It started with a book that, as far as I can remember, just suddenly appeared on our coffee table when I was a teenager. The Not-So-Big House book was full of beautiful photographs of homes that were designed with the idea of quality space instead of quantities of space. I think I mostly liked looking at the images of beautiful craftsmanship, but the idea of cutting out the formal dining room & formal living room in favor of a reading nook carved under the staircase stuck with me. I don’t know about yours, but the dining room in my parent’s home is a collecting pool for potted plants, old photographs and pretty-but-unused fine china. Our cat used to sleep there, too, conked out on the round table in front of the picture window. For human use it is cleared out one or twice every year for holiday meals. I would really use a little reading nook, y’know?
Handfulls of years later, I became enamored with yurts. Yes, yurts, the round-roofed, skylit Mongolian tent-houses. Living in Colorado, it seemed like a real possibility. People up in the mountains can get away with a lot and then blame it on lack of oxygen at high altitudes if questioned too critically. My loyalty was absolute. Everyone knew I loved the things. When a friend travelled to Mongolia, she brought back a little yurt tchotchke for my bookshelf and oh how it makes me smile. They are unusual, inexpensive dwellings that could be as simple or complex as you’d like. And did I mention they’re round? Perfect.
Then, just a couple of years ago, I discovered the Tumbleweed Tiny House company. Their site features architectural plans for miniature homes & cottages, from 100 square feet to 800 square feet. I’m not going to pretend I have any desire to live in 100 square foot house. Not 200, either, not for more than a short time and with 0-1 other people. I’m not cut out to be an extremist and I do need a door or two to close behind me. But a little bigger than that? Yes, please.
There seems to be so much to gain in living smaller. Less room for stuff, all of the life detritus that somehow expands to fill whatever space you have. Less to clean up at the end of the day. Less wasting of natural resources. No mortgage. I also have that phobia of hanging things on walls- too much commitment!- so there would be less of that to grapple with.
Small spaces have become a ‘thing’ these days. There are documentaries, magazines, blogs and specialty architects, all supporting the idea of sustainable living in tiny spaces. Martha Stewart features them in her magazines! People are living in the back of flatbed trucks, in refurbished airstreams, in rescued one-room school houses, in homes built in alleyways between skyscrapers. But they’re still solidly in the minority and there are plenty of people who think it’s crazy. Intriguing, maybe, but in a ‘better you than me’ sort of way. Wanting to live in a house with 500 square feet- with a family, even!- while the American Dream says you need to grow up, get a big-girl job, apply for a mortgage and buy a McMansion is not the norm.
I think the idea of living smaller pushes up against insecurities, making some feel guilty or defensive of their own desire for more things, more space. But there’s no need for that; people are different. Maybe they’re making their own important contribution in that office they have the space for.
I should clarify that, for me, it’s not that I don’t like space and belongings. I do. More than many people, probably. But the idea of being more mindful of the things I choose to surround myself with is appealing. Paring down seems to lend to a greater appreciation of what you do have, because everything is carefully selected for beauty and significance and utility. Lucky for me, O is on board with all this. I actually like/need/want space & things more than he does. The guy would be happy in 100 square feet box with four items of clothing and a Macbook. No bed necessary. True story: when we moved to Connecticut, O slept on a camping mattress and sleeping bag until I got here. Six weeks later.
For now, our one-bedroom apartment is great. Maybe we’ll go smaller next year. There are some pretty wicked studio spaces to inspire rental-dwellers on the interwebs, if you know where to look. We’re going to watch We The Tiny House People soon. Anyone seen it?