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When the tiny house is too small . . .

tinyOnce in a while, small annoyances make my tiny house feel too small. For example, I can’t go to sleep when Logan stays up late reading. Or when I spread my work stuff across Logan’s office space and he gets irritated with me. Those are instances when I wish we lived in a small apartment, with extra space for an office and guests.

When I start feeling like the tiny house is too tiny, it’s time to do one — or all — of these activities:

Going outside. Since I work from home, I have a tendency to get sucked into writing projects and forget to exercise. I’ve learned to make exercise a priority by going outside for a daily walk or bike ride. If I don’t take care of my body, I get cranky and the house feels way to small.

Taking a mini-adventure. Last week, I took a trip to Castle Lake, Lake Siskiyou and Mt. Shasta. I had fun exploring the lakes, hiking and taking photos. Both trips left me feeling refreshed and happy.

Modifying my daily routine. Since I own a car again, it’s much easier to go into town and work at a coffee shop. Last weekend reaffirmed why we decided to purchase a car. I had Sunday brunch with my in-laws, in Yreka, and by the time I got back to the ranch the wind was howling. The wind gusts, which were between 30-40 mph, were too strong to safely ride a bike. The tiny house was shaking and the tree beside our house was beating up the roof with it’s long branches. Our shoes even blew off the front porch and I had to chase after them in a nearby field! Cycling in strong winds isn’t fun and it’s nice to have a car to use in nasty weather. Plus, it gives me the ability to change up my routine.

Using the space I have more mindfully. The good and bad thing about the tiny house is that you have to put your stuff away. If you leave shoes, clothing, books, or other belongings lying around the house, the space begins to feel small and messy.

I’m incredibly grateful for my little house because it’s given me so many gifts, like new friendships and the opportunity to live in locations that wouldn’t be possible in a normal house or apartment. The house might feel too small sometimes, but it’s easy to remedy that feeling by using the tips above.

Do you live in a small space and does it ever feel too small? Share your “cabin-fever” story in the comments section.

Be well,

P.S. My photography e-course, Everyday Magic: How to Capture Creative Images with Your Camera, is available for self-study! Now you can go at your own pace and learn when and where you want. For additional details, read the course description.

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  • Linda @ Notes from the arena October 30, 2013, 10:11 am

    So glad you shared this with us, Tammy.

    I have cabin fever at home a lot. I live in a small apartment, but it’s not the living space per se that gives me cabin fever. It’s the location. I live in a busy city, and all I can see when I look out the window is a row of houses and many many cars. Getting out feels difficult because it takes 15-20 minutes to get to a green space. Being a nature lover, I am much happier in the countryside.

    Thanks for the awesome tips! I love going to a coffee shop to work (I’m at one now), and tidying my things away always helps. Going for a drive out to a natural space is great and is very refreshing.

  • Ms. Minimal October 30, 2013, 10:42 am

    I live in a 22′ motorhome, just myself and two dogs and there are times that I get a little stir crazy. I also take walks to help alleviate the cabin fever, work at the library or go into the office as I also have the ability to work from ‘home’ and try to get away periodically for what I call a “change of scenery”…. I know when I’m needing a change of scenery because I get restless and irritable and raise my voice at my sweet dogs inappropriately. 🙁

    Through the winter, my adult daughter, her cat and her fish also lived with me. We went through the hurricane together, snow storms, etc. During those times we had to be especially nice to each other, we watched a nightly movie (as we neither one of us have or watch television), would read books for our own personal quiet get away, etc.

    There is certainly an art to living in a small space. Staying tidy is at the top of the list. Having systems and converting areas for different uses and putting those areas back to “normal operating standard” is also critical.

    We somehow always make it work. 🙂

    Ms. Minimal

  • Kris October 30, 2013, 2:56 pm

    Hi Tammy, thanks for this! My husband and I are getting ready to downsize from a 2,680 sf house to a 1,307 sf house, and for the past several weeks I’ve been having mini panic attacks at how well things will (or won’t) work in a much smaller home (even though it was my idea to downsize). Your post makes me laugh at myself, since 1,307 sf for two people is ample, and I really have nothing to worry about. Still, if I do get moved in and feel cramped, I now have some great ideas of what to change my perspective. Thanks!

