By the end of September we are moving out of our current place and into a new one. The place where we stay now has a huge rent, no balcony or garden and very little natural light. Yet, the owner charges so much because he invested tons of money to re-purpose an old bakery. And it is true that the wooden beams along with the steel columns that he added in order to support the structure do look really look. But do they look cool enough to charge almost 1000 euros per month for around 50 square meters? Certainly not.
So we decided to look for something cheaper. When looking to rent a new place, you need to realize that the perfect home does not exist and make a list of priorities. After one year in this apartment we have figured our priorities out:
- Plenty of natural sunlight. We come from the Mediterranean and the Northern winter is already heavy enough for me as it is. A dark apartment only makes things a lot worse.
- An outdoors space, no matter how tiny. We lived in houses with gardens and balconies before and no matter how small the outdoors space, it made a great difference. Yes, the weather is bad here (in the Netherlands) most of the time, but it is nice to be able to get some fresh air within the privacy of your own home. Plus, I want to plant herbs and not watch them die within a few days. This is why n.1 is so important as well.
- A house that is not a studio. The advantage of this apartment compared to the previous places where we have stayed is that it has a separate bedroom. That allows for privacy as well as some quiet time when N. wants to play the piano and I want to read or when I want to watch a movie and he wants to sleep.
- A rent that allows us to save and is no more than 1/3 of our joined income. Many house owners actually require that and it is a great idea. In the Netherlands if you have a low income and rent a house that is relatively cheap, you can even get “huurtoeslag”, which essentially is a subsidy that depends on the income.
We have decided that the city where our new home will be is lower in the priority list as N. gets his travel expenses covered by his job and both Rotterdam and Hague are a 10′ train ride from Delft. They also have more houses and significantly lower rent prices. The other thing that is low in our priority list in the neighborhood. Delft is one of the prettiest cities of the Netherlands so it’s hard to beat that. But we figured that no matter where we live, we can still take the tram or train and be in beautiful neighborhoods within minutes. For me it is more important that the house itself is cozy and bright, as I am working from home and spend 80% of my time inside. This is why the outdoors space is an added benefit. Taking the laptop on the balcony or sitting on the garden to read a book can be particularly refreshing.
Moving: time to downsize
We have moved quite often the last years which has led to throwing many useless things away, but they keep accumulating. This time our goal is to get rid of a TV that we never watch and also a broken couch (maybe two). I have always been fascinated by people who just backpack around the world for months, even years, and wondered how they manage to do it without ten suitcases. Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t put clothes in those suitcases, but -especially when you travel- books are so easy to accumulate! And yes, I know we live in the internet era, but still for me it has always been so hard not to get a little something from every place that I visit.
This time we will try to throw away everything that we are not deeply emotionally attached to. That is going to be really hard for me, especially since I give a name to every little thing we get and then I develop a personal relationship with it. It is really crazy. Still, I have become much better in giving away old clothes and I can proudly say that my closet includes now just enough clothes. The issue with us is that our valuable possessions are heavy and bulky: books, musical instruments and music records. And those we are NOT going to give away no matter how much I appreciate minimalism. We prefer to through away extra plates and this is why when we are six for dinner one of them has to eat in a fruit plate. We also had only five forks at some point, due to our unwillingness to throw away books but still trying to downsize. Not so smart decisions.
We have been flirting with the idea to eventually move at my grandparent’s village in Peloponnese and live in a tiny house and grow our own food. It is a dream but we would like to turn it into a goal. As you already know, I love cob houses but another type of alternative building that I really like is tiny houses. Tiny houses are usually made out of timber and they can be transported anywhere on a trailer. They can accommodate 1 to 4 people easily and if your family expands you can just add another house next to the first one. There are some tricky legislation parts in the US and I am not sure what the dial is in Europe, as the movement has not spread yet.
I cannot recommend this documentary enough. It is about people living in very small spaces by choice, proving that downsizing is very much possible. And to me it gives a sense of great freedom as well.
Have a look at the above infographic and go read the article at The Tiny Life that explains the many benefits of tiny houses. The tiny house is a cheap option to have your own shelter built the way you want, without ending up with a huge debt. More women than men are tiny house owners and most tiny house owners have a masters degree. They probably know what they are doing.
On this website you can find many examples of tiny houses and purchase a book with many different layouts. I have bought it two years ago as it was somewhat relevant to my masters graduation project and the pdf is now misplaced somewhere, but the amount of inspiration in there is impressive (by the way I am not payed to write this stuff -I wish!).
As I recently found out, the famous architect (or starchitect, as we like to call them -by “we” I mean us, poor architects) Renzo Piano designed his own tiny house inspired by the cave of Diogene. Of course architects are always fascinated by the potential of different scales, but it is nice to see architects who can and have built huge building complexes, to come back to basics and try to find affordable housing solutions in a world that is becoming more densely populated every day. Here is a sketch of his tiny house. You can read the whole story here.
The reasons that I feel tiny houses have great advantages when compared to the regular western type of house are:
- They need much less resources in terms of money, time and materials, in order to be built.
- They take up less space on our very crowded Earth.
- They help us realize which are the possessions that really mater and help us avoid hoarding of useless stuff.
- They are energy efficient: easy to heat, easy to cool.
How would you feel about living in a tiny house and what would be the 10 things that you would take with you?