The beginning of December marked our first full year of laneway living. We have completely settled in, are thrilled to be living so close to our kids, and are looking forward to the coming new year of life on the lane.
During this time we have learned some very important lessons — hard won sometimes — that I want to share:
1. We did not need all the stuff we had.
Ergo: You do not need all the stuff you have. This is the hardest lesson to learn and you will never really learn it until you downsize. Because……..
2. You will never get rid of your extra stuff until you have to
Maybe you are looking around you now and thinking that you have too much stuff. Nah, just kidding, you are not thinking that at all. You’ve just ditched the Christmas decorations and your place has a nice, stripped down look. No way could you ever live with less. There’s a reason you bought everything you own, just as there’s a reason why people gave you stuff.
Gradually you will stop using that gadget, stop wearing those clothes, but YOU DON’T GET RID OF THEM. Because you have the space to put them. And you tell yourself (those fatal words), “I might need that”. And into the closet or the storage room they go – to be forgotten.
So you will never realize how little you can live with until you get rid of everything (or nearly so) and start afresh.
This is an incredibly difficult thing to do. Please don’t think I’m going to get all obnoxious on you because we are still getting rid of stuff. We have a storage locker full of stuff we don’t use. How do I know we won’t need it in the future? Because we haven’t needed it in the past year. When I was unpacking kitchen boxes at move-in I put a large salad bowl and some platters into some of our precious, precious kitchen cupboard space. And there they sit, unused this whole year. I have to get rid of them. But I haven’t. Because I don’t have to.
But now I want to unpack some of our storage space stuff and will have to have room for that, and those unused items will have to go, go, go.
Baby steps, my friend, baby steps.
3. Design trumps size
Up at the DD and DSIL’s big house BIG plans are afoot. The kitchen and bath are being stripped back to the studs and rebuilt, fixing many problems (more on this later). The rooms will not be any larger, but will be much, much more efficient. Because DESIGN.
Ask anyone who lives in a mobile home or a houseboat — or even a small condo. You can find storage room that you never dreamed of. Space for your shoes in your staircase. A lift-up bed for linens and more. A half-height mechanical room off the deck with room for our Christmas decorations.
So if you are thinking living in a small house is just taking your current space and shrinking it, disavow yourself of this notion. You can get your designer and builder to put in much more storage per square foot than you currently have.
4. Living outside of your house has its rewards
We used to spend a lot of time cleaning and primping our former place. Two full bedrooms, two baths, plus a living room and two halls to vacuum. Lots of open shelving to dust.
But now we have lots of time to spare after our clean-up routines. Time to take walks. Get on the Skytrain and go. Get out to the gym. We are looking forward to some travel this year. We’re getting lots of exercise and having fun.
5. A small home IS all you need
While the laneway was being built we used to drop by and watch the progress. At every step, from the concrete pour for the foundation to the finishing touches on the moulding, we told ourselves that the place was going to be soooooo small. It was too late to turn back, but we were worried that our home would be constricting and claustrophobic.
But we were wrong.
It’s cozy. It’s comfortable. It’s bright and cheery. When the rainy weather stops us from go out for a walk we are happy spending the day indoors — there’s space where we can each hideaway and do our own thing.
PS: The financial situation is pretty good, too
We consider ourselves pretty lucky that we found the laneway solution to living in a too-expensive home too far from family. Every month we are just a little bit farther ahead financially, rather than the other way around. We save on power, water, gas living in such a small, energy efficient home. We buy fewer things (that we would end up not using anyway) because everything we bring into the place has to earn its space.
It’s win all the way.