real, real small : what smallspace living really looks like


While smallspace living can free up time and money to devote to the things you love, it's not always as pretty as instagram and facebook leads us to believe. 

We all have that urge to put our best foot forward, which can mean tidying up and tucking everything away (even essential stuff) before taking the perfect photo.  Although those shots are pretty to look at, they aren't always real. In addition, the realities of our smallspace is that our room is multi-purpose, and the space may change throughout the day depending on our needs.

So, here is what smallspace living really looks like for us, courtesy of in-the-moment iPhone photos. This post will be part of a series, where we will show how living in a small space can be 'dynamic' (at best).


For us, living in a smallspace means that our living room is our laundry room.  It means putting up a gate to keep the doggy out of the bedroom.

Without a home office (... or even a kitchen table), I sometimes need to work where there's a plug. technology over comfort.

Alternatively, the couch-as-an-office means I may have more of a back-ache, but get lots of bulldog snuggles.

And sometimes you just want a change of scene and an alternative to the couch. I've gotten used to, and enjoy, sitting on the floor. which also means more bulldog snuggles.

Our bed frame becomes an extended closet space for those items that get thrown on regularly. In our small space, you can't just shut the bedroom door and forget about it.


... And there's never enough room for all the shoes.

is everythingism spreading us too thin?


Never has everything been more accessible to us than today.

We are constantly being shown ways to pass our free time with new experiences, hobbies, sports, and activities. The internet makes it easy by showing us how to do things, who to read, where to be, and what you need to buy. There has never been a better time to be a beginner. So, it is no surprise that we so highly value new experiences and strive to have broad and diverse interests and skills.

The decision is now simple: "That is interesting, I should do it". Try everything, do everything: everythingism

No doubt, this has elevated areas of our life, but I question what it has it done to our ability to enjoy endeavours that require serious commitment and what it has done to our efficiency with free time. You cannot get really good at anything if you are trying to be really good at everything, just as you cannot truly see anything if you are trying to see everything

Eschewing everythingism has been a theme of our blog -- we have written about it HERE and HERE -- it was a big part of this blog's inception as we realized that the most efficient use of our free time and resources was to enjoy our own backyard in the pacific-northwest and pursue one hobby rather than many. We have come to relate with Essentialism

For example, when we relocated from Kelowna to Victoria, I had budding and maturing interests in baking, hiking, weight-lifting, distilling, hockey, fishing, golfing, drinking, canoeing, snowboarding; not to mention I was also working full-time and studying for my CMA. I think I was pretty normal and most people my age had a similar list. But then, together we made a conscious decision to move to Vancouver Island and, for me, a big part of moving to Vancouver Island was to learn how to surf.

Little did I realize that it would completely claim the time I once reserved for tending sourdough starter, working on my short game, and taking wristers at hockey socks hanging off cross bars (a reliable pickup goalie is something to treasure). I realized that surfing is more of a lifestyle and I was not going to have as much time for other pursuits. Good bread I could buy, but waves I could not. I am thankful because it reminded me to look at how I spend my free time critically. Don't get me wrong, it is not surfing all the time and nothing else, but it certainly takes precedent. For me, surfing became essential.

The other aspect of focusing on one activity, which we have talked about BEFORE, is that it allowed me to trim non-essential activity specific gear and clothing from my closet, allowing us to comfortably downsize our living arrangements. 

The idea of Essentialism is really quite simple: identify what is meaningful to your life right now and schedule time for those things. The other things that need to be done will naturally fit around it, and all the unnecessary things will go undone. This means learning how to say 'no', but not just to tedious and unfulfilling things, but as the author Elizabeth Gilbert said, "learn to say no to things that you do want to do" -- so that we have time for the things we damn well want to do.  

Would you classify all your various activities and endeavours as essential? 

