In the past, I have not been quick to promote the fact that I live in a tiny house. Do not get me wrong, I love our tiny house and am content with our space, but we initially chose to keep it a secret for our own enjoyment. Nonetheless, those who did inevitably find out would often exclaim “I love tiny houses! I watch all the shows on HGTV!” I genuinely appreciated the interest and excitement so I would share some pictures and details of the tiny house. Upon viewing the minimalist eye candy, they usually follow-up with “Wow, what is it like living in a tiny house?” I welcome the question, but usually, do not have enough time to aptly answer. So, I have compiled a couple of the lessons learned from sharing 180 ft2 with my wife and dog the past two years.
- I need stuff. This may come as a surprise on a post about tiny houses but track with me here. Living in a small space forces me to choose what is worth keeping in my life. The intentional deliberation on what I need and enjoy helps me to appreciate what I make space for.
- I do not need a boiled egg slicer. It was hard to figure out what we would need in our tiny house and what we could give away. I was afraid to get rid of something only to find out later that I should have kept it. Well, two years later I do not miss a single thing from the boxes and boxes of junk we gave away. The fears we had of letting go were completely unwarranted.
- Change is hard but worth it. After getting rid of more than half our stuff, we were surprised it was such a struggle transitioning into the tiny house. We did not expect so many little (no pun intended) changes. There were moments we even questioned if we had made a mistake. In time, we adapted to living in 180 ft2. What seemed unnatural at first became second nature. We now love our home and have no plans of leaving (at least not until our family starts to grow). Living tiny has allowed us to pay off debt, spend more time with each other, and focus on what is important in our lives. If we had not gone through the difficulties of change, we would not have reaped the benefits.
- I am selfish. Many people ask what my wife and I do when we are angry with each other and want our own space in the tiny house. Sharing a small space has definitely exposed our selfish tendencies, but also forced us to address the issue and work it out. As a result, we are more aware of our selfish natures and know how to love each other in spite of them.
- Buying less stuff means we have more time and money, right? The short answer is yes, but I can easily waste the extra time and money if I am not careful. I have mindlessly spent hours on social media, tv, and surfing the internet. My wife and I have learned to limit our technology use and disconnect when spending time with friends and family. I have also learned to prepare for my free time by making a list of things I want to do. Otherwise, I will sit around for an hour, unsure of what to do.
How to start your tiny house journey now.
Are you interested in starting your own minimalist journey? You do not need to live in a tiny house to be intentional about what you keep in your life. Here are some tips to help you start.
- Make a list of why you want to start. At first, minimalism will not come naturally, so you need to know why you are getting rid of your stuff. Do you stress about the clutter, get fed up with the distractions, or are you just curious? This may seem superfluous, but trust me, knowing the why will go a long way in motivating you when it comes to the how.
- Start with your closet. We tend to store stuff we do not use very often in the closet, so it is a great place to start purging. Get rid of some old clothes or a retired CD collection and you will gain the momentum and motivation to keep going. Also, the closet is a place we frequent often so you can enjoy the benefits of a clutter-free space every day.
- One room at a time. It is a lot of work to simplify an entire house after years of a consumer driven lifestyle. Focus on one room at a time to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Do not worry about the rest of the house for now.
- Visualize the room. Select the room to declutter next and imagine what it will look like when you finish. Envision the stress-free environment you are working towards. The imagery will provide motivation and help you decide what will stay and what needs to go.
- Clear off surfaces. Often times we just set stuff down on tables and counters. We either do not know what to do with it or do not have the time to put it away. Give everything a spot or throw it away. You are more likely to use something if you keep it close to where you use it.
- Be aware of what you bring in the house. Remember that this is a lifestyle choice and not a one-time task you can cross off your to-do list. Be conscientious about what you are bringing into the house. For example, I open my mail on the way back from the mailbox and throw away the junk mail right away, so it does not pile up in my mail rack.
- A place for everything, everything in its place – Ben Franklin. Even after you purge, the house can still start to feel cluttered if you do not put things away. Make a habit to put things away right after you use them. This has an added benefit of learning how to focus on one task at a time.
- Do not focus on the numbers. There is no rule of thumb for how many items to keep or toss. Just decide whether each item is worth keeping around and caring for.
- Be yourself. Lots of minimalist advocates talk about bare spaces and subdued colors, but I think that misses the point. Not all of us are into the modern Scandinavian aesthetic. The point of minimalism is to pare down your possessions so that you can focus on what is important. So put up some pictures of your family and paint the walls whatever color you want.
- Revel in your work. After decluttering a room, take a moment to enjoy your new space. You have removed the clutter and the accompanying stress.
- Rinse and repeat. You have come farther than most. Be proud of the intentional effort to simplify your life and make more room for what is important. You may start to notice other unnecessary distractions that detract from your joy. Be proactive, continually assess your environment and remove the clutter.
Issues to look out for
The initial process can sometimes be frustrating, but do not be discouraged. Removing the physical distractions from your home will put you on your way to a contented life. Here are some issues that may come up during your transition.
- Prepare for the mess. You are about to go through everything you own. The first step is usually to pile all of your junk in the center of the room. Do not stress about the additional clutter as you set aside items to sell, toss, or donate.
- It is hard to let go. We keep certain trinkets around solely because of the emotional attachment. Do not worry. Getting rid of something does not mean that the memories attached to it will be gone. Take a picture of the object or write down your fond memories in a journal. The memories are what is important, not the object.
- You have to come to terms with why you have so much stuff. You may feel guilty when you realize all the resources you have wasted on stuff you never use. Do not be discouraged. Instead, use this time to reflect on why you have put so much value in possessions. You made the first step towards change!
- It never ends. It may seem stressful at first that you will have to continually review what is in your life and whether or not to keep it. In time, it actually becomes enjoyable. You will get excited to find another object that you can remove and forget about.
- Don’t judge others. Just as the desire to purchase our happiness is wrong, so is the temptation to judge others that have not chosen to declutter their lives. Feel free to share how you have benefited from paring down your possessions, but only share out of a desire to help others. A prideful attitude will only turn people off to the idea of minimalism.
It was a very rewarding experience to design the building we call home. I am so thankful for the team at Tiny Home Builders for all the great work they did to bring life to my plans. Most importantly I would like to thank the friends and family who encouraged us in this endeavor!
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