The little house is quiet still, hushed by darkness. Boys sleep soundly in their bed nooks in the loft. If I were to peek up there, I'd find that pillows are heaped and spilling over, that covers are loose and rumpled, and that curtains are closed. Curtains are always closed when boys are in their bed nooks in the loft. It's boy rule #1.
Downstairs, the porch light streams in through the paned glass in the front door, casting night light patches across the floor. The only light on inside the house spills quietly down from the wall above my writing desk, illuminating what I write about us, this little house, and these last three years...
I remember so well the huge, hulking feelings we had back then. We wondered if the weight of debt and job uncertainty would crush us; wondered about that larger house we had and all the unnecessary things that filled it; wondered about the American Dream that somehow said we needed all that; wondered if there was another way.
Turns out, there was.
We found the first steps of freedom in 665 square feet.
The size of our house was determined by the amount of space we actually needed, and by what we could afford. The design of the cabin was intentional, down to the outlet placements, and was intended to live as large as possible. (If you've not read the cabin backstory, you can find it here.) We didn't just blindly aim for living small, as that by itself could have been our first demise. If the space doesn't fit the need, the chances for longevity get slimmer by the day.
So, the size of each room was determined by what the basic use for that room was, and what basic furniture would be needed in it, with plenty of room left over for traffic flow (my interior design background became invaluable here).
The living room began with the smallest seating arrangement that would be comfortable for us, using full-size furniture (smaller size furnishings would be too constricting for our family).
The kitchen used the least amount of space possible for our needs, but in a configuration that would handle multiple cooks well. It all fit in a 13 foot span.
The dining area holds a table that can cosily seat 8, with a banquette on one side for seating (and more storage), a sly trick for maximum use with minimum space. (Great room dimensions are 13 x 19).
The bedroom would need to hold a queen bed and a writing desk, our wardrobes, washer and dryer, and extra storage. The 13 x 8 1/2 ft room is sufficient for these needs. The hall was intentionally wider (3 1/2 ft) than a standard hall, to give more space in what could be a conjested area.
The bathroom was the smallest footprint possible that could still accommodate a standard tub (5 x 8). The loft was a fixed size (13 x 15) and had the most limitations to work within. With much planning, I was able to chisel out private spaces within the shared space for each of the boys. You can see a full photo tour of the cabin here.
There's something profound about being set in a place that forces you to define so carefully who you are and what you actually need to fully live. Throughout the editing process that prepared us for living small, we had to see what truly mattered to each of us - there wouldn't be room enough for anything more. As we began to do this, we began to understand, and a purer definition of us was rendered from the pile.
We began by defining the basics. Literally. We needed plates, bowls, cups, flatware. We needed clothes (roughly a week's worth was a good place to start), bath towels, beds, lamps. We needed lotion, soap, and toothbrushes. The circle of inclusion widened then, to include those things we really wanted - favorite games, favorite books, favorite hobby supplies, pictures, art, rugs, and throw pillows.
There were things that we came across in our weeding out that stumped us, though - should we keep them? Should we get rid of them? In some cases we honestly didn't know. So we packed the questions up in boxes and waited. Over time, as those boxes were opened, the answer was pretty clear - if we'd lived just fine this far, not even wondering about those things in that box, we most likely didn't need them. On the other hand, if we'd gone digging and diving for that thing that was suddenly essential, well, there you go. It made the cut.
As we finished the little house, got settled in, and began living this life, we began to understand that living intentionally isn't a once-and-done process. It's a lifestyle. It's not something to achieve, it's something to live. As the living happens, the intention guides, and we learn along the way.
Goodness knows this freedom we've found has been a work, a progress, a calling. It's been messy, imperfect, and overwhelming at times. It's required an unbinding of old habits and a nurturing of new. The journey here has been the kind of difficult that good accomplishments are made of.
And the reward has been sweet.
This begins the first of a series of posts in which I look back on the past two years of living in 665 square feet as a family of five.