What ‘Tiny Living’ Couples Can Teach You About Managing Your Relationship in Confinement

If you’re having a rough time, maybe just be glad you’re not sharing a van together

Hopefully, by now, you’ve adjusted a bit to spending your entire day confined to your small apartment with your partner. The thing is, you’re probably gonna have to keep doing it for a while. Spending two months in an under-500 square foot space with bae is one thing, but what about six months? A year? 

Allow couples in the “tiny living” lifestyle to show you how it’s done.

Ken and Molly, both 28 and working in real estate, live in a 250-square-foot home in Austin, Texas, with their two dogs. While 250 square feet might sound small, they’re gearing up to go even smaller — recently, they purchased an 80-square-foot van and intend to travel full-time. Meanwhile, Katherine and Dalton, a museum professional and metal fabricator respectively, both 25 years old, have been living full-time in a converted van for a year now. They’ve been parked in South Florida for much of the quarantine. 

Basically, these couples know a thing or two about cohabitating in spaces barely designed for one. While their circumstances and reasons for being confined might be different than the majority of couples’ experiences right now, there’s still something to learn from the people who have been doing it willingly

How did you come to the decision to share a small space together?
Ken and Molly: One night we were walking the dogs while we were visiting Ken’s parents in Dallas. We always had a dream to explore and travel full-time so we started narrowing down ways we could make that possible. Eventually, we settled on a tiny home, as we still wanted to have it feel like a real home while we were working full-time for the next few years to save money. The tiny home is a stepping stone for us to hit the road sooner. It has allowed us to save money, downsize our belongings and get used to such small living quarters. Now we couldn’t imagine living any other way. 

Katherine and Dalton: We were living in Baltimore, finding ourselves in careers that left very little time for our relationship and pursuing our passions of photography and fine art. After a weekend of car camping in the Adirondacks, we started talking about going small. We decided sharing a smaller space together would free up more time and energy to pursue our artistic passions and desires to travel.

Do you have any particular hobbies or practices you intentionally do separately, to give each other alone time?
Ken and Molly: Ken and I spend a lot of our time together because we’re best friends. We truly find enjoyment in experiencing life together. Occasionally I’ll have a girls’ night or watch a movie in the loft while he plays video games downstairs. We find a little bit of separation from each other when we workout — I love to go to hot yoga and Ken goes to his jiu-jitsu classes. For the most part, though, we hang out with the same friends, enjoy the same food and go to the parks together.

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Boat pose and dog bones 💫

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Katherine and Dalton: Whenever we’re geographically in a spot, Dalton likes to rock climb and slackline, which gives me the opportunity to turn the van into an art studio and work on my studio practice. 

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🚐 Studio-Home or Home-Studio, depending on which day you ask. ⠀ Today we’ve been plotting out lots of little studio projects that we want to accomplish in the van now that things are staring to open up again. We’ve been thinking of doing little tutorials showing a little bit of the behind-the-scenes making/building process. ⠀ We’ve been prepping: 🧻 re-usable paper towels ( can’t find the inspo post but I will edit and add once I do!) 👗 some new clothes out of some old bed sheets ( a-la Julie Andrews in Sound of Music) 🐠🛠upgrading Dory’s front end suspension 🧵 re-upholstering our cab-chairs 💡 re-wiring our vanity light 💺creating a safe swivel for our passenger seat (to DIY a captain’s chair) 📽creating wedge/back pillow so we can sit up in the van when we have movie night! ⠀ please let us know down below if these are things you would be interested in seeing in our stories 🙂 ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ 〰️Follow @OURHOMEONTHEMOVE for inspiring vanlife content and 🚐 🌴🌞renovation updates! ⠀ 〰️Follow @OURHOMEONTHEMOVE for inspiring vanlife content and 🚐 🌴🌞renovation updates! ⠀ 〰️Follow @OURHOMEONTHEMOVE for inspiring vanlife content and 🚐 🌴🌞renovation updates! ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀

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How do you manage conflict in a small space?
Ken and Molly: We’ve always been excellent communicators with each other. From the beginning of our relationship we established the importance of being open to one another and hashing out our issues head-on. It’s so important to allow the other person to speak and fully get their thoughts and feelings out. In the rare instances we truly just need space, one person will just step outside or go on a drive. I can hardly think of more than two instances where we just couldn’t be in the same room. Most problems or arguments are resolved within 10 to 15 minutes — ain’t nobody got time for that negativity! Living in 267 square feet has really only enhanced the importance of having an open door with one another — for the positive! 

