Moving to a Tiny Home

Brian Dooley

Moving to a tiny home requires a change in lifestyle. Sure, it can be less expensive, but it can also be a real challenge, especially in terms of entertaining guests and storing your belongings. You’ll need to make a number of decisions before you move, as you determine what to eliminate and how to use your limited space. Many of these decisions will depend on the size of your new home and what you need it to accommodate.

But, choosing to live in a small space is nothing new, as boat and RV owners can attest. Yes, there will be a period of adjustment, but your success should not require extreme discomfort, drama or effort. Here are some of the basics to help you learn to make the best possible use of your new space.

Maximize Space

Determining how you can maximize space should start early, even before you sign a contract or make a down payment. After all, you don’t want to find that you’ve bought or rented a place that cannot house your belongings and is ultimately unlivable.

It’s a good idea to obtain a drawing of the space in order to map out the placement of your furniture. Online programs, such as Arrange-a-Room from Better Homes and Gardens, can help. You can also do this manually by sketching a scale model of the new space, cutting out pieces of cardboard to represent your furniture using the same scale, and then fitting the pieces into the rooms. Very frequently you will find that you won’t be able to accommodate as many items as expected.

Planning ahead helps keep you from underestimating the size of your belongings or overestimating the space in an empty room. And if you find that your favorite armchair just won’t fit, you’ll still be able to look for a bigger place that can accommodate your most treasured pieces.

Reuse Rooms

In a large home, individual rooms can serve individual functions. But, in a small home, singular rooms may need to be used for several functions. For example, the bedroom may need to double as an office or the living room may need to triple as a dining room and a library.

For this to work, it is important to ensure that the different room functions are blended together seamlessly. This can be accomplished by adding multi-functional pieces, items that can be hidden away (e.g., fold-down desks) and extra storage. If the room is meant to serve several occupants, such as a shared office, be considerate of the privacy needs. Folding screens can be helpful in preserving personal space.

Reuse Furniture

Many pieces of furniture can be placed in different rooms or serve several functions. Some ottomans, for instance, can be used as benches, foot rests and tables, and are often built with hidden storage. A day bed or a sofa bed can be used in both the bedroom and the living room. There are reversible tables that can be used for different purposes, and table carts that combine storage and table space with mobility.

Don’t be afraid to mix and match pieces. Doing so will help you find the right combination of fit, function and style.

Maximize Storage

Good organization can often add more space than you might expect. Maximize the storage at your new accommodation by taking advantage of closets and shelves. There are numerous space-saving closet organizers available from the department stores.

You can also take advantage of neglected indoor spaces, such as corner and over-door shelving, or recessed cabinets placed between wall studs. Unused spaces, such as beneath beds and stairways should not be overlooked. Depending on the size of your yard, an outdoor shed can be a good solution for items that are less sensitive to dampness or changes in temperature. And, of course, some pieces of furniture can provide additional built-in storage.

Minimize Acquisitions

As part of your new lifestyle, you’ll need to keep acquisitions under control. Likely, you’ll have downsized your possessions before the move, but even small purchases after the move can add up to create new clutter. A little clutter in a large house can often go unnoticed, but in a small place, it can be very obvious and very dangerous-contributing to potential fire and tripping hazards. One strategy for minimizing acquisitions is to donate an old item every time you purchase a new one.

Create a Spacious Design

To make the space look larger and more accessible, it’s a good idea to select paints of soft tones, such as off-white and light blue. In addition, painting or wallpaper the ceiling can help, as it draws the eyes upward, creating an illusion of height.

Hang lace or sheer curtains to let in light while maintaining your privacy. Hide away tchotchkes and curios to make the room seem airier and less cluttered (and to cut down on your dusting and tidying time). And, as space allows, install large mirrors to create an illusion of expanse.

Use Outdoor Areas

Entertaining guests can often be an issue, but outdoor areas present innumerable opportunities for complementing your small indoor space, particularly in warmer climates. For example, you can add a deck or a patio, and semi-enclose the area with little difficulty. There, you and your guests can dine and recline without feeling as though you’re on top of one another.

You can even cook outside if you have a barbecue pit or grill. Where space around your home is lacking, consider local parks and other public areas. And if you’re moving to a retirement community, there are often shared outdoor areas where you can host guests.

A Perfect Finish

Downsizing can be a difficult proposition. It ushers in a time of change that may be due to alterations in family circumstances or finances. And although you don’t want to crowd yourself in your new accommodation, neither do you want to discard the habits and hobbies that bring you joy.

Downsizing is a process and it should begin early. It does not have to be a frantic or urgent experience; rather, approach it with an eye toward a new and rewarding lifestyle style in a smaller space. Use the challenges ahead as inspiration. A little creativity can solve most problems.

Whether you live in a one-room cottage or a three-story manor house, make sure you have the right homeowners insurance.

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