I think they’re onto something
I’d watched Tiny Living enthusiasts on TV with the same morbid curiosity applied to surgery-addicted celebrities.
Presented with the suggestion of folding your bed into an origami crane so you can butter your toast, I was left with a resounding sense of WHY??!!
But I’ve come to learn, there’s something to it.
Quite by accident we've experienced an involuntary Tiny Living immersion. Now, my relationship to, and understanding of space, home and belongings has changed completely.
Option A) Downsize... Option B) [See Option A].
It’s coming up two years since we were ousted from our home the night of the Kaikoura Earthquake, 14th November 2016. You can read all about the event in detail here. But I want to talk about one of the by-products of that night - an involuntary immersion into Tiny Living.
We’d not long been living in the farm homestead. It was built in the era when rooms were fit for purpose and occupants dressed accordingly. It was a time when ‘help’ was in residence and not just something you demanded of your children.
The house was built with a generosity of vision by my husband’s great-grandfather, who promptly went to war and became a casualty of WW1. He left in his wake a pregnant young wife, a toddler and a house intended to be the backdrop to all the life, love and living he’d planned for his return.
Fast forward 103 years and the time came to take our turn. We began to slowly expand into the spaces. We were getting acquainted with the generational hand-me-downs that characterised the place and inviting friends to join us by the fire for nights of good humour.
Then, before we’d really hit our stride, it was over. We returned to the familiarity of our former cottage, 1/3 the size of the homestead. The familial surplus of belongings were packed, Jenga-style, into several shipping containers and locked away indeterminably.
We’d had the advantage of sorting out and taking with us only what we really needed to live. Or so I thought.
Fold once, then fold again
Eighteen months later, we moved again. Into an even smaller cottage, 1/8 the size of the homestead. Once again, we had the advantage of sorting out and taking with us only what we really needed to live... Yet another shipping container arrived on site and the surplus of items were locked away.
I’m confident now, that should it be necessary to repeat folding in on ourselves again, I could do it. I now know precisely what we really need and use. Quite simply, far, far less that you can ever imagine.
I know what’s in the containers but living contentedly without it. (Save a case of gin we thoughtfully left near the door). I don’t even particularly miss those contents and complexities of that former life. Once mastered, there’s an irony to living simply within tight boundaries: it’s surprising liberating.
Here’s what I’ve learnt...
1. You’ve got to curate your clutter
This applies if you’ve lost track of what you’ve got, where it is and can no longer see the wood for the trees. The exercise is best undertaken on a day when you are feeling uncompromisingly ruthless. Bit by bit, go through everything. Even if it means breaking it down into one drawer, cupboard or room at a time. Pull everything out from the dark and into the light then demand it proves its value. Does it serve you in its purpose? Any item that wants to take up your precious space needs to fulfill a need. It’s amazing what you allow to accumulate for reasons you fail to remember, but no longer! Purge!!
2. Use what you love, love what you use, use them well
Your bound to show leniency towards the items you truly love, use and value. It’s books, art and cookware for me (no surprises there). The things that bring real pleasure and richness to life deserve to inhabit your space but should also go through a process of stringent consideration.
When you’re short on space, you can’t just love the category, you’ve got to love the item. If one fails to bring the joy it should, or you’ve got multiples when one will do, then, fare-the-well. Of what’s left, celebrate it. These are an expression of self. Read in the sun, light up the art, cook something special. These are the things that are more than stuff, they’re an experience of living.
3. Take control of what comes through the door
This can be a bit of a tricky one. But when you’ve let go of the unnecessary and realised the essential, you start to feel protective of the space you’ve created. You might find that you buy with greater consideration, but how do you manage the impulses and generosity of others? As Christmas approaches, it’s worth having a word with loved ones about how to manage gifting. Most people are grateful for a little guidance so with luck it’ll be well received.
4. The definition of Home
When we ran out of the house in pyjamas with the children (and dog) in our arms, we realised we had all we ever really needed. We were ready to leave everything else behind. Everything else was stuff, and regardless of how precious some of that stuff was, it could be replaced. People can’t.
With all of the moving around I felt really conscious of preparing the children in advance for fear it was going to rattle them. What I’ve discovered is that the children were less anchored to where home is, but rather, who home is. So long as the right people are together, they’re fine. Over time we’ve become confused about the definition of home. I’ve come to realise that home really is quite simply, where the heart is.