Living Simply and Frugally at Home


As I mentioned yesterday, we’re working really hard to shift our income sources to activities and work that align with our values. Rather than depend on one employer to supply an entire income, we’re creating multiple income source while also reducing our lifestyle expenses.

As I dive deeper into the realm of frugal and simple living, I’m realizing how much the small choices we make at home and out and about impact our bottom line. To put it in very basic terms, are the purchases we make worth the per hour working cost? If my husband has to work 2 days’ worth of hours to pay for something is it worth it? Freedom comes at a cost and often it’s in the check-out line.

So here’s a few ways that I’m reducing our expenses while also creating a lifestyle and home that supports our plans for the near future:

Reducing Household Waste: This might seem like an odd initial step, but stay with me. When we throw away old or uneaten food, we’re throwing away the money and energy it took to purchase it in the first place. When we throw away a bunch of packaged food wrappers, it also means I spent a pretty penny on convenience to feed my family. On the flip side, when I make my own sourdough bread (which is pretty damn good) or make a crock-pot full of yogurt from a gallon of local milk, not only is the quality better, but the cost much cheaper. Less trash in the landfill, more money in our pockets.

Do Without: Rather than run out and buy something when I discover a possible “need,” I’m waiting. It takes some major self-control for me to not hop on Amazon and ship the best option in two days. So I disconnected my payment form on Amazon and other places where I shop online too often. I’m making lists before I head to a store and passing up impulse purchases. I’m not perfect at it, but when I visualize the end goal of saving money, it makes it that much easier.

Recycle and Reuse What We Already Own: Another step I’ve taken toward reducing our household costs is to dig around at our house or to ask others if they’re giving away an extra {fill-in-the-blank.} We’re about to switch the girls back into bunk-beds (which we already own, with mattresses, thank goodness) to make space in their room for a crib. And as much as I would LOVE to crack out on redesigning their room with new bedding and all that jazz, I’m forcing myself to source bedding from our house that can be re-purposed. Could an oversized comforter be split in two to make individual blankets for their beds? Could I sew something out of leftover fabric? Instead of buying pretty jars to hold our bulk items I’m recycling empty bottles and jars from our home. My gal, Melissa Risenhoover, taught me that Bonne Maman jam jars are perfect drinking glasses, so I began to buy that brand to slowly build up our drinking glass collection. The more uses I can get out of a single item, the less it costs in the end.

Make Like My Grandma: Finally, the last step I’m taking is to cook as many meals as possible at home and to prep snacks to prevent eating out. My grandma had a whole pantry stocked with canned and preserved foods that she had grown or made herself. I’m purchasing supplies in bulk from the local bulk store and keeping often-used items always in stock. I have a rotating menu of meals I regularly and quickly cook, and I keep it simple. As much as I am an absolute foodie, I stick to what works, is healthy, and also cost-effective for my family. Those “special unicorn” meals are always in rotation.

We also plan to plant a garden next spring and grow as many vegetables as possible as well as revive some of our old habits like making sauerkraut and kombucha on a regular basis. It takes time to add these habits into our lives, but the end result will be a healthier family and (I hope) a bigger savings account.

I would LOVE to hear how you live simply and frugally while also adding value to your life. Share in the comments or message me on Instagram!


Pursuing Dreams While Raising a Family

20161009_131256As a little girl I was filled with wild, exciting dreams for who I would be as an adult. Aren’t we all, though? There isn’t anything remarkable, in a sense, about a child dreaming, except that the dreaming often ends when the first job, bills, and weighted sense of responsibility fly through the door of adulthood.

My parents gifted me with the belief that I could accomplish nearly anything I tried, and so I did. I’ve tried on different careers like a toddler changes clothes throughout the course of the day, and similarly, I’ve enjoyed them all at a very surface level.

When Kirk and I crossed the threshold into married life at the ripe old ages of 22, we excitedly embraced all of those adult decisions and tossed aside any other aspirations. Our dreams became mature and practical, like good-paying jobs and the desire for a nice house in a safe neighborhood. And it was for those material aspirations that we made our schooling and career decisions. There’s nothing inherently wrong with desiring those things, except that we pretended like what deeply mattered to us didn’t and our priorities were confused.

