Every other week, I handed out bags of food to families in need just a few miles away from the 3,500-square-foot house I lived in. Ours was a four-bedroom house with rooms for everything (an office, a family room, a living room, a laundry room) and not one, but two spacious basement levels to store all that we'd accumulated over the years. Handing out jugs of milk, cans of soup and loaves of bread to mothers and fathers—the invisible poor who lived in the shadow of wealthy neighborhoods like ours—started me thinking. Why did I have more than I needed when they were struggling to feed their families? Did I sell everything I owned and give them the proceeds? Did I invite them home? No. But I did "let them in" my life.
We started looking for a smaller house, something that would require less commuting miles and something in a walkable neighborhood with public transportation, something without a big, green lawn to maintain. The house we found was a little smaller (2,000 square feet), and the lawn was almost nonexistent—no more watering, fertilizing, cutting. Still, we both worked long hours to support the mortgage and the constant "improvements" we felt compelled to make. The house owned us. It took us four years to realize the house, as much as we loved it, was still more than we needed or wanted.
Next we lived in a condo before moving into a house with our daughter's family. They moved cross country, and we rented a two-bedroom apartment, only to downsize a year later to a one-bedroom apartment. With each move, we sold or gave away a lot of what we'd accumulated over the years. Things stored in boxes in the basement, things stuffed in kitchen cabinets, things filling rooms we rarely walked into. In the same way cutting unnecessary words sharpens prose, "editing" our possessions heightened our appreciation of what we chose to keep.
Though we'd gone from 3,500 to 800 square feet of living space, we found we still didn't use all the space we were heating, cleaning, maintaining and financing. Now we're living in a 400-square-foot studio as we build a house that will be smaller still. I don't remember when we began talking about building a tiny house; in hindsight, it seems a natural progression in the journey we started more than ten years ago. As we spend most of our days building, we have less paid work...but we can live on a lot less money in this right-sized life.