For years, research has been telling us that it’s not the things in our lives that make us happy, it’s the experiences. Ever since I moved into a 400 square foot backhouse with my husband and our four dogs, I can attest to the value of a minimalist lifestyle. It wasn’t easy at first. In the past, I’ve always had a door to separate me from people living at the same address…and then there was all of my stuff! Things I had carried with me from college to DC and then to Austin, that held dozens of memories and serious sentimentality. As moving day approached, I found it easier to let go of the stuff. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone here: the act of moving is nearly synonymous with purging, and transitioning to tiny living just amplifies it.
Since moving day, I’ve continued to clear my shelves, my closet, and my make-up bag of unnecessary items. Three of the most noticeable byproducts of this minimal lifestyle are: a tidier house (which is very necessary in a small space), a clearer mental space (as less physical clutter in your house usually leads to less mental clutter), and more joy in what I do have—the books, clothes, and little mementos are items that I truly love and use regularly.
Here are five things I’ve personally learned since moving into this small space and transitioning into a minimalist lifestyle.
Ditch the Doors
You don’t need doors to create a space. We have two doors in our house: the front door and the door to the restroom. However, we have several distinct areas in our little place. Don’t be afraid to move furniture and try some unexpected setups. Bookcases and rolling racks for clothes can serve as both room dividers and give a little more privacy.
When you can’t spread out, think about building up. We spent one Sunday putting up shelving: in the kitchen, behind the ladder that leads to our sleeping loft, and by my desk. The result was enough room for our storage needs and then some! Our kitchen table snuggles in nicely underneath the bottom kitchen shelf, and the stools fit in under the table, so that saves us space as well. For our closet, we put up two levels of plumbing pipe. His clothes hang above mine and we have a column of boxes to hold our workout gear and unmentionables.
This was perhaps one of the most difficult lessons to learn, especially because I was excited to create a shared space with someone I love. But I learned pretty quickly that creating a shared space (especially a tiny one) did not mean I had to bring in a lot of stuff. To me, editing my purchases before I made them was a chance to pause and reflect on why I wanted to buy them. Was I getting it to “fit in” with a certain group or class, or because it would fill our space with joy and was something useful—or both? I want to be clear that something pretty or silly is just as deserving of space in your home as something utilitarian. It’s about how that item makes you feel.
Editing the emotions you bring into your space is just as important as editing the physical things you bring in. Raging and whining after a rough day at work feels a lot different in our tiny space than in does in a larger home. It’s heavy. Do we still do it? Yep. Do we have arguments? Absolutely. But we both make a conscious choice before we walk in that door to let go of what we can so that we can move forward or resolve the argument a little bit sooner.
Take a Walk
Sometimes a change of scenery is the only thing that can help. Either solo or together, changing your surroundings can help make the most of your minimalist lifestyle. When the weather is nice, the city is your extended backyard and getting away is crucial. When the weather isn’t great, there are movie theaters, coffee shops, and museums to explore. When leaving your space is not realistic, put on some headphones and listen to a podcast, nature sounds, or even nothing at all. Headphones signal you’re unavailable and can give you the space you’re craving without having to pick a song.
It’s about loving what you have
Living a minimalist lifestyle has given me a lot of joy because I can focus on what I have instead of getting more of it. It’s been my experience that the scarcity effect is great for retail but really awful for being satisfied with your life. A tiny home and a minimalist lifestyle are not about living without. Instead it’s a lifestyle based on quality time, quality products, and a high quality of life. Does that stop me from wanting Belle’s library in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast? Nope! But it does mean that I’m quite content with the library I’ve got.
By Laura Trujillo, Laura is a writer and Marketing Specialist who founded Hello, Clementine! in 2013 as a space to share goal setting tips to help people rock their goals! She writes about lessons she’s learned through yoga and cycling and works to inspire others through her minimalist lifestyle.