Small Vs Tiny
We love the idea of tiny houses (by that we mean anything under 400 sq. ft. for a family of 4). After all, it was the tiny house movement that initially inspired us to question EVERYTHING we have been raised to believe about housing. Reading through tiny house information, hearing people’s stories and looking at all the amazing photos set our lives in a direction that I doubt we will ever leave behind.
Living in a tiny space (currently a 150 sq. ft. pop-up trailer for three people and a dog) was just what we needed to redefine our concept of required living space. Not only did we survive the experience (there were some skeptics!), we found ourselves thriving in it. We were able to essentially recalibrate our needs, hopes and desires to a level that feels much more authentic to who we are rather than making choices about how we live simply because of what we’ve been told and shown to do by others.
If you are serious about wanting to go small, I highly recommend that you create a situation that allows you to live in a tiny space for a minimum of 4-6 weeks. If your experience is anything like ours, it may take you a few weeks (for us about 3) to move through the discomfort that comes with making a major lifestyle change. Make sure that you allow enough time to also experience the highs that come after moving through the eye of that storm.
We learned a great deal coexisting in a tiny space. However, we realized that although tiny is excellent for inspiring quick, dramatic and profound change, small is what feels realistic for us in the long term. We originally set out on this adventure believing we would return as full converts to the tiny lifestyle. Instead, we came back with the insight that in the long run, a home in the 800-900 sq. ft. range is what will make small house living a long term solution for us as a family.
There are huge benefits to having a house that is in the 800-900 sq. ft. range. First and foremost is the impact on our family dynamic. Our biggest priority as a family is spending time together. Because our kids are gregarious and wonderful people, we frequently have a gaggle of kids over. Having a house full of teenagers adds a layer to the tapestry that we would never want to risk losing. In a space that is too small, we are truly limited in how many people we can have over and that is something we are not willing to risk.
The same can be said for our adult friends. A life that is well balanced between alone time, family, and social time is a happy one for us. Having the space to have good friends over for a meal or game of cards without us all stepping on each other is wonderful. There is a level of relaxation that happens when there is enough space to move around without feeling encumbered. Although I love the look of tiny houses, the sacrifice of having dear friends over is not something we are willing to make.
On the other hand, we are not party people so we don’t need a huge living room to accommodate a dozen or more people…it’s just not our scene. The last house we lived in was nearly 2,000 sq. ft. It had a huge living/dining room and was considered to be a dream home for an entertainer. We thought, “Great! Now we will finally have a house that we can have parties in.” As it turns out, to our surprise, we really are not party people after all. We never once had a party in our house! Living in that large, dream house was a valuable lesson for us. We gained not only a deeper understanding of who we are, but I think more importantly, who we are not.
When considering the possibility of moving into small vs. tiny, it’s critical that you be honest with who you are. What are your needs from a house? What can you and what can you not live without? These are hard questions and you will likely find them changing over time. It’s an organic process, so enjoy the exploration. Don’t expect instant answers or for them to remain stagnant. It amazes me how a decision or realization can feel so absolute in the moment and how quickly these beliefs can then change. Although I am terribly eager to buy our dream land and to build our dream house, I am also very grateful that by circumstance we are not in a position to do so yet. This reassessment of housing, of who we are and what we need from shelter is still pretty new for us and what we really need is time to think and try out various scenarios. In the meantime, we are having a blast imagining, thinking and feeling into the process. It has brought us together. What could be better than that?