One of the best things about living tiny for three years is that it has permanently changed my perspective on space and stuff. For those who don’t know my story, I moved into my tiny house a little more than three years ago. I transitioned out of my three-bedroom, 1,800 square foot townhouse and into my 234 square foot tiny house in a little less than three months and got rid of more than 80 percent of what I owned. The move was a huge transition and I had to dramatically change my mindset when it came to needs vs. wants. I had to stop wandering around Target looking for the perfect throw pillow and I had to get really clear on the things I wanted to make me feel content.
Downsizing was one of the best things I’ve ever done. It gave me a greater appreciation for what I own and it has made me increasingly intentional about how I spend my time and money. Then three months ago, I got married and traded my tiny house in for my husband’s conventional home. As you can imagine, the change back was quite the shock to the system.
After living in 234 square feet for three years, I wasn’t sure how I felt about moving back in to a traditional home. While I’m being completely honest, part of my hesitation was due to the fact that I was afraid that when I moved back into a more conventional home that my old shopping and consuming habits would come rushing back. Luckily, instead I’m finding that I’m applying a lot of what I learned from living tiny in my conventional home. The mindless wandering through stores still seems silly and I am consistently drawn to smaller spaces now with only things I love. I will say that my book-buying habit is back in full swing, mostly because I LOVE reading, but other than that most of my tiny house lessons stuck.
Whether you are living in a tiny house already, want to downsize soon, or just want a simpler life, these lessons might help you get the simplicity you are looking for in your life and space.
1. Only own what you use and love!
When you live in a small space, you learn to be very intentional about what you bring into that space. I learned how to look at items and really decide if they were things that added value to my life. If you pick something up and don’t know why you have it, get rid of it. If an item brings up bad or painful memories, ditch it. If an item doesn’t make you smile or serve a purpose, it probably shouldn’t be in your space. Get in the habit of asking yourself why you are acquiring items and if they truly add value to your life. To live more simply, everything in your space should be things that you use and love.
2. Have a space for EVERYTHING!
In a tiny house, even if a few things are out of place, your entire house starts to feel chaotic. In larger spaces, we tend to be more comfortable with clutter because it takes a larger percentage of stuff to be out of place before things start to feel stressful. Because we tolerate more “clutter” in a larger space, we tend to collect more. The way to avoid collecting junk is to make sure that everything in your house has an assigned place. Assigning everything a place in your home (no matter what the size!) does two things. One, it helps you get clear on what you actually have room for in your home, and it keeps you on track for only saving what you love and use. Two, it makes cleaning WAY easier. If everything you own has space, it’s easy to put it all away when it’s time to straighten things up. Ensuring everything has a home is one of the best ways to simplify your space and your cleaning routine.
3. One in, One out
This is a lesson I had to learn the hard way in my tiny house. When I first downsized, I purged a lot! I very carefully organized everything I owned and made sure that all of the things I owned had their very own space in my smaller home. It worked well at first…but then I found that every once in awhile I’d go shopping…and bring home a few things I wanted or needed. The first few trips weren’t a big deal, but I quickly realized that if I was going to bring something new into my space, then I needed to take something out. The habit of one in, one out became strongly ingrained. I got in the habit of asking myself, “What am I going to get rid of?” every time I bought something new. This allowed me to prioritize what I wanted to buy and what I wanted to keep. This is a great habit to adopt even if you have more space.
Having open space allows us to relax and breathe in our home. Not every shelf needs to be full, not every drawer needs to be overflowing and not every closet needs to be jam-packed. When you bring in something new ask yourself what you can donate, sell or throw out.
4. Make your space yours!
I’ve always wanted a nice home, but when I lived tiny, I wanted a beautiful home that reflected my personality. When you are dealing with a small space every detail matters. It’s part of why tiny houses are each so unique. They reflect the personality of their owners. When our spaces are beautiful and reflect what we value and love it helps us feel grateful, content and satisfied with life. Ask yourself how you want your space to look. What things make your home feel like home? Keep the things that make you smile, even if they don’t necessarily serve a purpose. But be careful not to assume that your home needs to look like the glossy magazines or the latest HGTV Dream Home. Learn to make your space all yours!
I think I’ll always be drawn to functional spaces that are both beautiful and useful from this point forward and I know the lessons I learned living tiny will shape my consumer habits for years to come.
Written by Lora Freeman for Issue 61 of the Tiny Hosue Magazine.