Simplifying Life Step 1: Buy a tiny house


Step 1 to simplifying our lives: downsize into a tiny house.

Ok, so it wouldn’t technically qualify as tiny, but Jason and I are contemplating buying pretty durn small 865 sq ft house. Our offer just left out the side door in the realtor’s hand. We actually put an offer on another house that was 950 sq ft last week, although it didn’t go through. Whichever house we end up with, under 1000 sq ft is quite a small space for two adults, two kids and three dogs (including a 150 lb puppy.)

Why the downsizing? As life is messy, so are decisions complicated.

First, it fits with our long term plan. We had planned in the next five years to buy two lots with small houses, move one house to the back of the other lot, and then build on a remaining free lot. I’m a planner, so I even have a good idea what that eventual new house will look like (passive solar, full of windows, a big courtyard…) This realestate shuffle was more in our three or four year plan, but our mental groundwork was already laid out.

The second reason drives the timing. We have a new business that needs a cash injection. Because our current house is in a fantastically walkable, upcoming neighbourhood, it’s worth much more than we owe on it. So getting the cash out of the house and using it to live on, and feed our business until it stand on its own, is a prudent, timely idea.

Thirdly, and most philosophically, we need to simplify our lives. We never planned it this way, but I’ve ended up running three organizations and having no time left over to sleep or play. Leisure time? What is that? Jason is also extremely busy working six days a week at the clinic, and he finds the added responsibility of maintaining our house, in addition to the time we want to spend with the kids, overwhelming. We want to spend more time camping and going on adventures, and less hours burning the midnight oil at the home computer. Freeing up our cash, lessening our expenses, getting rid of half of our stuff (yes, likely more than half,) has a romantic simplistic allure to it.

You’ve likely seen people posting pictures of their tiny houses on Pinterest, and thought like I have, “how lovely! Wouldn’t that be amazing? But I could never do it long term.”

The question challenging us now is how to make 865 sq ft work for our family, for the next two years.

We’ve had some big discussions with the kids about what that kind of downsizing will mean, and their first reactions were ones of panic. “What?!?!? Get rid of some of my stuffies and toys?!?! No way!!!” My children, by the way, have a lot of toys. Not that we have given them a lot, but they thriftily save their allowance, and are two of the few or only grandchildren on both sides of the family. So they get some pretty sweet gifts. And they love their stuff. But as we talk about Mommy spending more time with them, and having less to clean, the proposition is getting more digestible.

We have a lot of pets, so that’s an issue too. The fish will find a new home, and the cats will go to live at our clinic. We will still have three dogs, though, so a big yard is a necessity. The guinea pigs, currently living outside, will find a permanent home outside at the new house. Don’t worry – they won’t freeze – there are heat lamps for that. The chickens, bless their hearts, just stopped laying in the last couple of months. We’ve held onto them for sentimental reasons, but the two hens won’t make the move. [Insert ax chopping sound.] I’ll start with new pullets in the spring, as long as our new neighbours were ok with it.

At the new place, we’d have a big shed outside for storing bikes, camping gear and off-season clothes. But still, probably 2/3 of our furniture won’t fit in the new tiny house. And the last thing I would want would be a crammed 865 sq ft house, full of stuff. So we will move what we really love and need over to the new house, have a huge estate sale at our old house, and then put our lovely English cottage on the market. Right now it pains me to say goodbye to the most comfortable loveseat in the world, but I know that feeling won’t last. After all, it’s just a sofa. I can guarantee that we won’t miss our stuff – it’s simply grown to fit the space we have. The challenge won’t be missing the old stuff – it will be not accumulating more!

Wish us luck in our tiny house quest. This offer may or may not be accepted, but sooner or later, we will find out tiny house, and Step 1 in the simplify our lives plan will begin.

