How do you stay happy & content in a small space? - #AskTheDreamTeam - Dream Big Live Tiny Co.
How Do You Stay Happy & Content in a Small Space? - #AskTheDreamTeam

How do you stay happy & content in a small space? - #AskTheDreamTeam

April 18, 2019

Cover image via @threetinyhams.

Question: How do you stay happy & content in a small space? Any secrets?

While the Dream Team is quite amazing in their own respective ways, you are unlikely to discover the secret of happiness simply reading this blog post. It's a much more complicated reality than that.

However, if you are wondering whether you can be happy in a small space like a tiny house, you will be pleasantly surprised reading what the Dream Team has to say. 



Lauren & Christian |

Adventure Abode (@adventure_abode)

Get outside. This was true for us even before living tiny, so it is no surprise that it is such an important factor now. Use tiny living as an opportunity to spend more time outdoors, whether its hiking, biking, running, camping, whatever floats your boat. It will help you appreciate a hot shower and a comfortable bed to come home to as well.



Ashlee |

Girl in a Tiny House (@girlinatinyhouse)

Before you build or buy your tiny house, consider what comforts you love in your current space that you just can’t let go of. List your needs and consider them in detail when establishing your home. I needed a decent sized bathroom, a full-sized fridge, a comfortable couch and enough storage for my wardrobe. These things allowed me to maintain my routines and chill out time.

Moving into a tiny house can be a significant change for you, so, while you’re are adjusting to tiny living, try to keep changes to other areas of your life minimal.

You may have a grand vision to live minimally and ‘greener’ but it doesn’t happen overnight. For example, don’t try to move into a tiny house, switch to a capsule wardrobe and only eat zero waste foods all at once. These types of changes to your lifestyle take time and can be difficult. Consider this when moving into your small space to make the adjustment easier for you.

Finally, spend more time outside your home. Utilize your outdoor spaces, visit friends and family more often, go on adventures and go to cafes to write your blogs! This will make you appreciate your time in your home more.



Tricia & Andy |

Three Tiny Hams (@threetinyhams)

We have done so much to make our tiny house feel like a “regular” home. While we are not great minimalists (which might be the key to happiness in a small space for some), we do make sure that the things we bring into our home are functional and/or aesthetically pleasing. The cheapest thing or the most minimal thing isn’t always the answer for us.

Related, everything doesn’t have to be tiny/RV sized, or built-in. Think outside the (tiny) box. Our couch is a full-sized West Elm couch (from Craigslist) and doesn’t overwhelm the space. We have two other pieces of full-sized furniture (also secondhand) that we have adapted and moved around to fit our needs (loft dresser, and living room credenza). These are pieces that we love, work well, and make our tiny house really feel like home - all making us happy to be in a small space.

Also, bring nature inside. Adding a few plants here and there also goes a long way to make a space feel clean and homey. And of course, get outside. We have great outdoor space to utilize for eating meals and letting our daughter play. For us, it’s equally as important to make our tiny somewhere we want to spend time, and also to spend time outside of our tiny.



Kate & Willem |

Building Tiny Auckland (@buildingtinyauckland)

Staying happy and content in a small space was something we worried about a lot before we decided to build tiny!

We worried about what would happen if we got sick of the sight of one another, if we felt claustrophobic or if we just really missed some of our stuff that we had to get rid of!

Luckily, we have been living in our tiny house for over a year now, have just had our first baby and the positives from living in a tiny house have definitely outweighed any drawbacks. We aren't minimalists at heart, I love a bargain too much so not buying things was a bit hard for a while but I got used to it! We are now saving money—it’s given us a stronger relationship and also meant we were able to start a family and not feel stressed to go back to work early and pay a huge mortgage.

Downsizing our things to move into the house was easier than we thought too! Once you strip back your belongings to what you actually need in the house it makes your life so much easier, saves you money, and causes you a lot less stress!

Small spaces can feel cramped if you try and squeeze too many things in the house and they can look very messy if you don't tidy up regularly. Having a regular assessment of your belongings including your wardrobe is essential to not accumulating too many things.



Nicolette & Michael |

Nicolettenotes (@nicolettenotes)

The thing that comes to mind is to be thankful for what you have. We don’t need much to survive and we definitely don’t need much to be happy, as long as you are surrounding yourself with the right things.

