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Do You Really Want a Tiny House?

One half of my Little House.

With each passing day, more of us are becoming empty nesters; thinking about retiring and wondering what the next phase of our lives will look like. As we explore the possibilities, many of us are thinking about downsizing. I know about downsizing. I went from a three-story, 6,400 square foot house, in a large city, to a house that’s 22 feet by 22 feet—a total of 484 square feet—in the middle of nowhere. While James and I never questioned our decision, the Little House wasn’t meant to be our forever home. It was just an interim adventure; a temporary dwelling until we built a bigger house on another part of the ranch. At that point, the Little House, would become the guest casita.

A home is meant to have a life and to be filled with people, but you can’t fill a tiny house with people.

While tiny houses are all the rage, if you think you want to live in one, make sure it’s for the right reasons. Don’t get carried away with the romanticized notion of how cute it would be, or that it’s less house to maintain, or it’s cheaper. While those things are all true, downsizing isn’t easy.

For starters, downsizing requires lots of sacrifices. It’s a challenge to pare away all but the essentials, especially if you’ve accumulated a lifetime of things. Each room in your tiny house will have to do double duty. Gone is the media room, guest room and office. Sure you can do it, especially if push comes to financial shove, but unless it’s a matter of money, why would you want to go tiny?

There’s a plethora of Tiny House shows on TV where young marrieds opt to design and build a tiny house as a way to grow their nest egg and embark on a cool adventure. I get that, but single women, over a certain age, who buy a tiny house in what looks like the jungles of Hawaii—where they’ve never lived and don’t know a soul—are foolhardy. We are not our mothers’ generation, that’s for sure, but the romance of going barefoot and wearing flowers in our grey and thinning hair will wear off in a blink.

I love how our generation is finding ways to reinvent ourselves and buck traditions as we age. Regardless of how we’re defining the next phase of our life, I know this to be true: The older we get, the more we need to be around people; preferably friends and/or family who care about us. And if we’re honest with ourselves, there needs to be a medical facility in the vicinity.

A few months ago I blogged about finding the architectural plans for the house James and I were going to build and how I missed my things in storage. Since then, I’ve thought a lot about whether I want to continue to live in my Little House; sell the ranch and move back to the city; move to New York City, full-time, or find a slightly larger house in a neighborhood near where I already live.

I do know a home is meant to have a life and to be filled with people, but you can’t fill a tiny house with people. I also know it’s time for me to have a life other than work and work-related travel. I’m grateful to have so many options. I’ll keep you posted about what I decide to do.

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48 thoughts on “Do You Really Want a Tiny House?”

  1. I have downsized a couple of times. No regrets maybe a few pangs of maybe I should have kept it.. But knowing me likely not!

    I like small. maybe I’m anti social I currently am living in a one bedroom apartment. People say it’s small but I have a full 82 inch sofa, a table chairs queen size bed so it’s not that small.At this point there would be no way I would go back to a larger home. couldn’t manage it. Years ago my late ex was in the military we had a large home we entertained frequently had garden parties, Christmas get togethers Those were wonderful happy times. But Cancer has robbed me of a lot of energy, pain that never goes away Climbing stairs has become next to impossible with Neuropathy I will stick to small Enough room for Miss Lucy (cat) and I

    BTW Brenda I am leaving you a link to my new blog hope you stop by…… Alli ….x

    • Alli,
      Just read a few of your posts and left you some comments. I so identify! I work hard at staying centered with Guided Imagery/meditation and exercise. They’ve been lifesavers!

    • Hi Felice!
      Loved your post on this topic and couldn’t agree with you more! We won’t know what fits us unless we try all of them on. If renting your home and trying something else is what your little voice is saying, then give it a try. If not, I already know you’ll wait until the right fit comes along.

  2. I’m glad to hear someone finally say this. While I love the idea and look of these tiny houses, I would only want one as a place to retreat to now and then. I want space to spend time with family and friends. A place to prepare meals and sit and have great conversations over them. I’m all for minimalism, but folks can go too far to the other extreme too.

  3. I really understand where you’re coming from. We planned to downsize, but when we moved our new house was much the same size as the old one. It’s a bit big for two of us but once family comes to visit, we are very grateful for the extra space. I think if it was just me I would definitely go smaller so I felt more secure and cosy. It will be interesting to see what you end up choosing to do (it’s good that you have so many choices!)

    • Hi Leanne,
      Except for apartments in NYC–which are mind-numbingly tiny AND outrageously expensive, after 484 square feet, anywhere I go will feel like a mansion!

  4. I downsized as well, more because I had to. I miss having an office. My desk is in the middle of the house between the bedroom and kitchen. On the other hand it’s so much easier to take care of and doesn’t suck up funds so we can travel more. I’m not so attached to things mainly because I’ve moved so many times during my lifetime.

    • Rebecca,
      I hear you, and that’s so smart. It’s not so much wanting my things, as living in the country, away from people. It’s time for me to get a life!

