Tiny Houses: The Lessons of Downsizing and Simple Living

This is a guest post from Laura M. LaVoie, author of the book 120 Ideas for Tiny Living. Laura lives near Asheville in a 120 square foot home she built with her partner, Matt. You can read her blog at www.120squarefeet.com and buy the book on Amazon.

Laura’s tiny house in the mountains.

I live in a 120 square foot house. While most people aren’t interested in making such a drastic change, I have talked to a number of people who want to simplify their lives and downsize as they approach retirement. The tiny house movement has a lot to share about how to simplify our lives and small steps everyone can take regardless of the size of their home.

Tiny house living is about more than just the square footage and the amount of stuff you own. It really is a philosophy that anyone can incorporate into their lives.

Here are just a few easy ways to simplify your life and live more deliberately.

Take it one room at a time. The hardest part about simplifying is looking at all of the things you’ve accumulated in your house and thinking you can’t possibly decide what can stay or what can go. Just like with any difficult task it helps to break it into smaller pieces. Start with just one room and if that seems overwhelming begin with a desk or a closet. Make three piles: keep, donate, and toss.

Please click below to read more ideas on downsizing and tiny living.

Separate memories from objects. So many of the things we keep are because of the sentimental value. Take books for instance. Many people tell me they would love to live in a tiny space but they can’t because they have too many books. This may be controversial, but a large book collection can hold you back. Most of the time it is an attachment to what they represent that keep them around, not the book itself. Keep a select few and donate the rest. The same goes for antique furniture, baby clothes, and collectables.

Inside Laura’s Tiny House

Determine how much space you actually need. Before we built our tiny house we spent time figuring out how much of our large suburban home we actually used. We took post-it notes and placed them at every doorway. Each time we entered a room we would write down what we did there and how long we spent. At the end of a week or a month we could easily see what spaces we used most often. This gave us a real perspective about the size of home we could live in.

As you begin to consider alternative living situations such as building community, the practice of simplifying and downsizing can help you with the transition. Remember, tiny living doesn’t even have to be tiny. The more mindful you are of the stuff you own and the house you the more connected you will begin to feel with your own life and the community around you.

If you do want to know more about tiny houses and how they can be a great alternative to traditional housing check out this interview with Dan Louche, owner of Tiny Home Builders. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Dan and speaking at his tiny house workshops. I met his mother and step father who both live comfortably in their tiny home.


  1. Juan Galeano says

    I love the Tiny House movement! Do you know where I could find like minded people to build a Tiny House community? My wife and I are in our 40’s and would really like to build a small community to retire! Thank you for sharing!

    • Hi Juan. There are a lot of tiny house people all over the US and the world. Some have ideas about tiny communities. You can join the conversation on Facebook – just search for tiny house groups and join in.

  2. Great advise! I have been downsizing every year. This winter I’m buying a scanner and scanning and uploading my old homeschool memories with my 2 kids and my pictures except for the current favorite ones. One year from now…..I should be in my own Tiny Home of some sort and I am very excited!

    More time to read, write , dance, garden and enjoy time with those I love.

  3. Gray Lance says

    Need, want, can’t have: As I sort through the last of the ‘sort through’ — over 70 years of moving single, married, with kids, kids dwindling, no kids and now… books, rocks and sewing. Cooking – bah, two pots and a saute pan, bedding – old canvas quilt and same down comforter of 30 years (put it inside) and admit to have added a 6″ piece of foam to support these old bones. It’s a learning process…you gain, you let go. Five bedroom house, two bedroom house, one bedroom house.. on to 600 sq. feet, to 200 sq. foot to…


  1. […] to downsize. You may not want to move into a tiny house as a part of your community lifestyle, but you probably will want to simplify. This year is a good […]

  2. […] guest author Laura M. LaVoie posted about tiny homes. The movement is gaining ground and becoming quite popular due to media attention. […]

  3. […] Marianne is off on a sun filled vacation and asked me to fill in with this post since it is all about tiny houses, a subject I know just a little bit about. […]

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