I went to an event at our church recently where we discussed organizing and decluttering (among other things) and it has made me think a lot about living in, what is considered by most, a small home. While I know small home living is not for everyone, I absolutely LOVE living in a smaller home. Here's why...
What is a Small Home?
A small home is different than a "tiny house" which gained popularity several years ago. We do not live in a 300 square foot trailer. However, some people's reactions to seeing our house has comically given the impression that they think we might as well. Our home has roughly 800 square feet on each of the 2 floors, making it a combined 1586 square feet of livable space. Once upon a time this was not considered a small home, but it seems each year the square footage of the "average" home keeps increasing. The internet will tell you that anything under 2500 square feet is "small". I would have said under 2,000. But either way, our cute little cottage fits that category quite well.
Reason #1: Cleaning a Small House
It is true that a small space looks cluttered even if only a few things are out of place, but on the flipside, it only takes a few minutes to pick up those few things and have it look tidy. We can clean our whole house very quickly! I see these huge, gorgeous homes on the internet and the first thing I think is "I would hate to have to clean that!"
Reason #2: It Forces You To Purge/Organize
When you have limited space, you realize very quickly that you can't keep everything that has ever entered your home. No hoarding here! Space is precious. When I go shopping, if I see something I want to buy, I only buy it if I know exactly where it is going to go. If I don't have a place for it, I don't buy it. Coincidentally, this rule has saved me lots of money too!
Twice a year (Spring and Fall) we do what I call a clothing audit. Each kid goes through their clothes and makes a donation pile. They then write down how many of each item they have left (shorts, pants, long sleeve shirts, etc) and brings me the list. Then we know how many of each items we need to buy new for the season. This is helpful to keep their closets from bulging.
We also have drawers in the kids' closets for their "treasures". Things like rocks, shells, little toys, etc. A few times a year I have them go through and see if there is anything they could get rid of. I let it be their choice. I don't throw things away for them. I want to teach them about decluttering without and trauma of mom tossing things because I didn't see value in them when they did. I may not think glow in the dark vampire teeth are a treasure, but they certainly do.
Reason #3: Maximizes the Space you DO have
First of all, I feel like the people who designed the floor plan of our home did a fantastic job of utilizing space. Our upstairs is kind of set up like a wagon wheel. Our "hallway" is center and all of the rooms branch off from it. I have also tried to do things like "go vertical" to use all available space. Adding shelves from the floor to ceiling has been helpful. We did this in the family room, the office, and the basement.
We also turned our unused attic into storage space by sistering the joists with 2x6s for added support and adding an OSB floor.
I have used smaller scale furniture that helps the rooms not seem so small. If I had oversized sectionals in my family room, they would eat up most of the floor space, making it seem cramped.
Furniture that does double duty is also a great way to add storage space to your home. I have a whole post about that!
Probably the most "controversial" thing I have done to help our home feel bigger, was to add open shelving in the kitchen. Listen, I know how most of you feel about open shelving. But for us, it was one of the best things we ever did. Our kitchen is SMALL. And taking down the bulky cabinets really visually opened up the space. We really do use the dishes constantly so no, they don't get dusty. I wiped the cabinet door fronts weekly so it's no big deal to wipe off the shelves weekly.
Reason #4: Finances
Back when the recession hit in the early 2000s and Shane (like so many others) was laid off, we were still able to pay our reasonable mortgage for the 3 years he was working temp jobs and making significantly less than before. There is so much peace of mind knowing that you aren't a financial slave to your home. A small house payment (or none at all) allows more freedom.
Reason #5: Simpler Lifestyle
When we were shopping for a home I had a few requirements. I wanted it to be built before 1950. I love charming older homes! I also wanted the yard to be bigger than the house. Some of the homes we saw on the market barely had any land leftover after the house was built. I had envisioned a lifestyle where we spent more time outdoors than in, and when we were inside, we would be "cozy" together.
One of my most popular posts when I first started (and most copied projects) was this little pillow. I had a favorite country song from the 80's that summed up how I wanted to live (Little Houses by Doug Stone) so I stenciled the chorus on to a pillow for our family room.
Sometimes I get caught up in the images on Pinterest and see friends who have bought large homes and wonder if there is something wrong with me. Everything the world is telling me is that I should want MORE. And I am sure there are so many who judge us by the size of our home thinking how sad it is we "have" to live in such a small home. Some have outright said it. But there is nothing wrong with being content with less. With wanting less.
Shane and I are finally to the point in our life where we have to plan for when the kids leave and get married and for when we are older. There are some changes that will have to happen if we want to live here forever (which is the plan). Our home has worked beautifully for the 6 of us over the past 16 years. But eventually, when our kids marry and start having kids of their own, we will be lacking in a few areas.
We will need a bigger dining room area and living room. And if our kids end up living far away, we will need another bedroom or 2 for them to stay in while they visit. With how the world is, we may also need to have children and grandchildren live here from time to time. It would be nice to have space for them as needed.
Since our home is older, the stairs are steep. Shane and I may not be able to navigate them well in our older years. It would be nice to have everything we needed on the first floor. Our basement has an outdoor entrance so we could also rent out the basement if we didn't use it ourselves.
Because of this, we have drawn up plans for a small addition. We are in no rush, but realize it will probably need to happen in the next 5-10 years. Since Shane is an architect, it has been fun to draw up options in 3D modeling.
Even with the addition, our home will still fall under the "small house" square footage category. Which is good, since I doubt my love of cleaning will get greater in my older years ;)
What do You Think About Small Homes?
I hope my thoughts have helped those of you who do live in a small home or are thinking about downsizing for whatever reason. Big or small, I feel like everyone should love their home. We spend so much of time there! No home is perfect and there will always be things that bug you about your space or things you wish to improve. Instead, focus on what you can do, what you like about it, and make the most of what you have.