Book Review: The Small House Book

(I’m so excited to be writing a review of Chris Hayes’ Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy that I want to take another read of the book to distill all the awesomeness it contains. So I’m going to change my planned order and tell you about my latest obsession: tiny houses!)

I first learned about tiny houses from Tammy, the awesome voice behind Rowdy Kittens. Connecting first on Twitter, then on Instagram, I’ve been watching the evolution of her journey toward tiny home living from a distance, but with a keenness that could not be denied. Luckily, my local public library had a copy of The Small House Book by Jay Shafer so I could do some research in my favorite fashion: good old books.

Thinking about tiny houses comes just a few weeks after I moved from one bedroom in our house to a new, significantly smaller, bedroom. At the time, I didn’t realize the size differential. I hadn’t planned on culling and shrinking my belongings quite so quickly. But once I got the major pieces of furniture into my new room (bookcase, bed, desk, and armchair), I felt like there was just too much stuff.

What if the things I thought I needed aren’t necessary for the life I want to live?

This new way of thinking, complete with adventures in downsizing, has shaken me quite deeply. For most of my life, my “things” have been my life-line. My best friends. My safety net. I could never imagine my world without all the bits and trinkets and books and crap that I have acquired over some 27 years. But as I have moved several times in the past few years, and the last two times on my own (without a car), I’ve realized that I don’t want to be in charge of carrying so many heavy boxes of books and trinkets and baubles by myself as I move from place to place.

Flipping through the over 200 pages of images and descriptions of homes as small as 36 square feet and as large as 743 square feet, I realized the appeal of having less space, and therefore less stuff. Can you imagine fitting everything you own in a home you can carry with a pickup truck? Always having your bed with you?

It’s certainly not an adventure for everyone. If you are attached to the idea of more stuff equaling more power/more wealth, then having a tiny house won’t meet those needs. If you cannot part with your childhood toys, or live without your children’s art projects from grades one through twelve, it likely won’t be easy for you travel this way.

For me, this book (which I have carried with me everywhere since checking it out) is a persistent reminder of how much I crave space and simplicity. “Space” in the sense of expansiveness, of sacred belonging — not in extra room. You might remember my review of The Not So Big Life, in which I explore the concept of “not so big-ness” as a tool for creating expansion in my heart. What if I really could live in a place under 120 square feet, carrying only what I need, and exploring the continent?

What if everything we need could be created on a 7′ x 16′ trailer? What if our hearts could expand larger when our homes are smaller?

If the idea of parking your home on the edge of a forest, near a lake, on a mountain ridge, or in the desert — without ever packing up, or unpacking, or putting things in storage — then perhaps this is a book for you to explore. There are so many books and websites now for information about tiny houses, so this book isn’t your only resource. But if you want to get a good idea of a variety of tiny house layouts as well as some sample instructions for how to build your own tiny house, then check out The Small House Book!

3 thoughts on “Book Review: The Small House Book

  1. While I am sure that I don’t want to pare down my possessions to such extremes, I have recently started decluttering and, like you, I realised that for so long I had defined myself by my stuff and to let go of it feels very freeing though scary at the same time.

  2. Lovely book review, sounds like one worth checking out. For the past four years I’ve been moving around: travelling or moving house every six months. My boyfriend and I live in tiny flat after tiny flat, but have made the decision to move (back) into our van to live in the mountains this winter. We made the decision for a number of reasons: to save money; to get rid of clutter that we don’t need; to focus on experiences rather than possessions; the community of weird and wonderful van dwellers that live in our little village! Can’t wait to downsize even further, tis a great feeling!
    Katie. xxx

  3. What an interesting thing to get introduced to here on Scoutie Girl! And it came at a great time for me. I’m looking into moving and buying a new house in the next year. I have been perusing house listings and other living opportunities for a few weeks now, but this has given me some pause. What’s the purpose of something bigger? How do I make a wise choice about what I need as far as space, where I’m not paying for a mortgage, instead investing truly in my life and well being. So, good thoughts at a good time for me… thanks for the introduction to this.

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