Living with Less and the Tiny House Movement

Living with Less and the Tiny House Movement

Lately I’ve been watching documentaries via Netflix. Netflix often recommends selections based on my previous choices, and in the queue I found “TINY: A Story About Living Small.”

The film is by Merete Mueller and Christopher Smith, who decide to build a tiny house from scratch, even though neither has any knowledge or training in construction. I found the story really interesting, especially as a Professional Organizer who on a daily basis, urges clients to live with less. TINY takes it to the extreme, but a good lesson can be learned by all with this film: a smaller house allows us to live with less.


I could relate to this movie. In New York City I lived in a 474 square foot studio apartment that to me felt spacious, but to most people would feel like a fishbowl. Singles or couples participating in the Tiny House movement live in anywhere from 84-250 square feet, so ‘tiny’ is relative. I had to be creative in my apartment so that I didn’t feel overwhelmed by my belongings. I only had space for two to sit and eat, so having only a 4-piece place setting made perfect sense. I had a large closet and great dressing area with custom shelves and cabinets, but I had to be selective about what I bought, and if I did make a purchase, usually that meant something had to be purged or donated. My tiny kitchen, mini refrigerator, and lack of storage space meant I went grocery shopping every few days.


I loved my studio apartment, but after several years, city life got to me and I longed to return to the more laid-back environment of Northern California. I could certainly be happy living in a smaller house – in fact I prefer it – and like that it forces me to be selective about my possessions.

I wonder when we became convinced that empty spaces must be filled to the point of overflow. If you rarely use your 24-piece place setting to host parties, why not just rent the dishes? We seem to still be under the belief that we are what we own, and if we own nice things, or a lot of things, it’s a reflection of how well we are doing in life. While I enjoy luxury items like the next person, I know there are only so many handbags I will use (I carry around the same bag all the time, actually). I’d rather invest in one nice one that I use every day, than have several that will sit in a closet, just because I might use them one day.

“But what if I need it?” “I paid so much money for it.” These statements are excuses for clutter. If you need it in the future, then you’ll go out and buy it. But chances are you’re not going to need it later, if you don’t need it now. Why have an extra kitchen gadget when a regular tool you already own does the same job? Often times we buy something thinking it will make our lives simpler, but when stuff takes over our spaces, it causes even more stress. When we can’t find an item, we go out and buy it, only to find it later and now there are multiples. Keeping organized can save you money, because you know your inventory.

Back to the topic at hand, I highly recommend watching this film, if for nothing else to see how people live with less in an extreme case. It might help you to figure out which items you could live without if you were forced to downsize. Maybe the tiny house movement is a good idea. Our parents and grandparents certainly lived with a lot less, and maybe life was simpler and more enjoyable because of it. Do we really need all that space? Is it just more temptation to fill it?

I’m not suggesting you to go and purge half of your belongings, but just be open to the idea of living with less. For some that might just mean a few items, while to others it might mean a lot more. This film gives you a glimpse into another lifestyle, and allows you to imagine what it could be like to live with less. A lot of the people interviewed in this film believe it’s freeing, and as an organizer, I agree. We often think all of our stuff makes our lives better, when in reality, too much stuff makes our lives much more difficult and stressful. When you learn to live with less, you’ll see exactly what I mean.

Lauren Mang
1 Comment
  • Moving From NYC
    Posted at 17:10h, 17 January Reply

    Thanks for posting this! I enjoyed reading and informing myself.

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