Tiny house living- 8 months in

Since we’re coming into a new year, and getting close to 9 months of living in a tiny house with a toddler, we’ve been doing a little reflecting on how we feel about the tiny house. Now that it’s daily life and totally normal, it’s easier to notice the small details that either make or break it. So here’s our take:

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Cheap cost of living is still a major win. We installed a ceiling fan, and even with running all of our appliances and fan, our electricity bill is super low. Of course, rent is basically zero as well. This has allowed us greater flexibility in our time and work, which we’re thankful for!

Living in a house built by us has been BOTH rewarding and frustrating. It’s been great to enjoy some of the design features we wanted, and it’s great to know we can add a shelf, or paint a wall when we feel like it. It’s also frustrating when the kitchen sink leaks, or we have a GIANT rain storm and have water seeping onto the floor and there’s no one else to blame (or fix it!) but David. I have way less stress than David does, since I did hardly anything construction-wise. But in giant storms or small issues, David carries a lot more emotional (and time) responsibility than I do.

Easy to clean, but quick to messy: I love that I spend basically no time cleaning my house. On the flip side, when you have a toddler whose constantly in and out with muddy shoes (and it’s too difficult to teach him to take them off inside yet!) it also means our blue couch now has a “natural mud-colored distressed look”. It also means when toys (and there really aren’t that many of them) or cooking supplies are lying around, it can immediately look messy. Of course, it also only takes 3 minutes to put everything away again. But you really have to stay on top of it. I like that it forces us to stay on top of dishes and other house work (since otherwise we might put it off), but there are times when I’m feeling lazy that I think, “In a bigger house, this wouldn’t even look like clutter!”

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Best kitchen design: Sometimes it would be nice to have a teensy bit more pantry space (but some of that is also my lack of organization… if I re-organized I think I’d have more!) But everything else about the kitchen is amazing. We have GREAT counter space, a full-sized stove and washing machine, and fridge. After living in so many apartments with technically more counter space but terrible design (including a recent air bnb on vacation)– I am SO pleased with the kitchen area. The spot lighting over the work area is perfect (and the spot lighting works great when toddler is sleeping as well, we can still clean up), and it’s just the right amount of storage space.

Kid in eyesight: There have been a few times when I wished I had a door to shut to hide from the toddler (bathroom is our only one!) But I can honestly say 99% of the time, the open-plan small space is PERFECT for having a toddler. If he’s outside I can hear him even if I can’t see him, and if he’s inside, I can see him anywhere. David does night routine, and he often washes dishes while Bram is taking his bath– because he can see Bram from the kitchen sink just fine. Sometimes I think about what it would be like if I had to watch my toddler to make sure he didn’t drown in the bath while David did the dishes in another room…. and it sounds horrible. It’s might seem like a small thing, but sometimes when you’re working all day and parenting all the time at home, you and your partner can become like ships passing in the night. The fact that when we’re home we can always carry on a conversation from anywhere in the house, while we’re doing anything is awesome! Or, the fact that David can double up on house-work tasks (like night routine) while I have a few minutes to myself is great.

Everything in reach: That thing where your phone is all the way on the other side of the house, or your book is all the way upstairs, or someone is at the gate but your keys are on the other side of the room? DOESN’T HAPPEN. I love that.

Forcing us outside: Our toddler spends probably 70%  – 80% of his waking time outside. We go to the park, but he also plays around the yard. I wish the grass by our plot would grow 😦 but he loves the mud and the rocks anyway. The weather is warm enough to be outside year round, but rainy weather in the Spring can be depressing. We can go to the library, or my parents house, or a friends house (and we usually do!) So maybe they are sick of us. But it’s really the rainy days that are the worst. Those are the only days I feel “trapped”. However, they are not too often, so most of the time, being forced outside is a plus.

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Entertaining: We finally got an outdoor table, and that really helped with family meals as well as entertaining in the Spring… however now that it is summer it’s super hot (since our house faces west, the sun just beats down on the picnic table in the afternoons/evenings). So our Christmas present this year is building a covered outdoor eating/entertaining area (with a pallet couch! Yay!) I am REALLY looking forward to seeing how that changes our eating as well as entertaining options. Also- we have had 5 college students + our family in our house for supper. It was a little tight, but it worked! We even played cards afterwards. So… it’s possible! The problem with evening entertaining is if we are not outside, then toddler won’t sleep. We’ve tried putting him down in our loft, and it’s worked a couple of times, but a lot of times it doesn’t work because he is too excited by the new people to wind down, and he can still hear them.

Great view: Still love the view. And it’s great we can both walk to work, the park, and the library if we want to.

Insulation/Sun/Cold: We survived winter in SA just fine, but we’re a little more concerned to see how summer goes. We don’t often get lots of hot days in a row here, and we do have a ceiling fan, but since our house faces due west, the afternoon sun comes right in the windows and turns us into a little green house. We haven’t figured out blinds or curtains (except in our loft) and we think that would really help… so we’ll try that before moving to AC. Most people here don’t have AC, and we’d like to avoid it if we can. So far we have handled it by going to swim in a neighbour’s pool between 2-4pm, and coming home when the house is cooler.

Any other tiny house questions?? 🙂

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Tiny house Christmas

How to celebrate Christmas in a tiny house, with a toddler: 

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  1. Keep the decor minimal: We put up twinkle lights, and had some Advent candles for him to blow out during Advent. We only hung up the stockings on Christmas eve.

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2. Get an outdoor tree or a small tree: Our tree DID have more decorations, but toddler liked to play with them…

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3. If you need more intense Christmas spirit — visit family with bigger houses (and more storage space) who have lots of Christmas decorations and a big Christmas tree.

