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. We talked with Laura Fenton, the author of The Tiny 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 Lives Tiny
In 2006, after being a writer and editor for over 15 years, Laura 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. As she became more aware of how individual actions could affect the course of the climate crisis, Laura’s passion for tiny living grew. She ended up writing The Little Book of Living Small, which is now available on a (virtual) bookshelf near you.
When Laura first moved to New York City for university, 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, Laura 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 Laura 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
Laura 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. Laura wanted to dive deeper into this topic after the article’s popularity.
When looking at small spaces in the available design books, Laura 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 Laura’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
Even if you can’t live in a smaller home right now, you can still adopt a tiny living mindset.
Laura 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.
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.
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.
When you do need to buy something new, Laura 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.
You can also become a borrower, especially if the item you need is for a one-time project and not for continuous use. Laura 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.
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 towards getting your home into tip-top shape.
Living Ethically In Other Ways
We always ask our guests on Good Together for a couple of tips on living ethically and sustainably.
For Laura, living ethically starts with being an active and engaged voter. She grew up in a politically active family, with parents who modeled engaged citizenship. Now, she models activism for her son by taking him to vote with her and staying current on the candidates who most align with her values.
Laura also recognizes that each dollar she spends is a vote, too. Although free shipping and getting an item delivered ASAP can be tempting, supporting smaller, local businesses is important to her. Laura believes that it is worthwhile to invest in her community.
If she can’t find something locally, Laura turns to people selling secondhand items on sites like eBay, Poshmark, and thredUP. She loves buying secondhand because the money is going to someone who needs it, and she enjoys hunting down the exact item that she wants.
Live Small, Dream Big
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. Thank you to Laura for sharing some small, actionable ideas to do so!