Minimalism and Storage

After the compost toilet, the second thing I’m asked about the most regarding tiny house living is: “Where do you put all of your stuff?”

Honestly, you just can’t have a lot of “stuff” to begin with. I have never been one to collect a lot of things, but I know that the acquisition of material items (from clothing, to electronics, to kitchen gadgets and collectables) is a huge priority AND problem for many people in the United States. When people live in big spaces, they feel the need to fill that space to the brim. To live tiny successfully, you have to be a minimalist from the start, or be willing to make the transition to a much less “stuff”-oriented lifestyle, and that transition can be a tough one psychologically for people who have a hard time letting go of material things.

Having limited space for storage makes you really evaluate what is truly a “need” and what is truly a “want”. For me, quality has always been more important than quantity. Living in a smaller space makes me much more conscious of what I truly need to bring into that space, and the extraneous is cut out significantly.

I hope that sharing a few pictures of how we’ve managed the storage question can give other people some ideas on how to store their own items.

closet

There is a small closet behind the front door where work clothes are hung, shoes and coats are kept, as well as our toolbag and other necessities (flashlights, batteries, etc.).

loftstorage_fall2016

There is loft storage above our door where we keep seasonal clothing and bedding packed away until needed. We’ve also got a coat rack and we use our beams as a place to hang items from the garden to dry (pictured are fresh mint for tea and popcorn ears).

wheelwellcouch

There’s a small couch in our living space and underneath we store the batteries for our electric system and other personal necessities in boxes.

undersinkstorage

Under the kitchen sink we store pots and pans, cleaning items, Ryder’s food, and a small garbage can.

bathstorage

We store toiletries and soaps under the bathroom sink.

officespace

The backroom serves as an office space, but also a place to put the laundry hamper and a basket for Ryder’s toys and towels. Not pictured: Chase also keeps his clothing in baskets under the L-shaped desk.

shelves

The bookshelves serve double-duty: storage for books but also large kitchen bowls and other items.


Behind the bed in our loft, Chase built a “footlocker”. This is where I store my casual clothes, undies, and linens.

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What I’ve learned so far

My tiny living room.

My tiny living room.

I’ve learned a lot living tiny and off-grid this past year. Below are just a few of those lessons and I’m sure I will be adding to this list even more in the coming months.

How to say “no thank you”. Friends and acquaintances said they admired me for downsizing and wanted to downsize their living space, too … which to them meant trying to give their clutter and unwanted items to ME. Though well intentioned, I don’t have the space to be the recipient of more stuff. The whole point is to learn to do more with less. And so I had to learn how to say no firmly and not feel guilty about it.

Be prepared. The winter of 2014 taught me that I need to be as prepared as possible for the colder months ahead of time. When I lived on the grid, I never thought about preparing for winter outside of getting a new winter coat or a new pair of boots. But living off-grid teaches you to pay attention to seasonal changes and get prepared early.

Wood heat means being married to your stove. When you live on the grid and use fossil fuels for heat, you just have to push a button or turn a dial to warm your home. But heating with a wood stove requires more work and vigilance, and your day is planned around maintaining the heat in your home. I had to explain again and again to friends using gas or electric heat why I could not be away from home for long periods of time in the winter.

Compost toilets aren’t a big deal. Most people I talk to about living tiny and off-grid are fascinated by the fact that I use a compost toilet. They want to know what it’s like, how did I adjust to it and, even more importantly, does it smell??? (The answer: No.) The compost toilet was probably the easiest adjustment I’ve made along my off-grid journey, and I talk more about the experience here.

Water is all important. Besides heating, having a ready water supply that is drinkable and water you can use for bathing is extremely important and can be tough to set up, depending on where you are. In trying to get my water system up and running, I quickly learned the value of clean water and importance of not being wasteful with it. I will talk more about my experience with setting up a water system in a future post.

Try and get any/all water-related jobs completed in the warmer months. Due to poor planning, for the past two years we’ve had to deal with water issues when the temperatures have been close to or below freezing. NOT cool. As much as possible try and plan to have water systems ready, water storage tanks buried and filled, and water areas well insulated during the warmer months before cold, wet weather sets in.

Reducing/eliminating dependence on media and gadgets isn’t so painful. I started unplugging from media well before I made the decision to move into a tiny house. It’s been about seven years since I’ve owned a television and I don’t miss it at all. To stay connected I have a laptop and a phone.

Stick to your principles. It’s important not to go into any kind of relationship based solely on potential. This was the mistake I made in my first land leasing agreement. As much as possible it is better to build a working relationship (any kind of relationship!) with people who share your ideals and vision from the start.