Living the dream on 12 square metres 3

Tiny house

The tiny house that Tammy Strobel and Logan Smith built for themselves. Could you live on 12 square metres?

This week I came across the video below (thanks to a tweet by Joshua Becker). It is about an American couple, Tammy and Logan, who drastically changed their lives and moved into a 12 square metre house they built themselves. They quit their jobs (which they hated), sold most of their possessions, and moved into the tiny house. Their lives have become much happier.

Now I don’t suggest that you all give up everything and move into a little hobbit house. I for one couldn’t do with so little space, because I spend a lot of time in my house thinking, writing, and just relaxing. But there are two important points that we can take away from what this couple did.

What are you working for

If you currently have a job, or have another activity that costs you time and makes you money, you should ask yourself: “Why am I doing this?” If the answer is “because I love doing it and it makes me happy”, great, keep doing it! If the answer is “because I need the money”, then you should think again. Do you really need the money?

Tammy and Logan got rid of their two cars, which saves them on gas, maintenance, parking fees, and taxes. They sold most of their possessions, the proceeds of which got them out of debt. That means no more interest to pay every month. By moving to a smaller house, they spend a lot less on heating and electricity.

All these cost reductions had one very important effect: they were no longer forced to work long hours at crappy jobs to afford all their stuff. In their case it meant that they could switch jobs, to do something they really enjoyed (but which made them less money). In my own life I choose to work very few hours, to have more free time available to enjoy.

Do you really want to spend your time working at a job you hate to buy crap that you can’t afford?

–Tammy Strobel

Maybe you would make a different decision. But it is important to realize that by cutting costs, you enable yourself to work less, or do work that you find more rewarding.

Force yourself to be tidy

If you want to live with two people in a space of 12 square metres, you have to run a tight ship: clean up your mess immediately; never leave any items lying around; do the dishes after you get them dirty; throw out the garbage. If you don’t, you’ll be constantly annoyed by the stuff you didn’t clean up. Worse, your partner will be. Having very little space forces you to be tidy.

I don’t have a huge house, but the 50+ sqm apartment I’m renting allows me plenty of room to leave a mess. Whenever I prepare some food, I can leave the dirty dishes in the kitchen and worry about them later. I generally have some clothes strewn around my bedroom. After I’ve done laundry, it will often sit in my living room for a couple of days, waiting to be folded and put away. Yet I can still live and work comfortably, without really noticing the mess I left around me.

But that doesn’t mean it isn’t there. More importantly, it is there in my mind. I know I will have to clean it up it later, and it eats away at me just a tiny bit. I have more peace of mind after I get a chore done, but as long as I am not forced to do it, I tend to procrastinate. Having a small space to live is a great way to force yourself to take care of chores as soon as they come up, and have greater peace of mind as a result.

Should you live small?

So should you live small? Well, not necessarily. The two effects described above could also be achieved if you live in a normal size home. You could simply decide not to have a lot of stuff, and keep your house sparsely furnished. You don’t need a car. You don’t need ten pairs of shoes. But if you have a garage and a large storage closet, will you be able to say no to those things?

Along the same lines you could just clean up after yourself. You could take care of chores as soon as they come up. But if you’re like me, you might often choose to procrastinate if you’re not forced to do something you don’t like.

So it depends on your character whether you can live frugally and tidily without being forced to do so. Some people can. Many can’t. If you belong to the latter category, consider what it would bring you if you moved to a smaller space. The answer might just be: happiness.


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3 thoughts on “Living the dream on 12 square metres

  • Joost

    It is an inspiring thought, but I couldn’t deal with the small amount of space that these people live on. My wife and I decided to buy a house that I could afford on my own, just to make our lives flexible and worryfree. And we congratulate eachother on that fact almost every other week.

    • Martijn Post author

      @Joost: I probably couldn’t do it either. For one thing, I like to pace around while thinking, and that’s pretty hard to do if your whole house is only 12 sqm. But it’s a nice thought experiment: to consider with how much less space you could do. By reducing your living space you save money and push yourself to have less stuff (which you don’t need). Where you draw the line is a question everyone should answer for themselves, but it’s probably at less than you currently have (I know for me it is).

      But hey, by owning a house you can afford easily (rather than dipping into a double mortgage), you’re already way ahead of most people. That’s great!