12 Reasons Why You’ll Be Happier in a Smaller Home

Recently, my parents bought a smaller house. And this past week, while on vacation in South Dakota (yeah, I vacation in South Dakota), I got to see it for the first time. During our stay, I was surprised at how often my mother commented that “they just love their smaller house.” I wasn’t so much surprised that she felt that way (I am a minimalist after all), but I was surprised at the frequency. It was a comment that she repeated over and over again during our one-week stay.

Toward the end of the week, I sat down with my mom and asked her to list all of the reasons why she is experiencing more happiness in her smaller house. And this post was written… my first post co-authored with my mother.

12 Reasons Why You’ll Be Happier in a Smaller House by Joshua and Patty Becker (I get top billing because it is my blog).

People buy larger homes for a number of reasons:

  • They “outgrow” their smaller one.
  • They receive a promotion and raise at work.
  • They are convinced by a realtor that they can afford it.
  • They hope to impress others.
  • They think a large home is the home of their dreams.

Another reason people keep buying bigger and bigger homes is because no one tells them not to. The mantra of the culture again comes calling, “buy as much and as big as possible.” They believe the lie and choose to buy a large home only because that’s “what you are supposed to do” when you start making money… you buy nice, big stuff.

Nobody ever tells them not to. Nobody gives them permission to pursue smaller, rather than larger. Nobody gives them the reasons they may actually be happier in a smaller house.

So, in an attempt to break the silence, consider these 12 reasons why you’ll actually be happier in a smaller house:

  1. Easier to maintain. Anyone who has owned a house knows the amount of time, energy, and effort to maintain it. All things being equal, a smaller home requires less of your time, energy, and effort to accomplish that task.
  2. Less time spent cleaning. And that should be reason enough…
  3. Less expensive. Smaller homes are less expensive to purchase and less expensive to keep (insurance, taxes, heating, cooling, electricity, etc.).
  4. Less debt and less risk. Dozens of on-line calculators will help you determine “how much house you can afford.” These formulas are based on net income, savings, current debt, and monthly mortgage payments. They are also based on the premise that we should spend “28% of our net income on our monthly mortgage payments.” But if we can be more financially stable and happier by only spending 15%… then why would we ever choose to spend 28?
  5. Mentally Freeing. As is the case with all of our possessions, the more we own, the more they own us. And the more stuff we own, the more mental energy is held hostage by them. The same is absolutely true with our largest, most valuable asset. Buy small and free your mind.
  6. Less environmental impact. A smaller home requires less resources to build and less resources to maintain. And that benefits all of us.
  7. More time. Many of the benefits above (less cleaning, less maintaining, mental freedom) result in the freeing up of our schedule to pursue the things in life that really matter – whatever you want that to be.
  8. Encourages family bonding. A smaller home results in more social interaction among the members of the family. And while this may be the reason that some people purchase bigger homes, I think just the opposite should be true.
  9. Forces you to remove baggage. Moving into a smaller home forces you to intentionally pare down your belongings.
  10. Less temptation to accumulate. If you don’t have any room in your house for that new treadmill, you’ll be less tempted to buy it in the first place (no offense to those of you who own a treadmill… and actually use it).
  11. Less decorating. While some people love the idea of choosing wall color, carpet color, furniture, window treatments, decorations, and light fixtures for dozens of rooms, I don’t.
  12. Wider market to sell. By its very definition, a smaller, more affordable house is affordable to a larger percentage of the population than a more expensive, less affordable one.

Your home is a very personal decision that weighs in a large number of factors that can’t possibly be summed up in one 700 word post. This post was not written to address each of them. Only you know all the variables that come into play when making your decision.

I just think you’ll be happier if you buy smaller… rather than the other way around.

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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Comments

  1. Ken says

    About 8 years ago I doubled the size of my then 1200 square foot house. One of the things I added was a 550 square foot master suite. Now I spend most of my time in the master suite and wonder why I thought I needed a bigger house. My next house will be much smaller.

