by Inigo del Castillo in Architecture on Monday 12 May 2014

While most couples would go for a big and lavish home, Andrew and Gabriella Morrison opted for a tiny one. 221 square feet of living space, to be exact. It’s equipped with a master bedroom, a bathroom, a mini guest loft, a fully-equipped kitchen, and a space-saving staircase that doubles as a closet. They’ve never been happier. In this interview, we talk to them about their new lifestyle – called ‘tiny living’ – and how others could follow in their footsteps. [Read our original post about this mobile home here]

Could you explain to us the concept behind ‘hOMe’?
The principle concept behind the hOMe design is ‘tiny house living without compromise’. Before beginning the actual design process, we created a list of ‘must haves’. These were items/qualities that were a true requirement for a house to feel like a long term, permanent home.

The list included: full sized kitchen with full sized appliances, a good sized bathroom with a regular sink and shower unit, ample head room in the lofts, space for a home office for two, copious amounts of storage, comfortable stairs to the master loft, furniture that doubles as storage, a bright open feel, and a clean modern look. By setting out to create the design within these parameters, the process was simple; we just had to carve out the space to accommodate each of them.

All of this needed to be done within our budget of $33,000. By using design elements and materials that were cost effective, we were able to make our money stretch as much as possible which allowed us to spend money on nicer appliances, windows and cabinetry. The cost of hOMe includes everything that one sees except for personal contents and mattresses. Our needs are graciously met in hOMe and it supports us by making sure that we don’t start to fill our lives with unnecessary things again.

How big was your previous house compared to ‘hOMe’? Was it hard adjusting to a smaller, minimal, and off-grid house?
Our wake up moment into tiny house living came 4 years ago when we moved into a lavish and grand house. Though it was joyous to live there for the first 4 months, we quickly realized that we had become slaves to the house. Slaves to our work to pay for the house. Slaves to cleaning it.

Our family dynamic suffered greatly because we disbanded and hid out in each corner of this large house. Around that same time we came across the ‘Small House Book’ by Jay Shaffer and a light bulb went off. Coming across the tiny house movement changed our life trajectory.

Over the next six months we got rid of 90% of our worldly possessions, got rid of the house, bought a pop up tent trailer and set off to spend 5 months on the beaches in Baja with some of the money we had made from selling superfluous things. Our intention was to strip our lives down to the very very basics and to see what we were left with.

What we discovered (after we went through 4 weeks of serious withdrawal from our fast paced, electronic gripped lives) was that we were happiest living in the tiniest and with the least. In that experiment we were able to see what material possessions are vital for our well-being and which ones are just drains.

The next two years became about identifying what our dream life and home would look like. In time our vision emerged; housing we could pay for in cash so that we would never have another housing payment, some land (not too much), a country/mountain setting, some privacy from neighbors. A home environment that would support our well-being, health and relationships.

You’ve been advocating ‘tiny living’ for some time now. How does it feel that a lot of people are suddenly interested after seeing your tiny but beautiful home? Could you give us some of your best advice for those living in tiny homes?

Since launching our website a few months ago and sharing our story, we have been flooded by emails from people sharing a similar one: they are tired of having to work so hard to pay for a house that’s too big to store the things that aren’t making them happy.

We were there too and remember that sense of near despair that comes when one wakes up to the fact that they are living a life that had promised happiness but instead has brought debt, loss of sense of self, stress, and poor family dynamics.

It’s important for people to see that there is an alternative to the ‘American Dream’. Study after study has shown that joy and contentment don’t come from material goods, from being an over achiever, or from being overly busy.

Peace comes with foundational values like healthy interpersonal relationships, time for relaxation and reflection, self-care, care of the space around oneself, and minimization of stress. Tiny house living creates an opportunity for all of those values to be implemented and maintained. Making the move to tiny goes well beyond simply making a geographic shift in living space. It truly is a lifestyle change.

The great, great thing about downsizing is that it can start today. You can begin your journey by applying what we call the ‘365 Day Rule’ and start at one corner of your house. Go through every single item that you have in your possession (and we mean EVERY single item) and if you have not used it in the last year, put it in the ‘get rid of’ pile. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.

You will find out more about how you relate to material possessions within that first half hour than by doing anything else. Once you begin this path of exploration, your life will never be the same. It’s not the path for all, and it’s not the path for those that don’t really want to know about who they are, but if you are feeling frustrated by your own current state of existence and somewhere inside just know that there is something better in life for you, then we invite you to the first day of the rest of your life.

For those interested in shifting to ‘tiny living’, Andrew and Gabriella have a free seven-day ecourse about it here.