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by Melody Carlson

Kate Burrows has a life many would envy—a good job at a design firm, a huge house, beautiful memories of the late husband who gave her everything, and two grown kids doing well for themselves. But it’s all begun to ring hollow as she wanders around a house that’s too big for her. So when she gets caught up in binge watching a show all about tiny homes, something clicks—something that soon has Kate embarking on a whole new life.

Though some people call her crazy, she decides to quit her job and relocate to the small tourist town she and her husband always wanted to retire to, and to buy a tiny home of her own. The Lord seems to be paving the way, and she soon meets just the person she needs to help her get her dream going—and even growing! Hank Branson, architect and gentleman farmer, is quick to jump on board her dream to parcel some land off for tiny homes, and soon they have a community in the works.

But is Kate in over her head? How can she possibly uproot her whole life and chase dreams long dormant? Can Hank and his beautiful farm be as perfect as they seem? And what about their competition—the gregarious, confident Glen who won’t take no for an answer?

Kate may be moving into a tiny house…but it soon becomes clear she’s in for a big adventure.

Chapter 1

Less is more, less is more, less is more. Kate Burrows muttered these three words to herself as she gazed blankly at the spacious great room she’d once loved. But that was when it had been filled with family and friends, light and life and music. But then Kenneth passed away, and the kids went off to college. For several years she’d known that 5,280 square feet was too much house for her, but at the same time she’d had no choice. But today she felt trapped.

Kate paused the TV show that had her mesmerized, staring in wonder at the charming tiny home featured in this segment. The proud owner of the pint-sized bungalow was frozen too, but the three simple words she’d just proclaimed seemed to still hang in the air. “Less is more.” And Kate couldn’t help but agree with the young woman. Less did seem like it could be more. But how did someone like Kate reach that place?

Kate sighed as she laid down the remote. Time for a break from what had turned into an embarrassingly long TV show binge. But as she wandered through her oversized house, she just sadly shook her head. Would she ever feel at home in this oversized McMansion again? And was it her imagination or were these spaces actually growing larger right before her eyes? Less was growing more and more appealing.

As Kate carried a half-eaten carton of mocha-fudge ice cream back into the cavernous great room, she put the blame on her college-aged daughter. A couple of weeks ago, Zinnia had texted Kate about an architect friend featured on Teeny, Tiny Home, begging her to record it. Naturally, Kate had agreed, and not knowing which episode to record, she’d set her DVR for “unlimited” and then forgotten about it.

So this weekend, which just happened to be Mother’s Day weekend complete with a deluge of rain, Kate had abandoned her plans to work in the yard. Feeling slightly depressed by the weather, and slightly neglected by her kids, Kate turned on her first episode of Teeny, Tiny Home. That was all it took. She spent all of Saturday glued to her big screen TV, obsessively blasting through show after show after show. After all, wasn’t bad weather the perfect excuse for a good long TV binge?

But by Sunday morning the storm had passed and Kate’s neglected palette of perennials remained sequestered in her oversized three-car garage. Kate shamelessly remained in her I Love Lucy flannel pajamas, remote in hand, skipping commercials, and soaking in every single episode of Teeny, Tiny Home. For the whole day! By that afternoon, her shoulder-length auburn hair, which needed a good shampoo, resembled Bozo the Clown. But she no longer cared.

Kate couldn’t quite grasp why she was so fascinated by these thirty-minute shows. Maybe it was just plain boredom. But something about these energetic souls in search of a scaled-down lifestyle was inexplicably compelling. Equally intriguing were the tiny structures that became their new abodes. From quaint recycled cabooses and old school buses to tree houses and seaside yurts, it seemed that everyone was hopping onto the tiny house bandwagon. And she became even more convinced that less really was more.

