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This is not simplicity. This is selfishness. What about your guests?

– mum.

Tiny home is a wonderful concept. Urban density reduces emissions from daily commute. It’s a way to take less from earth to build a home. (Cement, steel & wood have big carbon footprints.)  It’s a way to reduce needs. I tell them that I am “trying out sustainable living” but hear the usual “all this doesn’t matter”. I for one, usually smile, nod and brush off the comments. But my partner is a more social being. When my parents & in-laws decided to visit us this summer, we moved out of the tiny house and into a 950 sft cottage with a backyard. Looking back, I really miss my old home. It has taught me a lot.

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Heat map of sft usage in an average home. Much like an closet full of excess, look at the efficiency of usage. 

The Good

Firstly, our previous home was not tiny. Most people in India live in smaller spaces without calling it a tiny house. Most people in Asian cities live this way too. I can generalize and say most people in the world live in small homes. Super sized homes are a first world phenomenon. I found our home comfortable. Some notes :

  1. There is a zen in putting things away and being organized. Not having stuff is liberating. I felt a sense of freedom. I could pack up and leave anytime without being tied down to a house. Everything I own can be packed up in a few hours.
  2. I spend 30 minutes per week cleaning it. I could use rags, a broom and natural detergents because it’s a small space. In 350 sft, the results magnify. Messy looks super messy. Tidy looks pristine. Clean looks OCD clean.
  3. It is okay to get rid of stuff. Else, I couldn’t have fit into the space without my home becoming a storage space with humans squeezing by.
  4. It inspires you to buy less. There is no space to store the excess.
  5. I invested in the few things I bought. There weren’t many rooms to furnish. I could put the money towards the one room we had to furnish.
  6. Gatherings are cozy. Sleepovers turned us into children again. A larger living room would have been nice but one doesn’t need a formal living room and formal dining room which has become the norm in suburban homes.
  7. It is possible to be very happy in a small space. We could be around each other at all times. After years of long distance marriage, a tiny home is an ointment to fix the trauma of separation.
  8. We used every inch of it daily. It’s highly efficient. All the camping gear we own ? In the boot of our cars. Capsule wardrobe system helped with seasonal clothing. Books ? Under couch, in the unused dryer, as stools, near the bed, in the closet, …. Bikes and a part of the couch lived out on the patio. Just like how we get used to the conveniences, we get used to the inconveniences.
  9. There is nothing in our home that we didn’t use on a weekly basis.
  10. I never wondered “what else can I buy for our home?” I was content.
  11. It was fairly easy to be zero-waste. Multi-purpose products like baking soda, vinegar and olive soap worked hard on my behalf.
  12. I got lucky with my compost bin. There is some community space outside that I can use. I had a patio which made all the difference.
  13. We had community pets who wandered outside and came home when they wanted.
  14. We were spending a lot of time outdoors because we didn’t want to be cooped up inside over the weekend. We went for walks. We picnicked outside. The city became the extension of our home.

The bad

These are not real problems. These are minor first-world inconveniences. Not worthy of a mention but for the sake of being comprehensive :

  1. The tiny kitchen made cooking a game of scheduling tasks. Some tasks took longer because we couldn’t parallel process.
  2. I don’t think we should build our homes for the sake of people who might visit us. We AirBnB-ed cabins for the weekend when we had family visiting. It was cheaper than paying rent for a bigger space, regularly cleaning and furnishing an extra bed room for visitors. My family found it selfish.
  3. Specific to our home, we didn’t have any natural light in our bedroom. It felt like a dungeon in the winter. Good design could have made this experience much better.
  4. When you fight with your partner, there is no space to escape each other.
  5. When busy life happens, the untidy-ness made me miserable. There was no space to hide the clutter.

The ugly

  1. The Shame. I am the one reading about minimalism. Nobody else around me is into it. They don’t understand. Our peers have bought their suburban McMansions and have been stocking it up on appliances. You are the only ones left out of the race. When your partner feels a shame every time someone comes home, …. it’s not the right living situation for you.
  2. Socializing is a problem. My closest of friends are comfortable staying over. The elders in the family complained a lot. In general, it’s not optimal to have your guests bumping into each other as they walk around.
  3. I wanted a dog.  The lack of space stopped me from adopting one.

On Tiny Homes

  1. Access to a calm uncluttered space is essential for rest and rejuvenation. It can be created in a small space if you live a simple life.
  2. The idea of excess, enough, just enough, less, more, essential, must haves, … can be re-learnt.
  3. I think camping/backpacking/tiny home living/ RV-ing changes the relationship one might have with stuff in general. Folks who travel ( different from vacationing ) have a different perspective on needs and nesting.
  4. Tiny home living is not for everyone. Folks with children, pets, aging family members, … will need more space than I do. I no longer live in one but I can’t unlearn what it has taught me about need vs want. 
  5. The French 5 challenge, 10 by 10, capsule wardrobe, … are a way to try out minimalism without committing to it for life. Similarly, I think everyone should try tiny home living for a short period of time to learn more about themselves. You may like it. You may not like it. You will however have that memory of ‘a simpler life’ to latch into, when life throws challenges at you.