Small Vs Tiny

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?


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4 Responses to Small Vs Tiny

  1. Donatella September 29, 2013 at 11:05 am #

    Yup. Realtors and builders want to sell you that ‘lawyer foyer’ and the ‘formal dining room’ and the ‘eat in kitchen’ and the ‘gourmet kitchen’, and great room, and man cave, and, and, and… all pure profit because the most expensive parts of the house are the land its on, and plumbing and electrical which don’t change all that much with square footage. They’re selling a way of life that people are told to want, not necessarily ever have. It’s Hollywood meets Norman Rockwell, between the clinking cocktail parties and the Thanksgiving dinner with 12 ever-so-loved family members all oohing and ahhing over the giant roast turkey.

    Most of us simply don’t live this way; families are dispersed, friends are also, and I dunno about you, but my gourmet cooking is mostly quickie meals and my friends are one on one affairs, not a crowd; (that time of having your kid’s friends over is finite and very short-lived, enjoy it!)

    Meanwhile, if you have a grand house, your taxes are so high that you’re a slave, literally, to your job and credit cards and not being able to sell the damn place for what you’ve put into it. Add in the cost of furniture, appliances and maintenance for that place, and you can see what’s keeping our economy, such as it is, afloat. Or at least it did until 2008…ever priced a new roof for a 3000 SF mansion? Yee Gods.

    All in all, a small place (my personal favorite was a 500 SF English-style cottage with a private fenced backyard, but the tipi was glorious and the yurt had its appeal, too) keeps the hamster-wheel issues to a minimum. If you want to entertain a crowd, do it in the backyard or commandeer a restaurant’s private dining room, almost all places have them 🙂

    • Gabriella September 29, 2013 at 11:15 am #

      Thanks for the great perspective Donatella! Your post reminded me of the day that I literally realized that I am just not an entertainer. It was 3 years ago and it took me totally by surprised. For years and years we had been living in houses that were large enough to entertain and though we did go through several years where our home was community central, those days had long been over. Here we were living in the nicest house we had lived in as adults with ALL the bells and whistles. An entertainer’s dream. Suddenly I realized that we were paying a huge amount of a money and spending gobs of time working to pay for it only to come to terms that we hadn’t had anyone over in months. I’m with you…I prefer company one on one and if we want to get together with a group, nothing beats meeting at a cozy restaurant where we can sit for hours, have our food prepared for us and I am not stuck with a day worth of cleaning the morning after.

  2. Ray Nelson March 16, 2016 at 12:40 am #

    My wife and I have been living in California in a 290 sq. ft. RV for over eight years. Our intention when first starting out was to see the US since we had already seen the rest of the world. When 2008 came everyone hunkered down for hard times. My retirement portfolio took a beating so we found an rv park and waited for things to turnaround. We’re now thinking of putting our feet down in a small town while stepping up to a 700 to 900 sq ft. home. We just sold a large winter home along the Sea of Cortez in Mexico. As much as we loved the beach, the house felt too big and I spent most of my time there repairing and maintaining the home against termites and the ocean air. We feel that the optimum size home for our needs are within the parameters you have suggested. Is there such a thing as small homes mixed in with tiny home communities or would a small home of the aforementioned size just be considered a normal single family dwelling to put on an individual lot? We like the tiny home community living but don’t care for the quality of mobile/manufactured homes nor most of the parks they build for them.

  3. Gabriella March 20, 2016 at 4:06 pm #

    Nice to hear from you Ray! Sounds like you guys took a tough situation and made the most out of it. In terms of your specific question, I don’t know of a tiny house community that incorporates regular sized structures into it except for Spur, TX. There is so much that changing these days though with zoning so it could happen really soon. Have you checked out Spur as an option? Where are you wanting to buy?

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