Shortly after our oldest was born nearly 6 years ago, we entered a dark period. We deeply intuited that something was missing, and we weren’t entirely sure how to fill that empty aching that we were both experiencing. Sure, we loved our new role as parents and the promise of our future family life, but at the same time were scared witless.

It is far easier to play pretend, to shrug on the assurance of middle-class living goals, and to instead shove all the mismatched puzzle pieces of life that remain under the rug.

Fast-forward to two years ago when the shit hit the fan, and our multiple charades were crumbling to dust around us. It was time to come clean, with each other and ourselves, to carve out an existence that felt honest and real.


These days we share our dreams with each other and our girls, and more importantly, we dream and plan together. Instead of shame and guilt over who we cannot be, we’re embracing our future selves. We’re traveling an unknown road, and yet, we already know where we’re going.

We’ve heard through the grapevine of others who think that pursuing a music or a writing career, like we are, is reckless with children. And to that I respond: pretending to be something we’re not is reckless. Our old lives had a shiny veneer of respectability, but the inner support walls of our family were weak and flimsy. We pursue this more honest version of ourselves not out of selfishness, but to show our children that dreams do not die when childhood ends. We are fighting for a better life for our family, all of us, one that is ripe with happiness, unity, deepening of our faith, and fulfillment.

There is a way to bring dreams to fruition AND create safety and security for your children. We’re doing the delicate dance of clutching both of those goals tightly, lest we forget either of them in the process.

So my hope for you is that these words encourage you to find hope in dreaming, to pursue what matters to you, and to create a family life that encourages you all to be your very best, most fulfilled selves.

No regrets.




Part Three | The Family Cabin to Morro Bay

20160703_151252The few days we spent at the cabin were restorative. We ate delicious meals home-cooked by Kirk’s mom and aunt in the screened in sun porch, made s’mores around a bonfire, took a hike around the property, and had plenty of time to catch up with family. Kirk’s brother even proposed to his girlfriend, and we celebrated our niece’s first birthday. 20160703_200447


20160703_115234We’re so grateful for that time there, a place that has been seared in my husband’s memory from childhood visits. The cabin lived up to the legend, the stories, and the family culture that I had heard so much about. And we feel we were destined to make that last trip–mine and the girls’ first and only time–because all of the cabins burned down in a forest fire several weeks ago. After standing for nearly a century, no trace is left on the land except charred ground and memories.

What else do we retain in the end except memories and photographs? Traveling and experiences create an indelible record that cannot be erased even after the places are gone.

We left on the 4th of July to head to San Luis Obispo to visit family that wasn’t able to make it to the cabin for the weekend. Originally we had planned to visit them before we went to the cabin, but then we got sick. Now that our plan had changed, we were simply figuring it out as we went.

As we weaved our way down and out of the mountains while following Kirk’s brother, we smelled something funny, like burning rubber or oil. Not something you want to smell as you’re towing down switchbacks.

Miraculously, there was a general store in the middle of nowhere that also sold engine oil. Like the gas station in desolate southern Utah, we practically kissed the ground in excitement. It was one more rookie mistake to add to the list; thankfully nothing was damaged.

We traversed central California, passing fields of drought-damaged orchards and barren fields with barely a speck of green anywhere on the horizon. And it was hot; that heat filled the car and made me eager for the coast.

We heard a rattling noise somewhere between the 4Runner and the camper, a noise we had heard off and on throughout the trip. We pulled over and discovered our license plate was hanging on by a metal shrapnel. Somehow all of the travel had caused it to tear, perhaps some sort of wind tunnel between the truck and camper, and it was about to fly away. Kirk ripped it the rest of the way off, and we headed on.


After having dinner with Kirk’s brother and fiance, we went our separate ways, in search of a campsite for the night. It dawned on us that it was a holiday weekend, and we didn’t have a reservation. I hunted down a few options on my phone, and we crossed our fingers as we headed into Morro Bay.

As luck would have it, the RV park located right across the street from the beach actually had an opening! We did our happy dance, set-up camp, and made a mad dash for the beach at sunset.



