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Colorado Springs family shares story of living in 100 square feet

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Thanks to blogs, books, and even a popular documentary, minimalism is going mainstream.

People are decluttering their lives, getting rid of stuff, and focusing on what really matters.

The Niemyer family of Colorado Springs has been living light since long before it was cool.

"It has been normal for most of human history for people not to have all the stuff," Don Niemyer said.

Several years ago, Don and his wife, Carissa, then living in Portland, Oregon, bought an RV.

The family of four planned on spending a few weeks on the road having a little adventure. Before they knew it, a few weeks became four years.

They traveled to 45 states, visiting more than 200 coffee shops.

"We missed nothing," Don said.

Neither did their daughters.

"I was like, 'Wow, this is amazing!'" Trinity, who was 7 when they moved into the RV, said.

Having a lot of stuff just wasn't an option for Trinity and her younger sister, Alex.

The girls were allowed a total of 10 toys at a time. When they got a new toy, they took a trip to Goodwill to donate something.

So the girls got pretty creative, digging wells, transforming old toys into new ones, and using nature as inspiration.

"They would find a stick and say, 'This could be a bow and arrow,'" Carissa said.

"It was easier than we thought and it seems like it got easier as we went," Don said about their travels.

Their small space brought them all together, both literally and figuratively.

"When relationships are all you have, you're pressed into those relationships," Don said.

All the Niemyers agreed they got really good at communicating and resolving conflicts.

"You can't go into separate rooms and slam doors. You can't disappear," Trinity said.

Since their time and money weren't invested in material things, they poured it into people they love.

"I don't have to put a new roof on the house this weekend, or clean the house, or whatever. I've got plenty of time to go see Mom and Dad," Don said.

Their travels brought them to Colorado Springs in 2015. They built a tiny house and opened Story Coffee in Acaia Park, its space and menu inspired by minimalist principles.

They moved into a one-bedroom apartment, which to them felt huge. The girls shared the bedroom while Don and Carissa slept on a Murphy bed in the living area. But with a growing business, Don needed an office.

Last year, Carissa gave birth to a baby girl, so they moved into a small house within walking distance of their business.

"Not everybody can live in 100 square feet and not everybody should live in 100 square feet," Don said. "Not everybody can be an extreme minimalist and, as it turns out, even we can't be extreme minimalists right now."

While their living space has gotten larger, their commitment to living light hasn't dwindled. The girls each have one drawer for their clothes

"I heard one of them say 'I have too many clothes! I need to get rid of this,'" Carissa laughed.

Even though they live with a whole lot less, they've gained so much more. 

"We feel so spoiled and so blessed and like we have so much, and if we start counting the things we're thankful for, we just won't have a place to stop," Don said.


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