Jan 29, 2015

Three Things Military Life Can Teach Us about Tiny Living

(Guest post by Tiffany Krezinski)

I know, I know – when someone says “tiny living,” the first thing that pops into mind probably isn’t the military. The military is big and wasteful in many ways; however, on an individual level, there are actually a few principles of military life that apply very well to living in a home of only a few hundred square feet. 

When on deployment, most military personnel live in conditions where all they may have is a bunk and a footlocker – anything they can’t fit into that space either gets tossed or gets put in storage. As such, many people in the military develop certain mindsets compatible with principles behind tiny living. Here are a few of those mindsets. 

1. Everything has a Place 
It sounds so simple, but when you have a very limited space, carving out smaller spaces for the necessities (and a few wants) is absolutely essential. Alongside marching, marching, and more marching, basic training drills military personnel on the importance of defining spaces for personal belongings – toothbrush goes here, underwear goes there, that sort of thing. Part of the theory behind this sort of orderliness is that it cuts down on the number of decisions a person has to make, freeing their brains up for other tasks. (There’s a similar theory behind the wardrobes of CEOs, like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, who wear the same thing every day.)
Outside the military, we get to decide where to put our own stuff, but sometimes that’s hard to figure out. The good news is that you can budget space just like you can budget your money, and if you do it well, your home will look really nice when you’re done.

If you’re just getting into tiny living, plan out a space-budget in advance. If you’ve been doing it awhile and are constantly frustrated by clutter, it might take a little more effort, but it’s worthwhile. Make diagrams! Draw outlines on the walls, floor, or ceiling! Get creative and be as specific as possible – don’t just carve out space for a spice rack, list the spices you plan to have in it. Just make sure there’s a spot for everything you absolutely need.
And if you find out that you don’t have enough room for something, maybe that’s a hint about how much you really need it… 

2. Everything IN its Place 
Anyone who had a parent, grandparent or other relative who was in the military knows how particular they can be about putting things “in the right place.” Even when everything has a place, sometimes we forget to put things away or simply allow clutter, dirty dishes or clothes, and other random piles of randomness to appear. Ignoring such things, however, will inevitably make a tiny home feel even tinier. 
Since you’ve gone through the effort of making sure everything has a place, there’s no reason for anything to be out of place – except for when you’re using it, of course. The simple answer is, as soon as you’re done with it, put it away. If something needs washing, either wash it immediately (as with dishes) or as soon as practical (as with laundry) without letting it build up. Carving out a little time each day, say five to ten minutes, to just check around and make sure everything is where it belongs can help make your small space feel much bigger. 

3. Consolidate and Share 
If you talk to anyone who’s lived on an aircraft carrier, you’ll learn quickly that there’s a thriving barter community, especially for entertainment. Since space is at a premium, things like books, movies, music, and other physical media get shared from person to person, frequently with in a pay-it-forward model. There are even donation-based programs such as Heinlein for Heroes, that send books to active military personnel expressly for that purpose.

Of course, the best way to save space when living in a tiny area is to go digital for your entertainment needs – Netflix, Pandora, etc. However, many older books, albums, and even movies may not be available through online services, and sometimes it’s just nice to feel the weight of a physical book, LP, or other form of media in your hands. 

Trading with friends is a great option, but there are other ways to share as well, such as with Little Free Libraries and similar projects. 
Looking beyond merely entertainment, there’s a whole host of barter communities out there, which can fit in very well with the idea of tiny living. Check out groups like Our Goods, or look for local barter groups in your area.  You can also look to celebrities such as Leonardo DiCaprio, who wrote a book about sustainable living called The 11th Hour, or Brad Pitt, who worked with a sustainable architect named William McDonough, to design homes with a sustainable design based on McDonough’s designs, named Cradle to Cradle. 

So there you have it. There might not be a ton of overlap between the military life and living in tiny homes, but there are definitely some principles that apply to both. I’d love to hear what other inspirations you can think of. Please share them in the comments.

This post was written by Tiffany Krezinski.  She is a fellow blogger and also interested in tiny living and sustainability.  Please visit and check out her blog; Peace, Love, & Travel with Cliff and Tiff, through the following link.  Thanks Tiffany!


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