hashtag flexibility

If one characteristic has punctuated our life in a small home, it is flexibility. It is the one essential quality to make living in a small space possible.

We’ve swapped bedrooms with our son countless times. Most pieces of furniture have been used in multiple rooms for a variety of purposes and if they don’t have that flexibility, we have swapped them out for a more functional model as our needs change. In seven years we’ve had two different dressers, three bed frames, three couches, four kitchen tables, and an untold number of accent chairs. Our needs change, our space evolves. Flexibility is key in making our home function best for us.

We knew moving into this home that we would have to be creative and give up some traditional ideas. Spaces cannot serve just one purpose and we expected each space to evolve as our lifestyle and family changed. One particular nook went from office space to a sewing desk to an entry bench and now has a dedicated shoe cabinet. We needed all of those functions at different times so we found ways to make that twelve square feet live up to its potential.

As we dream of the future in perhaps a smaller home, flexibility will be our motto. We know if we can be creative and live happily in a small apartment for the better part of a decade, we can realistically consider a tiny house, an RV adventure, or perhaps downsizing apartments to live in a different city. We can make anything living arrangement work if we’re flexible with our needs and willing to make the most out of the space we call home.

This post was written for inclusion in the September collection of the Small Family Homes Blog Community. Read below for more writings on 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!

Justice Pirate– “7 Simple Living Must-Haves” : When simplicity seems so far away or impossible to embrace, you realize it is the best and easiest way.

Little Bungalow– “Small Space Essentials” : My five favourite items for making small space living more enjoyable.

Real Food Simple Life– ” Furniture Free Living: A Necessity in our Small Family Home” : Why our large family decided to go furniture free and how it helps us thrive in a small family home.

A Life Shift– “10 Must-Haves for Small-Space Family Living”  : What is essential to how we live compared to families with more space?

Tiny Ass Camper– “Our Essentials for Thriving in a Tiny Space” : Reflections on what skills have become our essentials for thriving in less than 100 sq. ft.

Shelley Vanderbyl– “Home Design for Happiness” : Artist gives 10 ways to design your space for happiness.

RISING*SHINING– “Necessities in Our Smallish Home” : The tangible and intangible things that keep our home functional and enjoyable.

600 Sq Ft and a Baby– “Our necessities for small family living” : While I could list the items in our home that make small living possible (ahem, wall bed), it’s really about our commitment to living small and some questions we ask ourselves before we buy anything.

Advertisements

hobbies, a baby, and a tiny house

When we moved to this apartment and downsized our square footage by half, we had to be more creative with storage, but less space didn't change our hobbies or hinder our creativity. We lacked dedicated space for a sewing desk or a music room, but as just two adults we could take over a corner of the living room or the kitchen table for a time and it was fine.

The real challenge to fit our hobbies in our small space came when Rhys was born and gained mobility. Guitars on a stand in the living room are fascinating to crawling infants. Fabric, scissors, and sewing scraps are delightful toys to toddlers. Everything had to be put away every time we used it, and for both Matt and I it killed the desire to even attempt doing those hobbies we once loved.

Eventually Matt streamlined his guitar gear and built a pedal board so setting up and cleaning up were much quicker. I found myself growing more and more impatient with fussy hobbies like sewing and crafting and have moved away from them altogether. I far prefer writing or cooking for creative endeavours inside our house, but now with an active three year old I really enjoy just getting outside. Going for a walk, swim in the lake, playing in our yard… anything to tire a kid out!

As Rhys grows and our need for a child friendly home diminishes I know I'll have a chance to try new hobbies. Like everything else, our creative endeavours ebb and flow with the seasons of life. Right now we're in the crazy preschooler, tired parents phase and that doesn't leave a lot of time or space for messy hobbies. A tiny space hasn't limited the desire to be creative, instead it has given me the opportunity to try new things and find new passions.

This post was written for inclusion in the August collection of the Small Family Homes Blog Community. Read below for more writings on 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!

Indie Mama Health– "Tiny Home Living .:. Being Creative and Organized in Small Spaces" : One of the aspects of tiny home living that I really enjoy is the requirement to be super creative with storage and organization. It's a game and I LOVE it. I love to be organized and I love for each item to have it's own home.

Little Bungalow– "Colourful Minimalism" : Sharing my totally made up design style and some images that are inspiring me creatively in my new small home. 

A Life Shift– "Do You Need to Be Creative to Live Small?" : Thoughts on whether creativity is the key for this family of three's harmonious life in a tiny Hong Kong apartment, or if there are other "secret ingredients" that make it a successful lifestyle we love.

Family Pedals– "Creativity in the Cold" : So it is the coldest months when the kids have the most pent-up energy and the fewest outdoor options that we have the least square footage. Having limits–limited space, limited toys, limited options–gives our kids the freedom they need to create.

The Streamlined Life– "When Creativity Spills Over into Something More" : Living small doesn't make us creative, but living with purpose does. 

Tiny Ass Camper– "Crafts and Creativity in a Tiny Space" : Finding the balance in making a mess and raising a creative free spirit. 

Justice Pirate– "Creativity Bursts in Small Home Living" : When sometimes you have dreams of fabric, colors, and getting snuggly in a quilt you made yourself. 

the home that chose us

we signed the lease for this view… we could tolerate A LOT to wake up to this everyday.

