While it looks vastly different from the cutesy little houses that are shared around online, the Tiny House Movement is alive and well in Peace Corps Nicaragua.
After swearing in as official volunteers, Peace Corps placed us in a beautiful little casita when we first moved to Estelí. As it was a bit expensive for our small stipends, we decided to look for a more affordable option and moved into our new abode about a year ago. One way to cut down on how much we were paying on rent was to downsize on our living space. Thus our journey towards Tiny Living in Nicaragua began.
5 Tiny House Principles For Nicaragua and Beyond
1. Sharing is caring.
Strictly speaking, our house here in Nicaragua wouldn’t classify as “tiny.” It’s actually two stories and has a third in the process of being built. But unlike homes of similar size in the states, three different families live in it.
Instead of renting a whole house or a casita, we now rent part of a house and share the space with the other members of our host family. Unlike a duplex, where the building is shared, but the people live separately, we actually live in the same house. We share areas like the kitchen, the living/dining area, and the upstairs clotheslines to dry our clothes in the sun. Similar to having roommates, we’re conscious of how our actions affect those we live with.
2. Making better use of your space.
If the house itself doesn’t classify as tiny, our room certainly does. At 145 ft2 (which includes our 25 ft2 bathroom hidden behind the pink wall), there was just enough room for a bed. When we first moved in, we couldn’t open the balcony door due to the bed frame and it was a bit of a struggle to walk around. We started thinking and dreaming of how we could make the space feel better.
Our host cousin happens to be an engineer, so when we started asking around for someone who could build us a loft, he volunteered! Raised beds aren’t really a thing in Nicaragua, but as we explained what we were wanting and how we thought it could work in the room, his eyes lit up. He was not only up for the challenge; the project was invigorating.
While we were off adventuring down in Rio San Juan for Holy Week last year, Nelson delivered:
The lofted bed almost doubles the available space in the room. It simultaneously opens up the room, provides us a sense of privacy when we have guests over, and gives the room character. Our host mom loved it so much that she lofted the bed in another room in the house to make better use of her space.
3. Living with less.
One of the draws of Peace Corps life was this idea to live more simply. In an age of excess and convenience, of having two smart phones (because your plan gave you a second one and your first one is still good), of clothes and things, the idea of letting go can be pretty enticing. The get-rid-of-something-everyday-for-lent and the 100 items challenges exist and they speak to this desire to live a less complicated and attached life.
But it’s hard.
When you have a home, things accumulate. Between work, and kids, and gadgets, and cords, and memories, and decorations, and tools, and electronics, and electronics that don’t work, and…you name it. It probably exists somewhere in your home.
Before we could leave for Peace Corps, we had to downsize. We put some things in storage, but when you are limited to a suitcase or a backpack, you quickly prioritize what’s most important to you. In the states I had a giant walk in closet with more clothes than I knew what to do with. Now, due to joining the Peace Corps and continuing to embrace Tiny Living, all the clothes we own fit here:
4. Dual (or triple) purpose items bring flexibility.
They may not look like much, but no Nicaraguan home would be complete without the plastic chair.
Stackable and lightweight, these beauties offer a variety of services from a place to sit to a table.
After lofting our bed, we had space to add a couch. As it also folds down into a bed for when fellow PCVs visit, and we can store some of our work supplies below it, it’s the perfect multipurpose item for our Tiny House Nica style.
5. Think outside the box.
This may be a benefit of simply being a Peace Corps Volunteer, but I think it also applies to Tiny Living. When your normal shifts and what you are used to having at your disposal doesn’t exist, it’s amazing how creative we can be.
Finding creative ways to use your tiny space is a must.
Tiny Living has its advantages. I really do feel lighter, less tied down. It’s freeing to be less attached and concerned with what we have, and it allows us to focus more on other aspects in life. While a decent amount of stuff awaits us in storage upon our return to the states, I’m excited to see where this experience will take us later in life. Multigenerational living, fewer things, and a freer spirit all sound great to us.
Blogging Abroad Blog Challenge:
Digital ambassadors promoting cross-cultural exchange.
Find all of our responses to the challenge here.