Quality time. 

just the essentials: living small with stuff


less is more.   back to basics.   fewer, better.   keep it simple s****d.

although it's not for everyone, we have been embracing a more minimalist lifestyle for the past few years. as we talked about in this post. For us, minimalism doesn't mean throwing out everything we own. instead, we try to spend our resources purposefully. it's a way to uncover what brings us contentment and back to ourselves.

but first, let's talk about clutter.

clutter isn’t a new problem, but suddenly it’s evils are touted everywhere partly thanks to marie kondo’s “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” (have you read it?). kondo's book promises that once your house is orderly, you can “pour your time and passion into what brings you the most joy, your mission in life.” and i get that. but all stuff can't be that bad, as kondo may lead us to believe.

when it comes to deciding what stuff is essential in our lives, to me it isn't about getting rid of all our beloved belongings. it's not deciding on how little we can live with, but more about working out what we cannot live without. making room (in your space / schedule) for the stuff (and commitments) that adds value to your life

I want to acknowledge that everyone has different definitions for essential. one person’s essential might be another person’s unnecessary, and that’s good. identifying what is essential is a great way to discover who we really are and what we really like to do. the question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life and the values that guide that.

" you can pare down your stuff and live an edited, uncluttered life. your environment is filled with things that are essential, beautiful and meaningful. " m. kondo

here are some of our thought-process around managing stuff and what’s key for us at this point in our lives.

  • making room for what is meaningful.
    • ... first, decide what is useful / meaningful.
    • take everything out at once. a big pile of all those sweaters, spatulas, and tchotchkes in the middle of your floor. take stock. seeing how much space it takes up and how much of it you've forgotten about will help you decide what is useful / meaningful. (*just as kondo brings up in her book - "do we really know how many items we own?")
    • when we moved from a 2-bedroom apartment to 400-sqft a few years ago, it made us look at everything in a new light. and with a move to a 280sqft micro loft just around the corner, there's more of this to come for us!
  • fewer, better things. 
    • once you've taken serious stock, you're less likely to double-up.
    • we have made a commitment to shop with a purpose, trying (v. hard!) to not be persuaded by price ("but, it's on sale") or availability ("it's right in front of me"). That 3:2 shorty suit you wish you were wearing to catch waves in the warm(er) waters of Southern California? nope. because the water is 8C in Canada. Get a 5:4. with a hood and thick-ass booties and gloves, and you will be set all-year round. buy the shorty when the trip south is actually booked.  
    • make a list, create a budget, and save. see what items on your list stand the test of time. whether it's a list of places to visit, or a new leather tote - make a mindful decision. it's going to take up time, money and space. so, do your research. plan. save. execute.
  • develop a routine.
    • ... and cut out unnecessary items and time commitments.
    • with limited closet space, create a uniform to wear to work. keep it simple. decide what you love to wear, what you feel good in and create a wardrobe around this. less to think about, less items to stock, look and feel good.
    • with limited time/energy to spend on groceries, we pick up a pre-packaged produce bag once a week from one of our favourite local grocers OR we order groceries online and have them delivered - we find that we're less likely to put those  unhealthy and non-budgeted snacks into our virtual shopping cart.
  • everything has a purpose and a place. otherwise known as, don’t hide extra unused stuff only to be discovered next time.
    • with the limited space we have, we don't store or reorganize items because we may want them later ... if we don't use it now, we won't later. get rid of it. (*with the exception of seasonal items)
    • making sure that everything has two purposes is an ulralight backpacking commandment. It is worth considering, but maybe a little too far reaching for the household. at the very least make sure that you don't have two things with the same purpose, duh.
    • our space is organized based on our regular activities and how we spend most of our time. 
    • for example, for two people who don't host many dinner parties, a dining table is not so important. and when we do have dinner guests over, they are pretty cool with sitting on our yoga bolsters on the floor around our coffee table. but the 4 surfboards that get carted in and out every week? they take prime real estate in our living room so they are easily accessible.


in our #smallspace, we try to make conscious choices and live with intention, rather than letting it all just kind of pile up or allowing others to decide how (when, where) we spend our time and money.

having only the essential stuff frees up more time space and energy for the things that really matter.






fomo, yolo, happiness, contentment


If you chase happiness, it will always be one step ahead of you. If you chase contentment, there is nowhere to run


Do you think there is a difference between happiness and contentment? As we pursue our goals and try to achieve the lifestyle we want, I find myself contemplating the difference between these two. 

They way I see it, in relation to contentment, happiness may be a bit easier to obtain and is temporal. Buying stuff or a vacation feels good at the time, but is often short-lived and followed by a low when things return to normal.

