Yesterday we checked off A Day Trip to Vancouver from our summer bucket list! It involved way less ocean and park time than I hoped, but naps for three year olds take precedent. We stopped at some of our favourite breweries, browsed IKEA, and we ate… fish tacos, sour dough margarita pizza, beer pretzels. We played lawn games before dinner, we sang along to Garth Brooks, we listened to the endless imagination of a three year old, we talked about life, we planned our next adventures. It was a perfect day together.
We live so close to a lot of amazing places, but for years the options almost left us paralyzed. We felt like we needed to plan a full vacation and do all the things at once. This year we’ve consciously changed our mindset to ask “what can we do today? what can we see in a weekend?” We have discovered so many amazing places a little bit at a time.
As for the rest of the summer, plans are still evolving. I know it includes a parade, a long plane ride, Niagra Falls, and lots of family. I’m taking the same philosophy as we travel east and west… what adventure can we have today?
Eight years ago, living small was just the first step after marriage. Find an apartment, any apartment, and throw a mattress on the floor. Soon, we moved to another apartment which we started to furnish and decorate and then we threw it all to the wind to move across the country. We landed in our new space, which we had rented after seeing four pictures, and realized it was tiny. It was a basement apartment and rather haphazardly designed, but we estimated it to be just under 500 square feet. There was something novel and charming about living in such a small space, but we never intended for it to be long term.
Seven years, several job changes, a baby, and a small renovation later – we’re still in the same apartment. Somewhere along the way we started considering our options. We watched the housing market in our town explode. We watched our friends struggle to purchase their first homes. We debated whether we wanted to give up our financial flexibility for savings and travel to afford a bigger space. The answer was ‘no’.
Part of us always assumed we’d move to a larger home and that had to be reconciled with our new plans. We always leaned towards minimalism, but we purged again and again until our space was comfortable and practical for our family in our current stage of life. Now, we make sure our possessions are an asset to us in the present. If something is no longer useful, we pass it on. We don’t buy or store things for a uncertain future.
While we embrace the decision to live small, we do have dreams that we put on hold. Matt would love a dedicated music studio. I would love an office. Sometimes all three of us would like just a little more space to separate from each other. We love to host friends and family, but our space is limiting. For overnight guests, we have perfected the shuffling of beds and sleeping arrangements, but how convenient a guest room would be!
The truth is, we will never have it all. Not in a small apartment, not in a big house. We always have to evaluate our priorities and right now that is to maintain a low cost of living so we can save and travel. The town we live in is crazy expensive, but to move away we would give up amazing relationships, all the outdoor activities we love, and careers that support our long term goals. We know we will never have it all, but for our family the things we gain from living in a small space far outweigh the sacrifices.
This post was written for inclusion in the June collection of the Small Family Homes Blog Community. Read below for more writings on the truth about living small from our community of writers. Check back next month for a new topic and posts in the series and follow our community board on Pinterest for the latest small homes and family minimalism pins!
Megan Barnum– “The Truth About Living SMALL” : What does living in a small space look like for a family of 4? Probably not a whole lot different from you.
Little Bungalow– “Less Space, More Happiness” : In a small home, less space doesn’t equal more happiness. Except, of course, when it does.
600 Square Feet and a Baby– “The Truth About Living in a Small Family Home” : Living small as a family of four is sometimes uncomfortable, a bit awkward and never boring. Sharing the awkward and imperfect of living small with 4 humans that you always wanted to know (or maybe you didn’t.)
The Justice Pirate– “What Small Home Living is Like” : No matter if I lived in a cardboard box or a small home, I just like being with my family, who are my home.
Our Nest in the City– “The Truth About Living in a Small Family Home” : My post gives three challenges to living in a small home with our family of five, and counters them with three ways we “cope” and thrive despite it all 🙂
We’ve been serious at this minimalist thing for two years now. Every so often I reflect on how far we’ve come and yet I wonder how much further we can go. Once amazed that two adults could comfortably share a 36 inch closet and twelve drawer dresser, we’ve downsized to 18 inches of hanging space on the back of a door, 4 drawers, and a small leather duffel to hold off season items. Not even a formal closet, just the small entryway to our bedroom.
