- Posted July 23, 2012 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Living in small spaces
280 Square Feet of Fun
Our tiny house isn’t really a house. It’s not even a houseboat. She is a 34-foot blue water sailboat that has taken our family over 20,000 miles in the past 12 years she has been our home. And though our family and friends worried that we were ruining our children’s lives by removing them from “normal” living, I tend to think we enlightened them, instead.
When we lived in a decent sized three-bedroom Cape Cod, our boys had more toys than they could ever find the time to play with. They were scattered on the floor and across the lawn. But when we moved onto our tiny home, they were allowed to bring one tote full of toys. Suddenly they were surrounded only by the things they loved most. Their lives were simplified, their cluttered minds cleared, their priorities shifted.
Our home is so small that we must make significant changes to how we live, not just the amount of things we live with. We have a two-burner propane stove with an oven and broiler, so we can cook anything we could in a large house. But we do not have room for the generator that would be necessary to run a refrigerator, so we do without. We have discovered that warm food keeps very well. Eggs and even mayonnaise will not spoil when kept at room temperature if they are handled correctly.
Plumbing is also different in our home. We do not have room for a pressure tank, so we use a foot pump to bring water from a water tank in the bilge up to the sink. A composting toilet takes up very little room in the bathroom, and our shower is an inflatable baby bathtub, a pressurized fertilizer tank, and removable shower curtains hanging from cup hooks on the wall.
We have only the electricity we can generate with two 50-watt solar panels, so there is no TV, DVD player or game console in our home. Instead, we read, play games with the kids, enjoy each other’s company, pursue varying hobbies and continue to learn—languages, jewelry making, boat building, the list is large. We sit outside and study the stars at night, the birds and trees (or monkeys, depending on what country we are in) during the day.
Can you live large in a small space? Absolutely. In the 12 years we have lived in our comfortable floating home, our children have graduated, moved out, and begun their adult lives. But they have done so with a unique perspective. Our middle son recently moved from one house to another. The total sum of his belongings fit in two back packs. Not because he doesn’t have room for more (he lives in a normal-sized house now) but because he doesn’t need or want more. All our boys have an appreciation for life, other people, adventure and travel. What they lack is a consumerism attitude. Our youngest son went to visit his grandmother awhile back. Over breakfast one morning he interrupted the conversation to ask, “What’s a toaster oven?” Has he been deprived of anything by never having seen a toaster oven? I think not.
Living in a small space is about more than your physical surroundings. The experience changes who you are, how you view the world, and the qualities you value in other people. Now that the kids have moved on, we have acquired a “summer home.” It’s just the two of us now, so we don’t need all that room. We now live in 200 square feet, most of it with only 4-foot headroom. But we plan to live just as comfortably on this smaller boat as we did the “large” one. Maybe, since the space is smaller, the experiences will be even larger. Life seems to work that way.