Life in 600 Square Feet
“You’ll look back and cherish that house more than any others.”
His words rang true.
Andrew and I were sitting beside a gorgeous stone fireplace sipping hot apple cider and talking about life with people who started as strangers but within minutes had become friends. Not until we were deep in conversation did we find out their names: Nordy and Kim. They were around our parents’ age.
It was one of those encounters that effortlessly moves beneath the surface into conversation that really matters. The inn’s warm ambiance added to our ease. Before we knew it, the often-asked question about seminary arose…which led into my sense of calling…which then meandered into the topic of our tiny house.
The usual reaction when someone hears about our house is either shocked disbelief or excited curiosity – but almost always with the conclusion that it would be impossible to actually live that way.
But Nordy and Kim’s response was unique. Something about our little cottage resonated with them. Then Nordy said the words that stuck with me: “You’ll look back and cherish that house more than any others, even more than the bigger, grander ones that may come.”
It felt true. And sounded a lot like what my heart has been saying since our move into this little space four years ago. What started as an obvious way to cut our cost of living and facilitate my focus on seminary has changed into something I now value in its own right. What started as a temporary, “sacrificial” means to a long-term, “bigger and better” end I now see as the end itself.
Nordy’s fireside words stuck with me because they speak of a well kept secret: Life’s greatest riches make themselves known when non-essentials are stripped away.
A 600 square foot house has a way of stripping non-essentials.
It turns out that one can pursue a satisfying life without a closet the size of a bedroom [i.e. the closets at our first house]. It also turns out that one can function without a garage. Without a dining room. Or a dishwasher.
At first glance, living in a space this small seems to guarantee that things will be taken from you. But once you get inside, you have the rare opportunity to discover for yourself that vastness is often concealed within small exteriors.
Beauty emerges from quiet simplicity. And extravagance is found in hiddenness.
Our time in this little house has been a beautiful merging of the commonplace with the sacred.
The table where Andrew and I share meals is the same table where I study the Scriptures. The couch where we veg out is the same couch where we pour out our hearts to the Lord each day, where we listen for His voice. The small bathroom we share is a daily reminder that neither of us is the center of the universe. Our bedroom is both a respite from the busyness of life and the setting where some of that busyness takes place, namely in endless hours of reading.
Because of its size, there is no division in this house between the ordinary and the holy. And as it turns out, it’s all holy – because it’s all His.
He is present in all of it – the cleaning, the praying, the typing, the eating, the reading, the laughing, the coffee drinking. And not only present, but moving in the midst of it all – particularly in the ordinary parts that feel hidden.
Daily, this small space invites us into contentment. Rest. Peace. Deep, full relationship.
It invites us to hunger for His presence, His voice, more than anything else. It invites us to know who we are in Christ and to see others as who they are in Him – not according to misleading externals.
In a very real way, our tiny house has helped to detach my heart from the world’s measuring stick. You know, the artificial standard that derives value from designer labels, salaries, neighborhoods, social networks, and possessions. These things are not inherently bad and may even play a God-given role in our story, but they do not define us as people. They are not the Source of our worth. Sometimes it takes the simplicity of a quiet little space to remember this.
One of the greatest gifts this house has bestowed is to our marriage. Our small living space invites us to know each other. The deep kind of knowing that unites two hearts, forming a powerful, protective oneness. There’s no room for distance in this little haven.
What we embarked on with excitement nearly four years ago has now grown roots. It has changed the way we dream about the future. The way we think about stewardship. The way we define abundance. The way we demonstrate what matters.
I’m convinced that very exciting things lay ahead for us. But I’m equally convinced of the truth held inside of Nordy’s words. There’s real goodness to be found in simplicity. Daily this 600 square foot house immerses us in that secret goodness.
It’s a goodness I cherish and will carry into our future.