Katherine and Dalton: We’re both pretty non-confrontational and enjoy having a peaceful space. If we feel we need space, we give it to each other or try to remove ourselves. It really pushes you to face the conflict you’re dealing with immediately. It’s a small space and dealing with feelings and issues comes first.

How has your living situation affected your quarantine experience?
Ken and Molly: Ken and I personally haven’t seen a major change from COVID. Both of our jobs are considered essential businesses so we’re still expected to show up at our desk and provide homes to people. In terms of our living space, not much else has changed either. If anything, it’s encouraged us to eat-in more, due to the restaurants only allowing takeaway.

Katherine and Dalton: In a way, we’ve been self-isolating for the last year while on our travels, so we’ve not noticed a huge impact in the number of people we’ve interacted with. We have experienced difficulties with shopping, like much of the rest of the world, but we’ve been lucky enough to stay safe and healthy. The van allows us the freedom to move, so it has been a bit of a bummer being parked in one place throughout the pandemic. But again, we’re very happy to be healthy, safe and continuing our routine of self-isolation/quarantining. 

Do you have any advice for couples who are newly adjusting to spending the majority of their time together in a small space?
Ken and Molly: Be patient with one another! You’re going to bump into each other, I can’t tell you how many times Ken has accidentally kicked my heel while walking by! Just take a deep breath and relax. Be respectful of each other’s space. Keep the home tidy and take turns doing chores.

Katherine and Dalton: One of the most important things is to check in with each other. When you begin living in a tiny space together, you realize more nuances within your partner. In turn, you’re able to read them better and learn when to ask if they need space, help or just a talk and a hug. 

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Her view 📸 🥰 We’ve been craving an escape lately, how about you? ⠀ (1/2) It is a strange time here in South Florida, an unprecedented time actually. We have never seen the beach closed for so long, not even allowing locals, swimming, or watersports. The beach has always been one of our sanctuaries. It’s a place to relax and reset, to center and commune with nature. To have this restricted has felt odd, we have been able to walk along the sidewalk, but not directly on the beach. ⠀ Therefore we have been taking the van out, unfinished, for some short camping excursions on the beach. Just spending time idling together, listening to the waves slowly roll in and out as we simply enjoy each others company and our time together here in Florida. We’ve been finding solace hiding in the mangroves and cooking up breakfasts as we watch the sun rise over the water. We even witnessed one of the most incredible natural events to happen in this area on the beach late at night! (We will dive in deeper in our next post!) ⠀ (… too be continued … His view to come tomorrow 🥰) ⠀ ⠀ 〰️Follow @OURHOMEONTHEMOVE for inspiring vanlife content and 🚐 🌴🌞renovation updates! ⠀ 〰️Follow @OURHOMEONTHEMOVE for inspiring vanlife content and 🚐 🌴🌞renovation updates! ⠀ 〰️Follow @OURHOMEONTHEMOVE for inspiring vanlife content and 🚐 🌴🌞renovation updates! ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀

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How has your living situation impacted your relationship overall?
Ken and Molly: It’s only been positive! As I mentioned earlier, we couldn’t imagine another lifestyle. Ken and I got engaged in our little home so our tiny house will always hold a special place in our hearts. It’s opened our eyes to what’s truly important in life. Life is all about the memories you make, the moments you share and the connections that will last a lifetime, all other things are just “fluff” and a distraction from true happiness! Our tiny home has allowed us to take the plunge and buy our van (which will only be about 80 square feet) so we can travel full-time, which means we’re selling our beloved tiny home! We do have plans to eventually one day settle down and have a permanent home, but we couldn’t see ourselves in more than 1,300 to 1,600 square feet maximum.

Katherine and Dalton: We both talk all the time about how it’s made us so much stronger; we understand better where our strengths and weaknesses lie as individuals and partners. We’ve grown so much together traveling across the country in such a small space that it’s kind of given us an attitude of ‘we can handle anything together,’ which is an amazing feeling to have with your partner — a sense of real security in one another and in your relationship as a whole.