If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you’ll be acquainted with my love of tiny houses. I can’t explain it, I understand it’s totally unreasonable, and yet I love them anyway.


why I've let go of my dreams of a tiny house

But sometime this last winter I finally let go of that dream because:

  1. Eric and the kids thought I was insane.
  2. The reality of a composting toilet for four people finally sank in.
  3. A private bedroom is good for married couples, and sharing a tiny house with teenagers makes that nearly impossible.

I finally acknowledged the tiny house wasn’t going to work, but then I just moved my sights slightly higher– three small bedrooms and a real bathroom. I just needed to find one close enough to the kids’ school.

My friends rightly pointed out that we’d moved out of a 900 square foot house a few years ago. I was going crazy in that place– what on earth would make me want to go back to another cramped house?

I understand my desire to downsize makes no sense. We truly did move out of a small house three years ago, and I couldn’t wait to escape that place. The day we moved out was an endless Happy Dance.

I couldn’t quite explain it, even to myself. I busied myself with some projects in our new home, and that squelched the desire for a time. But then, burning somewhere deep (possibly next to my spleen) was the constant and burning desire to downsize. I wanted less house and more available money. I wanted to be able to give wildly and generously, and to travel far and wide.

This is the closest explanation¬†I can find– you know how some couples decide they’re done having children after their second baby? They give away the baby clothes, sell the crib, and get some surgical intervention. And then, beyond all reason, five years later they find themselves ready for a new baby. They get the vasectomy reversed or start filling out adoption paperwork.

It’s a desire deep inside that drives them, with no logic involved. They remember the sleepless nights and how difficult two year olds are! They haven’t lost their minds, but something deeper compels them.

And that’s how it was with me and downsizing. I hear the stories of people in Haiti and India. I realize many people are living in huts with metal roofs while monsoons rage in 100 degree heat. How can I continue living with two bathrooms and central air? Am I supposed to go on landscaping my yard in this planned community while a missionary school in India can barely afford to pay their teachers?

I finally asked Eric and the kids to pray about it with me. They weren’t totally on board, so I could see how this was possibly a new version of the tiny house ordeal. I was quite sure that after some prayer at least Eric would come around, because of course God was on my side. This desire fit in with the biblical ideals of sharing with those in need, so God and I held the holy cards.

I even had real life stories to back it up. My friend Amelia Rhodes did the same thing last year– sold a comfortable family home because of a simple desire to downsize. (You can read their story here.) And I recently read Amber C. Haines’ book Wild in the Hollow, and her family downsized into an apartment (with four little boys!) so they could be closer to their church community.

I’m not the only crazy one, is all I’m saying.

After three weeks of praying, the answer hit me hard and clear one morning. No. The answer isn’t moving to a smaller house. The answer is to stay right here, even with central air and two bathrooms.

I don’t understand why, exactly. I think it probably has something to do with being the aroma of Christ right here in this very neighborhood, where the children zip circles on their bikes and the families walk their children in strollers. It might have something to do with being involved in the schools, full of kids who need love and Christ. It could be that we’re called to be salt and light to this community, full of scrappy, independent (occasionally cranky) citizens.

I told Eric this a few days ago, and this was his response. “I feel like we prayed and felt led to be here. I don’t feel like that’s changed.” And the man is right. We didn’t land here without a lot of prayer.

It’s pretty clear that God plants his children all over the world. Some of us get the planned communities and central air and others of us get the monsoons and the huts. I don’t understand why. I don’t know why God doesn’t concentrate us, like an army, in the areas that need the most help. But he doesn’t ask me to have all the answers; I only need to be faithful in my own place and calling. I need to give as generously as we’re able right here, even with the larger mortgage and tax bill.

We can still be faithful right here. Although I have started negotiations for a tiny house in the backyard, because wouldn’t that be adorable?! It could be the Poopsie Hut! The Mom Cave! I could paint the walls sky blue and hide from children and writing deadlines.

I wouldn’t even need a composting toilet. Perfect.



8 Comments on Why I’ve let go of my dreams for a tiny house

  1. David
    July 5, 2016 at 4:25 pm (2 years ago)

    I do like the tiny house idea, but we’d never be able to accommodate all the family when they come home at the same time, like last Christmas.

    What does attract me is an energy efficient highly insulated home with solar panels all over the roof, but not one with a composting toilet.

  2. Jessie Clemence
    July 5, 2016 at 5:10 pm (2 years ago)

    Yeah, that toilet thing is a deal breaker. Can you imagine having one with all the Christmas company? You’d have to rent a portable pot for the season!

  3. David
    July 5, 2016 at 5:31 pm (2 years ago)

    I don’t even want to think about it! At least one daughter-in-law would refuse to visit if all we could offer was a composting toilet.

  4. Luanne
    July 5, 2016 at 6:40 pm (2 years ago)

    My mom went through a “dome home” phase for a while when I was a kid (you know, those semi-circular golf ball looking things). Needless to say, we did not build one and I finished growing up in a totally normal house, thank you very much! But, while I don’t entirely understand your desire for a tiny house (any more than your family apparently does nor any better than I understood my mother’s desire for a non-traditional home), I do get the desire to de-clutter. Perhaps this is the root of your desires, rather than a real need to move to a jungle and live in a hut. You want more experiences and less material things, perhaps? This is totally do-able while living with a real kitchen and toilet! On another note, I totally support a tiny house in your back yard…it’s like a tree house on the ground for adults!

  5. Jessie Clemence
    July 5, 2016 at 8:57 pm (2 years ago)

    Yes, it’s sort about decluttering, although I’ve done all of that I can. It’s more about a smaller tax bill and mortgage. We have some friends who live in a small house (800 square feet, but with a real bathroom) and they paid it off years ago. They have tons of financial room for helping their kids with college, giving to church and other ministries, and saving for retirement. I’m a firm believer that saving on the big ticket items makes more sense than trying to save $3 on a latte.

  6. memyselfandkids.com
    July 6, 2016 at 4:59 pm (2 years ago)

    I think you came to the right decision – you moved out of the small house for a reason. Also, you getting a smaller house does not help the needy. I believe that G-d has a plan and you can work a million hours or live in a tiny house, and you will still end up with what G-d plans for you.
    Your desire to give wildly and generously is admirable. I hope that G-d gives you the opportunity to do just that.

  7. Kristen E
    July 6, 2016 at 10:04 pm (2 years ago)

    From my point of view, you needed a bigger house because you are able to bless others with your hospitality. Your small group is able to meet at your house because you have a place for adults and a place for kids, etc. Your ability to minister with your home is important. . .

  8. Jessie Clemence
    July 7, 2016 at 9:35 am (2 years ago)

    Well, the small group actually became a LARGE group with six toddlers. We’ve had to move to the church!