Tiny home brings family together

Alternative living cultivates connection during the holidays, say Squamish residents

“It only brings us closer together.”

That’s what Coun. Susan Chapelle says about living in a tiny home during the holidays. Her entire family shares 500 square foot of space — it includes herself, husband and two daughters who are 15 and 10 years-old. 

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And they’ve done so for over a year. Though the housing situation may seem unconventional, she says they hang out more together now and that’s the difference.  

“It’s become way more copasetic to family life,” Chapelle notes. She worried that her daughters would get under each other’s skin in such close quarters, but instead, it pushed them into more conversation. 

“Eventually, the aggravation goes away,” she explains. “And you realize you can’t fight with each other in such a small space and then have to spend the entire day.”

Many of their traditions remain the same. Raised Jewish, the family lights the menorah and enjoys going up to the Sea to Sky Gondola during the holidays as it acts as a community gathering space.

There are a few decorations in her house.  

They pack up their gear to spend most of their time outdoors. “We can’t be inside 500 square feet the entire time,” Chapelle laughs. “We go cross country or downhill skiing as a family. And that’s a special time.”

But there is one thing that has changed — holiday dinners. Instead of hosting large friend and family feasts, they now get invited to out. 

“Dinners at our home are missed,” she acknowledged. “But for that once or twice a year, it’s not worth the extra 2,000 square feet.” 

Instead, they cultivate connections with other families during the holidays. 

One Squamish resident who hops from home to home as a permanent house-sitter agrees that a big space of one’s own is not necessary for family togetherness over the holidays. 

Adriana Smith misses hosting turkey dinner on Christmas Day but never fails to miss her annual family Christmas Eve celebration held at her daughter’s  home. 

She’s lived in the community for over 26 years and raised three daughters in Squamish. She now has five grandsons. 

Though there were plans to purchase her rental home, Smith lost tenancy in 2015 — right in the middle of a housing crisis. 

“At the time there were no rentals,” she explains. “Though now there’s a fair amount on the market, but it’s expensive.” 

So, Smith and her partner moved into their 100 square foot travel trailer with the intention of finding something bigger. 

After a year of serious health problems and trying a variety of solutions, Smith began housesitting in June 2016 when a friend suggested it as a temporary fix. 

“Since then, I’ve been perpetually house sitting,” she says, “I move every one or two weeks.”

Last Christmas Smith says she got a gift from the universe when she landed a six-week house sit. 

“I got to do Christmas. I got to bring my family in. I didn’t have to move. I got to host dinner,” she explains. 

This season, Smith will be sitting in a tiny home near Paradise Valley and she’s thrilled. 

The alternative living choices have brought her closer to both family and friends, Smith.

 “I’m so lucky, I have so much community support.” 

She won’t be hosting any dinners this year but is looking forward to Christmas Eve with her family. Smith is of Dutch ancestry, so everyone gets together to open gifts and share a number of finger foods. 

“We keep as much tradition within the context of our lives as possible,” Smith says.

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