How Living Small Lets Me Dream Big

A little over a year ago, my husband and I quit our stable jobs, moved back west to the mountains that had called our names for over a decade, and bought a 28’ Airstream as our new (to-us) home. At the same time, I launched my own freelance career.

We’ve been wanderers and explorers over the almost 15 years of our marriage—crisscrossing the country and spending large chunks of time overseas as well.

We’ve always embraced challenges, and have seen our marriage and ourselves strengthen in so many different ways as a result.

This latest move is no exception to our story.

As a long-time reader of the Art of Simple, I’ve been inspired by the stories of people who have transformed their lives into something more authentically in line with their deepest wishes.

By going against the grain, stepping away from the story they’ve been told to live in lieu of a story they’re creating, these tales helped give me the courage to transform my own life.

Today, I’m so happy to be sharing a few ways that living smaller has given me the courage to dream even bigger.

I’ve Found Contentment With Less

Everything must have a purpose, and be chosen with care, to fit into our 200 square foot home.

Full disclosure here—I’ll admit that we have a few pieces of furniture and family heirlooms in storage at my dad’s home. But for the most part, we’ve been thoughtful and strict when it comes to what makes the cut.

My collection of coffee mugs from around the world? I’m down to my top two, the ones I really love drinking out of the most, anyway. They fit right in my hand, hold the right amount of coffee, don’t get too hot or too cold.

Same goes for the endless piles of clothes and shoes I used to own. I’ve worn my winter boots every day for the past four months because we live in NW Montana and there’s lots of snow.

The more I’ve let go of, the more I’ve seen my desire to consume shrink to fit my space.

This means less money spent, but it’s also drawn me to see and enjoy what I do have with so much more intention.

Communication Skills On Steroids

I’d think that after almost twenty years together, my husband and I’ve got a pretty good system in place for communicating about difficult topics, dealing with disagreements, and just generally venting our grievances in a productive way.

Fold this experience into a complex, self-sufficient (when behaving nicely), and tiny living space, and you’ll really see how good your communication skills are— and learn where you can still, everyday, hope to improve.

Electrical failure at 11pm on a Sunday in the middle of cold January? Frustration over noise or clutter in one of our small living spaces? Navigating the trailer into a tight fit with a 57-point turn?

How do you handle it when tempers are short and having your own space to sort it out just isn’t an option?

Learning how to communicate even better in our small home keeps us on our toes, and helps us keep our relationship running in high gear.

I Have To Learn Things

The above reference to electrical failure on a Sunday? It turns out, I now know how to re-terminate electrical cables. Something I never thought I’d learn, or need to know.

Living in an Airstream, or, I’d image, any tiny home with its requisite challenges, brings me into a much closer relationship with the tools and systems that make my everyday life easy.

In the past, living in larger homes or apartments, there was a sense of separation. If one bathroom was acting up, I could use another one until it was fixed. If the heater wasn’t working, we could build a fire in the fireplace.

Not so with our current home.

The Airstream makes me earn my comfort and helps me grow even more self-sufficient. Another great side effect of this reality, I’ve become much more aware of our water and power consumption, our environmental footprint.

As someone eager to learn, grow, and improve myself day after day, but hesitant and unaccustomed to the manual work of making systems run, I’ve found this a particularly valuable and unexpected benefit of tiny life.

I Can Work On My Own Terms

Freedom to work the way I choose is perhaps the best way that living small lets me dream big.

By living more simply, the way I define it, I get to build my own livelihood. This isn’t a requirement of living tiny. I know many people who live small and still work the standard office job, and do so happily.

For me, this freedom comes from both the financial and logistical possibilities created by a tiny home.

Without a mortgage, a home that’s fixed in one place, and the bills and maintenance that come from both, I’m able to live a more income-flexible lifestyle.

Actually making the decision to launch my own freelance career as a writer and yoga teacher was both incredible and terrifying.

Working for myself, building a business on my own terms, feeding the creative parts of my spirit—it certainly hasn’t all been easy, but it’s been so worth it.


Holly is a writer, yoga teacher, voracious reader and eager traveler currently living in the mountains of Northwestern Montana. She shares stories of her experiences on her blog, and is currently working on her first novel.

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10 Comments

  1. Rachel Nordgren

    I absolutely love this! Thank you for sharing. My husband and I built a beautiful tiny home a few years ago and then (due to a change in life circumstances and a very long story) ended up selling it and traveling Europe instead. Intentionality, simplicity, communication, freedom…those were all things that we felt drawn to as well. Cheers to you and your husband for crafting a life that aligns with your hearts and values!

    Reply
    • Holly

      Rachel, thanks so much for your comment! It sounds like your European adventure was simply a different flavor of living intentionally and with deeper freedom. How wonderful!

      Reply
      • Rachel Nordgren

        Holly, you’re absolutely right. I love that living intentionally comes in all different shapes and sizes 🙂 But I do confess, I’ll be excited to have our own home base again someday soon…and now you’ve got me dreaming about an Airstream!

        Reply
  2. Pat Powell

    Holly – I am interested in your reference to The Art of Simple. Is this a blog or book? I am seriously interested in simplifying my life but find myself easily distracted. I am in my mid 60s and my husband has been experiencing some medical issues recently. I deal with the related stress by going yarn and fabric shopping. I currently have three full bags of yarn in my trunk as a result (waiting for space to free up in my home). I have consistently found success in reading the stories of others as they serve as excellent examples of the many different ways one can employ in an effort to simplify. Thank you ever so much.

    Reply
    • Debs

      Pat

      You’re already on “The Art of Simple” site!

      Reply
    • Holly

      Hi Pat! I absolutely understand your yarn shopping — for me, it’s been books. I still have a few tupperware tubs full at my dad’s house – but I’ve come a long way from when I had many, many overflowing bookshelves. For me, it helped to set a challenge to read a certain number of books I owned before buying new ones; perhaps you could have a project to use some yarn before buying more? Just an idea. And yes — as Debs mentioned, you’re on the Art of Simple site! I hope you’ll find continued inspiration here 🙂

      Reply
  3. Brooks Rimes

    Hi Holly,
    My wife and I were fulltime RVers from 2004 to 2008 – some of the best years of our marriage. We were inspired by several books, the funniest of which was Steeles on Wheels about a family that fulltimed and each member took turns writing a chapter – the wife, then the husband, then the dog. The best chapters were by the dog! I think you would enjoy this book.
    Regards,
    Brooks

    Reply
    • Holly

      Brooks,

      Thanks so much for that suggestion! I haven’t heard of it, but I’ll be going to my library soon to add it to my wishlist. I’m happy to hear you enjoyed the RV life! Thanks for your comment 🙂 be well today.

      Reply
  4. laura ann

    I am a minimalist, but after going thru this hurricane where friends were wiped out, I have decided to cull more stuff not needed, will donate to several group homes, picking thru stuff w/ fine tooth comb. Will be waiting for an apt. then will sell house , We are retired and want more free time. We are not involved in community activities and are semi reclusive, spend time reading, watching Netflix, biking. Am baffled that retirees pack away clutter their kids don’t want some day.

    Reply
    • Holly

      Hi Laura Ann,

      I am also a bit reclusive — and it’s so nice to just embrace that side of myself sometimes. It’s so great to hear about your efforts to help those hurt by the hurricane and how that event has brought some positive inspiration to you. Thanks for reading!

      Reply

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