When we first moved into our house...I don’t think we went outside for about a month! Of course, we went to work and the grocery store and things like that, but I mean for entertainment and happiness we stayed inside. We were so proud of what we made. We would just sit on the couch together and be so appreciate for what surrounded us. For the roof we put over our heads. For the bookshelves filled with our favorite novels. For our cozy little fireplace to keep us warm. We were beyond content, we were happy.

Don’t always think about what you are “missing” by living in a tiny house but rather what you have gained. It’s cozy, it’s practical, it’s everything you need and most importantly, it is all yours.

I would also say to try your best to live minimally. Like I previously said, we don’t need much to survive. Most of us need a kitchen, a bathroom, a bed, and maybe a couch or comfy area to help it feel like a home. We tried our best to make our floorplan as open as possible so we didn’t ever feel cramped. I also didn’t want to feel like I was in the kitchen when I was sitting on the couch. So, we spaced it out and we filled our tiny house with things we love, but we have a lot of open space that really makes our home feel roomy—and in our opinion, huge! Lol.



Annie |

Pocket Manor (@pocket.manor)

Likely, the most consistent answer to this question is that happiness often lies in getting -out- of your small space, which is true, in part. Having lived in a city apartment for years, I truly love the time I get to spend outside in my garden or just sitting in the sun. Without so much space to maintain or clean, I definitely travel more often too, even if it’s just an hour or two away to the beach.

But a huge part of being happy in your space is in the design. Living tiny doesn’t mean sleeping inside a little dark box and cooking all your meals over a tiny camp stove (unless that’s your vibe).

When I was designing my house, I knew that natural light and fresh air are two things that make me really happy, so I made sure there were plenty of windows. Cooking makes me happy, so I designed a kitchen that provided the space I needed without being a pain to keep organized or clean. I also LOVE to sleep and take baths, so I knew my loft needed to be comfortable and my bathroom needed room for a bathtub. Put simply, I am happy in my small space because it includes all of the things I need and love, and none of the things I don’t.

I try to listen to myself, check my energy levels, and plan my days accordingly. Some days I get home after a stressful day at work and what makes me happiest is to get straight into bed and watch something on Netflix. Other days I wake up with absolutely nothing on my plate, so I decide to enjoy the day by making a fancy breakfast and reading a book or tackling a project around the house.

Ultimately, you just have to keep things interesting! Make space for the projects or hobbies you enjoy, and be mindful of your energy. If you feel yourself getting annoyed or stressed, get outta there for a little while. Go on a hike, have dinner with a friend, or just go see a movie. You’ll breathe easier when you get home afterward.



Bela & Spencer |

Belafish (@belafish)

This is an odd one, because I read it and I think "how do you stay happy & content in any space?  Any secrets?" Happiness and contentedness have very little to do with square footage. A lot of great thinkers have written on these topics and I don't ever remember them mentioning the size of your house.

The best answer I've ever heard is from Aristotle: happiness and contentedness come down to virtue—a state in which your emotions lead you towards right action. When you enjoy doing things that are actually good for you, that is happiness. So, the key to happiness is cultivating your emotions to motivate you towards things that are actually good for you. Easier said than done, I think, but true nonetheless.

When it comes to small spaces and happiness, specifically, the secret is built into the design. We live in an era of abundance, not scarcity. Over-consumption is more of a problem than under-consumption. If you live in a small space, you might be more likely to find the balance. 

We've of course thought about buying a traditionally-sized home and we're always left wondering "how in the world would we fill it? What a stressful idea…"  In a small space, we don't often have to think about how to fill it or extra things that we need. So, whenever we do have to make those decisions, we have an abundance of time to make a thoughtful choice. Hopefully, that choice brings a bit more beauty into our lives, and as Mary Poppins says, "A thing of beauty is a joy for life."



Sam & Tim |

Tiffany the Tiny Home (@tiffany_the_tiny_home)

I love talking about this one. We get a lot of the same type of questions. In the same vein, people love to ask “Aren’t you sick of each other?” People think that somehow being in a smaller space changes the way we take care of ourselves or the way we connect to each other. They also sometimes think that being in a smaller space automatically makes life better!

