How Living Small Lets Me Dream Big

A little over a year ago, my husband and I quit our stable jobs, moved back west to the mountains that had called our names for over a decade, and bought a 28’ Airstream as our new (to-us) home. At the same time, I launched my own freelance career.

We’ve been wanderers and explorers over the almost 15 years of our marriage—crisscrossing the country and spending large chunks of time overseas as well.

We’ve always embraced challenges, and have seen our marriage and ourselves strengthen in so many different ways as a result.

This latest move is no exception to our story.

As a long-time reader of the Art of Simple, I’ve been inspired by the stories of people who have transformed their lives into something more authentically in line with their deepest wishes.

By going against the grain, stepping away from the story they’ve been told to live in lieu of a story they’re creating, these tales helped give me the courage to transform my own life.

Today, I’m so happy to be sharing a few ways that living smaller has given me the courage to dream even bigger.

I’ve Found Contentment With Less

Everything must have a purpose, and be chosen with care, to fit into our 200 square foot home.

Full disclosure here—I’ll admit that we have a few pieces of furniture and family heirlooms in storage at my dad’s home. But for the most part, we’ve been thoughtful and strict when it comes to what makes the cut.

My collection of coffee mugs from around the world? I’m down to my top two, the ones I really love drinking out of the most, anyway. They fit right in my hand, hold the right amount of coffee, don’t get too hot or too cold.

Same goes for the endless piles of clothes and shoes I used to own. I’ve worn my winter boots every day for the past four months because we live in NW Montana and there’s lots of snow.

The more I’ve let go of, the more I’ve seen my desire to consume shrink to fit my space.

This means less money spent, but it’s also drawn me to see and enjoy what I do have with so much more intention.

Communication Skills On Steroids

I’d think that after almost twenty years together, my husband and I’ve got a pretty good system in place for communicating about difficult topics, dealing with disagreements, and just generally venting our grievances in a productive way.

Fold this experience into a complex, self-sufficient (when behaving nicely), and tiny living space, and you’ll really see how good your communication skills are— and learn where you can still, everyday, hope to improve.

Electrical failure at 11pm on a Sunday in the middle of cold January? Frustration over noise or clutter in one of our small living spaces? Navigating the trailer into a tight fit with a 57-point turn?

How do you handle it when tempers are short and having your own space to sort it out just isn’t an option?

Learning how to communicate even better in our small home keeps us on our toes, and helps us keep our relationship running in high gear.

I Have To Learn Things

The above reference to electrical failure on a Sunday? It turns out, I now know how to re-terminate electrical cables. Something I never thought I’d learn, or need to know.

Living in an Airstream, or, I’d image, any tiny home with its requisite challenges, brings me into a much closer relationship with the tools and systems that make my everyday life easy.

In the past, living in larger homes or apartments, there was a sense of separation. If one bathroom was acting up, I could use another one until it was fixed. If the heater wasn’t working, we could build a fire in the fireplace.

Not so with our current home.

The Airstream makes me earn my comfort and helps me grow even more self-sufficient. Another great side effect of this reality, I’ve become much more aware of our water and power consumption, our environmental footprint.

As someone eager to learn, grow, and improve myself day after day, but hesitant and unaccustomed to the manual work of making systems run, I’ve found this a particularly valuable and unexpected benefit of tiny life.

I Can Work On My Own Terms

Freedom to work the way I choose is perhaps the best way that living small lets me dream big.

By living more simply, the way I define it, I get to build my own livelihood. This isn’t a requirement of living tiny. I know many people who live small and still work the standard office job, and do so happily.

For me, this freedom comes from both the financial and logistical possibilities created by a tiny home.

Without a mortgage, a home that’s fixed in one place, and the bills and maintenance that come from both, I’m able to live a more income-flexible lifestyle.

Actually making the decision to launch my own freelance career as a writer and yoga teacher was both incredible and terrifying.

Working for myself, building a business on my own terms, feeding the creative parts of my spirit—it certainly hasn’t all been easy, but it’s been so worth it.


Holly is a writer, yoga teacher, voracious reader and eager traveler currently living in the mountains of Northwestern Montana. She shares stories of her experiences on her blog, and is currently working on her first novel.

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