  5. I think you raise some important questions (and I think the half of your tiny house you shared with us is lovely!). I love having a bunch of space; it gives me some kind of psychic breathing room. That said, I have almost given up on being able to manage a house this size. If it ever is just me, I think I will be perfectly happy with tiny (but near people and medical, as you said). I loved my bedroom/bathroom with kitchen privileges back in the day when I lived in the City. I think I am going to have to find my “people time” outside my house since managing/entertaining does not in any way seem to be my forte! (even though I do like the entertaining when I muster the organization to put it together!)

    • Paula,
      “Psychic breathing room!” What an insightful statement. I like having people in my home. For me, entertaining is done with love, plus you can’t get to know someone as well in a restaurant, or at a group meeting. I’m ready for a bigger home and a life and all that entails.

    • Hi Sharon,
      Your GoCottage business is so smart and well done. Much bigger than my Little House. Your place in the city is small, but wonderful. You also have a fab pizza place around the corner! Still thinking about the prosciutto, parmesan pizza Mark, Noel and I had. Yum!

  6. We’re presently in a rented apartment, having moved cities recently. I keep harping on down-sizing too. But when we did find a smaller place, I wondered if we’d be happy there, given that we spend a lot of time at home. I think my husband and I do need our space. Thank you for writing this, Brenda. It makes so much sense.

  7. I downsized, too, from a 4 bedroom, 3 bath manufactured home to a tiny 2 bedroom, 1 bath rented townhouse. I’ve never felt “home” wherever I’ve lived, though, and I’ve often thought of just getting rid of everything and moving into an RV. The only thing preventing me from getting one, though, is the thought that I would have to empty the toilet, so I’ll stay where I am. Your “little” house is adorable, by the way!

    • Theresa,
      I love my Little House and will miss it, if I move. I redid it while I was going through chemotherapy, 11 years ago, and it’s full of love. “Home” is important to me. I couldn’t live somewhere that didn’t feel like home. I hope you find it, although I believe it starts within within us.

      • Brenda, thank you. It’s not that I never felt comfortable wherever I lived. I now live in a cozy little place, and I always feel “at home” no matter where I spend the night. But calling a place, “home,” always feels so transient to me, and I’ve never missed my previous homes. I don’t regret that I’ve never felt that any one place was my home, because I have a kind of restless gypsy spirit and I thrive on change, but thank you for your kind words. By the way I just finished chemo pills 5 years after a year of chemotherapy and 36 days of radiation – so I’m cancer free, too!

        • You’re done? Hallelujah! Within three days of finishing my five years of pills, I started feeling more like myself than I had since before breast cancer. I hope you do as well. Brava! xoxox, Brenda

          • Thank you, Brenda. I’m beginning a new chapter – and I haven’t even started writing the book yet 😉

          • “I’m cancer free!” Sounds like you’ve already written the first chapter! So happy for you. xoxox, Brenda

  8. I couldn’t agree more with your philosophy of a home having a life and being filled with people. I love entertaining and having people visit. We downsized last year, in that we condensed our city house and beach house into one sweet little farmhouse in Cape May. It is more than spacious for our day to day needs and we can accommodate overnight guests, for a short time. We are close enough to the city to visit, but when I get off the parkway and head to our little house I immediately relax and feel peaceful. Maybe it’s age, but this is a perfect fit for us. I know you will find your perfect fit, too, Brenda. Love your little house and how you’ve decorated. Thanks for sharing.

    • Barbara,
      I feel the someway when I get off the freeway and head to my Little House. It’s paradise! If I could rustle up a life out here, I’d stay. While I’m independent, it’s time for me to have people to share things with.

    • Janice,
      Glad it was helpful. Yes, I’m a breast cancer survivor for 11 years and had the top breast cancer blog and survivorship resource for families. Have you had breast cancer? Watch for my upcoming interview with Sherry Lansing about Stand Up to Cancer. SU2C. She and her organization have my sincere admiration. Brenda

  9. Great post! I like to watch other people buying their tiny houses but then I go to sit down on my back screen porch which is probably larger than many of these houses. And what would I do with my shoes? Why not to buy a RV and be more mobile? I think these houses makes a lot sense if “parked” in warm climate and on beautiful lot where you can live outside.

    • Yvonne!
      Couldn’t agree with you more, which is what a lot of retired people are doing. I like roots, however.
      So nice to see you here!

  10. I think they tiny houses are adorable and as a little getaway place one might be fine. But I could never live in one. It’s important to me to be able to have friends come visit and have their own room and privacy. And as much as I have down-sized I still have a very long way to go! And I miss Boston so get the whole part about maybe moving back to a city. It’s a luxury to have options.

    • My Little House is the perfect weekend or guest house. If it weren’t for the fact that I need more than just work in my life, I’d sell my things in storage and stay here, forever.

  11. I’ll be anxious to see what you decide. We’ve downsized twice. Each time getting rid of “stuff” that wasn’t important. Smaller may be simpler, and it always appeals to me, but I miss having a bit more elbow room.

    • Regardless of what I decide, I must do something with my two storage units and one of mother’s. I think some kind of estate sale is in my future. Ugh…

  12. Most of the houses in Europe are smaller (especially where I live in Switzerland) at least compared to American standards. However I am tall woman originally from the Midwest, so give me those spacious rooms to sprawl out it and fill with family, friends and love. I vote for the ranch!

