Living in Tiny Spaces; How Much House do you Really Need?

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I’d gladly live in 72 square feet if it gave me this front yard! Wouldn’t you? There are two fundamental NEEDS of humans 1) Plenty of time in the open space of nature and 2) A tiny space to hide away in. Modern humans do just the opposite.

This is the first in a series about living in truly tiny places–I don’t mean a 400 square foot Tiny House–only in Super-sized America would a 400 square foot home be considered tiny! No, I mean living in a truly tiny space like on a bicycle, in a Toyota Prius Hybrid, an SUV, a 35 square foot camper or a 72 square foot extended van.

The first question anyone asks when they hear about living in a car, van or RV is, “How can anyone stand to live in such a small space?” The simple answer is that humans evolved in nature and so for most of our history our homes were always tiny, temporary and very simple; living in a tiny space is normal for humans because it’s what we’ve always done. What’s abnormal is living in a huge, empty space that requires a huge amount of sacrifice, money, effort and time to maintain!   No human ever lived that way until the last 10,000 years and even then only the very rich and wealthy did.

Because of our cultural conditioning we actually believe we need all that space to be happy, but it’s not true, in fact it’s just the opposite, are huge homes are making us miserable because we’re psychologically designed to be happiest in a tiny place and therefore living in huge empty spaces is very unhealthy mentally and emotionally.  In fact I’ve known several people whose therapists had suggested living in a van as a form of therapy. How could living in a tiny space be therapeutic?

A major part of your life is directly controlled by something commonly know as the “Lizard Brain” and it requires a tiny space to be happy. If it ain’t happy, you’ll never be happy!

The Triune Brain Theory and How It can Make Your Life Much Better

Scientists have a theory called the Triune Brain and it basically says when you study the human brain you can see three clear evolutionary steps; 1) the ancient Lizard Brain that automatically controls Fight or Flight, 2) the Mammal Brain which controls feeding and feelings and the Higher Human brain that is creative and thinking.

Tiny-Triune Brain Theory

Thanks for the image to: http://www.leaderthoughtship.com/2012_11_01_archive.html

You may not like to think you are influenced or controlled by the ancient Lizard Brain but you are. Much of what we do is an automatic response based on the powerful hormones controlled by the Lizard Brain. Most of the world’s senseless violence, fear, rage and even addictions can be traced directly back to it. In most ways our higher-order brains do control the Lizard Brain but the more you can bring them into alignment the less conflict and stress there will be in your life. You do that by understanding the needs of the Lizard Brain and giving it what it wants as much as you can.

A perfect example of that is the “gut feelings” we get that warn us of danger before our higher thinking mind can even begin to see it. The most ancient parts of our brain were developed strictly for our survival and they automatically process much of the sensory input (sights, sounds and smells) flowing into our brains  allowing our higher brains to do other things. That internal “knowing” that something is wrong is the Lizard Brain keeping you safe. It’s designed to bypass the higher thought process completely, greatly increasing your reaction times. A wise person works with it and tries to develop it.

Taken from: http://www.perceptions.couk.com/conscious.html

Thanks for the image to: http://www.perceptions.couk.com/conscious.html

What does any of this have to do with the size of your house? 

A tremendous amount! The lizard brain craves a  tiny, simple, controllable, defensive home. You can see how that makes perfect sense–the Lizard brain only cares about survival and a small  space greatly increases your odds of survival. That’s why so many animals den in tiny spaces. I saw that in action just today.

I’m at Pahrump, Nevada and today they had a Balloon Festival and there were about 25 balloons in the air and they were all using their powerful propane heaters to get them to float. Those heaters are very loud and loud noises terrify my dog Cody. Like all Mammals, he has a Lizard Brain and it tells him to run away from loud noises–which he did. It also tells him to seek shelter in the tiniest space he can find–which he also did.

Cody hiding out in the tiniest space he could find.

Cody hiding out in the tiniest space he could find.

Whenever there is a loud noise like gunshots, fireworks, thunder or balloons he runs and hides  in one of two places:

  1. In my converted cargo trailer I have a shelf unit and one of the shelves is about even with my bed; it’s hard to reach so I leave the back part of it empty. It’s a very tiny space, 14 inches high, 24 inches deep and 16 inches wide. Cody can just barely cram himself into it  but he always makes a beeline for it whenever he is scared.
  2. The other place he loves to hide is the foot-well of the drivers side of my van. Again, it’s a tiny place  with the steering wheel and foot pedals poking at him, but he somehow manages to stuff himself into it.