By early Sunday evening (which still happened to be Mother’s Day—without a word from either of her children) Kate began to seriously envy these optimistic carefree souls of all ages and backgrounds, bravely turning their backs on traditional oversized housing. They seemed to have a spring in their step as they walked away from the excess of “too much stuff.” Boasting about how freeing it was to live the simple life. It was all strangely liberating. Kate realized (after the first dozen or so episodes) there was a certain “formula” to these shows. Still, it didn’t bother her—maybe she was hooked.

Each show began by showing how a single person or couple—and occasionally a family—were dissatisfied with a lifestyle that had gotten too big, too busy, or simply too costly. They would then decide upon a tiny home that suited their needs and voila—by the end of the thirty-minute episode, the smiling people would triumphantly move into a perfectly adorable and highly efficient miniature house where, Kate assumed, they were sure to live happily ever after.

By late on Sunday evening (still nothing from Jake or Zinnia) Kate knew a real sense of desperation. Unlike those liberated tiny homeowners, she felt imprisoned. Except her “jail cell” was an enormous, luxurious home. And she felt slightly ridiculous—who would pity someone living in this large, lovely house—complete with vaulted ceilings, hardwood floors, home theater, cook’s kitchen, spa-like bathrooms?

But get real, why did she need four and a half baths? She only used two of the toilets but still had to clean the other three to keep them from getting a water ring. And her kitchen… She used to enjoy cooking, but she probably hadn’t cooked a real meal since last Christmas—nearly six months ago. She didn’t need that six-burner stove any more than she needed the oversized refrigerator. And she wasn’t even sure what she had stashed in the multitude of extra tall cherry cabinets—clever culinary contraptions that she probably couldn’t even remember how to use. And what about the “acres” of cold, hard black granite countertop? Good grief, she spent more time dusting the surface than using it. It was all so ridiculous. Why did one woman need so much?

Kate glanced at the TV screen, pausing it once again in order to study the interior design of a particularly well-constructed tiny home. This one was a contemporary design, with excellent craftsmanship, and very clever. Every inch of the 280 square feet looked fully utilized—and yet the small space didn’t seem crowded or cluttered. She stared at the little washer-dryer unit, tucked neatly beneath the loft ladder—noticing that it even had a miniature pull-down clothes-drying rack above it. So handy.

Kate cringed to think of her own laundry room. Oh, sure, she had been grateful for the extra large room when the kids were small. The deep sink and granite countertops with storage shelves for the kids’ stuff. But as she considered the hike from her second-floor master bedroom, clear down to the finished basement, well, it just made her tired. Plus it reminded her that she still hadn’t done laundry.

Tuning her attention back to the TV, she pushed “play” and watched as the new homeowner, a divorcee a bit older than Kate, climbed the ladder into her cozy sleeping loft. Showing her built-in bookshelves, filled with interesting novels, and her handy reading light, the woman looked happy as a clam. She pointed out the ledge created to hold her coffee mug then leaned back into a pile of fluffy colorful pillows and, gazing up through the skylight above her, she let out a long contented sigh. “It reminds me of the tree house I had as a child,” she said blissfully. “I never want to leave this place.”

“Well, I sure want to leave this place.” Kate tossed the remote down—making a different kind of sigh. Had this mad binge watching messed with her head? The more she’d watched, the more discontented she’d become. Like the proverbial kid with her nose pressed to the candy-store window. Filled with a desperate longing for less stuff, less ownership, and more simplicity—she suddenly despised her stupid big house. She felt lost in the cavernous great room, overwhelmed by the tall rock fireplace that Kenneth had insisted upon. And the twenty-foot ceiling—who needed it? The thought of facing the future in a house that would never feel cozy wasn’t just overwhelming—it was pathetic.

It was nearly midnight when she finished the last episode and finally went upstairs—only to be reminded that the spacious master suite no longer felt cozy. Not since losing Kenneth. The vaulted ceiling and hardwood floors made it feel cold up there. And her “spa-like” master bath was too big and drafty for a nice warm bath, not to mention she got chilled every time she emerged from the oversized shower. And as for that “rain” showerhead, she was tired of getting her naturally curly hair wet every time she took a quick rinse.