Will we go lower? I’m sure. Our perspectives change, our needs shrink, our desire for less grows. We don’t have a concrete end goal, just a strong desire to live lightly on the environment. The more we experience and learn, the more we will change. Maybe next year we will be living out of suitcases.
Some of my fondest childhood memories are day trips with my parents. We would set out with a specific destination in mind, but we always found extra things to do along the way. Meals were often picnics or fast food, nothing extravagant, but the adventure and anticipation of the day was amazing. It is a tradition I want to bring to my family. We have so much beautiful country within 2-3 hours of our house, I want Rhys to know that and to grow up exploring with us. I want him to appreciate how much fun and adventure can be had without spending a fortune.
Saturday we set out on our first trip. We packed our day bags and headed two hours northwest to a wildlife reserve. It was the perfect setting for a two year old. Lots of animals to see, but the park was small enough to be thoroughly enjoyed in 3-4 hours. Just the drive was a highlight for Matt and I. Our everyday lives exist within a pretty small radius from home, so we’re always excited to leave our bubble. Remembering that we live less than an hour from snowcapped mountains? Amazing. I also discovered a new joy – watching my child explore an unfamiliar place and watching the delight he experienced. This is the rewarding side of parenting. This is what we get when we slow down life and live intentionally.
I never meant to abandon this corner of the Internet. I intended to continue documenting our journey with simplicity – changes in our house, transitioning careers, our family life – but March hit hard and we scrambled to just survive. We recovered, but my habit of writing sadly did not get priority in our new normal.
I just wrapped up my first school year… 5 hours and 49 minutes ago, actually. I am excited to welcome summer break, to relearn how to rest deeply. And hopefully to share more here as our family continues to write the story of simple life.
Two years ago I was laying in a hospital bed with monitors strapped to my belly listening to the rhythmic thump thump thump of our little’s heartbeat. Another machine registered frequent contractions though I barely felt them. I begged for distractions, for friends to visit, anything to keep my mind focused on the positive.
Our plans had veered wildly at the last minute from a planned home birth to an induced hospital birth. The day before we discovered that while conditions in my uterus weren’t horrible, they also weren’t great and it would be better for our baby boy to come sooner than later. Our midwives supported and encouraged us through that difficult decision and while I may always have lingering questions – what if…? – I find solace in the outcome.
At 10:46pm on February 28th we heard the sweetest cry. Our baby boy was here. Safe. Healthy.
And today? He is an awesome, energetic two year old. He is obsessed with building and mechanics, he loves stories and songs. “Outdoors?” is his favourite place to be.
Our lives have changed immensely because of him. There have been challenges (who wants to join me on the My Baby Hates Sleep Bench? Or the My Toddler has Food Allergies Bench?), but there have been incredible rewards. He is sweet and funny, creative and a little bit mischievous. I love watching him develop and I adore the little person he is becoming. I am delighted everyday to be his Momma and to call him mine.
I have been waiting, not at all patiently, for The Call. I’ve spent the better part of the last year moving towards a new career that would be more inline with our family values and goals. I completed the required certificate in January. I watched as my classmates got interviews and then job offers. I inquired and was told my application was under consideration, that more interviews would be scheduled in a few weeks. Vague, but slightly comforting. I watched as classmates’ applications were completely dismissed. I prayed. I prayed hard. My heart jumped into my throat every time my phone rang. I was disappointed every time.
Last Friday, completely unsuspecting, I got an email. The Email. Was I available Tuesday morning at 10? Yes! I would move heaven and earth to be available. I planned my outfit, I rehearsed answers to common questions. I invented new questions. I talked to myself incessantly the entire weekend. Tuesday at 10am I met the woman who held my future, my family’s future, in her hands. She was positively delightful.
I expected to go away and wait, agonizing again, for The Offer. For some of my classmates it came hours later, some days, some waited over a week. How long would I be tormented? But as our interview was wrapping up she simply said, “We would love to hire you. When can you start?”