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Two Teachers in Their 538 Sq. Ft. Yurt, Australia

Natascha and Stephen were empty-nesters who had spent a lot of time travelling between India and Australia. When their son was able to purchase an acreage that allowed for other dwellings, the couple jumped at the opportunity to erect their off-grid yurt.

They’re both teachers, and while the 8-meter-wide yurt might not be “tiny” to some, this downsize has allowed them to get closer to the land and live more sustainably. One look out their window and you see why you might choose this lifestyle!

I love that while Natascha has downsized significantly, she didn’t cut back to the bare minimum — for example, she loves spinning and weaving, and kept the tools of her trade that she needed! She shared more wisdom with us in the Q&A you can read after the photo tour of her yurt home. Enjoy!

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Going Tiny While Keeping The Tools of Your Trade

Their 8-meter-wide yurt has a lovely deck.

Wide-angle view of the inside.

I love all the rugs on the floor!

They kept the home open-concept.

Each space flows seamlessly into the next one.

I love the glow on her spinning wheel.

What a lovely vignette.

Welcome home!

A view of the building process.

Natascha And Her Yurt Life

What are your name(s)?

My name is Natascha Gleeson and my Husband’s name is Stephen Gleeson. Our son who live in a cabin up the hill is named Kalki.

How many people (and animals) are living in your yurt?

My husband and I live in the yurt with our cat of many names but mostly just cat. It is 50 square metres of living space.

Where do you live? How long have you lived tiny?

We Live in Mt Burrell of the Northern Rivers region, a beautiful green belt within New South Wales in Australia. We have lived ‘tiny’ for a year.

What do you do for work? Or do you travel full-time?

Both my husband and I work as teachers. I teach visual art and history at a small community high school about 35 minutes away and Stephen works with academic skills at Southern Cross University which is approximately 50 minutes away by car.

Why did you decide to go tiny? What are you hoping to get out of living tiny?

Our daughter and her partner were lucky enough to be in a position to purchase some acreage which allowed for extended family to set up as well. We had already decided to simplify things as our children had grown and the next phase of life is upon us. Living tiny or living simply has allowed us to connect with the immediate environment and put energy into self-sufficiency on the property.

How did you first learn about yurt life?

We can’t actually remember the moment of discovery, it feels like we have known about them forever. I teach history and cover life in the Ger (yurt) in Mongolian history, but recent access to information about contemporary production of Yurts has probably been the result of access to social media.

How did you acquire your yurt?

There is a company in Mullumbimby, NSW Australia called OZyurts. They were able to supply us with a very affordable Yurt. The yurt cost us approximately $12,000 Australian including delivery. This was for an eight-metre diameter yurt, which offers approximately 50 square metres of space.

What are bills/utilities like compared to before?

We have our own water tank with water taken from the yurt via a gutter system at its base so there are no ongoing water costs. We have solar panels which, after the cost of installation, provide us with off grid power so, our overheads are almost nil after installation.

How did you find a place to put your yurt?

My daughter had been searching for land in the Northern Rivers area for two years. She and her partner were working in Melbourne, so it required an investment of time to find the right block. I was already living up here and encountered the block on a Sunday drive. I knew that this was the right place when the car stopped at the top of the drive. An awe inspiring vista lay before us, this was the one.

Before going tiny, what was life like?

We had been in transition to for quite a few years before we made the change. Decades were spent travelling between India and Australia. This constant travel required we pack up and sell all of our possessions many times over. It had become a kind of practice in letting go of our possessions allowing us to experience the lightness of being that comes with minimalism. Although our life is certainly not minimal by many people’s standards, it is much less than what is standard for the world we come from.

I once saw a village in India that was exquisite in its simplicity. I realised then that our attempts to live simply did not even come close to the spartan lives of the villagers I saw. They no power or running water, but the atmosphere was serene and the environment aesthetic and soothing. It feels like our life has been a type of preparation for the move to less.

Is there anything from your old life that you miss?

When I was a child I would come home to an empty house in the suburbs of Melbourne and watch a show on television called ‘Ask the Leyland Brothers’. The show was about travelling around Australia to see the natural features of the country, in essence, it was about escaping the suburbs. I was smitten and have dreamt of escaping the suburbs ever since. That was 51 years ago, with my adventures thus far culminating in the creation a life focused on self-sufficiency. Of course, we need community, but the goal here is an off-grid life with a smaller foot print that involves some personal autonomy in work and creativity. So, no I miss nothing of life in the suburbs.

What benefits are you experiencing after going tiny?

Apart from the financial savings of going off grid and going tiny, I see the health benefits of living closer to the elements. We spend much more time outdoors and are able to grow our own food ensuring it is grown in a healthy soil free of chemicals.

What about some challenges?

This life style requires physical well-being, but in saying that, it also gives it too so, I am confidant my skills and stamina will improve over time.

What makes your tiny home special?

I love that our home is round. I love that our walls are covered in books and art. I love the view of Wollumbin with its vast primordial vista offering a sense of perspective that is both consoling and invigorating. The other things that make this particular home special is that we were able to erect it in a day with some help. Our yurt is an accessible form of housing with minimal impact on the environment. I am also intrigued by the history of the yurt through the ages and often wonder how people in times gone by utilised the space.

What is your favourite part of your tiny home?

My favourite part of the yurt is the chess table by the full- length window with its vista of forest and mountain range in the distance. I like our fire place too. The space is simultaneously vast and intimate with the dome offering a sense of space while the curved walls wrap around us intimately.

What helpful advice would you give to others interested in going tiny?

We both work full time to facilitate the building and setting up costs. This can mean projects take a long time to develop. If you can find like-minded people, things can be easier when working in groups. Save some pennies if you can and be ready to bath in a paddock (field), which I might add is a seriously invigorating experience. Perhaps contemplate what it is you really need in life. For me this only became a problem with my interest in art and craft as I am forever collecting basket making resources what to speak of the must have collection of spinning wheels. One day we will have spinning groups in the yurt so, though some would have you reduce to the utter bare minimum, the act of making requires tools and resources. Never resent the tools of your trade.

Anything I didn’t ask about that we should know?

Heavens, it is evident that I could go on for a long time as this life style means so much to me. It’s more than mere housing, it is an act of creativity that has meant so much to all of us. We are utterly thrilled to have this opportunity and realise that to escape back to the land is weirdly difficult despite the fact that eons ago our ancestors were all once on the land.

Somehow our urban life styles have encumbered us making it sometimes difficult to escape. It takes a leap of faith and courage to ‘jump ship’. We were lucky in that the leap was made up of a series of little jumps that culminated in one great chasm crossed. Perhaps we were building a bridge slowly, tentatively.

Our more conservative relatives ( I think there lies an oxymoron in that expression in this context) have accepted our choices having come to terms with the slow inevitability of this final move. Living in India was a type of education introducing us to a simpler life while educating us in ways in which we could be satisfied beyond the modes we had been educated in as children. It’s not just a physical act, it is spiritual if you like, a form of inner journey that goes beyond the mundane act of down-sizing, but draws on your internal mode of being. It is an opportunity to draw on creative forms of expression to seek personal satisfaction.

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Natalie C. McKee

Natalie C. McKee is a contributor for Tiny House Talk and the Tiny House Newsletter. She's a wife, and mama of three little kids. She and her family are homesteaders with sheep, goats, chickens, ducks and quail on their happy little acre.

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