Kate paced back and forth in her bedroom, mulling everything over, wondering what she might do to make her home cozier. But, really, wouldn’t it make more sense to move into something smaller? Like a tiny house? She grabbed the remote for the master suite TV and, feeling a bit like an addict grasping for her next fix, turned the DVR back on and rewatched another Teeny, Tiny Home episode.

As it ended—happily of course—she noticed the time and remembered tomorrow was a workday. But after getting in bed, her thoughts were still racing and tumbling, visions of tiny homes seemed to dance through her brain. And so, as usual when she couldn’t sleep, she prayed. She begged God to lead her, to direct her path, to help her find a new and satisfying life. It was high time. Suddenly, she knew what she needed to do. And this had nothing to do with Mother’s Day neglect.

 In one simple split second, her mind was made up. Even if friends and family questioned her sanity—and she suspected they would—she was determined to do this.

Kate Burrows was going to reinvent her life. And she was going to do it with a tiny house. Feeling an incredible sense of wonder, relief, and great expectations, she texted her realtor friend Jennifer, simply stating that she wanted to sell her house. As soon as possible. Feeling guilty for texting at this late hour, she apologized and promised to call first thing the next morning. And then she leaned back and closed her eyes and—for the first time in a long time—felt happy and hopeful and peaceful. Her life was about to get better.

Chapter 2

But it was Jennifer who called Kate early the next morning. The realtor’s voice sounded light and cheerful and fully awake. “This is wonderful news, Kate! So exciting.”

Caught off guard and groggy with sleep, it took Kate a moment to remember the text she’d sent very late last night. “Exciting?” she muttered.

“Yes! I can’t believe the timing. That you’re finally ready to sell,” Jennifer said brightly. “Because I’m almost certain I have a buyer for you. That’s exciting!”

“Seriously?” Kate blinked and, climbing out of bed, shuffled toward the bathroom.

“I have a family from California looking for a house exactly like yours, in a neighborhood just like yours. It’s, like, providential.”

“That’s, uh, great.” With slight heart palpitations, Kate listened as Jennifer went on about what great timing this all was and how she had cash buyers and how it could all close very quickly.

Finally, Kate explained she needed to get ready for work and, after saying good-bye, she tried to convince herself that she was making the right decision. As she brushed her teeth, she told herself that selling a home was no big deal. People did it every day. As she hurried to dress, she reminded herself how most of her monthly salary went to house payments, taxes, insurance, and maintenance. And the funds from Kenneth’s life insurance wouldn’t last forever. Really, selling was the sensible thing to do. But then what? Was she really ready for a tiny house? Or had she simply been brainwashed?

Instead of obsessing over the machinery she’d set in motion, Kate drove to work. She hated this commute. Would selling her home somehow free her from this? Hadn’t she prayed about this last night? Hadn’t it seemed God was leading her?

As she pulled into a parking spot, she felt certain she was on the right path. Okay, it might be a bit shaky at the moment, but she believed it would all work out in time. As she entered the building, she determined to do something she’d dreamt of doing for years. Kate sat down at her desk and wrote a resignation letter. She knew that her pragmatic boss would question what would probably appear to be an impetuous decision. But having this letter ready would help show Marion her resolve.

Despite her few hours of sleep, Kate grew strangely energized as she walked the letter to Marion’s office. Imagining that she was being filmed for an episode of Teeny, Tiny Home, she held her head high as she strolled through the design firm where she’d worked for the last ten years. She even smiled as she handed her boss and good friend her official letter of resignation.

Clearly shocked, Marion stared down at the announcement of two weeks’ notice without even speaking.

“It’s not that I haven’t been happy here,” Kate said after Marion looked up again. “It’s just that I need a change.”

“Are you absolutely certain about this?” Marion’s brow creased with concern as she laid the letter down on her desk.

“Yes.” Kate nodded firmly. “It’s time.”

