Within These Walls

Small House Living

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I curl up in bed at night with my fluffy IKEA clearance bin comforter and a half-read library book, the sounds of my husband tapping away on his work tablet in the living room and my daughters’ sleepy thick breathing comforting me, like a solid rain pummeling our old window panes.

In the gray early mornings, I hear my daughters whispering in their bedroom to one another to “not wake mommy and daddy yet.” This sweetness makes me want to rush to them and also savor the few extra minutes their gentle hearts have granted us. Soon after, we gather on the couch, wrapped in an old afghan, teapot chattering as the boil builds and steam rises. Kirk and I often lean against our old gas range, coffee mugs in hand, planning for the day while the girls dance and twirl in the living room.

When you live in a small house there is no escaping the noises that everyone makes; it becomes a soundtrack of its own, one that measures out the rhythm of our days. We are only ever steps away from each other and there is very little privacy or true alone time to be had. Even when I am working with my bedroom door shut, the sounds of my family still trickle in, reminding me that I am always here, always home.

Perhaps there is an oddness in craving this closeness, to revel in these tiny spaces. And of course, there are moments, sometimes days, when I wish to be alone, somewhere completely silent. But those moments are rare.

Through this experiment of living in a 675 square foot house (which is luxurious compared to many parts of the world, I know) I’ve found that these physical limitations make my gratitude stronger. Rather than resenting the size of our home, I revel in the gift of closeness. Rather than wishing for my privacy, I am learning to connect more deeply to my family. And rather than hoping for nicer things to fill our spaces, I’m choosing gratitude for what we already own.

How will the cadence and rhythm of our home change when our baby joins us? What will our little home sound like with two littles underfoot and a baby in arms? 

Tonight as I type these words and listen to the croupy cough of my oldest daughter, I am grateful that I can reach her quickly, just a handful of steps until I’m at her bedside with a glass of water and a tucking of her blankets. Someday when my children are grown and much farther away than the width of a little house, I’ll look back on how our family bond grew and love spilled over within these walls, and I’ll give thanks.

 

 

4 Big Reasons to Consider Small House Living Instead of a Tiny House

Small House Hacks, Small House Living

 

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Several years ago I read a book by Tammy Strobel about living in a tiny house. Totally enamored with the idea of >350 square feet to clean and maintain, I set out to convince Kirk. Although we didn’t end up with a tiny house, we did find a compact and well-designed small house to call our own. Although we’ve only been in the house for about a month now, I already see the positives of this simplified lifestyle.

If you’re considering the leap to a tiny house, let me share with you a few reasons why I’m so happy we chose a small (>1,000 square foot house) instead.

Availability | We found our 675 square foot home in a regular neighborhood in a desirable section of downtown. Homes like ours are typically found in most communities and are usually post-war (1950s) or older. Ours was built in 1948 and the neighborhood is filled with charming small homes similar to ours. We didn’t need to hire a builder or buy land, just purchase an already available home. We were overwhelmed with the steps necessary to build a tiny home and find a place to park it, but buying an existing home allowed us to sidestep those issues.

Our town also requires new homes to be a minimum of 900 square feet and prohibits trailers from being parked on land longer than 6 months. I’m not much of a rule breaker and didn’t really want to move somewhere else for the sake of a tiny house. We got creative instead with our idea of living simply and found our home. If you look around your own community, you may be pleasantly surprised by what you find.

Affordability | Now, this is obviously relative to where you live, but less square feet often means a more affordable price. Many of the custom tiny homes we researched were not much less than what we paid for our already constructed home on a spacious town lot with mature trees, sidewalks, and proximity to restaurants and parks. The red tape surrounding tiny homes can also make it difficult to get a traditional mortgage. If we already owned land, we may have made a different decision.20160717_081005

 

Livability | I think we could have happily lived in a tiny house (probably.) But for the long-term, having a smidge more elbow room feels simply luxurious. Although we’re in a two bedroom house, we have room for house-guests (having already had guests our first week living there) as well as traditional furniture. I love multi-purpose furniture, but also appreciate being able to use traditional and widely available furniture instead of needing to create custom options.

Privacy | Although I haven’t lived in a tiny house (but have traveled with my family in an >100 square foot Casita travel trailer), I imagine privacy is scarce. While our house is small, the older construction has remarkably thick walls. There are also more nooks and corners for us to all retreat to when we simply need a break. Rather than having a tiny house loft bedroom in the mix (which sounds cool, but seems to lack privacy) we have bedrooms with locking doors. Definitely a plus with little kids underfoot.

But because the house is still so little, we can hear if our kiddos need us in the night or yell from the bathroom if one of us runs out of toilet paper. It’s the little things, friends.

If my husband had been on board perhaps we would now be living in a tiny house in Montana. Or a yurt in the mountains. Or something else totally unconventional that I previously believed would fit our family perfectly. If you’re intrigued by downsizing to something smaller, you may want to consider renting one on AirBNB to test it out. If you have land available or somewhere to park a tiny house, that may be a better option for you. But if you have a growing family, want a simpler process, or crave being in a traditional neighborhood (like we did) then a small house may be a better choice.