    • Patty,
      So great to see you here! I’ve spent my whole life, trying to get to the country. It’s where I’m most comfortable. The wide open spaces nurture my soul. This will be a big decision, not taken lightly.

  13. Love this. We watch those shows and always feel like they should revisit the people in 3 years to see how it’s REALLY going. Thanks for sharing!

    • Stephanie,
      I know! I’d be willing to bet the woman I watched buy the tiny house in Hawaii is no longer there. Even her daughter questioned her decision, saying, “This is something my age group would do.”
      Thanks! Brenda

  14. This is an area that I feel blessed in. Mark and I purchased a home more than 20 years ago, it was our first to purchase, and our last. After losing him, I wasn’t sure what to do. In these years since his passing, I’m so grateful that this little 1150 sq ft house is paid off, and is the perfect size for my disabled son and I to live and entertain in. I’m so very grateful that we didn’t decide to move, get something larger in the years before Mark’s passing or sell this out of fear after we lost him.In this one area, I have been blessed! I bet it would be so hard for you to let go of your ranch property and the dreams that you and James shared! You are in my prayers, Brenda!!

    • Cindy,
      James and loved living in our Little House and planning for the other one we wanted to build. It’s been so healing for me to be here since he died. I see him everywhere I look. I don’t have a life out here in the middle of nowhere, so I have to decide whether that’s more important to me, than staying here because James and I were here together. So many women make quick decisions after their husbands die and regret them. You and I haven’t done that. We’ve been blessed and guided, haven’t we?

  15. Brenda, I will admit that until reading this post, I have romanticised the idea of downsizing. I realise I was focussing on the idea of less cleaning and a simplified way of living. Maybe not in a tiny house, as such, but certainly in something much smaller than we have now (much as I am grateful for a house at this stage of my life, rather than having to live in a flat). However, entertaining is a big part of my lifestyle, I can’t imagine not being able to have my loved ones around a table in our home and for that – well, as you point out – you need space. I look forward to seeing what you end up doing. And I must say, whilst your space may be small now, it certainly looks lovely! Essie xx

    • Essie,
      I love to entertain as well, and there’s just no room here. In another post, I’ll show you some other photos of it. It’s beautiful.

  16. I cannot wait to see what you decide to do and to see how you get there. Wherever it is I hope it makes you happy. I love your little house! You could always rented it out a few weeks at a time to starving writers like me haha! I can imagine sitting in on of those cozy chairs writing the great novel of our generation. I love how original and charming it is. I’ve always preferred incredibly small places. Bigger spaces make me nervous, but having mom this place will have to work for a while longer and then who knows where we will end up. Somedays I think I’ll invest in a motorcycle/camper (any damn thing that moves) and hit the road. I’ve never been as tied down as I am now without at least the travel to help cure my wandering heart

    • Rena,
      I like to travel, too, but always love the idea of coming home. Home is very important to me. Roots and history and memories are made there. You sound like my best girlfriend, who bought a fifth wheeler and loves it.

  17. I agree that getting rid of “stuff” is a great idea, but for me, that was easier said than done. We downsized when moving to Colorado. We moved into a supposedly “temporary” rental house ½ the size of our previous house. However, inertia kept us in that house for 5 years, and it was less of a “toe in the water” downsize than I expected, We put off getting rid of our “stuff” by simply storing it in the huge basement. What bothered me most about living in a much smaller house was that all the rooms were smaller, and there was no room for the furniture I loved and the office furniture I needed. Also no room for guests…or photos… We ended up having to make the “formal living room” and dining room the office, as all the bedrooms were too tiny. Although I love to be neat and tidy, when I work from home my desk gets buried, and it was a constant nightmare having it on display as the front door opened onto my “office”. Now that we have moved to another state and into a larger home, it was like Christmas unpacking the treasures that I almost forgot I had. Conversely, it has been awful realizing how much useless stuff I paid to have moved. It is such a relief to have my office hidden from the front door and not to have to worry should I have to open it to anyone! So far, I have lugged at least 10 carloads of stuff to Goodwill, and put the rest in clear storage containers so I know what I have! I am just now seeing what I really need, what I treasure, and what is just “stuff”. Between travel treasures and family photos and treasures, sadly I still need space.

    • I wouldn’t like the idea of my office being on display like that either. Know what you mean about unpacking is like Christmas. I feel like that every time I go to my storage units. I find things I’ve forgotten about and get all excited.

  18. Timing is everything Brenda. Perhaps the tiny house was meant to be for the time you were there. Small enough to be cozy and comforting with the four walls embracing you during your tough time. I am excited to see where your next adventure will take you.

    • Looking back, Elaine, I think you’re right. It was comforting because James and I shared so many dreams here and because I saw him everywhere I looked, but now, I’m getting excited because I can see myself having another phase of my life. Something I couldn’t have envisioned a year ago. xoxox, Brenda

  19. Possibly it was the right time for a tiny house – it sure is a little piece of paradise. I hear you about the people thing – your spirit needs to be shared. Let’s move the tiny house to my back yard – just a thought!
    Leslye Hernandez

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