  • Cynthia October 30, 2013, 4:37 pm

    Like Linda mentioned above, cabin fever can be caused more by location than the actual home. We live in a small apartment in downtown Halifax (Nova Scotia, Canada), and I love it because it means we can live car-free, walk to work, walk to cultural events and cafes. However, it was really important to me to have some sort of green space close by. Luckily we were able to find an apartment with a view of Citadel Hill – a big green hill: http://cynthiadunlavyphotography.zenfolio.com/p609946737/h7f1c237a#h7f1c237a

    I love walking the dog on the hill. It’s also fun to meet up with tourists (often visiting our city from cruise ships in port), who flock to the hill to visit the fort at the top. Admittedly, winter always causes cabin fever, no matter the location, but I hear it’s fun to go sledding on Citadel Hill, so that’s something to look forward to 🙂

  • Elizabeth October 30, 2013, 4:43 pm

    I love this post, it somehow makes me identify with you more to know you might be driven a little crazy by the close quarters…once in a while! I live in a medium-sized house and still have to get away — I like my space and privacy and quiet. My husband, a loud extrovert, and I, a quiet introvert, get on each other’s last nerve! We’ve learned to retreat to our separate areas or to leave the house and go elsewhere. Not sure we’d make it in a tiny house, but it’s my dream to live in one alone…some day! Maybe my DH and I could EACH get one and park them in separate corners of the backyard! LOL!

  • Anne-Marie October 30, 2013, 5:38 pm

    I don’t live in too small quarters but after I moved from my previous rental to another one I live right next to the college where I also work. It feels as if I never really leave work. My work and living space feels too small actually just because they are so close.
    It is important to have your own space and take time to have that space. I can just imagine how cramped it can become in your house sometimes. Great that you have plans for other activities when you feel that your house is too small.

  • Gina, book dragon October 30, 2013, 5:44 pm

    I go shopping. Good thing it was/is usually window shopping! Mostly this happened when the kids were small and I was feeling “stuck”. Often the shopping trip included a trip to the park.

    Now that I’ve got the big house and all the stuff that goes with it, I’m working on clearing things out. Books are the hardest for me. I’ve got so many they are hard to organize and it’s tough to read what I haven’t when they’re in boxes!

    I love reading your blog, it gives me hope.

  • becky October 30, 2013, 6:33 pm

    Tammy, another wonderful post! My husband & two medium sized dogs and I have lived full time in our 24 ft. rv for a year and 4 months now. Cabin fever strikes now and then here too. We employ all of the suggestions you list. In addition, besides daily exercise outdoors, we find even just sitting outdoors helps tremendously. Reading, letter or journal writing, birdwatching, talking and eating are activities we regularly take outdoors whenever possible. Your mention of changing your routine is also most helpful particularly to me. Camping for long stretches without electricity, internet or cell coverage can make me a little crazy, so we’ve learned to mix things up a little. Sometimes just shopping in a new grocery store or landing near a town just in time for a farmer’s market banishes those same old thing blues.

  • LindaMay October 30, 2013, 11:02 pm

    I get cabin fever during heat waves when it’s too hot to be outside. We close up the doors and windows to keep the heat out. I stay inside and try not to be too active. It’s worst if there is a lot of smoke from bushfires because even if there is a breeze you don’t want to let the smoke in. We have had fires around Sydney these past few weeks and I have felt cooped up because of the constant smoke haze. If it’s hot I try to be active when I can early in the morning or in the evening then read or watch TV if I am going stir crazy during the heat of the afternoon. One year during a bad bushfire season when I was on annual leave I got on a plane and flew to Mebourne for a few days unplanned visit to get a reprieve from the heat and smoke. I was living in a top floor studio apartment with no air-con at the time and it was just too unpleasant to stay there.

    • Miranda October 31, 2013, 12:35 pm

      I experience the exact same thing. I get cabin fever in the summer because it is too hot to be outside. Sometimes even going outside before the sun gets up is too hot and humid. I do still exercise indoors, but I am an outside person. I have discovered that I actually get physically ill if I go several days without being outside in nature. I try to find different places to go walking indoors, and fun projects to do inside, but it’s still painful and hard to breathe sometimes. I can’t wait until I move further north away from the heat!

  • Susan October 31, 2013, 7:09 am

    I never tire of your blog…love it! I suppose anyone can suffer from cabin fever but getting out changing your surroundings is a help. I like to walk. Walking in the rain is nice sometimes but walking in deep and blowing snow can be a challenge. When the weather is not suitable for my walk I hit the treadmill with a good book. I know I have been told that walking on a treadmill is boring and for some it is but for me it is the perfect way to get away(in my mind)and not leave the house.:-)
    Have a great day! Always looking for your next blog.

