15 Best-Life Secrets Tiny House Dwellers Know

Radical downsizing may be a daydream for most people — but the intrepid folk who live in itty-bitty homes have a thing or two to teach the rest of us about living the good life and making the most of what we’ve got.

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April 09, 2016
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Sweat the small stuff.

Spell out a clever phrase with bathroom tile. Splurge each week on a bouquet of fresh flowers for the kitchen counter. Tuck favorite figurines on each shelf of a bookcase. As tiny houses and the people who love them demonstrate, little things can have a big impact.

Square footage ain't nothin' but a number.

Whether you’re in a downtown studio apartment or a one-room cabin in Montana, your home’s footprint doesn’t have to prevent you from living large; with a bit of strategic thinking (and a well-constructed loft bed, of course), any space can feel like a palace.

Your stuff should multitask as much as you do.

You might not be in the market for a Murphy bed that folds up into the wall, but who couldn’t make use of some clever under-the-stairs storage or an ottoman that doubles as a coffee table? 

A simple color palette is your friend.

It’s far simpler to shuffle furnishings from space to another when the hues you’ve chosen are part of the same family; wildly differing colors and motifs, on the other hand, can make your home feel disjointed (and perhaps a wee bit like a hotel with room themes.)

Make the most of outdoor space.

Tiny house dwellers treasure details like rooftop decks and front porches because their interior spaces are limited — but those spots are just as lovely for those of us who don’t eat breakfast three feet from where we sleep. Outdoor living room, anyone?

Personal space is a state of mind.

Wouldn’t it be lovely to have a room of one’s own, à la Virginia Woolf, for producing art (or, you know, taking luxurious bubble baths, or assembling complicated model train sets)? In close quarters, your home office or reading nook might have to do double duty as the kitchen table or guest bedroom — but with a good pair of noise-cancelling headphones or a favorite throw blanket, you can make it yours. 

Your home doesn’t have to dominate your expenses.

Most of us spend between a third and half of our income just putting a roof over our heads; 68% of tiny-house dwellers, on the other hand, have no mortgage at all. It’s easy to get sucked into believing you need the biggest home you can afford, but thinking small can free up funds for other priorities (like that backpacking trip you've always wanted to take.)

Make a list (and check it twice.)

Tiny house dwellers are grocery-shopping strategists because they simply can’t store impulse purchases and bulk pantry items. Thinking like they do and limiting yourself to what you need minimizes waste and keeps your wallet from getting too roomy, as it were.

Almost anything can be a home.

Shipping containers, vintage trailers, trees — if it’s big enough for a welcome mat, it’s big enough to be a tiny house. That really puts “necessities” like walk-in closets in perspective, doesn’t it? (Technically, some walk-in closets are probably big enough to be considered tiny houses.)

Go easy on your roommates.

Whether you share one room or twelve, going to bed angry is a lose-lose proposition. Of course, the stakes are a little higher in a tiny house, since getting kicked out of the sleeping loft means having to curl up on the kitchen floor.

Make your bed (beautiful.)

Bedrooms are often the last places we bother to furnish; after all, who’s going to see them? Even if you don’t live in a space where your sleeping spot is visible to one and all (or even just dinner guests who need somewhere to stash their coats), you owe it to yourself to furnish it with care; after all, you see it all the time.

Less home means less home improvement.

For DIY pros, the projects that come with home ownership can be a delight. For everyone else, there’s an undeniable appeal to being able to paint the entire house (or pay someone else to paint the entire house) over the course of a single weekend.

Surround yourself with your favorite stuff (and curb the rest).

Like Marie Kondo, the bestselling author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, tiny house dwellers limit themselves to possessions that “spark joy.” Take a page from their books, so to speak: If your stuff isn’t serving a purpose or making you smile, is there really room for it in your life? Sorry, dusty old bowling trophies.

Open space is a luxury.

An interior that’s stuffed to the gills can be more than a little exhausting. Unoccupied areas, on the other hand, are a breath of fresh air.

Invest in basics that are pretty enough to display.

Since hidden storage is at a premium, many tiny house dwellers keep things like dishes out in the open — and choose pieces that brighten the corners they occupy. Bigger-house dwellers should follow their lead, no?

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