The biggest secret is really your habits and your desire to be happy. The space you are in doesn’t change the person you are. If you aren’t doing anything to take care of yourself, of course you won’t be happy! If you aren’t communicating effectively with your partner, of course you’ll get sick of each other! That being said, this was still a transition for us.

Once you cut the fluff in your life, you have more mental capacity to focus inward. You get to examine your life and decide which parts are working great and which parts need some TLC.  We quickly realized that we needed to be vocal about taking “me” time. This time is spent with intention, with gratitude, and is usually outside. This was one of the biggest driving factors in our decision to go tiny. We wanted to spend more time outside! Not having as many inside activities pushes us outdoors, which we love.

For Tim especially, self-care usually means being in nature. I like working out and being near the water. We do these things to recharge. We also meditate, pray, and I see a therapist. All of these things factor into my happiness and how I relate to my partner. Instead of saying that going tiny makes me happier, I will say that being in a smaller space inspires me to work hard on improving myself and growing into a better version of me. Owning less definitely leaves me less anxious. I live with much more intention and awareness.

Really, the secret to happiness is to work hard on yourself and always be moving towards things that make you happy. Most people believe that happiness will just interrupt them. Or they believe if they could just have this, or do that, or be this, they’d be happy. But the truth is that unless you are doing things daily to create happiness, you’ll always be waiting on that external thing to do it for you. Put good in, get good out.



Dolly |

Tiny Miss Dolly on Wheels (@tinymissdollyonwheels)

As I was pondering this question, I looked around me and without getting out of my cozy sofa, I could see the beautiful and tidy kitchen, the dreamy bedroom loft where I could see the moon and the stars from the skylight, the spacious walk-in wardrobe below me, the tiny bathroom with fairy lights, all the plants hanging from the walls and shelves, and I sighed. How could I NOT stay happy and content in this small space?



Marnie & Dan |

Tiny Haus (@_tinyhaus)

When we designed our Tiny Haus we were sure to include the comforts that we knew that would make the world of difference from feeling constrained. We listed our non-negotiables and then stayed firm on these throughout the entire process.

Our list included: a dishwasher, comfortable lounge, a private space for us and private space for our girls and the most important for us, we didn’t want to isolate ourselves, we still wanted to entertain and share our space with family and friends—so an outdoor space that was an extension of our home and just as beautiful as the inside.

We shaped our home to the lifestyle we wanted.



Jess & Todd |

Tiny House of NY (@tinyhouseofny)

There are a few ways for us that involve inside and outside our tiny home.

First, we had looked at a lot of tiny house designs and photos before we began our build and it seemed like a lot of them had benches rather than sofas or couches and we knew we wanted a cozy, comfortable indoor space for lounging to watch a movie or read a book, so we carefully designed our couch including storage inside so we weren’t wasting precious square footage. It’s also surprisingly large and comfortable enough for two humans and at least one dog wedged in between us. :)  We opted to have a true upholsterer in our area create the custom cushions and we are really happy with the result. It sits right next to our woodstove so we could sit right by the fire and stay toasty and warm all winter.

Secondly, we aim to spend a lot of time outside, even in the winter. We have woods around our house where we can walk the dogs and play fetch, which they love to do in all seasons. Having the dogs forces us to get out more than we would otherwise. We also hike in all seasons so that helps. Once it warms up for spring and summer, we have an outdoor entertaining area with a firepit and outside dining so we can have guests over and spend the majority of our time with them right outside the tiny house.

Lastly, we intentionally designed our home with three skylights, and multiple big windows and glass French doors so we always have a view outside - whether it’s looking out at the stars from the skylight at night, or gazing out at a sunrise or sunset from the living room. Bringing the outside in helps a lot when you’re living in 200 square feet!



Melissa & Scott |

That Grackle (@thatgrackle)

I knew long ago that I felt most at home and at peace in little spaces. When I was a kid vacationing in New England with my family, the condo we were staying in had an oddly placed small square opening, about 3ft x 3ft, beside the stairs. I believe it was intended for vacationers to stow their suitcases out of the way, however this girl had other plans for the space. I stowed myself away in there for most of the trip. I read there, played there and even slept there. For me, the best part of that trip was my cozy little luggage nook.

