Several years ago, my husband and I began the process of looking for a house to buy. We had a list of Must Haves, which included three bedrooms, a basement, an attic, more than one bathroom, and a garage.
But a list of Must Haves often clashes with the reality of the market, as well as the call of the heart. We fell in love with a little cottage in the country that was charming, nestled on a plot of land that was a little less than two acres, had wide plank pine floors and big wrap-around porch.
What it didn’t have was a usable basement. Or an attic. Or a garage. Or that third bedroom. It was built in 1891. That meant there were no walk-in closets. In fact, closets were in short supply. We settled for less square footage, less storage, and less usable space because we fell in love with the house.
If you don’t count the tiny outside-entrance basement that houses the oil burner and the hot water heater where, believe me, no one would want to spend any time, we live in less than 1000 square feet.
We ended up storing a lot of items in a shed already on the property that we painted red, along with a lawn mower, a snow blower, and other essentials. That makes for a crowded shed.
An interesting thing has come from this adventure, this living ‘smaller.’ I’ve had to be creative with storage, for sure. But, more importantly, I’ve come to realize that we need less than we thought we did. The other day, we were out in our shed and I looked at all the boxes filled with items I didn’t have room for in the house, but wasn’t willing to part with at the time we moved into the cottage. That was almost ten years ago. For the most part, whatever I had wanted to retrieve from storage had been retrieved. The rest? I hadn’t missed any of it. I don’t need those things. We’ll be clearing out those boxes in the spring. We’ll have less clutter. More space. More freedom.
Here’s what I’ve learned to do since we moved into this cottage:
1. I regularly clean out our tiny shared clothes closet and donate clothing we are no longer wearing. Someone who truly needs a coat or a sweater or some shoes that I’ve outgrown benefits. So do we.
2. I attack a room at a time and if I find we are no longer using something and it has no sentimental value, I donate it to the Salvation Army or sell it on Craig’s List.
3. If I fall in love with something for the home, there has to be a place for it. If there isn’t, it doesn’t come home with me.
4. Though I love to collect, I keep the collections small, both in size and stature. We simply don’t have the space for anything big.
Though I have a lot of little collections, my biggest collection consists of my books. I am a voracious reader. A room filled with books makes me happy. In fact, we recently built some bookshelves in our den because I was running out of space for my most beloved volumes, like the ones shown on the shelf above. I also review books. That means I accumulate a lot of books every year. At least twice a year, I go through them. Any book that I do not feel a visceral connection to, or that isn’t a reference book used in my professional work, is donated to my local library. This little library has an ongoing book sale, the proceeds of which help to defray the expense of keeping the library going. Some of the books, especially new books that have just been published and might not be included in the library’s budget, go on the library shelves. That makes me happy.
Though I would love nothing more than for every wall in my home to be lined with shelves, it simply isn’t feasible. And though I revere the three-dimensional book and think books are pretty much the best home decoration ever, I cannot keep all of them. Freeing up those books I do not need enables me to donate them and spread the joy of reading to others. It helps us to live small, with only those things we love in our home.
I’m fascinated with the Tiny House movement. It truly challenges those who choose that lifestyle to live in a smaller footprint. They live with less, but gain so much more.
We had no choice but to live with less. It has enabled us to give to others in need, and to help our local library. That’s a pretty good trade-off.
Tiny House Nation, a show that airs every Monday night on the FYI network, showcases people who have decided to downsize and join the Tiny House movement. They are faced with the same challenges we have been, purging possessions, living small, letting go of ‘things.’ The second season premieres December 22nd at 9 pm ET/10 pm PT. You can follow Tiny House Nation and the journey of “going tiny” on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.