Living in a neighbourly way locally and globally has resonated with our family and our desire to live and work in places and ways that impact the Kingdom has consistently grown during our time at The Meeting House. Four years ago my husband and I made the jump from well paying jobs in the Hamilton steel industry to not-so-well paying, but incredibly fulfilling jobs in the non-profit sector. It was the best decision we ever made.
It's a long story as to how we ended up in the 500 square foot palace, but regardless of the size, we felt incredibly lucky to be a part of the community we live in. A family consisting of two adults, a sixteen year old daughter and two boys aged six and eight is living in a space not much larger than the average hotel room.
What does that even look like?
The living room, complete with a two person couch and television is 12' x 7'. The kitchen, 12' x 8', manages to accommodate a microwave, fridge, stove, and sink along with nine standard size cupboards, some counter space and five-piece dining set. It's quite a design accomplishment when you think about it. There are three bedrooms, two each with a built in bunk bed, a wardrobe, and enough space to turn around. I am blessed with a queen-sized bed in the 12' x 10' master bedroom that is the largest room of all. Oh, and one bathroom.
Needless to say, we have learned a lot in the past ten months. The main lessons we have gleaned from the experience are:
1. Not having personal space, for the most part, is okay. Everyone is in each others' space most of the time. There is just no other choice. The kids play together rather than in their own separate bedrooms. It has cultivated closer relationships between the kids and led to times of reading together or invitations to join activities together.
2. If you need time or space alone, you can always go outside. Our regular living space expanded to include places outside our walls. It is sometimes necessary to go for a walk or head to the lake if peace or a quiet conversation is desired. There is no escaping to the privacy of a bathroom and locking oneself in with only one washroom available!
3. Having less space and less stuff to care for leaves room for more time with people. Let's face it, having stuff requires taking care of said stuff. With less square footage to clean and maintain and few luxury items to care for, we had more time in our lives for people. If we want to love and serve people, we need the time to do so and often our obligations to stuff hamper our efforts. We had more time for coffee with a struggling friend or time to volunteer at a local soup kitchen.
4. Our acquisition of stuff stems from discontentment. There was no space for more stuff in our small living space so when the temptation to acquire bigger, better stuff in order to feel new and improved arose, I was forced to examine and question it. This cycle goes on and on with stuff in our lives every day and when upgrades are made, things feel new for a short time but quickly feel stale. Instead of looking inward at our discontentment, we purchase more stuff for a quick boost to our self-esteem and the cycle continues.
I often wonder how our neighbours in the East perceive us. Honestly, when I think about my friends in Kenya who live in the slums with no running water and spotty electricity and then imagine them gazing across the pond only to see that we have so much stuff that we need to rent additional space outside of our absurdly large homes just to store things, it leaves me bewildered at our ways. Our possessions really do own us, and not the other way around. Ironically, we end up less satisfied.
Having little space and few possessions was freeing. We had more time for people and community and we had more time for each other. Our little family of five had no choice but work out love and grace and forgiveness with one another – there was literally no room for anything else.
If you are interested in learning more about living simply there are plenty of resources available:
- Becoming Minimalist is great blog on living with less
- The Meeting House series from 2015, Maxed Out, challenges us to rebel against our culture of excess
- The Meeting House series from 2007, Travel Light, reminds us we can go further with less
If you have other ideas or questions about living with less, leave them in the comments!