What I Learned While Avoiding Prison

il_570xn.1063601253_300jSeveral years ago, my husband and I decided to take an extended trip around the country. About the same time, I found the minimalist movement and never looked back. 

In subsequent months, we either sold or put into storage everything we had except enough furniture to turn our thirty-year-old home into a “furnished house in the woods” for rent.

I was finally able to let go of the jumbled room upstairs I’d once called Shipping and Receiving, only recently turning it into “The Staging Area” after a mentor’s advice – a place to stage the next chapter of your life, he said. Ours was to put our trip-on-the-road life into full swing.

Living without a house for seven months was one of the best periods of my life. We both knew by the end of it, that we did not want to go back to the status quo. So much to clean. So much to maintain. So much to heat and cool. 

We would build a clubhouse for our growing grands, and periodically use it ourselves.

I took a minimizing course, twice, bought the book and joined the Facebook group. I had files and files on my desktop of disappearing beds, folding tables, composting toilets, and eensy-weensy showers. A lifetime packrat, I was now persuading myself to give it all away. We even emptied the storage locker and distributed the heirlooms. I kept only a bag of old silverware for future Christmas presents.

This was totally liberating!

Months of research later, my husband and I were drawing on napkins at dinner time: tiny stairs containing drawers, and and other equally ingenious architectural features that did double duty. I designed a beautiful spice rack that folded down into extra counter space. We thought about what cookware we really needed (I rarely bake), how many coffee cups, which thirty three items of clothing we each wanted to take into our shrinking closet, one we were now going to share.

We were shedding skins like a snake. And having fun doing it. My inner eight-year old, with its love for hobbit houses in tree trunks, was in the driver’s seat.

The first months of living in our tiny space were full of lessons and surprises. 

Here’s what I learned after a longer stint in my new abode: 

Our two-story “clubhouse” in the woods is about 250 square feet, though ingenious, for sure. Our grands love it!

We also have a detached full bathroom, and a small RV that Art uses as an office – or a snore hut – or an escape hatch, whatever it needs it to be. We are three times better off, one might say, than if we had only one tiny container between us. And, of course, we have our lovely woods all around and a giant lily-pad porch-surround that we use liberally three seasons of the year.

Nevertheless, given the huge differences between us in everything from wake up and sleepy time to loud radio vs. an overriding need for silence, there is now no more reason – or excuse – not to just say it:

The answer, my friends, to unruly sprawl and outlandish consumption, to lessening our footprint on the earth isn’t tiny unless you are a single person, a hermit (one) or a gremlin.

It’s small. Not tiny.

Any communal room that would fit the needs of two such disparate personalities as we are needs to be long and large with ample alcoves to hide away and a few separate rooms as well: a second bedroom, one that might also function as a guest room or office, multiple-use still being the key phrase. 

And you gotta’ have earphones.

For two or more, if you want to stay sane, it’s gotta’ be:

Small. Not tiny

Otherwise, we must seriously discuss the effects of crowding on rats (not good) and the inevitable madness, mayhem and possible murder that might truly occur if the tiny prescription is swallowed like Kool Ade. 

Like I did.

It looks mighty fine in pictures, which is where it should remain: other peoples’ experiences in hell.

Remember, Small. Not tiny.

We need to get away from each other, ya’ll. We need to be able to sleep without someone else snoring and belching and farting through the night every night. 

We need to feel great in our own skin and not be sighed at or criticized because some aspect of our personality is grating to the other, and we’re just too close.

Going on writing retreats reminded me of that,  which I knew even as a young girl.

And remember when we first started going out or getting to know our new friend? We went home after having fun. We got in our own space. We turned out the light or stayed up as late as we damn well pleased, and nobody said nothing about nothing.


It’s easy to forget all that in a marriage – a close coupling in a tight space. Yummy at times. But not All Times. Not for most of us.

Long story short: Think about small.

Save tiny for prison.