Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell and her husband, Dale, did not plan to become tiny-house dwellers. They stumbled into the life when they moved full time into their 480-square-foot lake house in Adrian, Mo. What they thought was a temporary arrangement became their first step into a burgeoning movement of people shedding their stuff and the square footage required to keep it in order.
Fivecoat-Campbell’s new book, “Living Large in Our Little House,” provides practical tips for those considering a downsize into better living. It also chronicles her personal journey of learning to live with less and to make their dream home a reality.
Fivecoat-Campbell, a Kansas City native, is at Prospero’s, 180 W. 39th St., from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday for an official book launch. She is also scheduled for a book signing from 2 to 4 p.m. on June 25 at The Legends’ Books-a-Million. Her adventures can be followed at livinglargeinourlittlehouse.com.
Q. What is “living large”?
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A. “Living large” is a state of mind. You don’t have to downsize into an 80-square-foot house or a 480-square-foot house. The square footage is not what is important.
What is important is that your house, stuff and mortgage stop controlling your life. We can be slaves to our finances and debt. Living large is really about finding the spot in your life, no matter where you’re living, that you’re actually getting out and enjoying your life.
Q. Why do you think the little-house movement has become popular?
A. There are a lot of reasons. It crosses generational lines.
Younger people coming out of college are carrying debt and entering a job market that’s not paying them enough to keep up with the cost of living.
Some people in their 40s and 50s got caught up in the recession and lost their houses, or their children are grown and they are just tired of maintaining big houses. Baby boomers are retiring and want to simplify their clutter and finances.
Q. What did you learn as you talked to other little-house dwellers?
A. People living in little houses were really happy with their decision. Whether they were forced into it because they lost everything they owned, or they did it by choice, they were all happy. It was the same for us, when we first moved to our lake house.
I thought I could not live in this tiny house. I wanted to hire a contractor to come out and see what it would take to build another larger house or add on to our house. That first winter, though, we were so cozy and comfortable, and we were not spending a lot of time maintaining it or cleaning rooms we didn’t need. We were happy.
Q. What have you found to be the biggest little-house challenge?
A. The biggest challenge for everybody, including us, is getting rid of that stuff you have. Heirlooms are hard because they evoke memories. … You have to realize your memories are not tied up in the things. They are tied up in the people.
I am still working on the stuff. I donated some of it. I sold some of it. For other things, I took a picture and wrote a little story about it. If I want to remember those things, I look at the pictures.
Q. What kind of misconceptions are there about little-house living?
A. Some people think this is just nuts. As a culture, we sometimes have in our mind that downsizing is going backward. I lived in a 500-square-foot apartment in college, and we want to move on from that. We want more space.
Little-house living is not for everyone. Some people like those bigger houses, and cleaning them, or they can hire people to clean them. I never enjoyed cleaning my house. When we entertained, we always entertained on the deck. So, it works for us.
Also, little-house living does not have to mean living in an ultra-tiny house, unless that is what you want. If I had known our house was going to be a permanent residence, I would have gone to 600 square feet. The only thing I really miss is my china cabinet, but there is just no way to put it in there and make it not look cluttered. It is about deciding what square footage will meet your needs.
Q. What do you hope people take away from your book?
A. I hope that people learn that you can live large. You don’t have to necessarily downsize to do it. That is a great thing if that is what you want to do.
I hope that people who want to downsize are able to get some tips, but I really hope that people will think that no matter what size house we live in, we can look at how we are living and find ways to connect to and live out our passions.
We can also take a more proactive approach to living sustainably and not getting ourselves into so much debt. If you give it a shot, you might find it’s a better way of life.