20160704_19151620160704_19174020160704_19190720160704_19311920160704_20065520160704_203409The girls were soaked through their clothes, and there was a chill in the air. Kirk made a mad dash back to the Casita for dry clothes, and we regrouped. We walked along the shore, picking up seashells and sand dollars. As we headed back toward the path for the campground, we ran into our site neighbors. We had met them earlier, and they invited us to join their beach party to watch the fireworks over neighboring towns.

We shared stories, talked about living simply and the love of travel, and the kids built sand castles in the deepening dark together. The fireworks erupted all around us, and afterward we made a sandy walk back to the campground together, shining flashlights and herding children.

20160704_22031220160704_220359Despite all of the trials of the day–the number of hours we spent making our way across California, and my fears of having no place to spend the night–we found that sometimes having no plan is the best plan of all.

The next morning we packed up, ditched our trailer at a friend’s house, and drove up into the high hills of San Luis Obispo to visit family before leaving California for the trip back home. Subscribe to catch Part Four where I share what happened the last leg of our trip and how we unexpectedly got sidelined in Salt Lake City.


Part Two | From Yosemite to the Family Cabin in Sequoia

So after our big day at Yosemite, we woke up the next morning ready to tackle a bigger trail. But we never actually made it there.


Our youngest suddenly got very, very sick and began throwing up. In our tiny camper. Part of me just wondered if she had eaten something that she shouldn’t have, and it was making her sick. She is two after all!

Kirk and V left for a few hours to pick up some necessities in town and get out of the way. I took care of the little one, and we tried to make the best of our “sick day.” In the picture below, she’s watching video of Kirk playing. It was the ONLY video I had on my laptop. Seriously, you would think a parent with kids of a certain age would make sure to download some emergency entertainment before entering an area without wi-fi. Duh.


After about 6 hours, she was feeling much better, so we hoped we were out of the woods. Wishful thinking.

The next day (so our third day at Yosemite), we woke up ready to attempt a drive back into the park. I wasn’t feeling so well, but I didn’t want to miss our last day at the park. We decided to try a scenic drive and began winding our way up to Glacier Point. We had nearly reached the top when a park ranger said the lot was full, but could bus us in (after a 45 minute wait.) We declined and turned around.


Instead we drove over to Wawona and had lunch at the Wawona Inn. Or well, I guess it’s called the Big Trees Lodge now that they’ve had all those trademark issues. The hotel is looking a little rough, and you can definitely tell the national parks are struggling for funding. Still, it was a beautiful and elegant space to have lunch.






So here’s the deal. To get back to our campground, we had to drive from Wawona into the Valley (about 30-45 minutes on switchback roads) an then another hour to our campsite. And I started to feel incredibly, horribly ill. I truthfully wondered if we could make it back to the camper before we would ALL be sick. We did manage to stop at Tunnel Viewpoint for Kirk to get a selfie. Priorities! (Also, that looks like our 4Runner behind him, but obviously it isn’t.)

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I’ll spare you the details, but we barely made it back to the Casita. Within a few hours of each other, the rest of us were all violently ill. It was actually kind of comedic, all of us crammed in that tiny space and sick together. But it was pretty terrible in reality. Here’s the deal: getting sick like that in our camper was always one of my perceived “worst nightmare” scenarios. I always wondered how traveling families dealt with illness in a tiny space. And now I know the secret: you just do.

We’re still not sure why we got sick or if it was food poisoning. We did eat some questionable stuff on our road trip out West, so who knows.

The next day I was just totally done. Tired of being in the camper, tired of the trip. We had a camper full of dirty linens and clothes, and the campsite we were at made a big stink about us washing our laundry there (because we had been sick.) So even though we all were exhausted, we hitched up and drove about 1.5 hours to Fresno to stay in a hotel.


It was glorious. We slept, did laundry, watched TV, and showered like it was going out of style. The next day we headed to Target to get groceries and then drove a few hours to Sequoia National Forest, where Kirk’s family cabin was (yes, I said was….I’ll get to that.) We had our first real meal in a few days at a local burger joint in the middle of nowhere California, and it was just what we needed to handle the drive ahead.


