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.

No social media worthy shots with all the counters sparkling…this is real life! Here we go:

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7:10am- Little guy wakes up around 7. I usually get up around 6, start coffee and read my Bible for a bit until he wakes up. Then I work on breakfast for him, and usually David joins us. If I’m going to work, our nanny arrives at 7 and takes over, and if I’m home, we all have a slower pace. Note the pile of dishes on the counter air drying from the night before. I usually put them away in the morning, but didn’t get to it this day. We did have a high chair for little guy, but he decided he’s over that now, so he sits on our chair storage cubes.

Nothing like cheesy toast and eggs for breakfast.

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Also, this view every morning. Are you kidding?! It’s winter, so everything is a little more golden brown than it is in the summer. We’re really thankful for our friends who let us park on their property… it’s really a stunning spot. Why live inside when you can live outside?

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I start on some breakfast clean up and get supper in the crock pot while David changes the little guy. Our couch is a sleeper couch, so we collapse it for a larger area when changing the little guy. We also keep most of his clothes downstairs, in cubbies under the stairs, so it’s easy to change him. There is a loft that will eventually be his “room” but for the moment it’s just the couch!

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9:15 starting to be a little cleaner! Keeping clutter at bay is important in a small space.

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Heading upstairs to make our bed.

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I’m trying to remember why this was important… I think maybe to show the baby gate? Sometimes Bram sleeps upstairs with us in the morning, or for a nap, and so we lock the gate to prevent him coming down the stairs.

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We built our stairs with a removable bottom step–since Bram is walking now, we’ve removed that step so that he can’t climb up the stairs.

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Heading out the door for a playdate at 9:30- cleaning a house is pretty quick when it’s small!

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It’s pretty chilly in the mornings, but the sun quickly warms us up in the winter.

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12:30- Back from the playdate, Little guy is sleeping in the car, so I’m able to get some stuff done. This is a shot of our under the stairs storage. We’re still sub-dividing some of these spaces to make them tidier, but Little guy has a blue drawer for his cloth nappies, a drawer for his clothes, and then the rest is stationary, electronics, games, etc. I have one of our chair storage cubes for his extra clothes (either too big we’re holding on to, or too small we want to save) and I’ve told myself I can only keep what fits in the storage cube! So that’s how we’ve cut down on “baby clutter”.

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2:30- time for snack/late lunch! The thing on the wall is a mini-space heater. It uses very low KWatts. And it works pretty well to take the edge off the cold. Most people in South Africa use space heaters (electric or gas) but we didn’t want a gas one because of such a small space + toddler!

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People sometimes ask where we fit our clothes- hanging clothes under the stairs, and folded clothes in the plastic drawers upstairs. South Africa’s winters are not too cold, so we have all seasons of clothes in the drawers.

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3:00pm: Outside play! Most of the time, unless it’s dark or too early in the morning (and therefore chilly) the little guy plays outside. Because we had to level the area where we are parked, we don’t have tons of grass just right outside, but he loves playing with rocks. Now he’s bigger he can also walk a little further to the spot where the grass starts. All of his toys and books fit into to shoe-box size containers we keep under the couch. But his favorite toys are usually our recycling that he wants to put rocks inside!

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6:30pm- We went for a walk to the library (yay for communal spaces!) and then came back and had supper. Bath time for the little guy at 6:30, while I start the dishes clean up.

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I wanted a washing machine more than 2 sinks or a dishwasher, so we wash dishes by hand and leave them to air dry. We have spot lighting downstairs so that we can keep the end of the loft where the little guy sleeps darker.

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Yes- we found a mini-bath tub. I REALLY wanted a bath (for myself! But also because it’s easier with kids) and we found a 1.6m tub. There is a shower installed above.

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6:45 This is a terribly dark picture, but the little guy is now asleep in his pop-up tent. We use a Kidco Pop up tent for his bed, and we just set it on the sleeper couch. We got the tent so that he has more of an enclosed, darker space, and isn’t distracted by our coming and going when he’s trying to get to sleep. So far, it’s worked great! We usually wait 15 minutes after putting him down, then head back downstairs and keep going with our business.

