Since I read ‘The Life Changing Magic of Tidying’ by Marie Kondo and continued to subscribe to many of the lessons years later, I’ve been fascinated by people who make the decision to live with less. I live in an apartment at the moment and prior to this lived in a house that was a good bit bigger. I found that when I lived in a bigger space, I inevitably accumulated more ‘stuff’ to fill it. The subsequent purge that had to happen when I moved, made me question how much I actually used and needed. But what about people who go even further, who actively choose to live in ‘tiny homes’ and to make this their way of life? I came across Anna Leckey on Instagram @eco.belfast and was utterly impressed with and inspired by her decision to live in a tiny pod measuring 14.5m2, the likes of which you might have seen on glamping sites. Anna is a yoga teacher and the artistic director of Three’s Theatre Company and I was very excited to get a natter with her and to ask her all about living in a tiny home. For many us, lockdown made us yearn for more space at home, but for Anna it was the opportunity to take a leap and do the very opposite.
How did it all come about?
I probably became interested in tiny homes when I was living in university halls as I had one room. For me living this way was always an escapism, I loved watching videos about tiny homes on YouTube. Any time I was slightly depressed or felt out of control, those are the videos I was watching. It felt like a simple way of living. There is no excess and no clutter, you have everything you need and nothing else. That makes me feel calm.
I had been living in a flat with my friend Danielle, who I also work with at Hot Yoga Belfast. We get on so well but when lockdown came, I just felt ready for my own space. As a freelancer, apartments were going to be tricky to get, and I didn’t actually want an apartment. I was always being drawn to small spaces and found myself looking at nice bedsits. By chance I came across the glamping pod and everything just moved quite quickly. Because I’d been thinking about this way of living for so long, it just felt right. I’d been decluttering for years and I have nothing! Everything I own is in that pod. For sentimental things, I have a plastic box that lives in my car. I’ve gone through stages of decluttering it and I know that I want to keep everything that’s in that box and it really doesn’t take up a lot of space. I have my P7 dress that everyone signed when we left school, I like it and don’t want to get rid of it! For the theatre company, we commission artists to create original artwork for our posters, so I want to keep those, and there’s my Repeal jumper that I’ve worn to death, I’m going to get my cousin to turn that into a cushion for me. I just don’t need a lot.
The person who owned the pod before me had been using it as an extra bedroom in the garden. I bought the pod for £5.5 grand and probably spent about £700 at the beginning, and I’ve spent a little bit here and there since then. My dad built me the deck, that the pod stands on which has given me a little bit of extra space. I’ve only had one tiny issue, a little leak that was easy to fix, and that’s been it. There’s so much less that can go wrong as it’s so tiny.
Do you know other people locally living like this?
There is another couple in NI and maybe more but I’m just not aware of them. I think there are quite a few people living in vans. My ultimate plan is to set up a tiny house community in NI, I’m working on that at the moment and that’s my main project. I want it to be along Connswater Greenway or close to the city centre, so people can have access to a good network of cycle paths. There would be a co -working space, a café, so we’d be inviting the local community to also be part of it. One could be a holiday let, so people can come and stay for a weekend and see what it’s like. I’ve done quite a bit of community engagement and there are lots of different people who are interested in living in this way, families, older people, young professionals, people who are maybe finding it hard to get on the property ladder, its entirely diverse.
I’m talking to the council about trying to get land and of course, it needs finance behind it to buy the first lot of tiny houses. We would like to be able to offer basic shell that people could customise to suit themselves. For example, I would like a tiny bath but I’m not a big cook, so I don’t need a big kitchen. So, there would still be individuality to each of them.
I used to keep my tiny home thing a bit of a secret, but I think people are increasingly interested in living that way now. The community aspect is very important to me, its important to keep outside connections. I don’t have a washing machine, so I go to the eco dry cleaners on the Lisburn Road which is near the Hot Yoga studio where I work (and shower!). Its lovely to have a regular connection there. The owner knows I’m depending on him as I go there every week. I had a really busy time where I hadn’t gone for a couple of weeks and he called me to check if I was OK, which was so lovely!
Living this way has made me connect more with my local community, moreso, than when I lived in the apartment. Around here, I’m known as the ‘wee woman who lives in the pod’, and I’m happy to start with that now!
Are people fascinated by how you live?
Yes! When I used to watch things on YouTube I had all the questions too! People are curious and I’m really happy to talk about it and answer questions and normalise alternative living. You just don’t need to have the big house and the massive mortgage and do all the things that you are ‘supposed’ to do.
You obviously have to be quite minimalist. How do you make choices about what you buy and bring into the pod?
You can’t really do a ‘big’ shop, I have to shop little and often and buy things that will fit into the fridge and cook small things in the oven as it is quite small. I don’t have a lot of clothes, I was never massively materialistic so I’ve found that quite easy. I just don’t need a lot of things. I’m not a big cook or massively experimental so I’m happy to cook simple meals.
In terms of buying things for the pod, I can buy better things, because I’m buying less, and I want to buy things that will last.
Do you feel you’ve made any sacrifices by living in a tiny house?
No, not really, I feel like I’m living the life I want. As a freelancer, I’m very much able to do what I want. The fact that my outgoings are so low, allows me to do what want I do. There are little things I would like but I guess everyone feels that way? I feel like I have the lifestyle that I want.
This works, it suits me. I’m so grateful for this and the freedom it has given me.