GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (AP) – Sometimes, less is more.
That’s what Shayla and David Bowler are discovering, as they finish the final details on their tiny house on Glade Park and downsize their possessions, maximizing their time and energy on experiences instead of things, the Daily Sentinel reported.
The Bowlers are participating in a trend sweeping the nation called minimalism, and by building a tiny home, they have forced themselves to focus on what really matters to them and what they want to include in their everyday lives.
It hasn’t been easy. David used to be a manager at Foot Locker and had acquired quite the shoe collection. They’re still in the process of determining, day by day, what they actually need to live. But they’ve learned a lot and are finding that a minimalist lifestyle is a good fit.
It all started last year when they saw the documentary, “Tiny: A Story About Living Small,” which tells the story of a couple with no building experience who constructed a tiny home in Hartsel, Colorado.
Shayla, 30, was immediately hooked on the idea, while “he was like, hell, no,” she said, laughing.
But the more David, 36, thought about it, the more he liked the idea of paring down his stuff and deciding how to spend his free time, with no yard to maintain and a much shorter honey-do list.
He didn’t want to spend his life cleaning, fixing and maintaining a property. But a tiny house was no small commitment – the Bowlers had acquired a lot of stuff in the nine years since they married.
The Bowlers are an example of an increasing number of people who have figured out that materialism can be a nightmare, and David and Shayla decided to pursue a different way of living.
Minimalism is about quality, not quantity. It’s about rejecting the views of a gimme society, where bigger is better and you can always have more stuff.
In a society in which people pay for storage units just to keep stuff, the Bowlers downsized their belongings and maximized their time. According to becomingminimalist.com, 50 percent of self-storage renters are paying to keep what won’t fit in their homes, even though the size of the average American house has almost doubled in the previous 50 years, to 2,300 square feet.
This was not the life the Bowlers wanted.
They like to travel, they want to be debt-free, and they love being outdoors and having an active lifestyle. They wouldn’t be caught dead laying in front of a TV on a weekend.
So they committed to building a tiny house and purchased a trailer last April. In May, they started building, and they moved into their tiny house in January.
Their home, a 270-square-foot house on a trailer, features 215 square feet of livable space. Their bedroom is a loft with skylights, so they can see the stars at night. They climb a ladder to access that bedroom, which is situated over the bathroom and closet.
On the other end of the house is another loft, which is a TV room/man cave and also functions as a guest loft when they have visitors.
Designing the home required special research and knowledge of what a tiny home entails.
What do you do about the bathroom? Well, there’s a composting toilet. Some folks might expect it to smell like a port-a-potty, but it doesn’t, and you wouldn’t know it was in this house unless you saw it. And yes, there’s room for a shower and washer/dryer.
What about a heating system? A tiny wood stove does the job beautifully. It’s only the size of a toaster, but it keeps the tiny house cozy. Two solar panels produce enough electricity for the fridge, TV and computer to run at the same time.
One of the more expensive items in this tiny house is the $1,000 propane, tankless hot-water heater, which provides instant hot water.
This tiny house has been a work-in-progress for the Bowlers and, when they are done, every spare inch of space will be utilized. They plan to take advantage of smart tricks such as putting drawers or shelves into the 16-inch-wide stairways, turning the toe-kicks at the bottom of cabinets into drawers and utilizing vertical space.
Much of the house is designed to be multi-functional, with seating that also is storage, and a garden window behind the kitchen sink that also provides storage space.
The Bowlers designed the space with their own sense of style, accented with the character of beetle-kill pine. They estimate the tiny house will cost $20,000 to $22,000 by the time everything is finished.
In the end, the project and decision to live this way is about freeing themselves to enjoy their spare time and paring down chores, David said.
“I don’t want to spend my whole life pulling weeds, taking care of (the mulch) you have to replace all the time so it looks good,” he said. “I could be hiking or going on a trip to Mexico.”
Keeping those goals in mind is something important for David as he has had a harder time changing his habits than Shayla has. Even before they sold their house and embarked on this adventure, she was OK with not buying much or not having many possessions. David was a shopper.
“I work to spend my money. I can’t take it with me when I die,” he said. “So I’ve had to look at that habit.”
Some of the hardest things for Shayla to say goodbye to were the antiques and décor she collected, so she gave them to friends. “I still get to see them when I visit those friends,” she said.
They donated a lot of things or gave them to friends, but other things were harder to get rid of, such as David’s letter jacket from Montrose High School. It still fits, has his name on it and is very personal, so he still has it. But their goal is to only have 25 articles of clothing each, which is still something he’s sorting through.
David also had a baseball memorabilia collection he decided to get rid of.
“If you think about it, it just sits there and you look at it, you have to dust it,” he said. He took photos of the things he wanted to remember and then let them go.
The Bowlers are still figuring out their rhythm and how they fit in this tiny house with their two dogs, Chuy the chihuahua and Laila the boxer. The place seems smaller now that all the appliances and furniture have been moved in, and sometimes choosing a place to be is a bit like a game of musical chairs.
“I go to get my coffee and she decides to get her coffee and so now I can’t move,” David explained. “Sometimes I just want to scream because I’m not used to it.”
At first, it was like fancy camping. Now, they live there and have to make it work. They’ve spent a fair amount of time organizing, re-organizing and tripping on things, figuring out what works and what doesn’t.
They’re finding they actually do want a Crock-Pot, though they got rid of the one they had.
“It’s making us say, what do we need, really?” Shayla said. “It makes you think, where do I have a place for that and will I use it?”
Their shopping habits have changed drastically, particularly because they prepare most meals at home and enjoy a healthful diet. Because the kitchen is so small, they can’t really stock up, so they buy groceries about five times a week.
But overall, the Bowlers say creating a life in a tiny house has been worth all the changes. When they lay in bed, gazing up at the stars through the roof of the loft, it’s worth it.
When they wake up on a weekend morning and ask, “What do you want to do today?” instead of mowing the lawn or spreading mulch, it’s worth it.
When they go on a hike instead of sitting in the house, it’s worth it.
“You’re giving yourself your life back,” David said. “It’s worth it.”