Posts Tagged Tiny Living

Relationships: The Art of Tiny Living

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Lots of folks talk about utility and organization of physical space when it comes to living the tiny life. This is absolutely essential to creating a home that truly meets our essential need for shelter but I’ve found less conversations when it comes to balancing the emotional and mental aspect of relationships in a small space. I thought it might be helpful to discuss the ways that Cedric and I have been learning to navigate tiny living and ensuring the health and stability of our long-term, romantic relationship.

Designing private and communal space.

When designing La Casita, privacy was a big issue. We were trying to figure out how in the world we were going to create communal and private space in such a tiny structure! Cedric and I both believe it’s essential to have these designated areas to sustain a healthy relationship. At first, we tried to build two separate rooms downstairs but there was so much wasted space in the design we ended up tearing it all out and starting over! It was a tough decision but ultimately the best one.

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In our original plans we had an open loft space but after realizing we weren’t going to be able to separate the space downstairs, we decided the loft would be closed off. This has done wonders for our need for alone time. When one of us is in the loft, it feels like a completely isolated, cozy place that you can relax, read, work, meditate, write letters or take a nap. When one person is downstairs and one up, you get a feeling of separation that allows us to recharge and, in the case of a disagreement or high emotions, a sanctuary to cool off.

Open, honest communication.

Before Cedric and I moved in to La Casita, we decided to take a workshop on Non-Violent Communication.  Non-Violent Communication is a method developed by psychologist Marshall Rosenberg that focuses on reconnecting ourselves with our compassionate nature, even under the most trying of circumstances. It implements a non-judgmental, non-accusatory structure of expressing feelings and needs. You can’t hide from issues in anvc home the size of many people’s garden sheds! It’s absolutely impossible and if you try, conflict will quickly escalate. Cedric and I are constantly working on hearing each other compassionately and meeting each other’s needs and it is not without challenges but I’ve found that living the tiny life benefits our relationship in that we can’t let things fester. We have to face the issues that crop up.  Working on our relationship this way creates a continued emotional closeness necessary to living in such close physical proximity.

Patience and Cooperation.

I thought I had patience before moving in to a tiny house. I worked with preschool children so I understood the importance of patience and cooperation. While my experience in childcare certainly helped, it’s different with your partner in 100 sq. feet! Our home is narrow and we often have to squeeze past each other to get to the bathroom or sink. I would have to say that width is something I would like more of! We have to wait to put on shoes, hang up coats, climb the ladder, get in to bed, get out of bed, get dressed, use the sink and prepare meals. It takes continued cooperation to live in such a confined space and makes bumping elbows inevitable. Although, I do love the fact that no matter where one of us is in the house, we can pass each other items with relative ease. It’s really convenient when nearly everything is within arms length!

R-E-S-P-E-C-T!

Beginning of the week, Cedric and I were having a fight. We said things we didn’t mean and lost sight of some of our own rules when communicating. Practicing respect at all times, including when we’re mad, can be a challenge but it’s essential. I’ve been reading and re-reading this post to try and remind myself that making it work is hard work but it’s not without its rewards. We spent time in separate spaces, cooled down and went back to talking using honest, compassionate conversation.  To respect each other is to take responsibility, listen and communicate without accusation and blame. We have deep seated patterns in our society and only as adults have we begun to take action to learn how to better communicate. We fell in to our own bad patterns this week but through patience, privacy,  respect and open communication we were able to work through our disagreement. We couldn’t hide from it in the tiny house so we dealt with it, not very well at first, but in a short time we were able to settle our argument in a healthy manner. It reminded me why I love living the tiny life and how emotionally we can grow when we decrease our living space.

While most of the above points pertain to any sustainable, healthy relationship, they certainly magnify as physical space shrinks! Families that live in tiny houses have a great perspective on how to navigate relationships in a limited space. Having children creates an entirely new dynamic and exemplifies the advantages and challenges of living the tiny life. Keeping the balance can be difficult but often presents us with wonderful rewards, such as increased emotional closeness, healthy communication and overall satisfaction in our intimate relationships. For us, tiny living continues to challenge us to meet and express needs and live a more holistic life through our love and compassion for each other.

Your Turn!

  • Do you think tiny living puts strain on relationships?
  • How do small spaces benefit your relationships?
  • How do you balance relationships in under 100 sq. feet?

Tiny Living: City Vs. Country

When it comes to living the tiny life which is better? The city life or the country life? With the ability to move your home the possibilities are endless. Having recently made the switch from urban to rural tiny lifestyle, we’re assessing the transition. Here are some advantages and disadvantages we’ve experienced in La Casita.

