My family and I went to visit my mother on Saltspring over the Canada Day long weekend. She lives in a tiny 350sf cabin on a lake and there isn’t enough room for another three people so we stayed in a lovely B&B close by instead. The place we stayed at was set up well for a small family with one bedroom, a small living room opening up to a combined kitchen/dining space. A small deck off the living room was nested under a beautiful canopy of trees and offered a little more visual and stretch out space. The whole place, including the tiny bathroom and front entrance, couldn’t have been much larger than 500sf, a big downsize in space from what my family is used to in our townhouse of 2400sf.
We had a lovely time on the island, enjoying being in nature and settling into the groove of a slower and more relaxed pace. It is always a refreshing shift getting back to the island (I lived there as a teenager) to soak in the quiet laid back feel of the place. What was most striking about this particular visit though was how pleasant being in our small space B&B was. Because it was open concept our son could have the run of the place without us loosing visual contact with him for long and because we had no where else to go (other rooms, other floors etc) we were always together talking, playing, cooking and eating. In our townhouse there are lots of places to “get away” from each other and with three floors and lots of rooms it is possible to not even know where someone is for moments at a time. This can be a good thing sometimes and a little space can save marriages and maintain sanity but sometimes too much space encourages spending less time together in communal spaces. So while we would likely need an additional room for our son and maybe a little more “get out of each others hair” space for a longer term arrangement, what occurred to me was that we really could live comfortably in a LOT less space.
This realization has really helped further inspire me to pair down my belongings. The more things I have the more likely I’ll feel we need space to accommodate them. So the weekend in a small space reinforced the importance of the first step in simplification – unloading the material weight that ties us down and encourages us to spread out.
Sometimes you just need a taste of a different life to get the feel for and inspiration to move beyond the inertia of your current patterns of thinking and being. Sometimes getting a feel for an alternative and having a positive experience can make it feel less scary . This visit did just that and I came back with a renewed vigor for the challenge.