As can be expected, our little family’s choice to live tiny generates a lot of buzz and tons of questions. Why did you decide to do this? How do you survive with two kids in such a small space? Are you going stir crazy in the winter months? The most commonly asked question we have received lately is a timely one. How are you all doing Christmas tiny?
For us, this was simple. Our traditional Christmases, when spent in a 2000+ square foot home on 15 acres didn’t look much different than the one we will be celebrating this year. Downsizing to just over 200 square feet simply required us to make some logistical adjustments to the holiday festivities. Here is what we are changing up this year:
Experience Over Expense: We’ve always chosen homemade over pricey gifts because we’ve never been a family that put much emphasis on fancy gifts, and even if we had, our pockets have never been deep enough to support that. However, with our drastically reduced space, this year we sent out suggestions to those who would buy for our kiddos that included practical items they need and will use (fleece lined pants, science kits, and hiking socks) along with some super rad experiences like museum memberships, monthly subscription boxes, and our daughter’s very first baby doll (she is only 1 1/2 and I am a tomboy, so sue me!)
We got their “big gift” from Santa as something that will go along with experiences this year so our son will be getting his first snowboard and our daughter will get her first sled. These are reasonable gifts that will provide hours of fun and they will get a ton of use. Most importantly, they fit in our cargo storage!
Additionally, an annual tradition of our is to fill Santa’s bag. This is a large bag we have our kids fill with toys and books they no longer use much for Santa to take back to his workshop, fix up, and pass along to other kids who can get great use out of them. This helps up de-clutter before they inherit more “stuff” as well as re-focuses their attention on the true meaning of the season.
Hiding Gifts Under Someone Else’s Stairs: Since we are down by over 1800 square feet of hiding spaces this year, we have been taking gifts to my parents’ house and hiding them under their basement steps. We wrapped gifts one night in our tiny and it required a lot of wine and produced endless laughter. Our floor space became a mountain of gift paper, bows, and tape in no time. So we have since moved our wrap station to my folks’ for more floor real estate. The added bonus here is that our son totally takes after me and will snoop until he finds something, so hiding gifts in a house an hour away poses a significant obstacle for his sneakiness!
Dynamically Decorating: I am a total kid. For real, y’all, I live for fireworks and Christmas lights, parades and holiday traditions! Needless to say, not decorating for the holidays just because we live tiny was not an option in our house. To make up for where we lack in space, we utilize vertical areas for decor. This is a new dynamic but a challenge I gladly accepted!
The space provided by our slide out in the living room serves as our former mantle with white lights and teal blue decor. Our kids’ room hosts a fiber optic lit tree (for our son’s sensory needs) with hand-picked ornaments representative of each family member. The tree topper? The cutest glass camper ornament with a wreathe and a tree on it.
In lieu of lighting the outside of the house, and to fulfill my desperate need of a real tree, we strung together miles of paper chains and decorated a hand-built teepee in our front yard! It. Is. Awesome! It lights the night between our rig and the fire pit and pond, and it represents all of the holiday’s glory. Our kids hung ornaments on the strands of lighting, we used tacky tinsel garland, and a glittery silver star on the top, and we love every inch of it! I mean, who else has a Christmas teepee!?
The Elf Had A Tragic Accident: Full disclosure, the elf on the shelf was something I was super pumped about it when we bought it for our now six year old son, four years ago. Now, that little smiling plastic face is the bane of my existence during the holidays! Who can remember to move this thing around every night, writing little notes and posing him in cute, creative new ways!? So we devised a plan that would lay up Big E, as our kids call him, for a while.
Our tiny home only allows us so many hiding places out of the reach of tiny hands that could, should they touch him, ruin his Christmas magic (gasp!). So we left a note on Monday, after he’d already hidden above the cabinets, on the wine rack, on the fridge, climbed up the slide out, and been in the bathroom mirror.
“Oh-No! Big E had an accident on his way back from the North Pole last night. His vision was blurred from his tears since he had to tell Santa you’d had a rough day and he crashed into the columns at the post office. (Our son loves these when we visit.) Santa’s direct orders were to keep my leg propped up and not to move for a whole week. I will still be able to text him my reports on your behavior so be kind and he may send special treats through another elf while I am laid up. Here is a list of kind things you can do for others to get you started.”
I show no mercy, my friends. This simple note, paired with wrapping his red leg in a tissue and band-aids-signed by all the reindeer, of course-bought me a full seven days of not trying to invent new places around our tiny to hide this thing! Hey, it works for houses of any size. You can thank me later!
Celebrating On The Road: Since adulthood, I have never lived near my hometown. I moved three hours away to college, then further for career, then further still for marriage. Just this year, when we went tiny, we were able to move within two hours of my family. It has been great for our kids, although they miss their friends and family back home where my husband is from.
So this year, as we hit the road to Virginia, we will celebrate with my husband’s side of the family for five days, and then come up to my parents’ (where all of the gifts are hidden) on Christmas Eve. Our kids will wake up to Santa’s arrival there, host Christmas with the extended family, and we will be back in our tiny by the 26th.
This holiday road trip allows us to live out of our van for about a week and return to our tiny with our duffel of clothes and the few gifts we received. Perfect!
So, going tiny does downsize things in many ways, but not the Christmas fun. Join us in celebrating going tiny in a big way this year!
Brynn Burger lives tiny, loves big, and laughs always. Writing with honest hilarity and violent vulnerability about parenting, adulting, downsizing, living tiny, and raising an extreme child is her attempt to escape the painful isolation that comes from a life of hiding to instead connect with people who are raw and real. Check her out at www.themamaontherocks.com.