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Again– the spot light system has been a huge help in sharing this space! Dishes can still get done even while the little guy sleeps.

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7:30 – Adult time! We usually hang out upstairs in the loft (although we do go downstairs to make tea), and we read, watch downloaded TV shows or movies together. We can talk and watch movies and it doesn’t bother the kid. We go to small group one night a week at 7:30 and leave a monitor with our “landlords” mother, who is able to listen for the little guy.

If you want to know more about the technical side of building the tiny house, my husband’s blog is the place to go. We built our house based on hOMe plans, and with LOTS of help from Steve with Craymis Tiny Houses. Steve was FANTASTIC, gave us so much help with tools, ideas, work space… truly made this tiny house dream come true. If you’re in South Africa and dreaming of your own tiny house… look them up!

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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

When you pray, move your feet

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John Lewis marching in Selma prior to being attacked by state troopers

They say it’s an African proverb (who knows if it actually is):

When you pray, move your feet.

The reason I know this phrase is not because I grew up in South Africa, but because it is a favorite saying of John Lewis, one of the key leaders of the USA Civil Rights movement in the 1960s. Lewis was responsible for helping to lead a lot of the grassroots college protests in the 60’s– the Freedom Rides, lunch-counter sit-ins, and also led the famous march in Selma for voting rights.

In other news, we just finished a small group study of the book Generous Justice with some people from our church. The book systematically goes through the Bible and shows how justice is central to God’s character, and to the way he expects his people to live. One of the most interesting things Keller brings up is the term righteousness in the Bible doesn’t mainly refer to private personal morality, but rather refers to the individual’s role in bringing social justice. Throughout scripture (but especially in the book of Job), we see the definition of an unrighteous person is one who advantages himself at the expense of the community, while the righteous man disadvantages himself for the sake of his neighbour. Whether that is clothes, food, legal counsel, or paying a fair wage–righteous people actively seek justice for their neighbours, even at cost to themselves.

I’ve been thinking about prayer, and justice, and what it means to pray while moving your feet this week, because South Africa just had possibly its largest ever prayer meeting. Thousands of people gathered to pray for our country, and for just leadership in our nation. I believe the work of justice is spiritual work, and so I was encouraged to see so many people willing to travel for hours in order to pray for just leadership. Continue reading

Moving On & Finding Home

AtHomeInTheWorld_CVR_500I’ve written before about this tension I always feel as a TCK between trying to be content where I am, and at the same time missing the place or the culture that I am without.

I read books about the spiritual discipline of rootedness, of staying in one place and getting connected even though it isn’t perfect (heck, I’ve even written about that!) … but it’s still always a struggle. I live in rented apartments and I get itchy and long to paint the wall, to pick out my own dishes, and not just use ones from Goodwill (because why invest?) I get tired of feeling like there’s no place that’s really mine. I want to build a nest. I want to borrow sugar from my neighbor.

But the other part of me wants to travel the world and live out of a backpack, and never settle anywhere. The thought of getting a mortgage makes me feel like I’m signing a death notice (even though I know you can always sell a house). As I accumulate stuff I am mentally thinking, “Will this fit in a suitcase?”

So I loved getting to read Tsh’s new book At Home in the World, where she wrestles with some of these same ideas. Tsh’s book is all about their family adventure of traveling around the world in a year. They go to China, Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Uganda, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Morocco, France, Italy, Croatia, Kosovo, Turkey, Germany and England…. all with three kids, all with one backpack each. Continue reading

Adventures in Simplicity

simplifyAs my husband and I have been on this journey of trying to think more critically about our stuff, one of the voices I have appreciated is Tsh Oxenrider. If you haven’t checked out her blog “the Art of Simple” it’s worth a skim. Most lifestyle blogs have you getting to the end of a post and thinking, “I need this, oh gosh, and I need that. Aw, and why don’t I have this other thing, too?” Whereas with the Art of Simple, you finish and think, “How can I simplify and embrace contentment where I am?” Continue reading