I believe that contentment requires being satisfied with a bit less, but requires more effort through discipline and patience.  It may mean letting go, or buckling down. It's recognizing that what you already have is pretty good and worth holding onto, or what you are working for is worth working towards.


For me, surfing is a fun (and trivial) example of how these two concepts play off each other. I'm reminded daily while I am at work of other people's adventures; they are surfing in bath tub temperature water, getting barrelled all day in board shorts and then drinking cervezas all night. I cannot help but feel envious. A short travel stint will give a taste of this lifestyle (as well as a new perspective and great memories!), but as soon as you are back at your desk, you get the feeling that you are missing out (#fomo). What to do? Quit your job and runaway! (#yolo)

On the flipside, surfing on south Vancouver Island has given me a small taste of contentment. First and foremost, it is complimentary to where I am at in my life (location and responsibilities), and secondly, it is a good challenge, almost like a puzzle to be figured out over time. It is less about that one session, but rather about the entire process. It requires commitment, and forces you to interact with the tide, the weather, the seasons, the climate pattern, and my work schedule. It allows me to ignore the noise of digital life and instead focus on where I am. It plays out slowly over years with different friends and family, and always gives you something new to learn and look forward to. Putting in the hard days makes the good days better, and it lets you see all the different aspects of the environment. I remember sharing the lineup with a grey whale calf that hung out with us while mama went eating, but the waves were terrible that day!

The waves were not terrible on this day

The waves were not terrible on this day

The waves on the Juan de Fuca Strait are diminishing for the season and I am excited that it's time to start driving out to Tofino for the summer. When the summer is over I'll be ready for some real winter waves again (hopefully not El Niño!). I think that a big part of my contentment around this is that it aligns with my reality and it is regularly attainable.

Don't get me wrong. I want to keep traveling the world (... the list grows daily) and I crave the open road, but I don't want it to be our only source of happiness. For me, I am finding that there is perspective to be gained from staying put. 

Is this how you view happiness vs. contentment? How does it apply to you?

our version of the minimal lifestyle


small. simple. minimal. whatever type of lifestyle/value-system you want to call it, for us it is about asking ourselves: what things, people and activities do I value? what do I wish I had more time for? We try to align what we do, how we live, and what we own with those values. It sounds straightforward, but it isn't. For us, it's a constant work-in-progress.

here's some questions we constantly revisit:

  • Which 3-5 activities are most important to you in life? Does the way you spend your time reflect these? Are they complimentary or do they inhibit each other?

  • What activities always leave you feeling fresh and re-energized?

  • Which of your commitments (side projects, clubs, memberships, etc.) truly add value to your life and which don’t?

  • What part of the day do you look forward to the least, and have you considered eliminating/outsourcing it?

  • Do you like where you live? What could you change?

  • Where do you actually spend your time when at home?

  • What do you want to buy? Would that material desire survive months on a wishlist?

  • What do you not use?

  • Where do you want be in five years? 


These questions got us thinking critically about our activities and interests as a whole; and how these influence each other, as well as the ways we spend our time, money and energy, and the space we occupy.

Part of our decision to live in a smaller space is that we really wanted to camp and learn how to surf. Downsizing our home and belongings gave us space in our budget for Agathawagen. It's positive reinforcement: our small space forces us outside, while our van makes it more comfortable to be outside... and easier to stay motivated (#frothin) on all those rainy westcoast weekend mornings. 

smaller space: the microloft


If you thought the three of us were cozy in our 400 square foot studio, let me introduce you to our 280 square foot microloft. Or it will be.


We bought a micro loft in an old heritage hotel. A teeny-tiny place to call our own.

(if you look really closely, you can see it in the photo above - top floor furthest to your right. That's it! ... or will be).


The development is called 'The Janion' right in the heart of downtown Victoria and we are hoping to move in Spring 2016. The project is from the same developers ("Reliance") who did the Burns Block micro lofts in downtown Vancouver; they are also adding a new waterfront section to the back of the hotel with slightly larger condos.

You can see more on Reliance's Vancouver project HERE, HERE or HEREand more on the Janion project HERE.

That's a 280 square foot space, with 12-foot ceilings, exposed brick, a Juliet balcony, a murphy bed, and a big slobbery bulldog. If you think we have a small space now... it's about to get smaller!

How are we going to do it? Well, stick around as we - stalk the construction site, and - figure it out!