Monday, November 16, 2015

Smaller homes, creative solutions

Lately I've been greatly enjoying Teri's blog, Homestead Honey. Teri and her husband live in a charming tiny cabin of 350 square feet (just over 32 square meters) that they had built themselves. They have two children, whom they homeschool. 

How do four people fit into 350 square feet? On her blog, Teri talks about some creative solutions that have enabled them to live in their small space. They have, for instance, an outdoor kitchen and an outdoor shower. And, of course, despite having a storage shed they need to be very selective about which possessions they keep. 

We live in a house of about a 100 square meters, or 1070 square feet. In addition, we have a storage shed of about 15 square meters (about 160 square feet). Our house is by no means huge, but I confess we do have a lot of poorly utilized space. First, our storage shed is filled to bursting with stuff we hardly use. We also have an office and a guest bedroom that are seldom used for their direct purpose, and a lot more for accumulating junk. In addition, we have three bathrooms in our house, out of which one is used very, very rarely, and its shower not at all - I consider it completely superfluous.

So, while it's certainly nice to have a roomy house and lots of space to put our stuff, it's an undeniable fact that a family like ours can downsize and live in a smaller house that is easier and cheaper to heat (or cool), clean and maintain. Also, in Israel, the smaller your house is, the lower the occupation tax you pay. 

Of course, you wouldn't pay occupation tax for an outdoor kitchen, an outdoor shower, a storage shed or a covered front porch/deck/pergola that would enable you to place garden furniture, benches, swings, hammocks, and spend many pleasant hours outside! The only hitch I see in this arrangement are the days when you are confined to the interior of your house - when it's too rainy, windy, stormy, cold or, as more often happens in Israel, too hot.

I do have to be fair and acknowledge that all these wonderful outdoor extensions are only possible if you are living on the land. In city apartments, you just make do with your space (though I've seen some very neat space-utilization practices done in apartments too). But if you have some land, however little, you can work wonders.

We have been married close to eight years now, and we are on our fourth house, so far. Despite my desire to get settled in a permanent home (as much as anything can be permanent in this world), I think it was a blessing in its way, because it did force us to go through our possessions from time to time and decide what we can't do without. When you must pay to have your stuff moved, you'll probably let go of that old broken-down washer than has been sitting in your back yard for years, waiting to be turned into a potter's wheel or some other marvelous engine. Still, we tend to accumulate possessions at an alarming rate, perhaps in part because every house we have moved to has been slightly larger than the one before, and had more storage space.

At this time, we are facing the prospect (though it isn't yet definite as to timing/location) of moving to a smaller house. When it first began to dawn upon me this is a serious possibility, it was daunting. How would I sort through all our things? Obviously we wouldn't be able to keep everything. We'd have to get rid of stuff, possibly a lot of stuff. How would we fit into a smaller space? But now that I've found Teri's blog, and the testimonies of other people who have downsized and are happier for it, I'm not nervous anymore, but rather looking forward to this as a challenge. In the future I hope to post updates of our progress. 


Lady Anne said...

Goodness! Four houses in eight years! We moved into this house as newlyweds, forty-one years ago, and are still here. Now that the girls are grown and flown, we really don't need all the space we have, although a second bath would be nice, but this is *home*.

The "tiny house" fad is alive and ell in America, and although we could probably manage in one, there's no place to *leave* things. You can't work a jigsaw puzzle, or even lay out a dress pattern without having to move it every time you turn around.

Mrs. Anna T said...

Lady Anne, I consider the tiny house trend as more than a fad; most people who come to it are looking for an affordable housing solution. For example, if you have very little money left after purchasing a plot of land, you can build a tiny house with the option of expanding it later.

Lady Anne said...

I'm sorry - I made Tiny Houses sound as if they are a "blip", and I do think they will be a factor for many, many years. Houses in America tend to fall into three categories - condominiums (apartments), townhouses, and what we call "McMansions".

If you are older and want to downsize, a townhouse, with two or three flights of stairs may not be a good choice, and if you're used to having regular house, for lack of a better term, you might not be interested in an apartment, which frequently means climbing up and down stairs with bags of groceries, and Heaven alone knows how people keep up the mortgage of some of these big places.

I know The Squire and I would not be happy in a Tiny House, but the other choices are almost non-existent, unless you find a home built in the 1950s.

Kate said...

My family of 6 currently lives in an 880 square feet cottage. We had plans on moving, but life does what life does and we are stuck...ahem...I mean settled here. Thankfully, we have a decent, usable basement, and a 1/2 acre of land with outbuildings.

The tiny house movement intrigues me. I think about a possibility for the future. A tiny cottage in the back yard of one of my children would be lovely for me in my old age.

But, for now, we live small and do our best with it. It's nice to meet others who live small as well.