Why does Cody run to those tiny places whenever he’s terrified? Because it calms his Lizard Brain and he feels as safe and secure as he possibly can under great danger. Animals know instinctively to pacify their Lizard Brains and keep them calm by running to, and living in, a tiny place for safety. Too bad we aren’t as smart as they are!

Cody in another tiny place he loves.

Cody in another tiny place he loves.

What’s Wrong With Us?

Humans also instinctively head toward tiny spaces, but since the rise of civilization we’ve been manipulated and brainwashed into choosing huge homes–even though they are very bad for us. Capitalism depends on home ownership  for continual growth so we’ve been trained to seek it out. Under the influence of brainwashing our higher brain keeps telling us how good for us it is but deep in our core it makes us miserable. That creates a conflict which is one of the primary sources of human misery in the developed world. We see the result of it everywhere: depression, anxiety, addiction, suicide, obesity, paranoia and rage.

Hoarding is perfect example of a house being too big, so the owner fills it full of stuff so it feels small again.

Hoarding is perfect example of a house being too big, so the owner fills it full of stuff so it feels small again. That’s the wrong way to keep your Lizard Brain happy. The right way is to live in a tiny space and have very little in it.

Let me give you one small example: hoarding. Why do people hoard so much stuff they have no room left in their houses? Their Lizard Brain demands it!! For whatever reason they are closer to and more in touch with that part of their brain and it compels them to fill their homes until finally they are a living in a tiny space. They NEED it to truly feel safe. Obviously they’ve carried it much too far, but the instinct to live tiny is very healthy and normal for all of us.

It also explains why so many of us “normal” people continually buy more stuff to put in our homes. We psychologically hate living in all that huge, empty space and we NEED to fill it.   We may not be as bad as the hoarders but how many of us can’t fit our cars into our garages because it’s too full of stuff?

A whole industry has sprung into existence because of our Lizard Brains’s need for a tiny space: Storage Units. Society tells us we NEED more space so we buy a bigger house but it’s emptiness makes us very unhappy so we keep buying more stuff in a futile effort to fill the empty space of our home.  Ultimately, we have to rent a storage unit to put it all in. It makes us happy for a little while, but then our fix of the drug wears off so we NEED to keep buying more stuff!!  Then we NEED a bigger house and then a bigger storage unit, and of course, we NEED to fill it all!!

An overflowing garage is hoarding on a much smaller scale and the majority of us suffer from it--even vandwellers. Image taken from http://juliefountain.blogspot.com/2011_03_01_archive.html

An overflowing garage is hoarding on a much smaller scale and the majority of us suffer from it–even vandwellers. Image taken from http://juliefountain.blogspot.com/2011_03_01_archive.html

You and I are the big losers in this viscous circle, but who’s the winner? Government and it’s masters the corporations. Don’t let them win.

There are only two things the Lizard and Mammal Brain inside you NEEDS to be happy and content:

  1. Lots of time in the wide open spaces of nature.
  2. A cozy, uncluttered tiny space to retreat to for safety and comfort.

Considering that nearly everyone in America lives exactly the opposite of that, is it any wonder that we are generally so unhappy?

Camping here makes me one very happy Lizard/Mammal!!

Living in my van and camping here makes me one very happy Lizard/Mammal!!

Because of your cultural conditioning, you might be thinking that none of this applies to you, and you may be right; but I suspect you aren’t so unique. My guess is if you’d give it a chance, living in the  tiny space of a car, van or RV would make your heart sing in a way it never has before! The fact that you’ve gone out of your way to read my blog strongly suggests that’s true! Why not give it a try?

You probably have a car already, how hard would it be to try to make a bed in it and spend a night in it in your driveway, or drive out to a campground and spend a night? Just remember that it’s normal to hate it at first and that it would be much better in a mini-van or a van.

Give it a try, you have almost nothing to lose and everything to gain!

I’m making Videos on my good friends James and Kyndal’s YouTube Channel. See them here:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_W_E5SFCxwpSOaqMjOOBTg

Check out this video of a friend of mine whose heart constantly sings because he’s been living in a Toyota Prius for the 1 1/2 years!

