Micro homes and why they're helpful—whether you live in one or not
I think a lot of people believe minimalism involves getting rid of all your possessions and living like Steve Jobs; sitting on the floor of your very sparse apartment in a turtleneck and jeans. Though to some extent it does involve living with less, it is also interesting to note that you should only let go of things that don’t add value to your life so you can bring in things that do.
The concept of micro homes is one that has been around for quite some time, and is ever growing on me. Whilst I don’t live in a micro home, I have found great inspiration in their perceived way of living—multi-functional spaces that mean integrated rooms over dedicated ones. If you have ever ‘downsized’ your living situation and moved to a smaller home, you will know what I mean. It is surprising what one can get used to through direct experience.
There are (of course) the people who ‘downsize’ and attempt to take everything that filled their larger home with them. I’m sure they quickly realize how monumentally unnecessary all their ‘stuff’ really is and how much of a headache this ‘stuff’ could be causing them.
Kasita, a startup from Austin, is revolutionizing the global housing crisis by utilizing this idea of multi-functional spaces. Their 352-square-foot micro homes offer split level living and functional furniture—there is a sofa that doubles as a queen size bed, steps that include underground storage, and even an app that holds the power to the thermostat, lighting, and dichroic glass (magic windows that turn opaque). Kasita was founded by Dr. Jeff Wilson, who came up with the idea whilst living in a 33-square-foot dumpster for a year to test the limits of minimalist living. One day he realised that owning a lot of stuff felt burdensome, so sold the majority of his possessions. Each Kasita can be used individually or stacked, are prefabricated in as little as three weeks, and can be moved from location to location with little difficulty.
When we moved to New York at the start of 2017, it was a bit of an adjustment to say the least. All of a sudden, most of our prized possessions that we had become accustomed to and held onto so tightly would need to be chucked out or reclaimed. It wasn’t until most of our items were sold—our tv, chairs, tables, clothes, and cars—that we realized how much stress and tension they had been causing us—and only once we had the ability to let go, could we really appreciate owning ‘nothing’. It was as if this heavy weight was lifted off our shoulders and we had no responsibilities at all. We embarked with a total of two medium sized suitcases and never looked back.
Although you might not have a micro home, there are a number of things you can implement in your current home to achieve the desired result. Firstly, micro homes are designed to make full use of space, by having more than one application for each area or piece of furniture. For instance, the need for home offices or a designated spot (desk/study nook) has become somewhat redundant with the high prevalence of remote technology like laptops, tablets and smart phones. People now have the ability to work from anywhere, and although some may prefer using a table to work off (like myself), may I suggest using your dining or kitchen table instead? One really interesting and affective exercise that anyone can do is somewhat of a furniture/items audit—not just a simple ‘keep or toss’, but looking at the actual reason for owning the object and it's placement. Look as deep as your shelves, cupboards, drawers, and anywhere you have ‘stored’ things—unpack these (one at a time!) and then re-pack… you will find two things;
- That many items could probably be thrown out and;
- That you could very simply save a lot of room by effectively re-organizing the space.
While you’re at it, it might be a good idea to also take an audit of everyone you follow on social media and 'unfollow' anyone that doesn’t add value to your life, especially those who’s content gives you a negative response.
Minimalism is about being purposeful and having intent for where certain items go, in order to maximize your space—and if you’re anything like me and have lived in a studio in Manhattan, you will be surprised by how much bigger your space feels with less clutter. Which brings me to my next point; to be intentional about what you live with.
Do you own a TV? If so, how often do you use it? If you answered ‘every night,’ have you actively selected something to watch or has it simply been background noise to your nightly ‘routine’? When you don’t own a TV, and use your computer to stream Netflix or Amazon Prime instead, watching it becomes much more deliberate because you’ve actively decided to. Furthermore, the control over what you actually watch is purposeful, because you have the ability to choose something in particular rather than settling for whatever the broadcast network has to offer. Although most of us think TV’s are an essential part of a home (you only need to look at the mental scenes of people 'shopping' on Black Friday), I believe TV’s are the poster child for unhealthy families. The average person watches 35 hours of it per week, so you’d hope what you’re watching is worth the time!
Decorations—usually things in your home that serve no purpose but most certainly take up space (big or small). Can you think of any of these that you might own? Ornaments, ottomans, inside plants, frames, bowls (usually filled with random junk), copious amounts of candles—removing these items could create a feeling of space that you thought you could only achieve by moving to a bigger home… No matter the size of your living quarters, inherently humans are wired to fill their space with ‘stuff’ that doesn’t serve a practical purpose. This isn’t dissimilar to the concept of your income to spending ratio—whereby your spending is relative to your income. If you took an audit of your income vs spending you would find a linear trend. For example, if you earn $60,000 per year, you would think that making $10,000 more would mean you would save most of it, if not all of it. The reality for most is that if you actually earned $10,000 more you would end up spending more, and therefore being in the exact same position you started with. The most important thing is to keep track of what you actually spend your money on, just like you should look around your home and consider how necessary each item is (whether furniture or decorative piece). If you moved to a larger space, you would most likely, naturally fill that space as you would spend more money.
There are many benefits to living a minimalist lifestyle, and adopting the habits of micro homes—some that I haven’t mentioned include not having to spend hours cleaning because there simply isn’t that much to tidy up, being able to spend your Sunday doing things other than ‘Sunday chores’, but mostly it is the satisfaction you feel when you return home to a curated selection of items that actually mean something to you. And although your needs will change in time, and therefore what you own will inveribly change, just remember to ask yourself—how much value does this actually add to my life?