The directions we got from his mom and aunt were vague and hard to follow. Of the “turn right at the deserted hotel with an empty pool” and then “take the right fork after the meadow” variety. No cell reception, no accurate maps of the area, and we definitely never saw that meadow! The roads were dirt and rutted and wound through the mountains. The 4runner and Casita did beautifully and Kirk was a pro at navigating the roads while towing. I was white-knuckling it the whole time and praying we wouldn’t get stuck on one of the narrow roads.



But we made it, just in time for the “neighborhood” 4th of July party.


After the previous few days, we were thrilled to rest, to spend time with family, and to eat good food. And we’re so incredibly grateful that we chose to make the trip there this summer, because we would have massively regretted it otherwise.

Subscribe to the blog to catch Part Three where I’ll explain what happened at the cabin and why it’s the last time we’ll ever go there again.

Part One | What REALLY Happened On Our 15 Day Road Trip


Although we’ve been back from our blitz across the US for over two months now (*tiny sob), I really haven’t talked very much about it. It’s much easier to post pretty pictures to Instagram….

So, earlier this spring my mother-in-law mentioned a 4th of July gathering at the family cabin in the Sequoia National Forest. It was January at the time, and the snow out the window was thick and depressing. We weren’t sure what was next for our family (eventually moving full-time into the Casita or finding a rental), but trip planning was something I could do.

We planned to travel westward from Chicago on I-80, spend a few days at Yosemite National Park, hang out with family for a few at the cabin, head out to the California coast to visit more family, and then travel south to see the Grand Canyon before heading east again. It was an overly ambitious, completely naive plan.

This is what REALLY happened….

We traveled westward on 1-80 through Iowa and Nebraska, mostly in heavy rain and took a break at the Council Bluffs, Iowa Visitor Center (which was actually really cool.)


Hit a 50 mile road closure in Nebraska and drove through countless ghost towns to meet back up with the highway. Never did find out what happened. Stopped at a semi-creepy roadside attraction.


Hit Denver at sunset, switched onto I-70 and decided to drive through the mountains in the dark. Yea, that was scary, and I wasn’t even driving.


20160626_064942Woke up in Frisco, Colorado surrounded by mountains and had a quick breakfast and stocked up on more food at the natural grocery store. Love us some hippie food!

The drive through the rest of the state was gorgeous, and we stopped to play by a river and started to feel more relaxed.



Southern Utah was like another planet full of immense red plateaus and completely desolate. I both loved it and was slightly freaked out by it.


Then we nearly ran out of gas. Nothing will start a marital spat quicker than admitting you forgot to watch the fuel gauge. We drove off the highway, windows down in the hot, hot heat in search of a gas station in a tiny town. We barely made it, but we found a closed gas station (it was a Sunday) with the pumps on. Hallelujah! Chalk that one up as a MAJOR rookie mistake.


We had hoped to meet up with our traveling friends, the Currens, who happened to be only about 30 miles away, but were afraid of losing time if we headed northward. So we decided to head south toward Las Vegas with an In’N’Out Burger our reward for a VERY LONG day. I could have just slept in the parking lot, but we instead found a slightly sketchy Wal-Mart to sleep at instead. Priorities.

Let’s just say it was incredibly, horribly hot in the Casita without air that night. #wereallythoughtthatonethrough


We woke up outside of Vegas and spent the day baking in the car through the deserts of Nevada and Southern California.


We made it to Mariposa County, near Yosemite NP, around dark and rolled into our KOA campsite in total darkness. But we made it! It was a glorious feeling to take a shower after 3 nights boondocking at Wal-Marts along the road.


20160628_080814We woke up early the next morning, packed up our hiking gear and snacks, and made the hour long drive into Yosemite. Having grown up among the flat cornfields of Indiana, I had never really seen anything like Yosemite before. Wild rivers, deep canyons, trees growing out of the side of domed rocks; the drive itself was thrilling, but still did not prepare us for what awaited us in the Valley.

