Living Small in Toronto

Why and how people are choosing to live in small homes

by Jennifer Foden Wilson

Recently, I’ve been hearing a lot about living small.  People are living in simple, small homes all over the world.  There is a woman living and working in a 90 square foot apartment in New York City.  There is a family of four settled quite comfortably in a 505 square foot home in Barcelona.  And there is a whole movement of people living in small spaces throughout the United States, as illustrated in a new documentary entitled TINY: A Story About Living Small.  And who can forget Toronto’s smallest home—a 300 square foot home located near Rogers/Dufferin? Of course not every “small” home is this tiny, but there are many people downsizing and/or choosing to live in spaces that are less than 1000 square feet.  Surely there are many people in Toronto living in apartments, condos and houses of that size.  Yes, real estate is expensive in an urban centre, and people may not have the choice to live in a larger home.  However, with the suburbs — and more affordable homes — just a short distance away, people are still choosing to live small — and are utilizing every square inch of their Toronto homes.

One of the great aspects of living in a small space in an urban centre, is that the city is your backyard.  Kendal Gerard and her husband live in a two-bedroom 750 square foot home at Woodbine and Danforth.  “We’re at a great junction of locations,” Gerard says.  “Our own stretch of the Danforth is great — we have a wonderful park and Farmers Market at the end of our street — but we’re also a short bike ride away from The Beach, Leslieville, and the more popular area of the Danforth between Broadview and Pape, so we really get the best of all the East End neighbourhoods where we live.”

Ashley Sullivan lives in a 600 square foot condo in downtown Toronto, next to the Rogers Centre.  She also chose her home due to the location — its access to several restaurants, shops and theatres — and because she can walk everywhere and not have to be “reliant on a car for transportation.”

In addition to access to culture and reducing one’s carbon footprint, there are several other reasons to live in a simpler, smaller space.  It is less expensive, and less to clean and maintain.  “I guess the primary asset that comes with a small house is freedom,” a man interviewed in the TINY documentary says.  “The world gets a lot bigger when you’re living small — because I can afford to do a lot more things now — in terms of both cash and time.”  Gerard echoes this sense of contentment and happiness living in a small space on her blog.  She and her husband originally bought their Danforth home with the intention of building a second storey addition.  However, after living in the home for a year, they pulled their building permit applications and began to “[embrace] the home for what it was.”

Okay, so you understand why someone would live in a small space — but how?  The first step would be to minimize the amount of stuff you currently have — and purchase in the future.  Then you can go from there.  “Don’t be afraid to rethink rooms or layouts,” says Gerard.  She swapped her living room with the dining room and “now [has] more space in the room we spend more time in.”  Sullivan suggests finding furniture and pieces “that are versatile, such as ottomans that double as storage units.”

So — do you live in a small space?  Would you consider doing so in the future?  What are the benefits?  “We really don’t need that much space,” Sullivan says.  “I grew up in a very large home, but how much did we actually use?  I utilize every inch of my condo.”  Gerard sees the benefits as well.  “For me, it’s just easier to have less space — I don’t really know what people do with 3000 square feet.”

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