Intentional Spaces

Here’s a novel idea: living space should reflect lifestyle.


Okay, as far as novel ideas go, this one probably doesn’t make the cut. Yet I’m continually surprised by the stark similarities in many living spaces I’ve encountered across the country, despite vast differences in the lifestyles and choices of the people inhabiting them. Lots of houses are fundamentally the same, as are the paths to attaining them.

If you read my previous blog post, Marriage, Kids, and Houses, Oh My! you’ll know I was finally prompted to examine my assumption of what home-ownership looks like when a friend bought a very normal house in a neighborhood of a hip, outdoorsy, expensive city.

Of the many questions this prompted for me, the one that rose to the surface was:

Should I want a house like this?

Home-ownership has always seemed so far away for me that I barely think about it. When I do, two primary questions come to mind:

1) Where will it be, and

2) How will I pay for it?

Do these questions resonate with anyone?

I was ready to start looking at things differently. Because no, I did not want a normal house like the one my friend bought. I wouldn’t have wanted it if someone handed it to me for free. Nothing against the house, or the people whose lifestyles are well-suited to this type of house, but golly it’s not for me! If it’s not for you either, here is my suggestion for breaking out of the box when it comes to thinking about housing:

Assess your priorities.

And in the process, throw out any judgment of your priorities. They don’t have to align with what anyone has told you. They don’t have to be the same as mine. But in case you’re curious, here are mine:

1) I want to be able to pay for the thing on a reasonable timeline. I am deeply uncomfortable with big loans and long mortgage terms.

2) I want my housing to fit with my nomadic life and my long term plans for splitting my time between New England and the West. I also don’t want home-ownership to equal a commitment to staying in a place. But I want my home to be separate from my vehicle (read: no van).

3) The house has to support a healthy relationship with my stuff. My athletic pursuits require too much gear for me to consider myself a Minimalist, but I place a high importance on knowing exactly why I own everything I do, and relentlessly and regularly purging things I don’t need. The house will be a functional storage space for actively used things, not a collecting ground for crap that I am easily not using.

4) My preference would be to build part of my house myself.


Once you have some priorities outlined, the qualities of the house begin to emerge.

Given that sharing the space with a partner is not on my top priorities list, and sharing the space with kids is something I actively do not want, it makes sense that I want my house to be small. Like, really small. Smaller also means lower cost. And helps guard against the collection of unneeded stuff.

Small could also potentially be moveable. I am yet undecided as to whether a tiny house on wheels could be right for me. There are serious logistical (read: zoning) issues to be considered with such homes, and it’s not so easy to move a tiny house anyway. I certainly wouldn’t want to drag one from the west to the east every year with the seasons. I would expect to move it only when I have lived in one place for a while and am confident it’s time to move to a new place for a while. At which point selling and buying or building a new tiny space might be my preference.

The question of land ownership is closely tied in here. To build a space on a foundation, or to easily deposit a tiny house on wheels, owning the land under it is a huge help. Part of the financial and locational considerations has to be the land.

Then we get to the fun part: building the space.

I’m no carpenter, engineer, or anything of the like, nor do I have any understanding of plumbing or electrical work. I don’t anticipate building whatever I build alone. I don’t necessarily anticipate building the whole thing. But my priorities are specific enough I think I will have a hand in building or designing most of it.

Which is why it was such a pleasure to visit the home two friends of mine have built for themselves over the past few years. With no prior home building experience and a budget even I think might be realistic, they built an incredible space. It’s off the grid, super space-efficient, and now home to a number of animals as well! The place shows signs of being a learning experience, which reminded me that home-ownership, like so much else, doesn’t have to be such a scary, permanent thing. It can be flexible. It can reflect a relationship with the Unknown.


Next week I’ll be breaking down my impression of their hand-built house, and parsing through the logistical questions they faced when building. Be sure to check out the post, Then the Roof Caved In. I’m serious, their space is so incredibly cool, and it really opened my eyes to new ways of thinking about home ownership. Join my email list to get an email when the post goes up!

Want to chat about unconventional housing? Contact me. Need a little help breaking out of traditional ways of thinking about housing? I offer coaching and guidance for fellow outside-the-box thinkers, and I can help you bring more intentional and unconventional into your life. Check that out here. For a sneak preview of the house featured in forthcoming post Then the Roof Caved In, find me on Instagram @CarlyOutside_TheBox or @Energetic_Beings. If you enjoyed this post, share it with a friend!

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