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May 7, 2015 2:20 PM EDT is where women go to be their unabashed selves, and where their unabashed selves are applauded

If ever I find myself in an awkward social situation, I feel confident knowing I can revert to one very surprising fact about my life that will enliven the conversation — I once lived in a tiny house with my two young children.

When revealed, most are shocked by my confession, because, “Why would anyone ever do that?” Besides, where would one go to escape one’s children?

Let me assure you, the transition to tiny house living was extremely purposeful for us. It not only brought us closer as a family, but it taught us many valuable lessons regarding our purpose as well as the falsely-inflated value we place on our possessions.

For us, it was far more than just the thought of reevaluating our lives that spurred our transition. It was the fact that we had experienced a significant life event that forced us to come face-to-face with the unpredictable nature of life — my husband was diagnosed with terminal cancer and his life was eventually ripped from him.

After a long, hard struggle in which I was left emotionally and mentally drained, I knew tiny-house living was the most logical next step. It afforded us the opportunity to take a step back to reconnect with one another in the wake of such a devastating loss.

The reality is, tiny-house living taught us far more than we ever imagined it would. Here’s a little insight into the life-changing lessons that continue to remain with my family even today:

1. We have more than we need. And more.

It took me three months of almost daily work to sufficiently downsize our lives in order to move into the tiny house. The concerted effort I made to lighten our load had come on the heels of multiple moves over the course of a five-year period. You know what they say about downsizing — if you desire to lighten your load, MOVE. As a result we had already decreased our possessions numerous times before I set out to intentionally downsize once again, in order to live tiny.

Even after the transition to the tiny house, I maintained a storage unit, which I visited periodically in order to continue organizing and purging its contents. During that time I was consistently blown away by the amount of stuff we owned yet never used. I was also surprised by all of the possessions I just threw away.

There was no need to consider whether or not someone else might benefit from said possessions, they were simply useless. Such things included, but were not confined to: random bits of string, beads, scrap pieces of paper, extra pens and pencils, stray socks, etc … In essence it was just more stuff that was destined for life in a landfill.

2. We can live with a lot less than we think we can.

In an effort to live with less, I was forced to make many sacrifices. I pared down my clothing to 33 pieces, including shoes and jewelry (thank you Courtney Carver for the inspiration). As a result, I found that my self-worth was not defined by my appearance. I began to have more self-confidence, smiled more often, shopped less, and spent less time getting dressed in the morning.

I also reduced my children’s toy collection by approximately 75 percent. In the event they became bored with what they had, we made rocket ships out of boxes or went outside to explore. We also developed a rotation for old toys, which meant they instantly became new again when reintroduced into their environment.

And, we began to tackle the hard conversations. I said “no” more and I found myself feeling less guilty about it. I taught my children about privilege and made an extra effort to count our blessings. We also began to spend more time simply being together and enjoying each other’s company.

Downsizing our possessions so drastically was certainly new territory — for us as well as many others who were following our journey. During our downsizing process, people often wondered how I would get by with less once we moved into the tiny house — specifically in the kitchen. I found it was actually a lot easier than I had originally anticipated. Instead of a coffee pot, I began using a French press to make my morning cup of coffee. I had one spatula instead of three and owned only four sets of silverware and plates.

While these don’t seem like huge sacrifices, I encourage you to go count your coffee cups — I think you’ll be surprised by how many you actually own.

3. We live in a culture that is obsessed with useless crap.

It seems that everywhere we go, we are given a parting gift. For example, upon attending a workshop it is not uncommon to leave with various pens that have random business names etched into them, refrigerator magnets, business cards destined for the trash can, and other odds and ends. It’s a never-ending revolving door of useless crap we cannot avoid.

This practice did not bode well for us as tiny house dwellers, as there was only so much space to store all those “extras.” Even after moving out of the tiny house, we continue to prefer the human connections we make with others over those cheesy bits of advertisement.

Just consider the lesson we all teach our children through overeager gifting practices. It’s as if we are thanking them just for being alive.

4. Cold showers are good for the complexion.

While the tiny house had most of the amenities of a “normal” sized home, all of them were pint-sized in comparison.

The miniature bathtub came in handy almost daily for bathing my children. However, there often was not enough hot water left over for me to enjoy my own hot shower. On days when their bath time routine was followed up by my own, I knew to brace myself for a cold one. I just made sure to remind myself that cold showers are good for the complexion.

5. Living tiny will force you to reevaluate your life.

It doesn’t matter who you are or what you do, living tiny is bound to encourage you to reevaluate your life and reconsider what is most important to you. We live in a culture that is driven by consumerism and comparison. We are constantly bombarded by the next big thing and made to believe we cannot live without it.

Living in a tiny house will convince you that more doesn’t always mean better, that it’s the simple pleasures in life that really count, and that it’s the connections with others that feed your soul. Lastly, it will allow you to align your thoughts and actions, by providing ample time to evaluate who you are and who you desire to be. There is no hiding in a tiny house, especially from yourself!

Although my family no longer lives tiny, we still speak fondly of the time we spent in the tiny house and the many lessons we learned in the process. Our experience will forever remain close to our hearts, as well as serve as a dependable fallback for dinner party conversation — if ever I am in need.

Alysha St. Germain wrote this article for xoJane.

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