2 years ago (has it already been two years?), Jesse and I pulled out of escrow on a 2400 square foot house that was at the TOP end of our budget in favor of an 1100 square foot house built in the 40s.
Coming from our 1400 square foot house in CA, 1100 didn’t seem small to us, although it flew in the face of the TX culture we were trying to embrace. Part of this TX culture is definitely superfluous– a “bigger is always better” mentality that even makes its way into vehicle choices and the way the roads, parking lots and parks are constructed. But part of it is definitely deserved, as the hot months of July and August (and, if we’re being honest, a few weeks in Sept.!) make playing and being outdoors a challenge unless you are playing in water.
With the addition of a 3rd child in our midst, Jesse and I have been re-evaluating our decision to live where we do. We love the charm that our historic home provides, but you know what else I love? Closet space, something people did not believe in back around World War 2, apparently!
Also, as much as I’ve paired down our “stuff” for Baby #3, let’s face it– babies still take up room. We opted for a mini crib/sidecar co-sleeper situation that we DIY hacked ourselves, a small changing table that also holds all of his cloth diapers, clothes and blankets, a fold up bassinet for the living room (that will make way for a small fold up bouncy seat when the time comes) and a small swing that can fold out of sight. And this still feels like a lot!
My two older boys are also bigger and taller than average, and on days where they can’t play outside, it sounds like a circus in here! Our house is pier and beam, and when the boys are running inside, the floor trembles violently, like an earthquake! My once 4 and 2 year old are now 6 and 4, and this fact alone has made me feel cramped for space sometimes!
But then this morning I read this article from the Washington Post about a family of 3 living intentionally in an 800 sq ft apt. in NYC, and it resonated so deeply with me! And I started to remember all of the reasons we chose this house.
Budget. This house was definitely on the lower end of what the loan officer said we qualified for. As a result, our house payment is close to what we paid in rent for our very first shoebox apt. in LA 10 years ago! This automatically frees up money in the budget for museum and zoo memberships. We will never be “house poor”, by any stretch, and there is a huge comfort in this! We live in part of Dallas that is bursting with beautiful nature, and just miles away from some of the best museums and parks the city has to offer. Having extra room in the budget means we are free to enjoy all of these things, guilt free.
We spend more time together. When we’re all up in each other’s business, there is no “ignoring”. We find quality ways to spend time together, or we go crazy! 😉
When I need quiet time, I send the kids outside to play instead of turning on the TV, because in a small space like ours, the TV noise becomes EVERYONE’S noise. We may have picked a small house, but our yard is anything but! We took money that we would’ve spent on video games or more toys and instead created a backyard perfect for our boys to run around and imagine to their hearts’ content.
We haven’t been able to accumulate “stuff” the way we would be tempted to if we were to have large closets. This means that more of our stuff is immediately visible, since we aren’t able to hide it away, but clutter HAS to be dealt with. Often. We give away 2-3 bags of stuff a month, so much so, that dropping off a bag at Goodwill has become as second nature to me as grocery shopping. We don’t need to do large “purges”, because the every day necessitates it in a more gradual way. There is no “someday”– that space is needed today. Ask anyone who has had to spend an entire Saturday (or many of them!) cleaning out a cluttered garage, and they will tell you gradual purging is a great skill to master!
We have more time. While this has to do with the fact that this house is great for our budget, I can clean our ENTIRE house in just 2 hours. This includes kitchen, beds, laundry, floors, bathroom– you name it! When I go to vacuum, I only need to plug in twice in order to reach our entire house– no joke! If I start with a clean house, I can keep it tidy with just 30 min./day.
So are there things I’d like in a bigger house someday? Sure! 2 bathrooms would be really nice, for starters 😉 I can’t tell you how many times I’ve actually sent one of the boys out in the backyard to pee because the other brother was already occupying the bathroom. And don’t get me started on how nice an attached garage would be on bad weather days when I’m trying to get all three kids squashed into the backseat of our all electric car 😉
But even when we move into a bigger house (something in our 1-2 year plan), I hope I carry with us many of the lessons we learned from living small.