“I know you’ve talked about doing something different for a while now.” Marion adjusted her glasses, studying Kate closely. “And I encouraged you to wait, to give yourself time. After losing Kenneth, well…I just didn’t want to see you make a knee-jerk decision.” She cleared her throat. “Or a mistake.”

“And I appreciate that,” Kate assured her. “But it’s been more than five years since Kenneth passed away. And really, I’m ready to move on now. I’m going to sell my house and—”

“Seriously?” Marion looked more than a little concerned. “This seems like a lot—all at once. Are you certain?”

“You’ve been to my McMansion. You know it’s way too big for me. I just rattle around and—”

“But don’t your kids still come home to visit? What about summers? What if you have grandchildren some day?”

Kate waved her hand. “Grandchildren are a long way off. Trust me on that. And after graduation, Zinnia plans to spend her summer in Seattle. She’s been accepted for an internship with an online fashion magazine. And Jake has his job, his life.” Kate smiled brightly, hoping to make her understand. “Really, Marion, it’s time for me to do this. And I’m really excited about it.”

Marion nodded with a sage expression. “Yes, I can see that. But what will you do? Where will you go? Do you have another job lined up? A place to live?”

Kate went ahead and spilled the beans, explaining her plan to buy a tiny home.

“You can’t be serious!” Marion’s jaw literally dropped.

“I am serious. I’ve been, uh, studying up on it. It’s a simpler way of life. And I feel I’m ready for it.” Of course, Kate was making this up as she went along. But it’s not that it wasn’t true.

“A tiny house? Here in the city?”

“No. I plan to put my tiny house in a small town. You know I grew up in a small community, and I’ve always missed that.”

“So you are quitting your job, selling your house, and relocating?” Marion’s eyes were wide. “Have you really given this much thought?”

“I need a change.”

“But how will you support yourself in a small town?”

“I think I’ll open a florist shop.”

“A florist shop?” Marion frowned.

“It’s probably a silly old dream,” Kate confessed. “But you know how much I love my flower garden in the summertime. And how I bring in arrangements for the office and for friends’ birthdays and whatnot.”

“You do have a knack,” Marion conceded. “But that’s not the same as running a business.”

“I know. But I believe I can learn.”

“Won’t a business startup be expensive?”

“It’ll probably take my savings, but it’s an investment in my future. It’s a risk I have to take. My mind is made up.”

Marion still looked dumbfounded. “That’s, uh, very interesting. I, uh, I don’t even know what to say.”

“How about good luck?”

“Well, yes, of course. I certainly want you to succeed, but are you sure you’ve given this enough thought?”

Kate didn’t want to lie to Marion, but she wasn’t comfortable admitting that the idea had hit her rather quickly—like two days ago quickly. And so she mutely nodded.

Marion sighed. “We will miss you here. You’ve been a good designer and a good team player.”

“I’ll miss you too. It’s been a great job.” Much of it had been great…but some of it, not so much. Kate would not miss everything about working for a corporate design firm.

Marion got out from behind her desk and, opening her arms wide, gave Kate a big, warm hug. “I do wish you good luck—the best of luck,” she said. “In some ways I almost envy you being able to do this. Sometimes I want to jump off this treadmill too.” She sighed. “Honestly, this morning’s traffic made me want to pull my hair out.”

“I sure won’t miss that commute.” Kate tried not to sound overly smug, although it did feel slightly euphoric to realize all the hours that would no longer be spent behind the wheel. “Hopefully you’ll come visit me in my new life.”

“Count on it.” Marion’s phone rang and, waving Kate away, she picked it up.

Kate felt relieved that had gone as well as it had. And with only two weeks to wrap up her projects, she focused on her work. But as she went through her day, answering work friends’ questions about her decision to quit, she couldn’t stop smiling. It was as if all her reservations were evaporating. The more people she told, many of whom expressed a longing to do something similar, the more lighthearted she felt about her decision.

To think that in just two weeks, she’d be starting her new and improved, and soon-to-be downsized, life. Well, it was downright exhilarating.

She just hoped she could pull it off.