tiny houses: living small, feeling big

You expand and contract according to the size of your dwelling. Have you ever noticed? Get a huge living space and you find yourself slowly working to fill it up. Move into a tiny house, and you’ll become obsessed with decluttering and going minimalist, even if only out of self defense.  Our Wagen dwelling was already small, and now it is shrinking.

In the summer, or any of the warm months for that matter, our house expands to include everything outside.  We eat outside, we sit outside, and sometimes we even set up an extra bed and sleep outside.  The size of our home swells from seven meters by 2 meters 20 to infinite.  Our Wagen house becomes more of our posessions’ dwelling than ours.

But as the cold approaches that space slowly begins to recede.  We eat a few more meals indoors every week; the chairs are wet.  It stops being light until 10 pm; we watch a movie rather than sit around the outdoor table.  It is like the ebb of the tide.  With the lap of each wave things contract another few steps until you find yourself living with three people in a shoebox.

This is the first year I have felt the Wagen constrict, and it is tempting to blame it on the fact that we now live here with three people, small as the newcomer may still be.  However, looking around today, it is pretty obvious that it has a lot more to do with the way we’ve set a few things in here up.  Today I found myself fantasizing about a complete renovation, about removing every single object inside, repainting, rearranging, and then only putting the most important, lovely, necessary items back in.

When we decided that Baby Pickles—though at the time she was about the size of a matchbox—would sleep in bed with us, we decided to enlarge our bed.  Originally it was flush against one end of the WagenWägen tend to be about the width of a mattress length—and so we slept with our heads against one wall and our feet against another.  For the new super enormo monster bed the mattress stayed in the same position, but we added an extra bit of foam at the feet, and laid across them in the other direction.  That is to say, with out heads against the narrow wall of the Wagen and our feet facing out into the room.  A couple of feet of space were lost, but it was so worth it.

Later, I built a shelf slash dividing wall facing the bed—a place for our television and clothing to live.  This made our Wagen feel like it was made up of two small rooms.  The effect was pleasant, but it increased the amount of time we spent dancing around each other trying to get in or out or to this shelf or that.  Still worth it.

Then the Beard built a raised platform that came out about 2.5 meters into the Wagen.  The reasons were twofold.  One: create storage space (under the platform).  Two: create a space where Baby Pickles could crawl on the floor without getting cold (the floor is the coldest place once the weather cools down).  Both have been successful, but while the Beard uses it often, I rarely set foot upon it.  So for me it has taken our Wagen down to a five-meter number, minus enormo-bed, a small space for one, let alone three.

Today we suffered yet another loss of space and an attack of the worst possible kind in any house.  Mold.  It had been growing on part of the wall under the bed for some time, and we had been postponing removing the boards on which it was feasting for lack of a car long enough to get us replacements from the building supply store.  But our spot in Frankfurt seems to be extra damp and when the Beard noticed that the instrument cases beneath the bed were all soaking wet, he took it as a sign that it was time to either act or sign the place over to the spores.  Action it was.

Air wasn’t circulating beneath our mattress, so his first move (after clearing everything out under the bed and throwing away a ton of stuff) was to move the bed a foot and a half away from the back wall to create some ventilation.  Now the bed is claustrophobically close to the dividing wall slash clothes shelves, and we’ve had to get rid of a number of things to make the situation tolerable.  But at least the moldy boards have all been cut out and thrown onto the bonfire pile.

With the house shrinking, I’ve gone into super efficiency planning mode.  I just hope that come spring I’m still motivated to put some of my ideas into action.  I’m seeing a fresh paint job, less chaotic shelving, and nets hanging from the ceiling to hold worn-but-not-dirty clothes and Pickles’ toys.  I’m also seeing some massive decluttering, starting with the flea market this weekend where we’ll be running a table.  And people say spring is the time for cleaning.

PS The picture above is an older one of our main Wagen.  I can only hope this winter looks as quaint.  So far it just looks like a hell of a lot of mud.

PPS I just realized that the bed expansion and the clothing shelf building happened in the opposite order, but oh well nevermind.

0 Comments on “tiny houses: living small, feeling big

  1. Uh, mold! We have/had it, too, and I hate it.
    I so know your theory to be true, because during the last ten years, I went from a small one-room-apartment to a bigger room in a WG, to now living together with the Mr. in a small house. And I have always had trouble finding a place for everything (that was the reason I was looking into tiny spaces and the storage solutions and found your blog, by the way). I just have too much stuff! Mostly books, but still. I dream about that too: getting everything out, removing the mold once and for all, painting, and moving only back in what we really want and/or need. But I suppose the more realistic way is the declutter…

  2. How do you get it all done with Pickles there? I’m constantly trying to declutter/organize especially since we’ll be moving soon but it’s so tough to do with a busy one year old that’s just all over the place. So impressed by all you guys are getting done!


  3. Fine: Mold really is the worst. Here’s to our downsizing fantasies coming true!

    S: Well, mostly we do it by having one of us on baby duty and the other one doing the bulk of the work. Sometimes Pickles hangs out while we work though too, just does her thing on the floor or where ever. But more often it is a switching back and forth. Totally frustrating! Same reason why I still haven’t gotten to build our new and much-needed shed.

  4. Ugh I have been trying to figure out what to do with worn but not dirty clothes forever. They always end up in a pile on the floor, which the fella then complains about. But I don’t want to put them back in the drawer. What to do??

  5. I have a wall-mounted rack thing that when it’s closed, it is just a foot long, decorated piece of wood that sticks out maybe an inch. But hinge it open and a metal bar slides down so that it sits as a triangle, and you can hang clothes hangers from said metal bar. That might work for your worn-but-not-ready-to-be-washed clothes, if them hanging down from the bar wouldn’t be in the way (as I imagine it would be open and used more often than not)?

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