For the past year my family and I have been quietly conducting a rather large experiment in voluntary simplicity. We’ve been living in a shed.
Photo by What Xanthe Saw.
It’s not exactly legal to do so in our area, so I kept the reality of our ‘temporary home’ relatively quiet*. A surprise visit by two council inspectors and a subsequent move into a rental property has given me the freedom to share what the experience taught me about simple living.
What living in a shed taught me about simple living
Living in a small uninsulated shed without internal plumbing definitely had its challenges – but it also had a whole lot of virtues and taught me some valuable lessons.
I learnt that it’s good to not have everything you want straight away. I discovered the joy in dreaming, planning and waiting. When we bought our little farm just over a year and a half ago we started planning a small passively designed home. We could have gone to the bank and borrowed money and then spent the next 20 years paying back the bank. But instead, we moved into the shed while we saved and refined our home plans.
I also learnt that I like small living. Moving from a large spacious home into a small space forced us to reduce our belongings. We identified what is truly useful and important and donated or sold the rest. I no longer feel like I’m drowning in my possessions and I feel freer to enjoy what I do own.
An unexpected benefit of living in a small space was greater connection. With no internal walls or doors, we were always within earshot of each other and conversations were frequent. Now that we’re living in a house again, I find myself missing the togetherness that a small space created.
Shed living also provided an opportunity to learn just how resilient, creative and tolerant our family could be. Despite all that we lived without, the last year was one of the best years of my life. Our shed was more of a home than any other house I’ve lived in.
How we lived became more important than where we lived.
My favourite quote does a good job of summing up what I learnt from a year of living in a shed.
“The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less” Socrates.
Originally published in my Newcastle Herald column 'Less is More' 15th March 2014.
*Although I didn't write much about shed living here - I did share plenty of shedhome pictures on instagram. Here's a sneak peak into our shed home.