The majority of folks I’ve talked to who live in a tiny house do so for economic reasons as well as ecological ones. Those were the big motivating factors for Cedric and I. Living lighter on the earth is of great interest to us as is meeting our needs with less money so our recent move got me thinking: is living the tiny life in the country greener and more economically sound than living in the city? In the city we rode our bikes to work, the americanogrocery store, the bowling alley, restaurants and most of our friends’ houses. Now that we’ve moved to a more rural area I find I’m driving a lot more. I definitely feel dependent on our vehicle rather than my bike. For me, living the tiny life isn’t just about houses, it’s my intention in everyday experiences. Being dependent on a car does not satisfy my need for a more intentional, regenerative existence.

There’s also the added expense of car dependency. Gas is more costly here than down south. Plus, with winter still in full swing we had had to buy a set of studded tires so we could get out of our driveway!  We’re both feeling as though it takes a lot more stuff to live the country life in the north than it did the city life in the south.

P1000287When it comes to aesthetics living rural has living urban beat-even in the winter! Life out in the country is proving exceptionally beautiful and much more quiet than our life in Charleston. There’s also a lot more privacy. Walking out the door in the city often met with someone staring at the house and wanting to know more about it. I loved talking with passer-bys but when you’re getting stared at on the regular, it starts to feel invasive. Plus, being packed in next to other houses does not provide the most scenic view. Here in Vermont we look out to the woods and up to a mountain and at night the stars are stunning. I’m definitely sleeping better at night without my next door neighbors yelling and drinking in to the wee hours of the evening!

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Tiny House Living: Security and Simplicity?

After Ryan’s post earlier this week, I got to thinking about sense of security. Living in a tiny house definitely decreases dependence on money but living the tiny life does not necessarily mean a life free of worries.

happinessBefore jumping in, I have to say that the completion of La Casita came at a time of great upheaval in the lives of my fiancee and I. Our rental had been foreclosed on, the bank had kicked us out, the tiny house was 3/4 done and we were essentially homeless. Luckily I had family in the greater Charleston area that took us in but it was a harsh reality for a couple of months. Since moving in to our house, life has been easier in terms of money but in terms of legal shelter there have been distinct challenges.

I guess my first question for someone thinking about a tiny house would be:zoning do you mind living in an illegal situation according to most zoning codes? If this doesn’t bother you then my second question would be: does possibly not having a home address, which can make acquiring a driver’s license, a post office box or your citizenship difficult, concern you?

These are some of the realities we’ve faced living in a tiny house. Without a home address, it is very difficult to get our driver’s licenses in Vermont. Without a home address my fiance can’t start his citizenship application and in Charleston I couldn’t get a po box without a street address. Not everyone has this issue when it comes to tiny living but it has been a constant for us since moving in to La Casita and I never considered this would be one of the issues I would face.

Having just moved to a new community in Vermont, we’re slowly meeting folks and people are incredibly nice and open to what we are doing but we’ve already had a town official contact us about living in the house and its questionable legality. In a town of 3800 people, it’s not going to take long for us to be noticed. In a city of 100,000 it was much easier to hide from zone enforcement although they would roll by in their truck about once a month. They never stopped and asked questions but the possibility was there and we knew it. La Casita was a “temporary studio space”  to anyone official who asked but it was fairly obvious we were living in it. Luckily, we planted it in the ghetto where cops and officials were more worried about busting drug dealing than some illegal zoning issue. Don’t get me wrong, I loved that neighborhood and living there was wonderful. We had great neighbors and no one ever messed with us but if we had parked anywhere else in the historic district of downtown Charleston, I’m certain we would have been forced to move.

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Multifunctional Furniture

When designing and building a small space, functionality is vital. Each piece of furniture in our tiny house was designed, re-designed and then tweaked again before we installed anything. It took us nearly a year of living in the house to finally figure out what we thought would be the best living space we could have in La Casita. Our style throughout the house is heavily influenced by boat living. Cedric lived on his parents’ sailboat as a young child and as an adult he re-built a small sailboat and lived in the Ashley River in Charleston. His experiences in that particular tiny living community have inspired much of La Casita’s design. Our built-in furniture is a further testament of that fact.

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When drawing out our seating arrangements we knew they needed to be multi-functional, allowing for reading, eating, relaxing, working and sleeping. We were asking our living room to do quadruple duty since space is so limited in the house. Below is our bench seating. To the left we have drawers that pull out and act as a storage space/dirty laundry hamper which helps keep our entire house more orderly. Two little drawers make all the difference in a tiny house!

