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How to Adopt a Tiny Living Mindset from Anywhere

Have you ever thought about tiny living? An expert shares how you can adopt tiny house living from anywhere, no matter your square footage.

Written by
Brightly Staff

Tiny homes are popping up all over the place, from our Instagram feeds to HGTV. With their clever designs, lower-cost builds, and eco-friendly footprint, it’s no wonder that tiny homes are becoming mainstream.

In the latest episode of Good Together, we talked with Laura Fenton, author of The Little Book of Living Small, about her experience living in small spaces and her tips for living the tiny lifestyle, even if you aren’t in a tiny home.

Why Laura Fenton Lives Tiny

In 2006, after being a writer and editor for over 15 years, Fenton started a personal blog about living in a small space. She’s lived in all sorts of tiny spaces, from a cramped dorm room with three roommates to her current tiny apartment in New York City.

When Fenton first moved to New York City for college, she was suddenly sharing a tiny apartment with three other women. As she and her husband started a family, living small was a decision that allowed them to stay in the city they love at an affordable price.

Before they had kids, Fenton and her husband had moved into her smaller apartment. They felt they had outgrown the space and decided to sell it. To prepare the apartment for sale, they put a lot of their stuff in storage. They paid extra for a storage unit that was within walking distance and spent two days moving items. Suddenly, their home felt breathable again.

They still sold the apartment in the end. But as Fenton and her husband prepared to move, they realized they hadn’t seen the items in their storage unit in the six months between selling their apartment and moving. When they opened the door, they had no emotional attachment to all of that stuff that had seemed so important

Inspiring the Book: Real People in Real Homes

Fenton was the lifestyle editor of Parents magazine for several years. The magazine published an article about families living in small spaces that sparked a lot of interest. She wanted to dive deeper into this topic after the article’s popularity. 

When looking at small spaces in the available design books, she noticed that so many of the featured homes were not actually homes at all. Weekend getaways and pied-a-tèrres were more common. 

The teeniest, tiniest homes might not be feasible for many people, and weekend homes might not be, either. Featuring the happy middle—smaller than average homes that people chose as their primary residence—was the most exciting slice of the tiny home movement in Fenton’s view. 

The Advantages of Tiny Homes

Smaller homes have many advantages, and those advantages have sparked an entire movement of people wanting to live tiny. 

One of the biggest reasons for a smaller living space is cost. Whether that means a lower price when buying a home, lower utility bills, or fewer maintenance projects, there’s no doubt that a smaller home means less money spent. 

Sustainability is also a driving factor when considering a tiny or smaller-than-average home. Houses with a smaller footprint use fewer building materials and much less energy to heat and cool. Many tiny home dwellers choose a more modest home for precisely this reason. Their impact on the environment is substantially less. 

One big bonus of tiny living: smaller spaces take less time to clean, too!

Laura’s Tips for Living Small from Anywhere

Even if you can’t live in a smaller home right now, you can still adopt a tiny living mindset. Fenton recommends starting with the curation of your stuff. Living only with things that you genuinely love and use will make your life simpler, cleaner, and more joyful.

That includes any storage you might have, whether in your attic, basement, or an offsite storage unit. Having more space and less stuff in your home opens you up to the possibility of a craft room, a playroom, or a workout space that you otherwise wouldn’t have. 

1. Make a List

Living in a small, curated space can be freeing because it can make your home more meaningful and comfortable. Start by making a list of everything you have in each room. Seeing it all on paper will help you make clearheaded decisions about what you truly need. 

2. Donate or Sell Your Stuff

To give away or sell the extra stuff in your home, try posting it on your local Craigslist or Next Door site. That way you can make a little cash, if you want to, and ensure that it goes to a home nearby. You can also search for a Buy Nothing group in your area, where you can give your extra items away for free. 

3. Only Buy Things You Need and Love

When you do need to buy something new, Fenton also recommends searching for the highest quality version that you can afford. Bringing something new into the home should be an opportunity for you to find something that you love, that functions well, and that will last most of a lifetime. 

4. Become a Borrower

You can also become a borrower—especially if the item you need is for a one-time project and not for continuous use. Fenton is an avid borrower of books from the library, cake pans from friends, and power tools from neighbors. She’s able to do the projects she wants without cluttering her space indefinitely. 

Live Small, Dream Big

No matter what size your home, bringing order to your home can give you a more positive outlook. Loving the stuff you have, borrowing what you can, and choosing quality will go a long way toward getting your home into tip-top shape. 

Even if tiny living isn’t a possibility for you at this moment, there are so many ways to adopt a small living mindset and decrease your impact on the earth.