When I decided to move to Squamish, I knew I wanted this relocation to be different than any of the others I had done in the past. Before, I would have just packed up all of my belongings, carried them out of one home and into another. I wouldn’t have paused to question if I actually liked everything enough to bring it with me. My actions would have been automatic. Pack, carry out, carry in, unpack. Return it all back to its usual places, only this time inside a new home. Recycle the cardboard boxes and put the whole thing behind me, then carry on with life as usual.
Everything about this move felt different. For starters, I wasn’t moving for a job or my family or a relationship or anything else. I moved for me. This is where I want to be. Of everywhere I have lived and travelled, Squamish is the only town I have ever felt like I belonged. In Toronto, I always felt like a fraud – a girl who dressed in black to fit in, but who couldn’t hide the fact that the cement towers didn’t measure up to the mountains. I felt better in Port Moody, with the ocean, lakes and mountains in my backyard. But Squamish feels like home in a way I haven’t experienced before.
For that reason, I wanted every step of this moving process to be intentional. I didn’t want to unpack boxes and regret dragging any old clutter into my new home. I also didn’t want to bring some of the furniture I had owned since my early twenties and once bought for all the wrong reasons. Essentially, I didn’t want to bring anything that would have been at odds with the life and lifestyle I want. Instead, I wanted to bring everything I own that aligns with my values, and piece together the rest as I build a life here. It probably won’t surprise you when I say that one of my values is to “live small”.
What Does Living Small Mean?
If you’re imagining me in a tiny house right now, trust me when I say: I have thought about it! I got a small settlement from my car accident, after I recovered from hip surgery last year, and I did think about building a tiny house or buying an RV. There is no doubt in my mind that I would be comfortable in a small space, and I have seen some tiny houses and shipping container homes here in Squamish. However, as tiny house dwellers will tell you, the logistics of finding a place to park your home isn’t always easy to manage. And I don’t believe you need to live in a small space, in order to “live small”.
Instead, I would say my definition of living small is identical to Melanie’s. It means: living below your means, living with less stuff, making do and mending, prioritizing your life and living more. I would also add getting involved in your community and supporting your local economy to the list. Living small is essentially not chasing “more”, but instead learning to find the more in less. It’s about utilizing the space you have, shrinking your carbon footprint and being an active member in your community (whatever that looks like for you).
How I’m Living Small in 676 sq. ft.
When I started searching for a rental in Squamish, I knew I had a couple odds stacked against me. For starters, Squamish had the lowest vacancy rate in British Columbia last fall, and that remains to be an issue today. The real estate market has also blown up here, and property assessments increased by as much as 70% this year. (Yes, that number was shocking to even those of us who know how crazy the markets are here in the Lower Mainland.) As a renter, that means it’s extremely difficult to find an affordable place to live. I was prepared for my search to take months.
Somehow, it only took a few weeks to find a place to live… and I have to say, I was surprised by how relaxed it was. Of the three places I saw, all three were offered to me – and not a single one asked me to fill out an application, provide references or do a credit check. Maybe that’s normal here? Or maybe that’s what happen when you tell your potential future landlords that your entire life (including all your numbers) are online. My blog is like an insurance policy, haha. (Hi, landlords!) I moved in two weeks ago and truly feel like I’m living small but with a decent amount of space. Here’s how:
I’m Living Within My Means
I would love to say that I’m living below my means here, but the truth is that I set a max budget for myself and that’s what I’ve ended up paying. My search criteria was pretty open: I just wanted to be in a condo downtown. Yes, I have a car and could drive from wherever, but I wanted to be within walking distance of stores, coffee shops, the library and some trails. The place I moved into fits that bill, and is on the top floor of a new building and has a view of Mount Garibaldi. I couldn’t be happier. Oh! And after some negotiation, my landlords offered me a fixed-price contract that says they won’t increase my rent.
I’m Living With Less Stuff
Perhaps the biggest change I made during this move was the fact that I didn’t bring a few key pieces of furniture with me (couch, coffee table, desk). Instead of buying more stuff from IKEA or making any impulse purchases, I am currently living without those things, and making do with what I have while I look for what I want. My hope is that I can utilize the second-hand economy and find the coffee table and desk online. Knowing how many quality pieces I have sold online myself, I know there’s good stuff out there. Now, it’s my turn to find what I want!
Another big change I made was my decision not to bring my TV. I haven’t had cable in years, and only used my TV as another screen to stream Netflix from… but I barely watch that now either. Carrie and I talked about how to define your values on Budgets and Cents last week, and when I think about what I value doing in my personal time at home, it’s being creative and reading books. It is not watching TV. Now, my grand plan is to buy a standup desk for my iMac, which can also serve as my TV stand/TV when I feel like watching something. (Multi-purpose furniture, ftw!)
I’m Getting Involved in My Community
It’s only been two weeks, but I have already connected with a handful of creatives and small business owners here. It also looks like I’ll be one of the first people working from a new coworking space! I’ve met a few of my neighbours, including the guy next door whose dog can squeeze between our two decks to come say hi. I spent probably way too much time chatting with the librarian when I picked up my library card. And when possible, I’ve been supporting local businesses (so far by buying coffee beans from a small-batch roastery, mmm). This is only the beginning of what I hope is to come. :)
I’m Prioritizing My Life and Living More
Finally, this one isn’t hard for me, as I’ve been practicing it for the past couple years… but living small means prioritizing my life, not my home. I didn’t move to Squamish so I could live in this particular condo or furnish it with particular items. I moved here because of everything else it has to offer: the outdoors, the activities and the small town community vibe. Yes, my home is still where I will spend the majority of my time (because I work from here), but that doesn’t mean my home is a priority. Living is my priority. Sharing experiences with people is my priority. So, that’s what I’m doing.
Now, if you remember, I’m doing a year of slow living experiments in 2017. In January, slow mornings changed my life. In February, I shifted gears and experimented with slow money. And my goal for March was to do this move slowly and intentionally. Can you guess how I did? ;)
Experiment #3: Slow Move
- go through all of my belongings again/only pack what I want to keep – done!
- sell/donate everything I don’t want to bring with me – done!
- make a list of things I think I want to buy (like a standing desk) – done!
- settle into my new home, before actually buying anything – done!
- reach out and make plans with new friends :) – done!
All-in-all, March was one of the toughest months I’ve had in my personal life in years, but the slow move was a huge success. It also happened at just the right time, as it looks like April is going to be another month where I’ll have my head down in the book. It’s time to do some edits!
Are there any ways you would like to try to live smaller?