20160628_092448If you’ve never been to Yosemite before, it’s an incredibly large national park. A small portion of it is called the Valley, and it’s where El Capitan, Half Dome, and Mirror Lake can all be found.

20160628_092926We drove into the Valley and caught our first view of El Capitan rising out of the forest. Once we finally found parking and made it to the Visitor Center, we decided to hike the trail to Mirror Lake.20160628_164603



20160628_115726The water level was fairly low in the lake, but the Merced was flowing nearby, and there was a swimming hole filled with people splashing in the sun. We quickly changed into our bathing suits and spent the afternoon completely losing track of time, playing in the mountain cold water.20160628_125841

We hiked to the lodge and had ice cream and dinner (in that order) before heading back to the campground. 20160628_141455

But as we were driving out of the valley, we wanted one last close up view of El Capitan.20160628_172803

Then we saw people playing in the Merced by the Swinging Bridge. So we stopped to play, simply because we couldn’t imagine that day ending.20160628_180751

20160628_182554It was a perfect first day at Yosemite, and we had ambitious plans to attempt the Mist trail the next day (or at least the lower section of it.) We woke up the next morning and made oatmeal in the camper….everything seemed to be going well….


And then our youngest started complaining of her stomach hurting. What followed completely changed our plans for the rest of the trip.

To be continued….

Why I Took My Homeschooled Daughter to Visit a Public School


So I had a total freak-out about a week ago and convinced myself I needed to send V to public school.


It all began when my workload with Cohesive Home started getting out of control. Then school was back in session at the university, and I began teaching four sections of humanities online. And all the while I was feeling rundown, and quite frankly, completely out of sorts. Cranky and tired. If you’re a parent, you get it (please tell me you get it!)

We weren’t homeschooling in the way that I envisioned. We also weren’t homeschooling the way others in my Instagram feed were doing it. You know what I’m talking about: circle time with carefully curated classics (ever so slightly watered down for the kindergarten set), inspiring art projects that would make a college level art student weep, engaging science experiments using nothing but baking soda, household products, and the kitchen table.

I convinced myself that 1) I was doing it ALL wrong and 2) my daughter would be happier in public school.

Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do I feel the need to compare everything I do to people that I don’t actually know?

Melissa, my Cohesive Home partner and BFF, tried to talk me off the ledge. But it didn’t work.

We went to visit the local elementary, which is perfectly nice and a very good school. V had a tummyache the whole time, and I was incredibly nervous and like “WTF are we doing!?”

So I saw Bad Moms with some of my fellow homeschooling mama friends, and they helped me get my head on straight over crappy burgers at a diner afterwards.

They encouraged me to quit worrying about what every other parent is doing and focus on what’s working for us.

You know, not to brag, but V is close to reading. She’s writing words on her own. She knows how to add and subtract, understands skip counting, and is fascinated by and gets the water cycle. And she’s only five. Five!

Just this morning she asked about why the days are getting shorter and colder, and Kirk gave her a demonstration of the earth spinning and rotating with a globe and a flashlight.

She created a “replica” of the stage in Sound of Music while listening to the soundtrack and acting out the scenes before breakfast, measured and made a french press of coffee, and helped serve breakfast.

My guess is that we’re all going to be okay. Homeschooling is difficult, but we can make it more complicated than it needs to be. And I’m going to quit being so hard on myself.

So for now, she won’t be going to public school. And we’re going to live out what we value: slow days full of educational opportunities, plenty of good books read aloud, and yes, some traditional learning at the table.

Who’s with me?


A Big Change on the Horizon


Last year when I went to Storyline Conference last year (and I highly recommend it) Don Miller suggested that we think of our life story like a movie storyboard.  Thinking that way has radically changed my perspective on where we’ve been and where we hope to be in the future.

It can be easy to get caught in these static views of our homes and family life or to over-identify with a certain label or perspective. And then when life changes suddenly,  you’re grappling with figuring out a different narrative (or maybe that’s just me!)

We still identify as an adventurous, life-loving, minimalist-living family. But our storyboard is about to take another twist. Now that we’re mostly settled in our little house, we’re trying to embrace our local culture and to dig into a more stable and soulful home life. But the biggest change?

