Living Small

Posted by Christine, January 7, 2014

Mother Earth News on living in a really small house:

Remember the game of Twister? You put your feet and hands on different colored circles, which sometimes ties the players up in knots, and if you fall off of the space, you lose.

Often when I’m getting up for a bowl of ice cream in the evening, or especially when I get up in the middle of the night, I feel as though I’m playing Twister. Place my foot on the wrong spot, and I’m stubbing a toe on the dresser, tripping over a pair of shoes left in the wrong spot, or — worse yet — stepping on a dog’s paw or tail.

Still, I wouldn’t trade our 480-square-foot house in the country for the largest of McMansions in the suburbs.

Our “Little House in the Big Woods” — the moniker my sister-in-law has given our tiny dwelling in the Arkansas Ozark Mountains on Bull Shoals Lake — wasn’t originally intended to be a full-time residence. Sometimes, though, some of the best things that happen in life aren’t planned. Our little house was intended, and used for four years, as a getaway for me, my husband, and our four dogs to escape our lives in the city.

Our original dream of living in the Big Woods involved a second house on our nearly 10 acres — not a mansion by any means, but large enough for us and my elderly mother. The Little House was to be a guesthouse and my writing studio.

On New Year’s Eve heading into 2007, we made the resolution to make our dream a reality. We began ridding our lives of unnecessary clutter. Our plans changed, however, when my mother passed away. Now, instead of my mother, I had only her antiques and heirlooms to take to the Big Woods.

After our bills were settled, our plans for another house had to be downsized. Building costs had skyrocketed in the time since we’d finished the Little House, and even an addition to the small dwelling might have been outside of our financial comfort zone. Two builders told us we couldn’t build up, or onto, the house on three of the most desirable sides because of the roofline. We felt an addition to the remaining side would take away from the place’s charm, so we scrubbed the entire plan of having a larger house.

The rest, as they say, is history. We decided to take a shot at living in the 480-square-foot Little House.

Adjusting to Life in 480 Square Feet

Life in the Little House was stressful at first, to put it mildly. I work from home, so our 10-by-10-foot bedroom suddenly had to double as my office. We had no room for a bed, so the futon we had bought to sleep on for short weekend stays had to do. Working in the bedroom was akin to working while sitting in an airplane seat, and notes and papers needed for my stories usually fell from my lap and became a jumbled heap on the floor.