If you don’t see the video above, either click or cut and paste this into your browser:
//youtu.be/2Xc7e2fUeVw?t=2

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This camp made my heart sing long and loud!

This camp made my heart sing long and loud!

 

Bob
About

I’ve been a full-time VanDweller for 12 years and I love it. I hope to never live in a house again!

47 comments on “Living in Tiny Spaces; How Much House do you Really Need?
  1. Cae says:

    IMO, being able to move your home to where you want to be means that you are hardly ever actually inside of it. The reason I like warm weather is so that I can be outside most of the time.
    So , I’m a seasonal nomad…I live out of my home much more than in it. And thus, size is not an issue.

  2. Linda Sand says:

    I was happiest living in my van. I miss having everything I need within reach. But, that space was too small for Dave and I missed him too much to live without him for six months of the year. So, now we live in a too big apartment. Maybe I should buy some moveable room dividers to make the space feel cozy instead of empty. I hate having so much empty hallway here but there is no way to bring the rooms closer together. Or to drop the ceiling.

  3. Canine says:

    My last apartment was about 630 square feet. The one before that was 500 or so. When I moved out of the former one into the newer one, I though, “Oh, cool. A bigger apartment!” This was when I was getting rid of stuff I didn’t need. After paring down, over half of my cupboard space was empty. Then every time I needed to go somewhere in the apartment, I had to walk all that distance for no reason. It was weird at first to realize the wasted space. Then to heat and maintain all of that space I didn’t want or need got to me after a short while.

    I acquired a free slide-in camper and moved into that as a test to see how I felt about living in one seventh of the space and still have a shower and bathroom. I was amazed at how comfortable I was with the space. I had room for my stuff and room for food, water, my dog, and other necessities.

    The over-cab part of the camper is quite small, but all I do is sleep there, so the size is more than fine. I can’t imagine wanting to live in a regular-sized bedroom that would be as large or maybe a bit larger than my entire current living space.

    Coming to the realization of my wastefulness and superfluous attitude was interesting. It was to the point of entitlement. I “needed” and “deserved” a large place. I sure wasted a lot of my time and money pining for something bigger and better than I needed. Am much more comfortable now.

  4. Whenever I hear people complaining their living space (whether a building or something mobile) is too small, I want to shout, “Then go outside! Plenty of room there.”
    Al Christensen recently posted…Adventures in Mexican canned goods: La Costeña frijoles bayos refritosMy Profile

  5. Tumbleweed says:

    Bob:
    Thank you for this post! I’m sure I will be reading it many times, it has made so much more since for me to understand more of what I’m going through lately and will/does help me to explain MY side of this way of life.
    I can understand so much more clearer the reasons I have the “twitch” to totally change my life, the information in this post will also help me explain to my wife the reason “We gotta get out of this place”.

  6. Sandy says:

    This is a great post Bob! Very important information. This info is also a benefit to those living tiny out of socio-economical necessity and perhaps feeling frustrated, victimized and depressed by their circumstances. What a vital new perspective this can give them! This was also intriguing information for myself in evaluating my own ‘stuff level’, which is causing me some duress. I share a lot of your videos w/ a friend out West who is living in a tent & her car. Thanks for this wonderful post!

    Pahrump ? … hmmm, you’re out there in Dreamland territory!!

    • Bob Bob says:

      Thank you Sandy, that’s very kind of you. Yes, I am in the Kingdom of Nye, Nye County Nevada. I was a big fan of Art Bell, he got me through many nights on the night-shift at work!
      Bob

      • Snowbunny says:

        Bob, I believe Art Bell put Pahrump, Nevada on the map…..I was a big fan of “Coast to Coast”……actually got through to him live on the air on night and was so excited/nervous I could hardly speak! (I was kinda dorky back then). Haha, He almost had me convinced to go searching for Mel’s Hole. ; )

        • Bob Bob says:

          Snowbunny, he put it on the map for me! I don’t know if he is still here, but I did find his Pahrump home with its solar and huge antennas.
          Bob