IMAG6383We’re selling our Casita this month! It was a hard decision  (like lots of crying and second guessing), but it’s the right decision. Our family is about to undergo a big change (which I hope to share soon) and the Casita won’t be a good fit for us. Rather than store it all winter here, we’re hoping to pass it on to someone else who can love it as deeply as we do.

If you or someone you know is interested, direct message me on Instagram. We’ll be posting an official listing and video tour hopefully this weekend or early next. It’s pretty much the coolest travel trailer ever and whoever does buy it is lucky (I’m kind of already jealous of them!)

Don’t worry–travel will still be part of our family’s story, but just in a different way. And as I am able I will continue to share why we decided to sell the Casita and what are plans are for the future. One thing is for sure: we love shaking things up when life gets too settled! Stay tuned for more from our family as we embrace living small and loving our beach town community.

Our 2016 Homeschool Plans


This is technically our first year homeschooling (although I played with it last year) as my daughter is now kindergarten age. We sent her to a Montessori preschool at age 3, and it was simply too much. Love the methodology, but not the 4 days/week program.

When we moved to Indiana, I decided to keep her home and reclaim simple childhood. You know, lots of play, fairy tales and make-believe, and open-ended toys and games. Lots of time in nature and storytime at the library helped to reset my girl.

This year we have a loose plan as I am more and more convinced that formal academics are not needed until age 6-7 (as is customary in other countries), although I recognize some children are simply ready for it sooner. Realizing what my daughter needs and meeting her where she is has all been part of this journey.wp-1472054423594.jpg

My dear friend Melissa gave me her kindergarten Oak Meadow curriculum, which is Waldorf based and intentionally slow-paced. We’ll combine that with Math Lessons for a Living Education Level 1 and my other sweet friend Calli’s nature study program based on Nature Anatomy. We’re also going to slowly make our way through Jessie Wise’s The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading, but I’m not pushing it.

So much of our philosophy on homeschooling intertwines with our desire to keep our home and lifestyle simple. In the past I would have been eager to jump into serious academics straightaway. But as I’ve adjusted to a minimalist lifestyle, I’ve realized that there is beauty and wisdom in slowing down and enjoying the present moment. Rushing childhood shouldn’t be the goal, but meeting the child’s learning needs–whatever they may be–is.

Gatherings | Our Summertime Visit with the Risenhoovers

Do you have a gal pal that you talk to more than your family? Melissa Risenhoover is kinda my BFF and the mama that I turn to for advice, support, and lots of belly laughs. She’s got my back, and I have hers, and oh, we also happen to be business partners for Cohesive Home.

So earlier this spring she asked if she and her fam could spend their summer VACA with us in Indiana. My response? OF COURSE.

At the time we didn’t own a house and lived with my parents. But we definitely weren’t going to turn down a visit from our old neighbors from OKC. (Did you catch that? We all used to live on the same block in a post-war neighborhood nestled between the twin temptations of Target and Whole Foods.)

So back to their visit: they arrived on a Thursday, and we spent the weekend visiting the beach, getting ice cream, and hanging at the park.

Friday we play at the playground across the street from our house, walked around our small downtown, and ate lots of ice cream.



Saturday we made a huge round of eggs for everyone for breakfast.  Melissa and I actually got ready so we could take new headshots for Cohesive Home while at the farmers’ market. Then we packed up our market basket and tablecloth so we could have a picnic in the park.



Did you know there is such a thing as organic and dye-free cotton candy? Well, there is, and it is AWESOME. I may have bought a 1/2 lb. of dark chocolate sea salt caramels. And totally don’t regret it.

We also stocked up on our favorite locally roasted, fair-trade and organic coffee. It is so delish.



My husband, Kirk, watched the kiddos so that Brandon could take photos of us on the lawn. I don’t have any to share with you (yet!), but I’m pretty sure people thought Melissa and I were having our engagement photos taken. #BFFS.

And did I mention my husband is a saint for chasing 5 kids around?



Melissa and I knocked out some Cohesive Home-work in the afternoon, then ran to the local Italian deli to stock up on beach picnic fare. It was so hard to limit ourselves because everything looked amazing.



