In 2018, when my marriage of 18 years ended, I moved out of my 4-bedroom, 3-bathroom, 3,000-square-foot house and began the search for a new home.
The places I looked at were out of my budget, so I had to get creative. When I saw a trend of tiny houses on social media, I realized it could be a great way to get the luxury space I always wanted at an affordable price.
Today, I live in a 520-square-foot tiny home on wheels that I built for $175,000. I pay $725 a month in housing costs, which covers my parking space (in the backyard of someone's home), internet, water and electricity.
At first, my biggest worry was that I'd have to give up a large chunk of my belongings, since they wouldn't fit in the new space. But that concern quickly faded — and it's actually the No. 1 reason I'm happier than I've ever been.
After my now ex-husband and I sold our home in April 2019, I had to start purging my belongings. I had a walk-in closet full of clothes and shoes, but I quickly realized that I only wore about 30% of them.
So I went through my wardrobe, filled up eight large trash bags, and delivered them to Goodwill. To my surprise, I immediately felt a sense of relief. And to this day, I couldn't even tell you what I donated.
When I lived in the bigger house, I'd constantly buy things that I never ended up using. I'd hang on to some of them for years — just in case I might need them one day. They took over drawers and spare closets. Our basement looked like a junk yard.
Now that I have less space, I no longer compulsively throw things in the shopping cart. If I know I don't have a place to put it, I simply won't buy it.
This mindset shift has not only saved me money, it has helped me feel more gratitude and take even better care of my things.
I've become more thoughtful about where I buy things that I do need. I love shopping on Amazon, but each little item arrives inside a package, which is inside bubble wrap, which is inside a box. All of these things take up space in my home and trash bins.
I used to wheel a dumpster-sized trash can to the curb once a week. Now I have a 13-gallon kitchen trash can and a 13-gallon recycling bin. That's it.
I try to buy small items locally, even if they sometimes cost more, to cut down on packaging. It feels good to support small businesses and eliminate the wasteful packaging.
If what I need is only on Amazon, I'll wait until I have a few items in my cart before placing the order.
I loved hosting guests in my 3,000-square-foot home, which had a great open floor plan. But it also meant endless hours of mopping, vacuuming and putting things back into place.
In my tiny home, less space means less cleaning and fewer things to organize and maintain. I designed my kitchen to be the largest part of the home, so I can still comfortably entertain up to five guests at a time. Cleaning is easy and takes no more than an hour.
When I began my tiny home journey, I struggled with the idea of having to downsize. But little by little, I became less attached to material things, which in turn gave me a sense of freedom I never expected.
I've learned to truly appreciate the meaningful things in life: time with my kids, space to breathe and meditate, and a home that is uniquely my own.
Jen Gressett is a Colorado-based graphic designer, copywriter, photo stylist and content creator. During her free time, she enjoys trail running, hiking, and training for races. Find her on Instagram, where she shares her tiny house living experience.
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