How To Live Well in 100 Square Feet

Jay Shafer at SXSW 2012

Recently, at SXSW 2012, we had the pleasure of hearing Jay Shafer of Tumbleweed Tiny House Company extol the virtues of living in a small space. While he admits that living in 100 square feet might not be for everyone, his talk contained plenty of tips that apply to anyone looking to live efficiently.

While we live in 600 sq feet (two adults, no pets or kids) and are no McMansion owners, we admit to being kind of taken aback by the idea of living in 100 sq ft. However, that response changed once we heard Jay speak at SXSW. Not only do we now not think the idea "crazypants", but more importantly, we've walked away with some great tips on how to make better use of the space we live in. Here are a few from Jay that we think are great whether you live in 100 or 1000 sq ft:

1. Pare Down: Figure out what you need in your home to be happy and get rid of everything else. It's that simple. The first major purge of items is painful, but Jay assures us it does get easier. Once you've gotten rid of a lot of stuff and are only left with your happy essentials, it's fine for them to be organized densely — the trick is to find the right balance between dense and crowded.

2. Live artfully: Before Jay began living in a tiny houses he had quite a bit of art. He realized as he began to cut down on his possessions that it's all about living artfully as opposed to having a lot of art. Can his home still be a peaceful, restful, artful space despite not being filled with art? For him, the answer was yes.

3. Think Small: Jay defines every home where every square foot is being used as a small house. While during his single days Jay was able to live in 100 sq ft, now that he is married with a child and another one on the way, he and his family live in 500 sq ft. Extra space is extra space that needs to be heated and cooled. Be efficient and live only in the amount that you and your family need, living smarter not larger.

4. Design & Quality: If you are living in a small home, live well. In order to make it all work in such a tiny space, everything needs to be well designed, and Jay suggests using quality materials. After all, while those quality materials might cost a small fortune in a 1,000 sq ft home, it's a pittance when using it for a home that's a few hundred sq ft. It's about quality and good design sense, not quantity.

5. Multi-Tasking & Clever Thinking: In a small space there is not much room for uni-taskers. One of the elements in his tiny houses that Jay is most proud of is the combination sink, shower, and tub. He experimented with the right size for the sink/shower/tub and finally settled on what worked for him. The question he asks himself when designing is: does this feel small? Our take-away is do what works best for you and your family and think creatively. While a specific solution might not work for your great aunt, if it works for you, great. It's your house!

Of course these ideas are just the tip of the iceberg, and Jay has many, many more. So much more, in fact, that he wrote a book, The Small House Book, which also includes plans for tiny houses that you can build. We're glad that we went to his panel at SXSW and are now more inspired than ever to really pare down during Spring cleaning this year, and make 2012 the year we keep around only what makes us happy.

For more information on Jay, his small home philosophy, and the houses he builds, check out Tumbleweed Tiny House Company.

(Images: Joelle Alcaidinho & Tumbleweed Tiny House Company)

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