  • Janet October 31, 2013, 9:53 am

    Love this blog entry Tammy! I would ‘ditto’ all of your suggestions – although I have downsized repeatedly over the past 24 years, from 2800 sq ft – 1600 s

  • Janet October 31, 2013, 10:00 am

    Great blog entry Tammy!
    Although I have a repeatedly downsized over the past 24 years, from 2800 sq ft to 1660 sq ft to 100 sq ft with my family (four of us) to progressively smaller spaces on my own, I find that each new space is ‘just right.’
    I am on my own now and in a small one bedroom suite in a private home. I have my own garden, great neighbours and the view is ‘a million dollar view’ of the ocean and coastal mountains on the mainland.
    I love my 400 sq ft space and the only time that I have felt cabin fever is when the endless winter days of grey skies become too much. Then, I know it’s time to go for a walk, go to a nature park, go for a drive and blast the music out of the DVD player, visit a coffee shop, call a friend to go for a walk or coffee, or go to the library.
    I too, love those solo nature walks with camera in hand!

  • Lois October 31, 2013, 10:39 am

    Great post, Tammy! I’ve lived in a 10′ vintage trailer (about 65 square feet) for the past couple of years and until recently, I shared that space with my 16-year-old 80-pound Golden Retriever, Dinah – she occupied the entire floor space. In addition to doing all of the suggestions you noted, since it’s a trailer, I can usually just hook up and move somewhere else, which helps alleviate the cabin fever.

    But last winter, I found myself in the Portland, Oregon area for the entire season. As you know, it rains here, all winter long, and it was a difficult bunch of months packed back to back with both of us in the tiny trailer. I couldn’t even put a chair outside to sit in unless I wanted to be wet and cold. Fortunately, Dinah’s a Golden so she had a very nice, mellow personality, but I still noticed that I got short with her once in a while. That was always my cue that I needed to do something different. Sometimes all it took was closing the computer and brewing a cup of tea. I think recognizing that a break needs to be taken is the first step in getting rid of the cabin fever.

    Thank you for your blog – I’ve enjoyed reading about your adventures and look forward to more.

  • Maria October 31, 2013, 10:55 am

    Actually, I live with my husband in a 738 square foot townhouse, two floors with a basement, (this, after living in houses over 1000 square feet) and now find that even too large. While I’m not willing to take the plunge into a tiny house–I just don’t want to own a house–I would like a one bedroom apartment on one floor with a laundry in the unit. Easy to clean and all the space I need.

  • Darris October 31, 2013, 10:11 pm

    I love how refreshingly open you are about your life and the challenges of living tiny. I can last two days without going for a walk/hike (and I live in a big house!) and then I am cranky. Taking photos lifts my spirits as well. Living small is challenging especially in inclement weather.

    When we lived in a trailer (while building a big house) we kept our shoes in a closed, wood ‘shoe box’ outside by our front door. I’m known for wearing hiking boots 360 days a year (not usually Thanksgiving or Christmas, weddings or funerals) so I kept a pair of hiking boots and ‘milking boots’ (rainy weather gear) in the box. I’ve had a no-shoes house for 30+ years because I’d rather hike than vacuum and mop ; )

  • Katie November 1, 2013, 3:21 pm

    Hey Tammy, what a great post and a delicious photograph.

    Yes I totally hear you – sometimes my 8m square tiny van home feels too small! I want to knit on my new knitting machine and use my sewing machine….and they just won’t fit! I’ve managed to make deals with friends, to let me use their kitchen tables from time to time (knitting space in exchange for knitted goods).

    When it feels to small, I just remind myself, that I built my own home; I get to choose to live this unique lifestyle; my tiny home gives me plenty of food for thought and fuel to write about; (http://jesuisunemonstre.blogspot.fr/2013/01/welcome-to-pikey-park.html) and I am saving SO MUCH MONEY on rent! That I get to spend having amazing adventures in the summer with 🙂

    Plus a ton of other positive notes.

    Plus, with the nature of a tiny home, we are not as bound to it financially as a ‘regular home’ and are less restricted if we want to make a change.

    Hope you continue to love yours, or find an alternative that makes you happpyyyyyy!