  2. says

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  3. Stede says

    What a load of crap. Mentally freeing? How about you buy what you WANT? If you want a big house, buy a big house. Small houses also do not encourage “bonding”, they encourage sharing bedrooms, waiting in line for bathrooms, and getting in each other’s hair

  4. Ainnir says

    I agree…most of the time. We have 5 people in 1200 square feet with no other storage space (shed, garage, attic, basement). I do want *some* more square footage, but not loads. Just strategic additions to maximize what we have. What I really want is acreage and to live off the grid. And maybe some goats. That’s where I’d put extra money.

  5. Rick says

    I am on the complete opposite end of the spectrum here. I currently live alone in a 2400 sq ft house and am looking to upsize to 3000 sq ft. I certainly cannot live in a 1000 sq ft or less house as to me, a house is much much much more than just a place to sleep and eat, it’s a lifestyle choice for me… I work from home as often as I can, so that means having a dedicated office room; I don’t want to share sweaty gym equipment (I have friends who get mysterious rashes at the gym), so I need an exercise room; dealing with sticky floors, ringing cellphones, small $5 bags of popcorn and obnoxious laughter is not for me, so I need a theater room; I enjoy throwing dinner parties so I do need a large dining room and kitchen… If I were to have a family, I’d probably need 4000 sq ft minimum… Again it’s the lifestyle choice, I’m sure people who have smaller homes tend to spend more time out of the house but I’m a homebody and prefer to do many of the outdoor activities indoors.

      • marianela says

        Rick, I am so glad you have the opportunity to enjoy your house. We live in a very small house. And we are also homebodies. The gym is the beautiful vegetable garden we enjoy every spring and summer and also part of the gym is the beautiful front garden full of australian natives. The cinema is in our small loungenroom with a small flat screen. The dinner parties are done under the stars!

      • Bruce says

        Wow, so presenting a counter-argument and personal opinions is not allowed on this site? What’s the point of a comments section then? Is he just supposed to use it to praise the author, nod and agree vigourously with slavish adherence to whatever this site spews out? I think you are the one who doesn’t belong here as your narrow minded viewset is exactly what this site is against… it’s a wonder how you broke the dogma of the McMansion given your stance on someone raising their hand and disagreeing.

  6. Jennifer says

    We ‘grew out of’ our very small house 12 years ago, and I can’t imagine the 4 of us squeezed into that teeny tiny 900 sq ft. house. If we were still there I suspect at least one of us (me) would’ve run away to join the circus.

    However, our larger home is on my last nerve. I need to replace a nasty old (well-loved) sofa in the family room, yet from it I can see an EMPTY sofa sitting in our living room. We can practically touch our barely-used dining room table from our kitchen table. My kids have outgrown the cute decorations I used to pull out for every holiday so boxes of easter eggs and plastic pumpkins sit untouched in the basement. The Great Purge has begun so when my youngest leaves for college in 3 years we’ll be prepared for downsizing. Can’t wait!!

  7. kE says

    Hi Joshua! I am a HUGE fan of your blog but I think this is only the first time that I’m taking the time to write a reply. A few years ago, I went through a divorce and left my 2350 square foot home to rent a smaller home (I’m not sure how big it is…I’m guessing 1300) until I found the “home of my dreams”. I have been here over 3 years and, the longer I’m here, the more I fall in love with it. I have become extremely mindful of each and every purchase that I make thinking that each one will make me happy, when I end up learning over and over again that it isn’t the “stuff” that makes you happy at all! Now, when I finally go ahead and actually PURCHASE a home, I will have a bigger down payment and a much smaller home than I would have originally thought I needed! Speaking of “buying stuff”, I would really like to buy your books but I don’t have a kindle! Will they be available in book-form??? I know you’re minimalists, but books are beautiful! Thank you for your inspiration. I am enjoying my rich, full, happy, minimalist life!!!

  8. Lori says

    On our last move, we downsized to a 1475 sq ft bungalow. It was perfect for the three of us and a dedicated home office for my husband. Less than a year later the house became a bit tighter with the addition of our second daughter. I LOVE our smaller bungalow….we use every room of the house, every day. The house cleans quickly and we have more time to share with friends and family. A couple of times of year I may miss the larger space for entertaining (Thanksgiving)…but we make it work. And years ago, people raised larger families in smaller spaces. We keep the *stuff* that is important to us, and it forces us to consider any large purchase because it would mean getting rid of something to make room for the new purchase. Love this lifestyle and choice of prioritizing experiences & memories over the acquisition of stuff.

