Reflections on My First Year Living Tiny
What was easy, what was hard, and what I never could have anticipated.
Hello Friends, it’s nice to talk with you again!
If we haven’t met, my name is Alaska, aka the Tiny House Concierge. I’m a writer, a realtor, and a millennial, who couldn’t take the idea of spending my one, beautiful life in an office. So, I quit my job- and my life- and started over in a tiny house! For my last article of the year, I wanted to spend some time reflecting on my journey and tell you what I’ve loved and what I’ve learned.
Who knows, maybe 2022 is the year you go tiny. I definitely want to make sure I give you all the information!
Ah, where to begin?
Friends, believe me when I tell you, I could have never predicted how radically a tiny house was going to change my life! The past year of living small has altered everything from my projected retirement date to my relationship with myself. Everything is different, and I would argue, better.
I initially chose to go tiny largely in pursuit of financial freedom. And while that has certainly been a benefit, this life has gifted me with so much more than that. In fact, I become a complete ball of mush when I think of all the ways a tiny house has improved my level of well-being.
How have things changed?
Well, for starters, my stress level is at an all-time low, and living by my values is at an all-time high. I walk more and drive less. I use or actively enjoy most of what I own on a daily or weekly basis, and my carbon footprint has been slashed. Slashed.
I find it fascinating that the physical size of my house was the element most responsible for instigating changes. Over the course of my thirty-four years, I have lived in everything from five-hundred square foot apartments to five-thousand square foot houses. Even on the lower end of that spectrum, there was still plenty of room for the “stuff” to creep in. I’ve found that stuff leads to responsibility, and too many responsibilities lead to stress. So, while I’m grateful for all of the homes I’ve had along the way, I can say with certainty that I have never been happier than living in my current, two-hundred-and-sixty-seven square feet!
Living tiny has led to some incredible changes, but while some were anticipated, there have been surprises as well!
When I moved into my tiny house, I remember thinking about all the things the house was going to do for me. One of the biggest surprises has been learning that the house asks for things in return! If I use too much energy, for example, my house will ask me to stop by tripping the circuit breaker. If I buy too many consumer goods, the house will force me to trip over things until I agree to declutter. Creating too much trash causes the trash drawer to slide out on its own accord. When that happens, I have to apologize to the tiny house and stop overstepping my allotment of waste. I’m learning that living tiny is truly a symbiotic relationship.
My house might encourage me to live “a life of less,” but there is another sense in which it allows me to live a life of more- specifically, more of what I find meaningful. This is because only two things fit inside a tiny house: what you need and what you love.
Only filling my house with things I need or love has forced me to refine my values on a level I’ve never known. Since going tiny, I’ve defined my life around three main categories: health, writing, and adventure, and this focus has eliminated so much of the “white noise” I experienced living in larger spaces. It has been fascinating to see what has fallen away since I downsized. I enjoy crafting, for instance, but I’m not a crafter, so I no longer spend time, money, and energy on that hobby the way I used to. I also no longer own a disco ball, a kayak, or board games, for the same reason. While I occasionally miss my more casual hobbies, this lifestyle has brought the things I’m most passionate about into focus in a way that I’m grateful for.
Going tiny has been an incredible whirlwind, but for all the benefits I’ve received, this lifestyle has been far from easy.
In fact, if I’m being totally honest, the first few months were hard. I had wrongly assumed that the tiny house movement was well into its adolescence. Instead, I quickly discovered that for all the cute tiny houses you see on Instagram, the movement is still very much in its infancy. The rules, regulations, protocol, and standards for handling tiny homes are still being created. I had not counted on being part of a pioneering movement!
Being a pioneer has been exciting; I can’t pretend it hasn’t been! Still, I’d be doing would-be tiny housers a disservice if I failed to mention the challenges that have come along with navigating a new way of living. Along the road, I’ve had to constantly explain what a tiny house is and teach people what the lifestyle is about. This is in addition to having to cajole various experts like home inspectors and DMV personnel into assisting me with a structure no one believes falls under their jurisdiction!
Navigating a pioneering movement has been difficult, but it’s not the only challenge I’ve run into since going tiny. While it’s true that living on less has brought me more joy, it’s been hard to remember that I now live on less! I’m getting better, but I still over-buy more than I care to admit.
I estimate that I bring four new items into the tiny house on a given day. The items are innocent: a spice for a particular meal I’m cooking, a branded pen from my doctor’s office, a tin of safety pins I picked up at the drugstore, a mug that a friend gifted me. I’m learning that it’s these innocuous things that can make tiny living unbearable if not kept in check. After all, I only needed one safety pin, but the other ninety-nine in the pack will continue to occupy space in my life forever without a concerted effort on my part!
The tiny house challenges have been tricky to work through, but each has taught me something.
For example, when a blizzard hit Texas earlier this year, I learned how imperative it is that a tiny house has two heat sources! Likewise, my botched attempt at creating a greywater pit helped me realize that I can’t saturate the ground too close to my tiny or the house will sink. Was that an annoying lesson? Yup! But hey, the sinking taught me that I am more than capable of jacking up my own house- and so it goes!
Tiny house life will never be perfect, but also, it’s perfect in its imperfection. As my first year of living tiny comes to a close, I want to send my undying gratitude to all the tiny house pioneers before me (like Tiny House Expedition!) who have gotten the movement to where it is today. This is the house that made me a homeowner. This is the lifestyle that made me free.
I have no idea what’s in store for me and The Tiny House of Peace in 2022, but I’ll tell you this much, I absolutely cannot wait.
See you there!
Alaska is a writer, realtor, and tiny homeowner living in the great state of Colorado. She is the founder of The Tiny House Concierge, a company that provides education and consultation services for people looking to re-think their housing and re-write their lives. You can find her on Instagram: @tinyhouseconcierge.
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