Our Family Of 4 Downsized To A 200-Square-Foot Home

by Brynn Burger
Brynn Burger with her son, daughter, and husband who have downsized to a 200-square-foot home
Brynn Burger

To avoid anyone automatically filing our little family into a category with kids whose names are Wingspan and Banjo and whose parents liberally use siracha, wear black-rimmed glasses, and only buy what has been repurposed, let me clear the air. Yes, we are “those” people, but we aren’t those people.

Two years ago, while eating ice cream, nursing my newborn daughter, and binge watching episodes of Tiny House Revolution, I had an epiphany.

We spent over a year researching tiny living, minimalism, and downsizing. As it turns out, the simplistic way of life had additional benefits for our son who has multiple behavioral diagnoses. Reducing his stimulation and options for everything has been an incredible help to his sensory processing, generalized anxiety, and ADHD needs.

Over the course of the next year, we began to purge. It took us three large sessions of selling, donating, and trashing items large and small — appliances, furniture, electronics, clothes, and shoes — before we were ready to announce our move. Within four weeks, we quit our jobs; sold our 2,000-square-foot farmhouse with 15 acres, a barn, and a workshop; bought a 36-foot fifth wheel camper, met a family through Airbnb, and parked on their land three states away. Our family has always lived the “Go big or go home” philosophy well, but this time the “big” and the “home” parts were a little subjective.

Now, two years later, I teach at a second-chance high school in an inner city while my rockstar husband slays being a stay-at-homedad and “roadschools” our 6-year-old son. (The term “homeschool” didn’t seem to fit our lifestyle, so we adjusted.) Sparrow, our 1 1/2-year-old daughter, climbs everything, rides bikes, and tags along on daily adventures while our son is able to use his best gifts for hands-on learning.

Brynn Burger

What once overflowed two kids’ bedrooms and a playroom is now confined to a bunkhouse in the rear of our camper. Our kids chose what toys were important to them, and they now have two fabric bins each, plus books and dress-up clothes that make up their shelves of “stuff.” They were able to choose what stayed and what went, which proved harder on us than on them.

We each have about 50 pieces of clothing and accessories — yes, that includes shoes (gasp!). In this purge, I was able to free myself from the tote of clothes I haven’t squeezed into since my pre-birthing body and am now truly happy in every item I own. That may be my favorite part.

We took what used to bubble over countertops and cabinets in a kitchen twice the size of our entire home now and pared it down to three pots, two pans, four plates, four glasses, four kids’ cups, four sets of silverware, and a few random kitchen utensils. You haven’t lived until you can wash all of your dishes, clean your entire house — including sanitizing bathrooms, scrubbing the shower, vacuuming, and laundry — all in the span of 45 minutes. It is the glamorous life.

What used to take us an entire weekend to clean, only to be destroyed in seconds by the tiny humans we are raising, now takes under an hour, and we are then free: free to play, to climb, to run, to hike, to do anything we want. I have taken more naps in our hammock in the last two months than in my entire adult life. There just aren’t the excuses anymore of “I can’t. I have to clean up,” or “Count me out. The yard work needs to be done.” We choose what we want to do, and we are able to do what we love. There is unbelievable power, freedom, and joy in this lifestyle.

Even with only one income, we have been able to pay off almost all of our previous debt and build a savings. We are currently planning our dream trip out West this summer to see major monuments and hike in national parks — and all of those hours will count toward roadschool!

Tiny living has given us permission to say yes to what matters to us and to say no to what we just no longer have space for anymore.

“Yes, I would love to meet you for coffee, friend I haven’t seen since college.”

“No, Mom, I won’t actually use grandma’s old knickknacks from pre-colonial times.”

It is the freedom to pursue our dreams and to live our lives with purpose; to be examples of sacrifice, determination, and kindness to our children.

Brynn Burger

Tiny living is not for everyone, but it is the best decision we have ever made. I don’t sit in carpool lanes, pickup and drop-off lines, or take my kids to five different practices a week.

We take our kids to meet local residents, to serve their community (even if it changes as we travel), and to recognize the faces of hurting people. Raising kids in our current world where cruelty has become the national economy, we want them to feel safe striving in the face of fear-driven hate. Living tiny takes the focus off of self and stuff and puts the spotlight on service and freedom — liberation from that which we were once held prisoner.

My kids take survival skills classes, befriend whoever is at the park when they are, and wash tables at a local restaurant that feeds the hungry. It is a messy, dirt-covered lifestyle with minimal room for “things” but plenty of space for what really matters, and we happen to love that. So yeah, I guess we are those people.