4. (Probably most important) Live in the Southern Hemisphere, and spend all your time outside, playing in the sprinkler, playing soccer, visiting the beach, or digging in the sandpit. And only give outdoor toys (and edible snacks!) for Christmas presents. 🙂

But seriously, one of the wonderful things about a tiny house is you can’t go crazy spending lots of money on seasonal decor you then have to figure out where to store, or lots of toys and gifts. Christmas becomes a lot simpler and a lot more about making food and hanging out with family (and Jesus, you know) than about all the stuff. Sometimes I did feel a little sad we couldn’t have a bigger tree…but at the end of the day it was still Christmas and it was still fun. 🙂

 

More tiny house FAQs

 

Here are a few more FAQ’s about our tiny house… feel free to leave a question in the comments!

Where does your baby play?

Our one year old mostly plays outside. It’s winter here in South Africa, which means most days it’s between 55-75F and sunny outside. At night it can get down to freezing (maybe only 2 or 3 weeks out of the winter) and some early mornings we have frost. So early mornings are probably the hardest, since we’re cooped up inside before it warms up enough to play outside. Our 14 month old entertains himself inside with his toys and our tupperware/pots and pans cupboard mostly.

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Baby proofing our tiny house

Since we knew from the beginning we’d have a toddler when we built the tiny house, we tried to make it as child-friendly as possible. When you have a small space, you can’t just block off part of the house to make it baby-friendly…and spending your whole life saying, “No! Don’t touch that!” is not very fun either. So we tried to design things so we could minimize the amount of “nos” in the house. Here are a few examples:

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All our plugs except for two are high up on the wall.

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Living in a tiny house with a one year old

We’ve officially lived in our house for 6 weeks now. We love it. We’ll see if we still love it 6 months from now, but I have a feeling we will. When we were researching tiny-house living, I didn’t see much about families in tiny houses. Mostly single people, or couples. I figured other people might be interested, since inevitably when people hear we live in a tiny house (with a one year old)  they say, “But how do you….(insert normal daily activity here)”.

So this is an attempt to answer that. It also feels very strange writing this, since we live in 16m2 house with two lofts and only one child… when very many people in our country live with more people in equally small (or smaller!) spaces, and no one wonders how they do it. Living in a smaller space than our income appears to afford seems strange to people… but living in a small space is the norm for lots of people, and we had the privilege of choosing this, when they don’t. Continue reading

Parks as protest

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image: playgroundworld.co.za

There’s some anxiety in South Africa right now about land reform — in a country with extreme inequality, questions about how we provide restitution for historical wrongs, and what political action needs to be taken in order to encourage more equality can be come charged and fierce. (Especially when you throw a nice dose of corruption into the mix).

In uncertain times, the temptation is to hunker down and hoard. The temptation is to huddle off, build a little fortress for yourself, and make sure that at least you and your own are protected.

Which is why I am very excited about the timing of the opening of our church’s public access community park. Continue reading

Locavoring for Lent

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Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbra Kingsolver (source: NPR)

As we walked into Lent this year, we decided to try being locavores for 40 days- only eating food grown within an hour of where we live, preferably on small farms. There were a number of threads that came together that led to this idea:

One is that I had just read Barbra Kingsolver’s book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, where her family living in the South East of the USA on a small farm decided to grow as much of their own food as possible, and only buy the extra from a 70 mile radius. The book is a memoir about all the things they learned during that practice. Continue reading

Baby Junk- the essentials

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Snoozing in the wrap in the Dubai airport at 2-ish months.

There are very many pressing social issues that are far more worthy of a blog post, but I don’t have the emotional energy for them, so instead, I’ll tell you some more about our simple living journey. One of the things people often said when we talk about trying to value simplicity more in our lives was, ‘Yes, but wait until you have a kid. Your stuff will just multiply.” Which is true. We definitely have way more junk with a kid than we did without. But, we had life circumstances (some of our own intentional creating, others– it just kind of happened that way) that forced us to have less baby stuff. Continue reading

We can’t be defensive about this one

Lately I’ve seen a lot of Christian friends sharing John MacArthur’s response to what happened in Charlottesville. (The video has been shared 42 thousand+ times on Facebook and viewed 30 thousand+ times on Youtube). The question MacArthur was asked was, “What is a biblical, Christ-focused response to what’s happening in Charlottesville?”

John MacArthur gave a little speech, but he did not answer the question. I was disappointed. MacArthur has helped many Christians over the years have a better understanding of the Bible, of sin, and of grace. There are some people that think in order to care about social justice, you have to throw out the Bible (or just follow the most liberal interpretations of it); however, I think a conservative reading of scripture makes us even stronger advocates for things like racial justice. Which is why I think MacArthur totally missed the point in his answer. Continue reading

A letter to my white son

I started writing this letter to you just after Mother’s day. And suddenly three months have gone by and you’re almost sitting up and rolling over. That’s just how things go, I guess. Somehow, too, in the same space of time we’ve gone from a police shooting to white supremacists marching in public. That’s also how things go, I guess. 

You arrived just in time to make me a mother for Mother’s Day.

Scrolling through twitter on the Thursday before Mother’s Day, and wondering when you would decide to be born, I saw an announcement for a Mother’s Day March to the Dallas County Courthouse, organized by Mothers Against Police Brutality.

I didn’t go to the march, because you were born the next day. About the time the mothers were marching up the courthouse steps, demanding justice for  15 year old Jordan Edwards, who had been killed by a police officer in Dallas the week before, we were walking down the steps of a Texas hospital to take you home. Continue reading