  9. says

    We have three little boys in a small 1216 sq. ft. house. Though it tends to be cramped, it’s what my husband provides with his income and as a stay-at-home wife/mother, it’s my job to steward the gift, so to speak. We don’t require much and I’m happy with a simple life. I’m constantly purging our house of excess so it doesn’t become cluttered and I don’t miss what we donate or throw away.

    I’m certain that people are taught to hoard – we come into the world requiring so little; shouldn’t it stay that way?

    • Crystal G says

      Your story is exactly my story, except for the three kids we hope to have! We purchased a 1200 square foot Cape Cod style house with the desire to stay their our whole lives and for me to be a stay at home wife/mom when our first child arrives in September. We love that there is a bedroom downstairs so we can grow old in this house! We feel it is just enough space. We try to maximize what we have, got a sleeper couch so we can have guests…have a dining room table only..our coffee table has shelves underneath for storage, etc. We just need to declutter the upstairs rooms of the house before kids arrive!

  10. says

    Last Memorial Day, our house burned (Electrical short in the dryer. No one was hurt.). We spent three months in a luxury two bedroom apartment. We were happier. Even our sons (16 & 20) prefered it (although they would have liked three bedrooms more). We talked about it a lot, and this is what we liked. We had a nieghborhood. We spent more time together. It was way, way easier to keep clean. I liked cooking in a smaller kitchen. Hubby & sons like cleaning a smaller kitchen. TV watching was spent snuggling on the couch (cozy). Lots of parking. A small but perfect patio. More interaction with our nieghbors. Honestly, more interaction with each other. No backyard meant walking the dog. No backyard meant no gators, snakes, coyotes, and/or bobcats. Second floor meant less bugs (FL is creature central). In the end, we were unable to talk Hubby into selling the newly rebuilt house so that we could move into a condo. However, we did make some big changes. While we did have the house rebuilt (along with some sensible upgrades), we did not use the remaining insurance money to replace “stuff”. Instead, we paid off our credit cards (which had gone from nothing to obscene since our move to FL). Initially, we replaced only what we had to to be comfortable (beds, pillows, etc). Other things, we either did not replace at all or did so with an eye to long term value, not just in what it costs but how much use it will get, storage potential, etc. Truthfully, I still find the size of our house overwhelming. However, it’s new spare (not sparse) look is a lot easier to take. I read your book for the first time a few weeks before the fire. Hubby read it after. You have helped us more than you know. Thank you for that.

    • Lisa says

      Lisa C. so glad no one was hurt in your house fire! that was scary enough, but then I read about the gators and snakes!! I am slowly but surely becoming minimalist but the problem I have is that my husband is an “acquisitor”….He likes lots of storage sheds to put his stuff in..stuff that he never or rarely uses..some of it quite expensive! frustrating…

  11. mel k says

    Just like most things in life, timing is everything. When you are ready for a minimalist lifestyle, you’ll know it. We just purchased a 650 square foot apt in Cape May Nj, but there are only 2 of us. We are downsizing from 2000 squae feet. We are looking forward to more beach time, more walking and bike riding.Timing is everything.

  12. says

    We recently moved for my husband’s job promotion. New state, new area, new house. Overall much less cost of living than where we had been living, so we could have really upgraded our lifestyle if we choose… and so we did. We decided to buy a smaller home for our family of six, even though we could have afforded bigger, our goal was to actually enjoy the fruits of our labor. We wanted to truly experience the benefit of my husband’s promotion and our hard work and savings, to actually feel those accomplishments by living with less than we could have desired, but not less than we need. In our new home and new life here, we are much less stressed. The payments and upkeep are less, the distance between every nook and corner our children may want retreat to is less, the time it takes to find lost things is less, and life is just more blessed. You and your blog were in part, the inspiration for our decision. Now after four months, we couldn’t be happier. So thank you. Keep this good stuff coming!

  13. Charsyk says

    We live in a 1400sqft five of us and it’s great! Open airy happy living …. Working on minimalising but sensible about our acquisitions too. Our kids appreciate what we have and they have slowly started to learn to choose quality over quantity. A great lesson if you ask me!

