The Evolving Nature of a Tiny Family Home

Our home is always changing to accommodate the needs of the moment. There was a time when I felt guilty about this. It seemed so wasteful to spend money on that mini playpen that met a need for so brief a time or for a new little children's table when the old one suddenly seemed so big after we replaced our couch.

Then one day, I reminded myself that as families change and grow, the space around them needs to change and grow, too.

Sure, we could spring big for future needs long before they occur. We could buy a house with "room to grow" because someday we might need that extra space.

At what cost, though?

How much money and time do we steal from ourselves today by buying a too-large house that we now have to work longer hours to afford and maintain?

There is value in maintaining flexibility for the future, of course. We did that ourselves when we chose a lofted floor plan even though we could have saved quite a bit of money without one. Everything comes with a price.

Chris and I decided long ago that it was not worthwhile to us to work ourselves weary trying to afford a bigger house. The cost is too high with our young family and with draining health issues that take their toll. This means that we make do with what we have and worry about meeting the needs of our family's living space as they arise. In doing so, we end up changing things around quite frequently as our needs change.

The beauty of living less expensively is that we can more easily afford to make these adjustments to our home and its contents.

When we were expecting Sweetheart, Sunshine was squeezing every night into a mini crib that had been converted to a tiny toddler bed. While we do embrace bed-sharing as a pretty natural extension of our tiny-home lifestyle, I prefer to move my kids to their own sleeping surface sometime during their first or second year for my own sanity. With a new baby on the way and a toddler too big for her tiny bed, Chris and I deliberated our next move. I asked for advice from others about moving Sunshine into a regular toddler bed versus one of IKEA's longer toddler beds. Almost universally people recommended skipping the toddler bed altogether in favor of a twin or even a full sized bed since she would need it eventually anyway.

Maybe if we had more room, this would have been the wiser choice, but a twin wouldn't fit in the space we had available.

The irony of this conversation struck me. My friends thought I was crazy for spending a couple hundred dollars on a bed and all of its trappings that Sunshine would only fit for a little while. At the same time, we were saving thousands of dollars a year by living in such a small home. Surely we were coming out ahead even after spending the money on a short-term bed solution? It seemed cheaper than buying a new house to hold a bigger bed.

(For the record, we did opt for the IKEA bed, and Sunshine still has plenty of room to spread out two years later.)

I don't think that small house living is the best option for every family. Not at all. But I do think that there is value in at least considering some non-normative solutions to many of life's problems. I'm sure the thought of fitting a second child into our small space would send most people on a mad dash to the nearest realtor. Instead, we bought a $70 bed and made our existing home work.

Right now, my preschooler and my toddler both sleep in small beds: Sunshine in her IKEA-exclusive longer-than-a-toddler bed and Sweetheart in her own standard-sized toddler bed that we built specifically for her when she, too, outgrew the mini crib. Someday they both will need bigger beds, and when that day comes, we will have to rethink things and perhaps come up with some clever new ideas in order to make it work. It could be as simple as buying bunk beds when they are finally old enough to use them safely or as complicated as redoing the loft into a bedroom for them. When our current set up no longer works, I'm sure we'll be able to come up with a solution. Living tiny fosters creative problem solving.

It's situations like this that make me wonder how often we miss out on a creative solution to one of life's problems because we assume that we can't be comfortable with a simpler lifestyle.

That day when I gave myself permission to meet the needs of the present moment instead of trying to make everything work perfectly for years to come, a weight lifted off my shoulders.  Accepting the idea that it was okay to buy a piece of furniture that would only fill a need for a little while instead of buying a new house was actually quite liberating. It also gave me the benefit of being able to dream about the best way to solve whatever problem comes up next.

I get a little excited just thinking about it.