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Under the seating you’ll notice a small hole in the flooring. That is where a stainless steel tube fits into our floor which allows the transformation from bench to dining table. The boards mounted to the wall stabilize the table and keep it from shifting during use. We had the hardest time figuring out how to attractively stabilize the table so that it was functionally sound but also visually appealing. We also wanted to keep as much room as possible available under the table for our long legs. The pipe was left over from our kitchen counter set-up and all the wood you see in the pictures was reclaimed. It ended up costing us nothing to build which was a plus!

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We are really enjoying the use of a dining/work table!

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Sleeping on the converted bench is a bit like camping. Cedric and I have both tried it out and it’s not quite as comfortable as we would like so we will probably continue to tweak the design. We want a space where a guest could sleep comfortably and not feel quite so cramped. Lengthwise it’s fantastic but it is so narrow it makes sleeping through the night a bit challenging.

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All in all we’re pretty happy with the results of our efforts. It’s truly made our house feel more like a home. The space will continue to evolve and we’ll continue to challenge our design but that’s part of the fun of living in a tiny space. It doesn’t take much time or money to recreate it if you want to change an aspect of your design.

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Your Turn!

  • What’s your favorite multi-functional tiny house design idea?

Wabi Sabi and Tiny Living

wabi sabiHave you ever heard the term Wabi Sabi? I first learned about this Japanese concept when we began designing La Casita a couple years ago. A simplified translation, taken from Taro Gold’s book Living Wabi Sabi, would be wisdom in simplicity and imperfection but this translation does not even begin to involve the depth of this concept. Wabi consists of the spiritual aspects of life while Sabi refers to the material side of life. Gold continues describing it as a worldview which, “fosters a bohemian sense of beauty that celebrates the basic, the unique and the imperfect…it supports ecocentric living and compassionate humanism.” This philosophy has been a continued source of inspiration as we’ve designed, built and improved upon our tiny home and it helps remind us of the imperfect beauty inherent in life.

How do we specifically experience Wabi Sabi in our home? When we P1000103look up at our ceiling joists there are holes in the heart pine where nails  held up a home built in the 1920’s in West Ashley. We choose to leave the holes exposed as a reminder of the wood’s previous life. Our uneven floors of maple evoke a worn, weathered look. They were reclaimed from an old cigar factory in downtown Charleston. They have scratches, knicks and rough spots where worker’s boots scoured the factory floor from the early 20th century until the 1970’s. If you look closely the wainscoating downstairs, which came out of a house on a nearby island, contains dings from what we don’t know but the stories that embody each and every piece of our home make all the imperfection that much more inspiring and reflective of what we choose and the impact it creates on ourselves, our community and our environment.

Cedric and I have been living Wabi Sabi since before we knew there was a philosophy. Living in a city such as CharlestonP1000111 where the wood floors slant toward the river and the windows creak in the wind, weathered imperfection is just the average  Charlestonian experience. In La Casita we’ve taken it a step further as we constantly strive to simplify our living space and reduce our material gain. However, it’s not always easy living Wabi Sabi. The imperfect aspects of life often cause some kind of suffering. In La Casita sometimes the imperfect creates discomfort or general anxiety. Cedric is a very detail oriented, symmetrically inclined artist and the imperfection which occurs when using reclaimed materials makes it hard to keep things aligned. There are times, when he looks at the floor, that he cringes and wishes he had refinished the planks. There are rough edges around our bathroom that have yet to be trimmed, none of our windows match and the corners don’t always match up exactly as we’d like but this also leads to creative reuse that gives our home its unique character. Each piece of material, no matter its imperfections, is valued for it’s story and we love living in a storybook tiny space that houses many tales.

P1000098Living in a space that challenges us, physically as well as mentally, never allows for boredom! We’re are constantly recreating our space and continuing to be open to change as living in La Casita evolves and teaches us to live the life of imperfection and accept it for all it’s worth. The difficult times in life, when things aren’t going exactly our way, is where we learn the most. We experienced that when we moved in to our home a month early because our apartment had been foreclosed on. It was a tough time but ultimately we came out of the situation stronger. That certainly continues to be our lesson while living the tiny life but we’ll continue to accept the challenges that come our way and remember to appreciate all that is Wabi Sabi.

Your Turn!

  • Where do you recognize Wabi Sabi in your life?