  14. Cynthia Ferguson says

    My house is 737 sure feet plus it has a 737 square foot basement. I raised 6 children in this house. I also had a 12 child daycare here. We built three bedrooms in the basement for a total of 5 bedrooms. There is one bathroom. Try that with 5 daughters;) We have had a very nice life in this house. Right now there are three adults and 5 children living here. Life is good.

  15. Tom C says

    The article lists all the sensible reasons for a smaller house. But it’s the sensation of a smaller house that is what has made us so pleased with the change.
    Our previous house was 3800+ sf. It had huge rooms, with an almost cathedral-like great room. It was awe-some, as in everyone who visited it was awed. The kitchen was equally big, with a long center island with a bar overhang. The bedroom was so large that the only way to see the TV from the bed was to get something 42″ or larger.
    We felt small in all that space. Perhaps if we had a big family, full of bustling life all the time, that space might have been lively. But with just two people, the space itself could almost create a feeling of emptiness.
    Now that we’re in a smaller space we feel a bit more alive and relevant. It’s not cramped in any way (it’s still 2500+ sf), but the walls aren’t so far away, and the hallways aren’t so long. We can see and hear each other when we’re in different rooms. And although it might just be that we’ve used warmer colors and more wood, but the house just feels physically warmer and more comfortable. And for us, that’s the real benefit of moving to a smaller house.

  16. Jan says

    Smaller homes are great for people who are retired. They want to travel or garden and it is just enough. We have 1200 sq.ft.now “love it ” but with a family we had 2400 sq ft. So it may not be for the young family

  17. Adriane says

    We (husband, 8-year old son, and I) sold our 1600 sq. ft. house; used the money to pay off ALL debt (car, student loans). We have saved more in 7 months living in 800 sq ft apartment than in 7 years living in a not-huge house. We have saved enough that I will leave my job to spend more time with my son and start my own microbusiness. This would not have been possible without our downsizing and move to minimalism. We love all the time we spend together and NO maintenance!!!

  18. Stephanie says

    We bought a smaller house so we could buy closer to the centre of the city, where my husband works. Short commute = more time the kids get to spend with Dad, and less stress for Dad too, which to us is more important than a bigger house! :-)

  19. Jennifer says

    I not so sure downsizing is just for older people. We are currently downsizing from a 4,300 sq. ft house to just at 2,000 with 4 kids – full size kids – 10 to 17! It is only a 3 bedroom, 2 bath home, but I am managing to give everyone personal/private space. Even the kids are looking forward to it because it means less cleaning!

  20. Jens Pfeifer says

    In the past one of my wishes was owning a house. Today, the thought alone of owning a house (no matter if small or big) which I live in myself (instead of e. g. renting it to others) makes me shiver. It’s just such a waste of money and energy. I’m not a minimalist (yet), but I’m trying. And owning a house is certainly not on my todo list at the moment.

  21. Renee says

    3 years ago we sold our 2000+ sq ft home with 3 acres and bought a home in town that is less than 1000 sq ft. We love it! It’s the best decision we have ever made. I can clean this house top to bottom in about 2 hours, I have a lot more time for my family, and I was able to leave my job to stay home. Our house payments went from $1400 a month to $88 a month…yes, $88 a month. Needless to say, property taxes are no where near what they were and neither are the utility bills and insurance. This may not be the choice for everyone, but it was the right choice for us.

  22. says

    We downsized with our children recently, and this post does give a clear look into how it changed our lives. Although we began for financial reasons, we now are enjoying the smaller space so much so that we will not go back to a large home again. We were a very tight knight family when this began, and it is still that way.

    I grew up in a 2500 sq. ft. house with six children. We did share rooms, and are all still close today. It was not perfect, but I love being a part of a large family.

    I think the most important thing is to live how you want to live and if you learned something from Joshua and his mom than it was well worth your time.

  23. says

    Yes, I agree, but it depends on how big is the family and how small is the house. It’s not good to be big, but if it’s overcrowded it’s better for the house to be a little big bigger.

Sites That Link to this Post

  1. Being a Minimalist | August 9, 2010
  2. Smaller Home Happier Life | September 7, 2010
  3. And Cue Contentment | | May 24, 2013

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