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Tiny house

Wednesday, 09 July, 2014

Please forgive the random topic; I've been trying to blog about this for a little while in the corners of time that I have to do stuff like blogging. (This post was made possible by my in-laws being here today to give me a little break!)

Last year I had a bit of a mini meltdown. As you may have noticed, I am a planner (as opposed to a spontaneous do-er or whatever you call such people), and I had a plan for the next five years that went something like this:

Little did I know how unrealistic this plan was. I thought what I wanted was achievable. Obviously I was ridiculous ignorant about the state of property in Sydney—and unfortunately the state of property being what it is, I can't have everything I want—that is, location, more space and the sort of flexible job I want.

(Side note: It is my theory that the arts culture in Sydney is not as thriving as it is in Melbourne because of the prohibitive cost of property.)

Unfortunately our area seems to be a bit trendy at the moment: there are lots of young families here and lots of people wanting to move in. I understand why: it's within reasonable commute to the city with good public transport options (and they just opened the light rail near here, which they've been promising to do for years), there are lots of nice parks and playgrounds within walking distance, and of course I shouldn't forget to mention all the lovely cafés, shops, good schools (well, “good” depending on who you talk to), and so on.

It's so nice here that houses in our area regularly sell for around a million dollars each. This means adding an extra bedroom to our living space, even in unit form, adds about $400k to our mortgage—which means I'd have to work full-time if we were to have any hope of making our payments.

So if we want a bigger place, we need to move out of our nice area—to somewhere probably not so nice (or not at close to the city). And moving means starting again with a new church and a new community—the thought of which exhausts me, even though I know I could do it and I have adequate social skills. (And it's likely I would already know people in the new area anyway. I know a lot of people.)

After a very depressing evening of working out the practicalities of all this with Ben and watching my humble plans crumble into dust, I got very depressed and had trouble going to sleep. I was still awake in the early hours of the morning, IM-ing a friend about it, which made me feel a bit better, but in the morning I felt empty because my plans had all disappeared and I wasn't quite sure what to do from here.

Enter the Tiny House movement. I'd seen a few of Kirsten Dirksen's videos on YouTube because other people had linked to them—for example, this one, where the guy's apartment is basically one room with lots of cool storage:

And this one, where walls are movable (he even has a bath hidden behind one of them!):

And this one, where the main wall is movable and the walls are filled with Murphy beds:

And then I watched Kirsten Dirksen's documentary, We the Tiny House People (which goes for almost an hour and a half so set aside time if you're interested):

And then after watching all these people living in these tiny spaces with just the essentials, and living quite happily because:

—after all of this, I realised that out of all the options we had thought about—that is,

  1. Moving to a bigger place in our area and me working full-time to help pay the mortgage, or
  2. Moving to a bigger place somewhere else where we could afford a mortgage with me on a part-time wage

—we had not explored a third option: staying put in our two bedroom flat.

I know it seems insane, given that we are a family of two kids now. (And you will have noticed that the bulk of the Tiny House videos I've linked to belong to singles and childless couples; there aren't many families who do this. I liked this one, but it's probably not sustainable long-term and with more children.) But the more I thought about it, the more sense it made. In the grand scheme of things, we have plenty of space for four people—two per bedroom. It's better for us financially to stay here as long as possible, which means the nature of my work will not be dictated by a burdensome mortgage. As I said, I don't like yards or gardens, or having to take care of them. (Really, it's enough taking care of what's indoors!) There are plenty of parks and gardens around if we really want to get outside. (Our apartment complex even has a pool.) I like that it only takes half an hour to clean all the floors in our place. I like that we are high up and get such good light and sunshine, which makes a big difference to our mood. It may not work here forever, but I think we could probably manage to survive for possibly up to ten years before we'd need to think about expanding.

That said, there are things that I want to do to this place to make it a bit more livable. I don't mean a full-scale renovation (which scares me silly). But it would be nice if we could do the following:

Obviously some of these ideas will only come to fruition after some years when we have saved up enough. (We do have a dedicated house fund that we add to regularly.) I think it's achievable, though, and it makes me happy that I have a new plan—one that's probably even better than the one I had before.

I will finish this post with a few more of my favourite Tiny House videos. Enjoy!

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