Seven years ago, Matt accepted a job that would move us over 4,000 km. Coming from northern New Brunswick where rentals were spacious, plentiful, and reasonably priced, we were naive, at best, about the rental market in our new city. We struggled immensely to even get a response from a property manager when looking for a place to live in British Columbia. Seemingly at the eleventh hour a connection came through and we signed a lease and mailed off a deposit cheque for a basement apartment after seeing only four pictures. We knew we could endure anything for a year and it would be much easier to search for a bigger, non-basement rental when we were local.

The year came and went. We were happy enough so we didn’t actively look for a new place to live. I was in the process of applying for permanent residency in Canada and couldn’t work so it was nice to have very affordable rent in an otherwise expensive area. Another year passed, my residency was approved, I started working again. We looked at our budget and realized we could afford a bigger apartment or we could save and travel a bit. The small place was starting to grow on us so we decided to stay. Another year passed and our landlord, with whom we had become good friends, got married. I doubt we ever would have sought out an intentional community living lifestyle, but for people who are generally homebodies, it was awesome having best friends fifteen feet away. Then life started coming fast… Matt changed careers, I got pregnant. Every time we considered moving or starting looking at our options, the apartment we already lived in came out the clear winner. With only one bedroom, we didn’t expect to stay long with a baby, but our landlords offered to renovate an unused space on our level to give us a den and huge addition of living space. It was something they would do for themselves eventually anyway and if it allowed us to stay here longer they were happy to do it when we needed it.

Somewhere in all of this our hearts were opening to other ideas, as well. That chasing the dream of bigger maybe wasn’t better. That we have friends and neighbours in our town, our country, our world who are affected by our decisions. That owning a bigger home and more things contributes to a global problem. That consumption and overdevelopment aren’t just things for government organizations to worry about, but that we have a personal responsibility to live lightly on the earth.

As we’ve grown into a family here, I’ve developed new appreciations for a small home. It is easy to keep tidy, and for a person who does not relish time spent cleaning this cannot be overstated! The cheaper rent has been a blessing again, giving us flexibility for our career options and allowing us to make choices that best support our family, not the bills we have each month. It forces us into each other’s space and encourages us to connect more often than two introverts might otherwise seek out. And in this home that chose us, it has given us best friends who live upstairs, people who have become second parents to our son, their children like his siblings.

This home has been everything we have needed, exactly when we needed it. It was ready for us when nothing else was an option. It chose us knowing the people we would become, knowing that it would still be our first choice every time.

SMALL FAMILY HOMES(1)

This post was written for inclusion in the July collection of the Small Family Homes Blog Community. Read below for more writings on 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!

Minimalist Meg– “Our Story Behind Small and Simple Living” : Sometimes living simply and living small doesn’t happen because of a grand event. Sometimes it just happens and it’s not until after that you decide to keep it that way.

Little Bungalow– “Accidental then Intentional” : A visual tour of all the small homes we didn’t buy before we bought our most recent smallish home in beautiful Victoria, BC.

Fourth and West– “The Home That Chose Us” : Realizing the home we had was actually perfect all along.

Tiny Ass Camper– “Casita Life” : How and why we chose a 17′ Casita Spirit Standard as our home on wheels.

600 Sq Ft and a Baby– “How We Ended Up Living Small” : Looking back on why living small stuck for us.

Fancy Pigeon– “Why We Live Small” : A vlog on why and how our family has consistently downsized over the years.

The Streamlined Life– “Why I Fell in Love with Small House Living” : Sometimes our earliest memories have the strongest impact.

This Lovely Day– “Tiny Transitions” : Follow along with Kate Shaw, a retiring Air Force pilot, as she transitions her family of five from living in a 3200 ft.² century home to a 900 ft.² downtown high rise condo in the city.

The Justice Pirate– “Minimalism: My First Tiny House” : Once upon a time, a little girl dreamed of having her own tiny house and her dream came true…temporarily.

Family Pedals– “Finding Abundance in 1500 Square Feet” : In our culture it would be easy for us to view our house as a stepping stone to something bigger, something nicer. For us, the next step we’d like to take is to something smaller, something simpler.

summer adventures

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? 

you can’t have it all

Current guest arrangements, wherein the guest gets the toddler’s room and the toddler bunks with us.

 

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.

 

SMALL FAMILY HOMES

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.)

Shelley Vanderbyl– “Five Things You Don’t Need in a Small Home” : Gatekeeping is about recognizing what things you don’t need or want, and trying to keep those objects from coming into your home.

The Streamlined Life– “The Truth About Living Small: Less Possessions, Greater Value“: Just because you’re a minimalist family doesn’t mean you aren’t sentimental.

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 🙂

Fourth and West– “You Can’t Have it All” : Small space living requires compromise and sacrifice.

RISING*SHINING– “The Truth About Living in a Small(ish) Family Home” : A smaller home is why we’re able to live such a full life.

Family At Sea– “The Meaning of Space: Thoughts from a Former Tiny Home Mom” : After moving onto a boat, I thought the hard work of decluttering and downsizing was done, but I didn’t realize that living in a tiny space was the beginning of the real work of the soul.

Real Food Simple Life– “The Realities of Living in a Small Home with a Big Family” : A look into the benefits and challenges that a family of 6 (going on 7) experiences living together in an 800 square foot home in Scotland.

Tiny Ass Camper– “I Didn’t Know Tiny Living Was For Me” : My thoughts on the give and take of living tiny.

Family Pedals– “Location Trumps Size” : The truth is, it has been our home’s location–not size–that has determined our happiness in a given space.

a year later and a tinier wardrobe

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. 

road trips and nostalgia 

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.