The Internet is full of posts, articles and photos of people who are embracing a more minimal lifestyle and promoting the small house movement. One guy remodeled a trash dumpster and now calls that home. Others are living in RV-like structures with only 200 to 300 square feet. While some of these homes are adorable and make the most of small spaces, only a minority of us in the U.S. will ever embrace that lifestyle for any length of time. But that doesn't mean that the focus on a small(er) home isn't worth promoting. In fact, my experience has convinced me that it was one of the best moves we ever made.
Five years ago Thom and I decided to rethink and right-size our lives. One of the biggest transformations occurred when we let go of our large suburban home and found a smaller home in a more dense and urban neighborhood. While our current home of 1,375 square feet may not be small in terms of the tiny house movement, it is much smaller than the U.S. average. Mark Perry, a professor of economics at the University of Michigan, states that with an average square footage of 2,679, most U.S. homes are now 1,000 square feet larger than back in 1973. He also reports that because household sizes are declining, "the average amount of living space per person in a new home has almost doubled in just the last 40 years." And what are we doing with all that space? In most cases we just buy more stuff to fill it with the hope that will make us happy or at least look that way.
When Thom and I decided to right-size our living arrangement to nearly half the space that we had before, I honestly wasn't sure it would work. I agreed to try it as an"experiment" and wrote about the process in more detail. But now, five years later, we continually find ourselves acknowledging the wisdom of such a choice. And even though our right-sizing isn't nearly as extreme as the small house movement, we believe it should appeal to thousands (if not millions) more people who are considering positive change in their lives.
With my focus on TToT (10 Things Of Thankful) and gratitude during the month of November, here are 10 reasons why I am extremely grateful for our small(er) home!
- Purchasing a small(er) home in a more modest neighborhood allowed us to pay cash and go mortgage-free. We know lots of others could do this if they were willing to scale down their lists of "must haves" and stop caring what others thought of them or their "lifestyle."
- Our home uses less energy -- partly because of its size and also because we installed solar on our rooftop. Again, the size of the home made this easy to do. Currently our electric/gas and water cost less than $40 per month year round.
- We were able to decorate our home without concern. When you have a small space to furnish and decorate it takes a lot less money to make it look the way you want. We didn't have to compromise or settle with less-than-desirable products because overall everything costs so much less in the beginning.
- The less space you have, the less stuff you continue to buy. While Thom and I have never been big shoppers, once we finished we basically just stopped buying. Thankfully there is no room for more. Just knowing our personal space is limited keeps us from saying yes to all items we may or may not purchase impulsively.
- It's easy to find each other and our dog Kloe. I know others who as part of a couple live in enormous houses. They have separate rooms to do all their separate things and never see one another. Thom and I like and want to be together so our small(er) house keeps us that way.
- Our two-car garage keeps things contained. Our former house had a three-car garage and yes, we had three cars. When we moved here we sold one and bought two bicycles instead. Ever notice that your stuff expands to the size of your space? Most people with large garages (and closets) just pack it full of more stuff. Limited space is a big benefit.
- Our home is easier to clean and maintain. Face it -- the more space a family has, the more time, energy and money it takes to keep it clean.
- Our neighborhood came with expected and unexpected benefits. When we moved we carefully selected a home that was close to a small downtown and other amenities so we could enjoyably walk and ride our bikes whenever wanted. What we didn't expect was to have better relationships to our neighbors than we did in the suburbs. None of us have big homes and huge private yards to hide behind, and instead connect more with each other.
- Freedom. By buying our small(er) home we annually save over $30,000 in costs from a mortgage, high utilities, taxes, maintenance, etc. Now we save and invest some of that money, and spend some of it on other things we enjoy much more. Even better we don't stress about bills or take on work we don't like to pay for extra space.
- I'm grateful that I had that large beautiful home before because now I know that while it might be nice, there are always costs and consequences. Plus I know for sure that having all that stuff doesn't lead to a SMART or happier life.
When I was younger I thought having a big, beautiful, expensive house would make me look more successful and lead to greater happiness. Thankfully, I've learned that happiness is really an inside job and that peace of mind, freedom, and purpose are much more important than stuff. So when you consider the benefits, it's SMART for everyone to consider a small(er) home.
Kathy Gottberg believes in living healthy, authentic, fearless and SMART. Follow her journey at SMART Living 365.com