For others who may not be an LSE (lil' space enthusiast), living tiny may prove to be a bit of an adjustment. One secret we've found is that seeing the same small space from many different vantage points, heights and angles truly makes it feel much larger and more interesting.

When we designed our house, we focused on creating unique zones designed around a specific intention of how we wanted to use each space. (And yes, we even have fun little names for each space you guys). This resulted in us having a variety of places to sit, stand, lay, live and enjoy our tiny home. Options and variety may be just the ticket for someone struggling with the concept of living in a smaller space.

As far as staying happy and content in general, well that is a much larger topic, but hopefully this may help a bit when talking in terms of square footage alone! To me, life as well as tiny homes are all about perspective. Now excuse me while I go read a book in "sunshine grove" ;)



Alexis & Brian |

Living the Tiny Dream (@living_the_tiny_dream)

We were really intentional when choosing a layout for our home. I think that is the first step. Be honest with how, and where, you will be spending most of your time.

For myself and my husband, we haven’t really had any issues with living in a small space. It’s amazing what you can adapt to, and how quickly! We both work full-time jobs outside of the home, which I think helps. I think it may be more difficult if one or both of us worked from the house, but since we’re away all day, it’s always nice and cozy to come back to.

Additionally, we have designated spaces for certain activities within the home. For example, I’m in grad school, so I use our smaller loft to study, read, write, and do homework. It serves as a visual cue to Brian that when I’m up there, I’m focusing. I especially like it because once I come down from the loft, it allows my mind to switch gears and move on to something else.

Lastly, the best ‘secret’ we have (that isn’t really a secret) is to spend as much time outside as possible. This is a little more challenging for us in the winter, as we live in the rainy Pacific Northwest, but we are outside all summer long. We eat our meals outside, often BBQ, I hang our laundry out to dry, watch Netflix, etc. I’ve found that spending so much time outdoors is not only fun, but good for us and our relationship!



Alexis & Christian |

Tiny House Expedition (@tiny_house_expedition)

The best things about living in a tiny house as a couple is the built-in quality time. We often spend so much time out and about filming and exploring. When we come home, it’s our sanctuary. We love how wonderfully cozy it is—well suited for cuddling! It’s so refreshing to live in space that we created together. Made to suit our needs and reflect our style.

But the best part of living tiny together is how it has helped us improve our conflict/resolution skills. There’s no room for sulking in our house. We now confront issues as they arise. In a larger house, it can be too easy to avoid conflict. Better communication creates more trust. Our relationship is stronger than ever.

That doesn’t mean alone time isn’t needed. Believe it or not, we can get away from each other in our tiny home, if we really want to. Reading a book nestled back in our loft feels like a completely separate room. And the mattress helps muffle sound transfer from downstairs, especially in the kitchen. Also, headphones go a long way in creating privacy bubbles, even if we’re only three feet apart. If that’s not enough, we can always go outside! Let’s face it, sometimes a bit of healthy encouragement to get outside is just what the doctor ordered.



Joshua & Shelley |

Tiny House Basics (@tinyhousebasics)

Be realistic with your needs when planning your tiny house and its size. You are after all going to be the one living in it. Living tiny means different things to different people. We have built trailers for customers that have downsized to 18ft tiny houses and some who have downsized to 40ft tiny houses with their 4 kids. Designing a tiny house is a very personal thing and think about what is most important to you and what you want and need to have in your home. We compiled a list of must-haves for our 28ft tiny house and these were things we were not going to budge on.

Some of these items were: a full-sized kitchen, a gas range, actual stairs to our sleeping loft, a large accordion window plus lots of other windows, a standard-sized shower, a real couch and a large outdoor area including a deck. These were things we were used to (well not the accordion window—we saw that on Pinterest and knew we had to have it!) and had to have to make tiny living practical for us long term, so we had to work them in. By having lots of windows and a way to bring the outdoors in, our home never feels too small. We are fortunate to live on a large property with lots of acreage that allows us plenty of room to roam and for the dogs to play.

A low cost of living also relieves a lot of stress as well and makes vacations even more relaxing because we can be gone for extended periods of time as the rent for our tiny house’s parking spot is so low it's easy to budget for. We do not travel with our tiny house; we travel because of it and the freedom it creates.



How to stay happy & content in a small space? - #AskTheDreamTeam


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