  7. Sameer says:

    Here I am East of Winslow, Arizona. I am living lakeside where the water is so still this morning, the wide expanse of sky is reflecting on the surface, only broken by the ducks cruising back and forth. Mr. Pico and I walked the shoreline this morning. Returned to a pot of coffee and eggs and hashbrowns. Route 66 in the distance brings on thoughts of the ‘great migrations’ to the West. Everything you say is true, Bob. I followed your prescriptions for Happiness and Success…and it all works. Thank you. I live a life of adventure. My soul sings every day. How wonderful is the life of a Nomad. I own only what I need and nothing owns me. The freedom to be truly Happy. My living room is filled with beautiful vistas. My kitchen view, in the most beautiful places in the Southwest. I never think of my space as ‘small’, just exactly what I need. I am immersed in the remarkable wonder of nature every moment. Three years of peace and happiness and adventure. Spending the day planning my next adventure…It’s a wonderful life. Thank you, Bob.
    Sameer recently posted…Living in Tiny Spaces; How Much House do you Really Need?My Profile

    • Lucy says:

      OH BOY Sameer, that’s a wonderful way to express your thoughts ! Nice, N I C E post !

      My regards, Lucy.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Sameer, our souls were created to sing a wonderful song of joy with all of creation, how very sad so few do!! I’m so glad you found a life where it can and that I get to share it with you!
      Bob

  8. Juanita Campbell says:

    I love reading your blog. My plan is to get my ford transit connect ready to go. I want to go to key west. And I really want to make it to the rtf next year.

  9. MattK says:

    I was a truck driver for 12 years and I basically lived in the sleeper which was much smaller then the condo cabs that they all have now. I never slept better then I did in those trucks. I think it was defiantly a “lizard brain thing” because it was small and cozy and it was also very high up (the trucks I drove were the tall flat front cab over types). Truck driving is a miserable way to make a living so I’m an electrician now but when I’m done rising my child I intend to live a smaller more peaceful life without the worry over making that mortgage and all the other payments. I won’t miss any of my objets. I just need my computer, my kindle with a great view and some nice folks to share it with from time to time. This website always give me a little hope for the future.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Matt, I know exactly what you mean, tiny spaces are very comforting! When I look back at my life, I wish i had given my two boys more time in nature and in tiny spaces. If I could do it over again I would make camping in some form a top priority. Might be something for you to think about?
      Bob

  10. Alan says:

    I’ve been on the road living in my van, Kennel, for about six months now. Why do I call it Kennel? Because, being a minivan (Promaster City), it’s just big enough for a twin bed and some storage. The dogs and I crawl in there, get cozy, and sleep tight. It’s our kennel. We’re all much happier sleeping in Kennel than in larger rooms. I guess I could have named it Den, too. Plus, our body heat and blankets are enough to keep us warm down to 20 (maybe more) without any extra heating.

    The other thing that makes us happy is camping in peaceful, natural places. I notice that where we feel most peaceful a lot of animals, such as deer, turn out to be bedding down, too. My instincts are becoming realigned to what is truly safe.
    Alan recently posted…Pattern Energy’s Spring Valley Wind Farm, NevadaMy Profile

    • Bob Bob says:

      Alan, you are well on your way to the very best life a person can have!! Have you noticed that what you do to make your dogs their happiest, also makes you your happiest!! Strange how that works! Give em both a hug from me!
      Bob

  11. Patrise says:

    I love this !!! Makes SO MUCH sense to me. When I moved into my big house (which became a financial and personal disaster) I hated the huge bedroom, and promptly switched with my tenant for the small cozy one.

    the other fallacy I find among modern friends is the fear of wide open wild spaces. I live in the exurbs – (must be on the edge of some kind of wildness or I cant breathe!) and more ‘civilized’ friends are uncomfortable with the darkness at night, and unbuilt environment. “arent you scared out here?” they ask me. Scared of what? I wonder, because here is where the people, for the most part, arent. dangerous predatory humans, who fortunately are a rare thing, dont hang out in the splendid wilderness. there’s not enough prey.

    thats my theory. keep inspiring me… I wish I had run away in my van years ago.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Patrise you are very wise to see what most people miss but seems so obvious to us all now. Small shelters and wide open spaces are best for all of us. The danger is in the city and safety is out here!
      Bob

