INHABITAT: Do you have any advice for people who want to emulate you and live small?
Hari: For folks wanting to emulate us and live small, the first step is deciding and committing to a new lifestyle. Then start paring down your possessions. Wardrobes need to be minimal. Everything needs to serve at least 2 purposes, or it goes.
Design your space around the regular activities in your life. We knew we needed a full kitchen because Karl is a chef and we have a big garden. We live in a rural area and cook almost all of our meals at home. So, in our tiny house, a lot of space is dedicated to the kitchen.
Make sure you go with your gut, and don’t compromise on fixtures or facilities. It was important to me to have a hand sink in the bathroom, even though there is a kitchen sink right across the way. It was a challenge to find a sink to fit between the shower and the toilet, especially since we were trying to salvage everything. We ended up buying the sink new because it is a specialty item. When I am brushing my teeth in the bathroom, and there is a sink full of dishes in the kitchen, I’m really glad I didn’t compromise on the bathroom sink.
Figure out how to organize all of your stuff so that the every day things become the decorations. I like using clear canning jars to contain items. We can see the items, we know where everything is at a glance, yet it is contained and doesn’t look cluttery. I love shallow shelves! We can see everything and nothing gets shoved in the back of a cabinet and forgotten.
Be ready to step out of the consumer culture. There is no where to put extra stuff!
If you have a partner or family, be ready for an inward adventure and practice asking for what you need with respect. Practice finding your space within. When our son, Archer, was in his social emotional music class, his teacher shared a sweet story: She had a whole first grade class laying on the floor and listening to a chime ring until it got silent. When it stopped, she asked the kids what they noticed. Archer said, “I feel a lot of space.” I felt proud hearing his teacher tell me this story.
Build a shed to house recreational gear, extra food (in our case, we can a lot of food from our garden) and your washer/dryer.
Make sure your have some outdoor living space. We use our deck a lot! In nice weather, it is our living room. We even have a fire pit for cold months. Stainless steel prep tables (salvaged from a burned down restaurant) are a fabulous way to bring food prep and buffets outside.
Be sure everyone in your family is committed to the adventure and be clear about why you are doing it.
Celebrate your achievements! For us, the difficult times are a bit easier when we celebrate that we are living mortgage-free, with a small environmental footprint—our mission from the start! Every now and then, especially when I’m feeling cramped or Karl is wishing we were further along, we stop and remind ourselves: We have a lovely three acres of land in one of our favorite places, the Blue Ridge Mountains. We live on our land with a well full of pure, delicious water, we have a septic and we don’t owe money on any of it!