The Truth About Living Small: Less Possessions, Greater Value


There is an assumption surrounding living minimally and small spaces that to be content in the lifestyle you must not value possessions or be sentimental.

As I craft my family's life in a 675 sq. foot home, I know firsthand that that assumption could not be farther from the truth.

When I was six years old, I sobbed and clutched the faded plush backseat of the family car, a Plymouth Acclaim (according to my parents: it was a useless piece of crap) as they traded it in for something safer and more reliable. And in more recent years I dug deep into this well of sentimentality as we parted ways with our Casita. My sensitive heart overflowed, and I found it excruciatingly painful to let go.

There may be some minimalists, the type with only a backpack, a change of clothes, and a Macbook, that have shed the weight of valuing any possessions. But for those of us raising families in homes, whatever kind they may be, valuing a few cherished possessions is still our right of passage.

You see, when you let go of so many of your belongings, when you wrestle with deciding what stays and what goes, the items that remain increase infinitely in their emotional weight and value. We don't have room in our home for a coffee table, a full-size dining set, or even normal wardrobes beyond the few pieces of clothes that fit in our tiny closets. But I made room for my Polish grandmother's cedar trunk to rest at the end of our bed, the one that I remember nuzzling my nose in every time I visited her home, to know and remember her and her home through that smell.

I glance around our home, and I see the possessions that we've let stay: the 1970s butcher block kitchen cart from the home I grew up in that houses our teakettle, coffee, and a jar of fermenting kombucha; the collage of photos from our family's traveling adventures hanging over the baby's crib; the colorful (and marginally tacky) afghans neatly folded on the closet shelf, lovingly crocheted by family members, that we snuggle into on chilled winter nights.

The raw decision of what has enough importance to gain entry to our home and stay is exhausting. I sometimes second-guess getting rid of things or even allowing something a prime spot in our home. I'm continually editing, rearranging, re-imagining our spaces. I dig deep into my personal vision of home as I design and try (and sometimes unsuccessfully) to avoid the trends and expectations of social media. But our home is our home, all 675 sq feet of it, and we rule our tiny dominion.

I want my children to feel comforted by the items in our home, to feel their emotional warmth and significance. Home should be a place of refuge, no matter how small it is. Despite that I do hope my children first place their value in people and experiences over things. But if they learn anything from growing up in our family home, I hope it is to be thoughtful in their ownership of possessions and to feel confident to keep the items that sing to their soul and relinquish those that don't. And above all, I hope they remember that our possessions don't contain our memories, we do, but sometimes it helps to have a physical reminder, and that's okay too.

We may own less, but the truth of living small is that we value it all the more.


This post was written for inclusion in the June collection of the Small Family Homes Blog Community. Read below for more writings on the truth about living small from our community of writers. Check back next month for a new topic and posts in the series and follow our community board on Pinterest for the latest small homes and family minimalism pins!

Minimalist Meg-- “The Truth About Living SMALL” : What does living in a small space look like for a family of 4? Probably not a whole lot different from you.

Little Bungalow-- "Less Space, More Happiness" : In a small home, less space doesn’t equal more happiness. Except, of course, when it does.

600 Square Feet and a Baby-- "The Truth About Living in a Small Family Home" : Living small as a family of four is sometimes uncomfortable, a bit awkward and never boring. Sharing the awkward and imperfect of living small with 4 humans that you always wanted to know (or maybe you didn't.)

Shelley Vanderbyl-- "Five Things You Don't Need in a Small Home" : Gatekeeping is about recognizing what things you don't need or want, and trying to keep those objects from coming into your home.

The Streamlined Life-- "The Truth About Living Small: Less Possessions, Greater Value": Just because you're a minimalist family doesn't mean you aren't sentimental.

The Justice Pirate-- "What Small Home Living is Like" : No matter if I lived in a cardboard box or a small home, I just like being with my family, who are my home.

Our Nest in the City-- "The Truth About Living in a Small Family Home" : My post gives three challenges to living in a small home with our family of five, and counters them with three ways we "cope" and thrive despite it all :)

Fourth and West-- "You Can't Have it All" : Small space living requires compromise and sacrifice.

RISING*SHINING-- "The Truth About Living in a Small(ish) Family Home" : A smaller home is why we're able to live such a full life.

Family At Sea-- "The Meaning of Space: Thoughts from a Former Tiny Home Mom" : After moving onto a boat, I thought the hard work of decluttering and downsizing was done, but I didn't realize that living in a tiny space was the beginning of the real work of the soul.

Real Food Simple Life-- "The Realities of Living in a Small Home with a Big Family" : A look into the benefits and challenges that a family of 6 (going on 7) experiences living together in an 800 square foot home in Scotland.

Tiny Ass Camper-- "I Didn't Know Tiny Living Was For Me" : My thoughts on the give and take of living tiny.

Family Pedals-- "Location Trumps Size" : The truth is, it has been our home's location--not size--that has determined our happiness in a given space.

Birch and Pine-- "It's Not Always Easy" : Living tiny often means defending your own life and choices: daily.

What's your most beloved possession?