We drove over into Michigan and let the kids play in the sand + surf while we toasted to the weekend with wine.wp-1472054568405.jpg


We watched the sunset from the beachside playground and let the kids burn off steam before heading back home. The weather was absolutely perfect, high-70s and sunny.




Sunday we mostly hung out on the front porch drinking coffee and watching the kids draw on the sidewalk with chalk and make fairy houses in the neighbor’s flower bushes. Don’t worry–she didn’t mind.




wp-1472054553854.jpgWe had such an AMAZING time with the Risenhoovers! We weren’t sure what it would be like to have 9 people staying in a 675 square foot little house, but it actually went so well. I think the key to entertaining in a small house is keeping your expectations low and your home welcoming. More on entertaining in small spaces in a later post.



But for now, let me just say you don’t need to give up entertaining when you move into a tiny or small home. We all feel so much closer as friends having had this experience together!

We’re looking forward to more gatherings with their family, hopefully exploring a new location together. And now that they left, we’re getting back into the swing of things and settling back into our home just the four of us.

Until next time…….

4 Big Reasons to Consider Small House Living Instead of a Tiny House


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Several years ago I read a book by Tammy Strobel about living in a tiny house. Totally enamored with the idea of >350 square feet to clean and maintain, I set out to convince Kirk. Although we didn’t end up with a tiny house, we did find a compact and well-designed small house to call our own. Although we’ve only been in the house for about a month now, I already see the positives of this simplified lifestyle.

If you’re considering the leap to a tiny house, let me share with you a few reasons why I’m so happy we chose a small (>1,000 square foot house) instead.

Availability | We found our 675 square foot home in a regular neighborhood in a desirable section of downtown. Homes like ours are typically found in most communities and are usually post-war (1950s) or older. Ours was built in 1948 and the neighborhood is filled with charming small homes similar to ours. We didn’t need to hire a builder or buy land, just purchase an already available home. We were overwhelmed with the steps necessary to build a tiny home and find a place to park it, but buying an existing home allowed us to sidestep those issues.

Our town also requires new homes to be a minimum of 900 square feet and prohibits trailers from being parked on land longer than 6 months. I’m not much of a rule breaker and didn’t really want to move somewhere else for the sake of a tiny house. We got creative instead with our idea of living simply and found our home. If you look around your own community, you may be pleasantly surprised by what you find.

Affordability | Now, this is obviously relative to where you live, but less square feet often means a more affordable price. Many of the custom tiny homes we researched were not much less than what we paid for our already constructed home on a spacious town lot with mature trees, sidewalks, and proximity to restaurants and parks. The red tape surrounding tiny homes can also make it difficult to get a traditional mortgage. If we already owned land, we may have made a different decision.20160717_081005


Livability | I think we could have happily lived in a tiny house (probably.) But for the long-term, having a smidge more elbow room feels simply luxurious. Although we’re in a two bedroom house, we have room for house-guests (having already had guests our first week living there) as well as traditional furniture. I love multi-purpose furniture, but also appreciate being able to use traditional and widely available furniture instead of needing to create custom options.

Privacy | Although I haven’t lived in a tiny house (but have traveled with my family in an >100 square foot Casita travel trailer), I imagine privacy is scarce. While our house is small, the older construction has remarkably thick walls. There are also more nooks and corners for us to all retreat to when we simply need a break. Rather than having a tiny house loft bedroom in the mix (which sounds cool, but seems to lack privacy) we have bedrooms with locking doors. Definitely a plus with little kids underfoot.

But because the house is still so little, we can hear if our kiddos need us in the night or yell from the bathroom if one of us runs out of toilet paper. It’s the little things, friends.

If my husband had been on board perhaps we would now be living in a tiny house in Montana. Or a yurt in the mountains. Or something else totally unconventional that I previously believed would fit our family perfectly. If you’re intrigued by downsizing to something smaller, you may want to consider renting one on AirBNB to test it out. If you have land available or somewhere to park a tiny house, that may be a better option for you. But if you have a growing family, want a simpler process, or crave being in a traditional neighborhood (like we did) then a small house may be a better choice.