A New Beginning
Be careful what you wish for - you may get it!
For ages I've wanted to live in a tiny house and next month my wish will be granted. It's not an off-grid tiny shed on wheels,or a converted container set amongst trees, but a tiny suburban apartment. I’ve sold my house and am moving cities in April.
I have no doubt it’s going to be brilliant! Or do I? I don't know. I think it will be great. But there's always space between the dream and the reality, so I'm wondering what challenges I will need to overcome.
I’ve found an apartment in a quiet cul-de-sac in a small suburb called Farm Cove. Yes OK - it was built as a “granny flat”, but it’s more like a semi-detached than a part of someone else’s home. A maisonette, if you count the little storage area in the basement.
The flat has important similarities to my existing home:
- It looks out onto nature
- It’s on the edge of the city
- It’s in a quiet, safe, neighbourhood
- It’s modern and filled with light
- There are great places to walk, practically on my doorstep.
The differences are:
- It’s a third of the size
- I don’t own it
- There’s no dishwasher and no bath
- It’s close to things like train stations, ferry terminals, malls and gyms
- My grandchildren live 15 minutes away.
I like the blend of similarity and difference - I thought I’d have to live outside the city entirely to get anything like my current home. And I like the challenge that this relatively tiny house will bring.
Time To Minimise Even More
I’ve been paring down my possessions over most of 2015 - and have seen a lot of benefit from doing so. It’s not just that I spend less time on housework, or have a greater sense of space, it’s that everywhere I look in my house are things that I love and have chosen. So every time I look up I experience a tiny burst of pleasure. Everything pleases my eye.
Throw in my increased proficiency at achieving mindfulness and my essentialist philosophy of having only one priority at a time, and this feels like the basis for a fairly well made life.
That sense of wellbeing will be enhanced by bringing my family into my daily life, moving closer to clients, and repaying my remaining mortgage. Since my new landlords want a long-term tenant, what security I’ve lost in giving up home ownership, I think I’ve more than made up for with reduced expenses and greater quality of life.
But the paring down will need to ratchet up a notch. There will be no room for things that are not “either beautiful or useful”. I’ll need to be creative in those choices - the place where I dine will also be the place where I work, and possibly also a back-up kitchen island. The couch will need to be comfortable enough for a guest to sleep on. Everything that can be digitised must be digitised. And yet there must be books and art and objects to look at!
I’ve already sold a lot of furniture and appliances to the guy who has bought my home, so I don’t have the sense that the new place will be cluttered. It’s more a matter of creating a space that really works with a minimum of awkwardness or fuss.
Am I 'Walking Lightly' Now?
I’m definitely from the tribe that wants to “walk lightly on the earth in designer shoes” - though nowadays the shoe is more likely to be Camper, than Jimmy Choo. The problem with that - and with most other middle class tribes in New World places like New Zealand, Australia and North America - is that our carbon footprint is highly correlated with the size of our homes.
Even more than our propensity for air travel, according to British trends expert James Wallman, who was featured recently on the Slow Home Podcast.
So despite my lack of solar panels or a bicycle, by minimising the size of my home I now get to feel quietly environmentally superior to most of my friends.
Minimalism and living lightly won’t be my only preoccupation in the months ahead but it is an abiding interest, so I’ll revisit this topic whenever I feel I have something interesting to say about it.
It's the realities of living tiny that I'm most interested in. How much space is enough? If you've been used to having 100 square metres [about 1000 square feet] all to yourself, what's it like to have 40?
Overall I'm interested to write about what I gain from the move and what I have to let go of. It's the space but also the home ownership piece. Does it make me feel free or simply insecure? Do I travel more? Do I buy less? Do I feel differently about myself?
I don't know. I guess we'll see.