found that interesting.

Shell - April 6, 2013 Reply

This looks very interesting. I’m not a Kindle person either, but saw the tip about the Kindle app. on Amazon. Might check it out. It is nice to hear how people are doing in tiny houses. I hope to have one of my own, someday, as well. No kids or husband though, just a cat. Should be a BIT easier. ; ) Thank you: )

Stan - April 7, 2013 Reply

I have lived on my boat for many years now. Living in a small space continually pushes my focus toward the environment outside the hatch. For it is outside the thin shell of “my world” that I can observe with clarity my impact on “the world” around me.
We are all sailors. Whether on a waterway or highway – it’s a finite journey full of as much wonder as we care to embrace.
Papa Woo Tang

Good - April 7, 2013 Reply

Living in a tiny home has taught me to live with less, unexpectedly we discoverd how Good this feels. Keep what I need and/or really love, give up the rest. This does not exclude buying New stuff every now and again. It just means some old stuff has to go. I used to wish for more and different bedsheets. Now that the dirty laundry takes up so much space I’m annoyed to have the ones I own and every time I have dirty sheets lying around I try to decide wich set of the three we own I should throw out.

Helen - April 8, 2013 Reply

I was wondering what the door to the left (in second photo) is for? Chickens? A garden? And how did you find your piece of land?
Thank you, Helen

Virgil - April 9, 2013 Reply

The overwhelming impression I got from this piece is someone who is intolerant of children. Statements such as teaching them “the dance” and having “my space” do not come across as particularly tolerant or family-friendly. You go on at length about saying “no” to the kid who wanted to make taffy, but never really gave a good explanation for why, other than you didn’t want to deal with it. “Because I said so” is never a good response to a child’s questioning why. Part of having kids is YOU learning to adapt to their needs, not having them adapt to your lifestyle choices.

Nothing should detract from the house, which is beautiful, but overall this post seemed more about the writer and her frustrations with kids, rather than about the house itself.

    alice h - April 9, 2013 Reply

    I thought the piece was all about everybody adapting to each other’s needs. Children should learn that some things have priority over their wants. Wanting to make taffy is not a need, preparing food(which, along with cleaning seemed like the reason given)and doing chores is. It’s all well and good to do fun stuff but some chores are time critical and it doesn’t harm any kid to learn that. Sometimes making taffy is possible, sometimes it’s not. “The dance” is about everybody finding ways to occupy space in a co-operative way and a very natural process that will come in handy in many situations. Everybody needs a bit of space and time to themselves, not just adults and not just kids. Working out who gets what when, that’s the dance too and it’s never a once-and-it’s-done thing, it’s a continual process. The piece seems like a good description of the give and take of actual life in a real tiny house, not just a rhapsody on some vague notions of how it “should” be.

Hooray for Progress! | Tiny House Family - April 11, 2013 Reply

[…] am also grateful for the support of other bloggers. Here are links to reviews of my book on Tiny House Blog and Tiny House Talk as well as some link love from Rowdy Kittens. Thanks, […]

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