    Love, Katie. XXX

  • Hari Berzins November 2, 2013, 4:04 am

    Hi Tammy!
    I love this post. You mentioned some great strategies to getting back in touch with the space inside yourself and outside your home.
    I find that reminding myself how much space is available at any moment helps me with cabin fever. Meditating and practicing mindfulness help me feel less crowded in our tiny house. I also find that a whole-house deep clean/purge helps me recover space.
    Love to you, as we enter cabin fever season. 🙂

  • Ann November 5, 2013, 5:01 am

    Hi Tammy,
    great post – love the honesty ;)!
    In the summer we live in a traditional tiny cottage. We’ve somehow managed to fit 6 places to sleep, all convert in the daytime. Our summer can be cold with temperatures around +45 F and torrential rain and fog. People get very frustrated by this. It really important to go out for long walks every day. At the same time it can be difficult to dry a dog and the clothes from four people in a small space in wet and cold climate.
    We have a lot of rules on how to maintain enough private space and not to irritate each other. It is crucial to keep the place tidy and make sure everybody’s earphones work.
    It is possible to push the limits of staying outside with bonfires, stargazing, icebathing, blankets, pelts, playtents for small children, and most important, proper clothing. I think it is important to remember that you easily can get extra space by pitching a tent – a great place to sulk 🙂
    Some families spend their winter vacations in snowcaves, this can be difficult if everyone isn’t happy.
    I always dream of warm countries, but now I’ve realised it is easier to deal with the cold – very enlightning!

  • Minimal Girl November 9, 2013, 1:17 pm

    Oh man, I know how this feels. About two months ago my husband and I moved into a single room in a relative’s house. This house is located at the end of a long driveway in the countryside, so there is NOWHERE to go – no cafes, no library, nothing. Although it’s been a great motivator for living with less, I’ve really been struggling with feeling trapped.

  • Phineas Homestone November 10, 2013, 9:59 am

    First off, love the book “You can buy happiness….”. I have a Kindle copy and appreciate the idea of a book on sustainability printed in a paperless form.

    I love tiny spaces and feel as you folks do about the freedom and flexibility they create in your life. My goal is to create a space that can work long term within these goals. Over time some amenities that seem initially unnecessary can make living for years in a tiny space comfortable and practical. Consider building a second, smaller tiny house for just a bedroom, convertible to office, meditation space etc. This rolling structure could be as small as seven by ten feet. Such a small space would be trivial to heat/cool. Having a separate room, parked adjacent to the main home gives great sound isolation, creates a space that can be heated differently, and offers a bedroom with no ladder climbing, something we all begin to consider as we age.

    Following this cogitation on building for many years of tiny house freedom, a convenient odor free (externally ventilated) composting toilet, strong shower, convenient heating, washing machine, humidity control etc. can help keep us comfortable and living free for years. I find many folks leave the tiny house world for lack of these amenities over time, moving to large, conventional housing. The effort to build into these homes such amenities is easily within our grasp. All that is required is the will. The result is a comfortable home far more resource efficient than a conventional home. We all start simple, which is best. Over time we must give ourselves permission to add the systems to keep us comfortable, else most of us will retreat to conventional.

    I invite reaction and counterpoint to these ideas, as the best way is found though discussion in community.

    • Linda May November 10, 2013, 6:21 pm

      I think you make a good point about access to amenities being an issue in small spaces. I can handle a small space for my living and sleeping area but struggle if there isn’t adequate access to convenient kitchen, bathroom and laundry facilities. This becomes more of a consideration when contending with illness and aging or including children in the equation. The modular concept makes a lot of sense. You could buy, sell or rent an annexe unit as required.

  • MarieG November 11, 2013, 5:44 pm

    First of all, thank you for being so honest and down to earth about your adventures in your tiny home. I have always wondered about some of the things you mentioned, like how you handle one person wanting to stay up later than the other.

    We live in 700 sqft. It is me, my husband, our 5 year old son, and our small dog. We are expecting a baby girl in December and although family and friends are wondering where we are going to put everyone and everything, we feel like we have more than enough space! Babies don’t take up much space, it’s going overboard buying tons of stuff you don’t need that does. We have a mini crib and a basket full of clothes and necessities and are all set! I can honestly say that we never feel like we don’t have enough space, but our space is huge compared to yours 🙂

    MarieG LifeSimplyBalanced.com

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