When I met Isaac he was living out of a carry-on suitcase and a surfboard bag. I lived in a 200-square-foot cottage at the time, existing joyfully without much “stuff”. Isaac’s own minimalism is one of the things that brought us together (and allowed us to eventually live in that teeny cottage together for two years). When we moved to our 800-square-foot apartment and had kids, we reluctantly bought the few necessities we needed. Then one kid turned into two, and we had a toddler on our hands. Pretty quickly our small space was overrun with kid stuff – toys, various cups and dishes, step-stools, high chairs, booster seats, and bath accessories, not to mention the strollers and scooters and bikes in our garage. Despite always wanting less, we can’t seem to avoid having so much.
And here we are, about to go build and live in a tiny house. Can we do it with kids? All of this stuff is on my mind right now – logistically and theoretically – as we get ready to pack up.
I questioned our tiny-house path last week on a trip to see my older sister and her kids. Their family of four lives the American dream in a sprawling four-story house on a tree-lined suburban street with room after room of playthings. Our toddler was over the moon, bursting out of bed each morning to say “let’s go upstairs and play with the toys!” Just before we left home he had told me he was tired of his toys and wanted new ones, and as we headed back to our boring little apartment in SF I turned to Isaac and said, “Are we sure our kids will be happy living even smaller than we do now? Maybe they need more.” In his perfect way he looked me in the eye and said, “Live your values, Lindsay.” It was all I needed to hear.
We have odd values compared to most American families, and living by them means our kids won’t have a massive playroom or a huge collection of toys. We won’t ever buy a TV. But downsizing means we’ll get a lot of time together as a family (we won’t have to work), and being rural means room to roam out in the playrooms nature has to offer. “Plus,” Isaac added, “Our kids will get tired of their own toys no matter how many they have.”
Logistically, we are going to move all our “stuff” to New Zealand. It’s cost-effective to pack our bikes, couch, bed, the kids’ beds and dresser, and the dining room table Isaac made into a shipping container with our clothes and dishes and send it across the Pacific. We get the added bonus of purchasing the shipping container so we can use it on the island as a bike and surfboard storage shed. Movers will come to our house at the end of July, load up the container, and 8 - 12 weeks later it’ll be dropped off at the bottom of our New Zealand driveway.
This means that for 8 - 12 weeks after we leave SF we’ll be making do with whatever clothes and toys we can pack with us on the plane. It’ll be an exercise in creativity. And hopefully it will be a confirmation of what I already know for myself – that living with less stuff makes more room for everything else in my life. Perhaps I’ll find out that this can be true for our kids too.