why small space living makes me happy

Three months ago we were living in a three-bedroom house + garage and all our cupboards were full. I had a walk in pantry and floor-to-ceiling wardrobes in the bedrooms and laundry. Every shelf was jam-packed. I’d spent years decluttering and trying to live with less. I read all the minimalism books and I believed, truly believed, that with less stuff came more clarity. But for someone who lived simply I still owned a lot. I owned too much. I bought things because they were beautiful and coveted and not because they were needed.

And then we bought a caravan. And while our intentions were to travel and spend more time outside under the Australian sun with our kids, we were also excited by the limits that living in a small space would give us. We wanted those four walls to create boundaries. And they have.

When I think back to that transition week when we moved from the house to the van, I vividly remember all the stuff. We’d packed the most important things and stored them at our parents houses and everything else was spread across the length and breadth of the lounge room (the loungeroom that was bigger than our caravan).

I cringe when I think about it. So much miscellany, so much money spent, so much waste. When it was laid out in front of me it was deeply confronting and I still feel ashamed. But more than the shame I want to remember the confrontation because it has and continues to be a potent reminder; we don’t need much to live happily and live well.

In fact, we need so little that even I’m surprised – on a daily basis – by the contentment that comes from small space living.

I cook all our meals using one saucepan and three small pots (and a Weber which has proven to be a very worthwhile purchase). We have four tea cups and six bowls and eight plates. I still have too many clothes but I’ve got what I need for all seasons; cotton, linen and wool. I own four pairs of shoes and two bags.

Every week we donate a bag of things we don’t use to the op-shop; everything from outgrown clothes and shoes to kitchen utensils, linen and toys.

Everything we need is in our van, stored in the cupboards above our heads and under the beds. Back at the Grandparents’ houses we have keepsakes and books and wooden toys kept in a single wardrobe and half a standard suburban shed. Our washing machine, dryer, fridge, table, bookshelves and beds are on loan with friends and family. Everything else was sold or donated.

We may only be a few months into this new way of living but I’ve completely shifted my mindset in regards to the things we own and the things we buy. This I know: living with less has given me more time, space, energy and money. I have less obligations and more opportunities.

I feel lighter. And much happier.

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  • Deb Brady

    Oh Jodi this resonates SO much. I used to half joke that as a child of parents who lived through the Depression I was born not to discard anything but it is true – I’m trying but still have far too much . Clothes being my biggest downfall -I’m struggling between sizes at the moment (thanks Menopause & an increase at my days at work sitting for very long periods ) – May I ask if you would mind sharing what exactly you chose to keep clothes wise ?

    • Jodi

      I’ve kept lots of linen because it wears so well between washes (and somehow hides dirty fingerprints better). Cotton summer dresses and skirts for hot days and a few woollen jumpers to layer when it’s cold. One pair of jeans, two pairs of shorts and a few basic tees and singlets x

  • Helen Thompson

    Hi Jodi, this resonates with me and I’d love to be able to this. I can see that the children are enjoying the great outdoors but how do you think this would work with prolonged bad/cold weather. Would you WANT to go out when it’s miserable, and then you’d get cabin fever being stuck inside if you were forced to. We’re lucky in Queensland with milder winters, but further south the winters can be terrible.

    • Jodi

      I think the key is to chase summer, just like the Grey Nomads do. Ultimately you spend winter up north and summer down south x

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