  12. Wendy says:

    Thanks Bob! We’ve been back at the house for the last week and a half, finishing up our final list of things before we can hit the road full time. I was just telling Jer how I miss living in the bus. At first it was because we have all our “stuff” on the bus and it feels homier than our house (which is almost empty). Then a few days ago I was saying to Jer that I miss living in the small space. Although our space is bigger than a van for the 2 of us and our 3 large dogs it was perfect. I miss having everything I need within 250 sq ft. I miss only having 250 sq ft to clean! LOL…Most of all I miss looking out our many windows at mountains, rivers and nature in general. The bus is in need of repair right now but as soon as it’s fixed and we get the house turned over to a realtor (meeting with him tomorrow) we are off! I can’t wait until our camp host job at Mirror Lake in Utah for the summer and the adventures that await from there. The 2 months we spent traveling were some of the most therapeutic we’ve ever had. It made our lizard brains very happy! I love your explanation…I’ve not heard it that way…it made a lot click for me. Thank you.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Wendy, I’ve got bad news for you, you’re hooked, you’r now a junky for nature’s beauty and travel!! This life gets in your blood and changes you right to the core of your being!! While I think a van is perfect for one person I’v always thought that it was too small for a couple. I’ll use the video I shot of your bus in this series about tiny spaces for what works well for a couple. Thanks again for sharing it with us!
      Bob

  13. Ming says:

    that’s an interesting take on the triune brain, and it makes a lot of sense. Thanks for your posts, they’re keeping me going until I’m well enough to travel again (been quite ill for a while now).

    My problem is not having enough space for 2 people to have shelter from bad weather for daily living. The canopy is good for the bedroom, but we need a kitchen/ living area that is stormproof and can be heated. I am working on tent designs and will be in the building phase soon. It’s incredible how much premade tents go for, in the large and sturdy models.

  14. Tina says:

    Hi Bob,

    Really deep post that really clicked with me and made a lot of sense.

    Thanks!

    Tina

  15. Bob says:

    Hello Bob, I read your blog every day and this one was one of your best. Your blogs have helped me understand myself and others. You are a wise man and I thank you for your writings and the wonderful pictures. I’m a pretty happy guy but that is what happens when the lizard brain is in charge!
    Wish the very best to you and your tribe. Bob

  16. Mike says:

    Bob, ya nailed it again. Very well written with a keen insight regarding the way it is. Its also noteworthy to mention how the greedy few arranged to provide financing (Bankers) to resell property once GIVEN via homestead to individuals willing to develop barren lands owned by us Indians. With a pen stroke, the Federal government allowed financial institutions to enslave us via usery. (the process of loaning taxpayer money) (Federal Reserve Banks) for profit to independent banks. WOW, us indians were’nt aware of this evil, WHAT THE HECK??? Opps, to late, we own it now, go live in the desert redskin. Anyway, the idea of restoring our ability to live in a small dwelling is of course hampered by our debt’s, usery, the process of tricking someone into borrowing money that originated from that very person. (taxpayer)
    P.S.The land will love you, as long as its alive.

  17. John Dough says:

    Love the pictures of Cody, he’s such a handsome fellow. Reminds me of my old black Lab, had the same fear of loud noises and would hide under my desk, or be pressed against me in bed during thunderstorms. He ran a few blocks home during July 4, if he heard loud noises he would pull really hard on the leash all the way home.
    My present dog has no fear, and is not bothered whatsoever by noise, he’s super mellow.
    They all have their own charming personalities and survival instincts.
    Some would do good as hunting dogs, some would survive a military battle by ducking and hiding.

  18. John says:

    Great post Bob! It’s amazing what people can do with a small amount of living space, and being able to easily move that space from location to location makes life that much more of an adventure. Thanks for sharing.

  19. Jeff says:

    This post explains a lot for me. We’ve been living in our RV for a couple years now and we’re happier then we were living in our 3 bedroom Mobil home. We want to go to your RTR 2017. Need a truck to pull our 33′ 5th wheel. Maybe we’re see you then.

  20. Greg says:

    How unsettling the world has become since my eyes were opened to the lies. Now I must use the system of the capitalist thugs,oligarchs and plutocrats in order to break free of them. I may not be free yet but at least I have a plan and direction. Save me a little patch of desert, Bob, I’ll be heading your way in my mobile tiny space before too long.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Greg, there is plenty of desert and National Forest to go around!! The hard real truth of nature is waiting here for you,longing to see you.
      Bob

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