June 28, 2021

Downsize, Upsize, Which is the Right Size?

Meloday Carlson

For some ironic and absurd reason, tiny homes have always fascinated me. The main reason I say it’s ironic is because my husband is 6’6” tall. Get the picture? He doesn’t exactly fit easily into small spaces. The absurd part of this flawed equation is my fault. I love home décor—things like pretty dishes and lamps and linens and furnishings—things that require space. These two factors do not lend themselves to less-is-more tiny house living.

Just the same I’ve enjoyed creating some fun ‘small spaces’ over the years. Like our redesigned RV, a renovated tiny beach cabin, a mini guesthouse, a scaled down writing studio and a few other compact habitats. I think it might all stem back to my favorite childhood toy—a rickety metal dollhouse filled with my homemade pixie sized furnishings.

So anyway, I got my first real taste of honest-to-goodness downsizing about six years ago when we went from 3,500 square feet of living space (that we’d occupied for almost twenty years) to 1,700. Let’s just say we had the biggest yard sale the neighborhood had ever seen. They still talk about it. Not much later, we downsized even more by selling the beach cabin and most of its furnishings. Naturally, our dramatic ‘downsize’ year resulted in a ‘temporary’ storage unit (which we still have!).

Although I liked our smaller home, it was an adjustment and a lot less space. Our three bedroom house (which held two office spaces) became a huge challenge for having guests? And I love being hospitable. But where do you put them? Another thing was troubling. We had this oversized never-landscaped lot. We loved living in town, but half an acre of dirt and weeds required massive work, followed by maintenance. Not exactly the downsized we’d been dreaming of.

So I got an idea. What if we split the lot and built on the other side? To that end, we constructed a ‘barn’ with two very small studio apartments above it. And then, just one year ago, we sold our 1,700 square foot house (in a matter of days!) and quickly moved into the apartments. Each studio is just over 300 square feet—real tiny living! We started summer with more donating household goods, more packing, more storing, more downsizing madness. Our friends thought we were crazy.

It wasn’t long before I thought our friends could be right. Besides discovering that 700 square feet—including two tiny kitchenettes and baths—is a formula for severe cabin fever (especially during winter and Covid!) we began to dream of upsizing. We began to design the home we wanted to create in the front part of our recently divided lot. I drew up plans for a house very similar the one we’d sold (which I greatly missed in our tight second floor quarters). Suddenly 1,700 square feet sounded like a mansion! Especially with the two apartments to use for guests after the house was finished.

But everything seemed to take longer than expected. While waiting on permits, we built a small ‘shed’ to use for storage now and perhaps my writing studio later. In the meantime, I’m writing in a cave-like book storage room in back of the barn. But we weren’t completely deprived. While it was still summer, we threw together a covered outdoor living room/kitchen (partly to store furniture) but also to enjoy during warm weather. And we hardscaped around it, adding a small raised garden and fishpond. Okay, I’ll admit it, our ‘downsize’ was steadily growing by ‘small’ increments. But it made things more livable. At least during warmer seasons. But winter was coming.

It was in autumn, with building finally begun, that my big husband got it into his big head to make our house bigger. He decided we needed a second story. While I was off visiting my sister, a second floor replaced what was supposed to be a small attic. I came home to find a tall house—much larger than the simple single-story ranch style home I’d envisioned. So much for downsizing. And, of course, this change brought a whole slew of new challenges with it. Not to mention severely slowing down what should’ve been a fairly simple build. I thought six months at the most.

So here I am, one year later, still living in small crowded spaces, longing for roomier ones, and suddenly my new novel Home Sweet Tiny Home is about to release. I had such fun writing that lighthearted story . . . back before my life changed so drastically. I lived vicariously through my main character. A widowed empty-nester, her McMansion was too much for her, and while binging on HGTV tiny house shows, she fell in love with the idea of a major downsize—and subsequently reinvented her life. Needless to say, I was still infatuated with small spaces while writing that book. I still believed less was more and that pixies could fly. Maybe I still believe in some of these things—tempered with experience.

What we have wound up with in our downsize-upsize adventure is a bit of both. Our nearly finished home of 1,700 square feet (plus an oversized unfinished attic) as well as a ‘barn’ with two studio apartments, a separate small studio, and an outdoor living area. Downsize, really? It’s like we created a compound! But it works for us. And with mostly hardscape, yardwork is a breeze.

So today, I must ask myself: what have I learned in my adventures of downsizing (and upsizing) over these past six years? Here is what I came up with: 1) People/relationships (like husbands and construction workers) are more important than things (like cabinets and plumbing fixtures). 2) Downsizing is not for the faint of heart or the wistful daydreamer. 3) Patience is a virtue I still need to work on. And 4) I never want to downsize or upsize again.

Melody Carlson has written more than 200 books (with sales around 6.5 million) for teens, women and children. That's a lot of books, but mostly she considers herself a "storyteller." Her novels range from
serious issues like schizophrenia (Finding Alice) to lighter topics like house-flipping (A Mile in My Flip-Flops) but most of the inspiration behind her fiction comes right out of real life. Her young adult novels (Diary of a Teenage Girl, TrueColors etc.) appeal to
teenage girls around the world. Her annual Christmas novellas become more popular each year. She's won a number of awards (including Romantic Time's Career Achievement Award, the Rita and the Gold
Medallion) and some of her books have been optioned for film/TV.
Hallmark movie ALL SUMMER LONG (2019) and another in the works Carlson has two grown sons and makes her home in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and yellow Lab dog. To find out more about Melody Carlson, visit her website at


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