Perhaps you’re super excited about pursuing the idea of a tiny home (like I was a year ago) and you’re not sure how to bring it up to your relationship partner. Maybe he is resistant to pare down, or she can’t fathom an entire house smaller than some people’s closets. Don’t despair! One who chooses the path less traveled (or the house less…roomy) is bound to feel alone at times.
There is nothing wrong with wanting space and a ‘regular-sized’ house. It can be problematic, however, when one person in a couple wants to go minimalist and the other enjoys living large. For any tiny house lovers out there, I hope this post helps in creating positive, productive housing discussions with your partner — and ultimately getting him or her to give small houses a little consideration. I focus here on couples, though the points can apply to other family.
Relationship partners might disagree about housing for the following reasons:
a) Differences in appraisal of benefits (i.e., one person more strongly values the potential positive outcomes of a small or large home).
b) Differences in conventionality and risk aversion. One person is more comfortable embracing the unknowns of building, financing, or living in a tiny house, whereas the other prefers a normative, predictable path to home ownership.
c) Discomfort with discomfort. One person has material possessions or lifestyle preferences that he or she believes are incompatible with a smaller house and is uncomfortable with the possibility of a change in that area.
What do all of these scenarios have in common? The reluctant partner is probably feeling unsure about the implications of a smaller house.
Knowledge and information are remedies for fear and uncertainty. Support your sweetie in learning about tiny/unconventional houses. Consider visiting one together, watching a documentary, attending a tiny house festival, and following some bloggers/builders online. We did all of these things together before committing to a tiny house, and it definitely helped us feel more confident in the decision.
What if the actual construction aspect is a concern? Again, help your partner learn the skills. If neither of you is experienced in carpentry, or you’re very busy, consider hiring out part of the build or buying a partially or fully finished home to ease the burden.
What if you and your partner are on the same page about downsizing, but you want to jump in now and they want to do it… eventually. In other words, both people share a common end goal but one person wants to delay things. This is understandable, as changing homes and the preparation involved is time-intensive and effortful, physically and emotionally. Such barriers often keep us in the status quo even when change is desired.
The difficult part is, there’s rarely a good time to make big life changes; you might be waiting to finish grad school or for the kids to move out, but then some other obstacle will come along and put the decision on the back burner again. If you are considering moving or homebuilding, the best time to start learning and planning is now. Sure, it might take awhile before you actually go anywhere, and you might even change your mind altogether. But better sooner than later! I started researching tiny houses and editing my possessions a year before we committed to the idea. Preparation takes a long time — and is more enjoyable when done at a leisurely pace 🙂
If your partner is openminded about downsizing, that’s great! Below are some tips for having that discussion.
Frame the idea as something that would improve your life as a couple.
- What do you and your partner care about? Ability to travel? A rewarding career or family life? Environmental impact? Think of how a smaller house could support those goals and communicate that to your partner.
Listen without judgment.
- The goal here is to listen to their concerns to create a nonthreatening atmosphere for the rest of the conversation. Don’t interrupt with counterarguments. For all parties involved, some skepticism and realism is healthy for critically evaluating the pros and cons of the decision.
Empathize with their concerns.
- By showing that you acknowledge the challenges of a smaller/tiny house, you steer the conversation towards collaboration and problem solving instead of conflict or persuasion. Avoid undermining your partner’s objections; the goal here is to understand their concerns and convey that you are on the same team in addressing those concerns.
- “I can see how having a smaller house might compromise our ability to entertain.”
- “I agree that the legal issues with tiny houses on wheels could be a challenge in finding a place to live.”
When we were first discussing tiny houses, it helped to generate solutions and backup plans for potential problems and worst-case scenarios.
Discover the commonalities in your values
- Discuss what both of you need and want in a home. Remember that, with a little creativity and compromise, it’s possible to shrink even a long list of must-haves.
If your partner truly feels a smaller house is out of the question, respect their preferences and perhaps try revisiting the topic in the future. Even if your conversation didn’t change anything apparant, you will have learned a lot about each other and come to a better understanding of the kind of home and life both of you desire. Remember to end your discussions on a positive note and keep an open, loving mind. Who knows what will come of future conversations — with luck, your “small talk” may lead to big decisions!