Living Tiny in a Big House

Posted by on Jul 22, 2014 in Cultivate Community, Recent Posts | 8 comments

Living Tiny in a Big House

Guest Post by Wendy Thomas

I got it. I finally got it.

After living in a very large house (over 3K feet) with my husband, 6 children, a dog, and a flock of chickens in the backyard while holding down the positions of mom, journalist, writer, Executive Director, Swim Team official, and board member in various organizations (which all require their own equipment and supplies), I had decided that enough was enough. I love my family, I’d die for my kids, but I wanted my very own tiny house.

I wanted a spot of my own where, if I put the book I was reading down on a table, it would be there when I went back to sit down and read and wouldn’t have been pushed somewhere else to make room for an art project. I wanted a place where we had only enough dishes for one meal and if we wanted to use them again, we had to wash them instead of letting a days’ worth of plates pile up in the sink before we set to the task.

I wanted away from the endless piles of soccer shoes, ski helmets, biking equipment, pool goggles, and piled-up backpacks filled with school books.

I wanted my own tiny house – a space where there was a place for everything and everything was in its place. Simply put I wanted to live more simply.

I wanted this so very much that I signed up for a weekend workshop put on by Tumbleweed Tiny Houses. There I learned about things like trailers, struts, electrical considerations, vents, and compostable toilets. I met people who live in tiny houses, those planning on building tiny houses and those, like me, who were still in the dreaming phase.

When our instructor, Art Cormier, was asked how much laundry his Wonderwash did in one load, he replied that he could fit three shirts, a pair of pants, shorts, socks and underwear in one load, he thought a bit and then added that that was all he could fit because that was all that he had.

Wow. Imagine having such a pared down wardrobe, that you could wash *all* of your clothing in one load. I thought about the sweaters on the top shelf in my closet. The ones that fall over every time I take one out from the bottom (and this happens so often that I’ve given up on wearing the bottom sweaters so they just sit there supporting the top.) I thought of the dresses I have (I probably wear a dress three times a year) one that’s causal, one that’s fancy, a black one, and three that don’t fit anymore, but I’m pretty sure they will someday. I thought about the dozens of shirts I own. I would need hundreds of Wonderwashes to do my laundry.

And then when a group of us from the workshop went out to lunch we had a discussion about “things”, you know all that stuff that you bring home from vacations and that you pick up here and there to remind you of the great times you’ve had.

“I love my things,” I said to one woman.

“Yes,” she replied, “but think of them as weighing you down and anchoring you to the past.”

I thought of all the holiday decorations in our basement, so important when the kids were little but now only serving to jog memories of “remember when.”  I thought of the souvenirs (x6) I would bring home to the kids every time I went on a trip that now laid unused, collecting dust, but that can’t be thrown out “because Mom gave this to me.”  My things are no longer happy memories; they have become items of pure suffocation.

It was then that I realized you don’t have to live in a tiny house to live a tiny house lifestyle. Even in our big house, I can get rid of the extra “stuff” that has crept into our lives. Wardrobes can be evaluated and pared down, sports equipment can be passed on, kitchen ware can be evaluated, why, I can even get rid of four of the five leashes (I kid you not) we have for our dog.

I’ve started taking a look at everything, absolutely everything we have. Do we really need dozens of mugs and Tupperware containers (for which we can never find the matching lid)? Wouldn’t it be better to wash towels more frequently than to have enough on a shelf for an army- just in case we need them? Will I be able to wear that piece of clothing in more than one way (and more than one time?) And for goodness sake, do I really need to own all of these books that tower around my desk?

It turns out that living tiny is about having a certain mindset as much as it is about living in a physical location. Someday I still want to live in a tiny house, but for now, we’ll have to be content with trying to live tiny in our big house.

Pirate Wendy

Pirate Wendy

Wendy Thomas writes about the lessons learned while raising children and chickens in New Hampshire at her blog Lessons Learned from the Flock. ( She also writes about Lyme disease, thrifty living, parenting, and the dream of one day living in a tiny house. Contact her at

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  1. Love this new series of guest bloggers! This post struck me especially deeply. I live with two cats and a dog in a 1K house with a full basement that is full of unused “stuff”–about fifty boxes that I haven’t even unpacked since my last move eight years ago. Yes, “stuff” weighs me down. I LOVE the idea of living tiny in a non-tiny house!!!

    Thank you, thank you!

    • I’m glad you are enjoying our guest bloggers, Jane. We are thrilled to share this space and the wisdom of our community.

      The practice of letting go is a daily one, even in a tiny house. Stuff creeps in when we don’t notice it. Living with only the essential is such a light and lovely feeling, but it doesn’t happen on it’s own. Having more space means being that much more diligent and aware of the “creep”.

      Good luck sifting through those boxes! You can do it. One box at a time! I encourage our eCourse participants to commit to a certain amount of clutter-clearing time each day. Set your timer and go for it. Even 10 minutes a day will get you there.

  2. My husband and I have a 2K house but are committed to not filling it with junk. It’s great to hear about others who love the tiny house movement and are finding ways to apply it to their big houses. The Minimalists have a great series of articles about keeping only “items which add value” to your life…sound familiar? 🙂

  3. “My things are no longer happy memories; they have become items of pure suffocation.”

    This is exactly how I have started to feel, I am in the process of clearing out everything we don’t need, I need to be much more ruthless though and after reading this post I have a new found determination to clear the clutter from my families life. I feel that we will be able to enjoy life more with less stuff getting in our way. Thanks for the inspiration to live Tiny in a Big House

  4. I love this post! I am still a “tiny house dreamer” trying to live tiny now, in my 1600 sf home, with our 2 children. One of the things I’d like to do, to minimize boxes of STUFF is to digitize photos and other items. Do you have any fabulous recommendations for online services or programs that are easy to use? I’ve tried Picasa but have not found it to be easy.

    Thanks so much!

    • I like to make photo books on Snapfish. Artkive is a neat app for kids art. There are tons of resources out there–chime in with your ideas, folks!

      • Thanks! I don’t know Artkive, but will check it out. I’m still not sure I can part with the kids art, but I have boxes of letters, holiday cards etc… that I can do without.

  5. Oh the stuff!

    I hadn’t really thought of how it can effect our kids….. Mine are just as sentimental
    . There are so many ‘things’ they keep because ‘so -in-so’ gave it to them. It’s like bondage.

    I think consumable gifts are great. Paper, crafts, healthy special snacks, etc. enjoy them, and they don’t create clutter.