8 thoughts on “Simplifying Life Step 1: Buy a tiny house

  1. Good on you!! After extended travels around the world we downsized by 2/3 (from a 3,700 square foot house to about 1,000 square feet) … for a family of five and a dog! I’d say we got rid of at least 2/3 of our stuff (of note, we did it in iterations; although we thought we had purged enough after the first cut, we had several more cuts afterwards. I’ve since read that this is very typical). I don’t miss any of it. Living in a small space is liberating, and the kids have adjusted just fine.

    I found this article particularly interesting (see url link below), specifically this research finding:

    “The Center on Everyday Lives of Families at the University of California released a study that looked at the habits of 32 middle-class, double-income families. Over a four-year period, ethnographers studied how the families related to their living spaces during waking hours. They found that regardless of the size of house, the families spent nearly all their time in a space of around 400 sq. ft., almost exclusively in the kitchen, family room and dining room. The rest of the house was almost never used.”

    I’ve absolutely found this to be true.

    Anyhow, enough rambling. For what it’s worth, I think what you’re doing is fabulous and clearly you have a long term vision to guide each step. Cheers, Gloria

    • That’s so cool to know someone else who has gone through this too! And I’d read about the iterations… good to know!

      I totally identify with the 400 sq ft. In our house now, it’s very divided into rooms. We spend, no joke, 85%-90% of our time in one room – the kitchen nook area. So it’s not terribly hard to think about living in a smaller space, from that angle..

      Anther thought is that families in the 50s often lived in spaces like this – the house we put an offer in on was built in 1955. These families usually had more than two kids, too!

  2. I’ve never understood why people in North America think they need so much space. Good luck with the downsizing – does this mean you won’t be adopting again?

    • Hi Sara! Well, I’d still love to add to our family. But with Ethiopian adoption gone and several flopped attempts from the USA, let’s just say I’m not holding my breath. Maybe it will be in the cards for us when the girls are older, and we can adopte older kids… that’s our current idea, anyway…

  3. Amazingggggg idea. I also agree that North Americans definitely buy homes that are far too big for their actual needs.

    A year ago my newly-built townhouse was ready, and it’s been wonderful living with less. It’s about the same– 865 square feet, with an open concept kitchen and living room. No room for a separate kitchen table (but the HUGE eat-at island does the trick!), only one bathroom (with a stacked front-loader washer/dryer in the bathroom), two bedrooms that aren’t huge–but enough. My “master bedroom” has enough room for a king-sized bed, tiny wall-mounted night tables (they’re really just shelves held up with L-Brackets!) and a long 6-drawer Ikea dresser. There’s not much room on the one side to walk beside the bed, but who really needs a ton of space in their bedroom!?! I’d much rather have that space in the living areas.

    Your key will be smart downsizing of your possessions and maximizing your storage! I’ve got a double garage which is a lifesaver for all my crap, but I’m sure I could downsize more if need-be.

    You’re also fortunate to live somewhere with a less-harsh climate than where I live (Edmonton), so I’m sure the outdoors and your yard will become a second living area, as well.

    I can’t wait to hear more about your downsizing/simplifying ventures! I wish I lived closer to attend your estate sale! I love your style!


    • Funny – lots of the same ideas! 🙂

      We have a king sized bed too, so I’m planning lots of book shelves all around the bed, up and over the headboard, wall lamps, and a huge wardrobe. And yes – very little room around the bed. But who needs floor space in a master bedroom? The living room is spacious, and that’s the main thing.

      I had my wolfhound running around the space today, as I was pulling nails and taking down old blinds, and he had lots of room. And if it’s spacious for Tully, then it’s spacious for anyone!

      • Yes! Your plans for your bedroom sound perfect. Lots of shelving and smart storage!

        I forgot to mention that I have 2 “extra large” Boston Terriers (35-lbs each), a long-distnace girlfriend who is in town for multiple days at a time (with her large mixed-breed dog in tow), plus a roommate.. and it’s still plenty of space. I once had my friends and their son come stay from out of town, plus myself, my dogs and my roommate– and even that was fine. Loud, but fine!

        So if you’re pulling nails and taking down blinds.. does that mean you got the house?!?!?!?!?! 🙂 🙂 🙂

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