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 is the result.

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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  1. Leah says

    Small is wonderful, but I don’t think you can determine what is small for each person or family by square footage alone. My parents lived with five kids in a one bath, three tiny bedroom house for four years and while we managed, it was miserable. We moved into a medium sized house with 2.5 baths and four bedrooms and added a sixth child. That house was big for some people but just perfect for us. It varies on whether your kids are older or babies, etc. so I think each person and family should just take stock of what allows them to live reasonably and joyfully without placing their whole loves and happiness in “stuff”.

    • says

      Our family of four just moved into a 700 square foot home this spring. I love living small for all the reasons you mentioned. I think the key to living in small spaces is to have good storage solutions. Our house has no space for any extra stuff which means anything that is seasonal (clothes, camping gear, sports equipment) is stored in our shipping container.

    • June says

      Well said, I so agree with your statement, “I think each person and family should just take stock of what allows them to live reasonably and joyfully without placing their whole loves and happiness in “stuff”. While I appreciate many points in this article and I personally feel more peaceful and less stressed living with less, I cannot take stock nor decide for others what is too big or reasonable for them. More importantly, to assume the reasons they may live in a larger home are based purely on vanity, unintelligent decisions or not wanting to be a close and loving family as was suggested in this article would negate the peace I am trying to create. Judging others in that way is a sign that maybe someone is not honestly happy with what they have (or don’t have) if they need put down how/why/where others choose to live. I personally think that’s a negative way to live and think and defeats the purpose of trying to live minimally. Physically things are not the only “things” that can weight us down if we don’t/can’t let them go.

    • Devrie says

      I definitely depends on family size, location, and income. My family lives in a rural area in an 1100 sq ft home with a teenager, a 5 year old and 3 year old. We all share the living room, dining room, kitchen and one bathroom. It’s not easier to keep clean, especially with sticky hands and care-free people tossing things about in the same spot. There’s a lot of wear and tear that happens more often due to the constant demand of all five of us frequently using the same spaces.

      A smaller home is relatively subjective. A three person family moving from a 3000 sq ft home to a 2000 sq ft home is definitely downsizing, but if we’re talking about really small homes…1000 to 1500 sq ft, then…

      5 reasons not to get a smaller home:

      1. A much smaller space could eliminate privacy for people. We all need our own space at some point in the day, and while shared spaces are wonderful for family connections, we sometimes want to watch our own shows, read a book or do school work with few interruptions.

      2. A smaller home may be easier to maintain in terms of big things (like roof repairs and painting), but a if too many people are constantly using the same spaces, things wear out much more quickly.

      3. A smaller space might make family visits from out of state a little awkward when there is zero space to let them sleep.

      4. A smaller home can become much more cluttered more quickly, not looking as clean as one imagines less home to clean might look. So even if you scrub the tile grout and wash behind the toilet diligently, scattered toys, mail, books, homework, coats, shoes, handbags and gifts from family can easily become overwhelming, especially when rooms are so small that people don’t want to haul the stuff to their small private spaces. Not to mention, regular cleaning, if left unchecked for even a week, of walls, grout, etc. can very quickly look pretty gross in high traffic areas (which are pretty much in the entire house if the house is small).

      5. A smaller home can be less inviting for daily visits from friends and neighbors, especially when shared spaces such as living rooms are shared by all.

      • Meridith says

        I like the way Susan Susanka put is: a “Not so big” house. A well laid out house. So much of why people move isn’t because they need so much more room, but that they need a house designed for the way they really live. We will likely sell our condo and move in five years or so, not because we truly need so much more space but because this place is impossible to renovate into what we really need without spending as much as the condo itself is worth. We won’t be looking for a drastically bigger house, but a house that will fit our family better.

        Cramming a family into a house that doesn’t fit regardless of how little stuff you own is no fun, whether it is space or outdated design causing the problem. On the other hand, cleaning six bathrooms and taking double mortgages and working two jobs each just to afford it is ridiculous also. I think you also have to watch for design that isolates instead of brings family together. Everyone needs to be able to get away for some privacy, but a house for a family also needs really appealing places to gather where everyone can be together, cooking, eating, doing puzzles, helping with homework, talking out conflicts and laughing. My condo lacks that, which is why I feel it needs to go.

      • Andrea says

        I disagree with all of your points. Common areas are going to need more maintenance no matter what the size of your house is. For example, if you have a larger home, you may have an additional family room that doesn’t see a lot of traffic. However, what is the point of that room then?

        Your argument about having friends and family over isn’t really a reason to live in a larger home, either, unless those things are truly very important to you. I didn’t purchase my home with my family and friends in mind…My home is for me, my husband, and my child to live in.

        Clutter shouldn’t be an issue, either. A smaller home forces you to only own what you need and love. A larger home = more clutter (it’s just spread out in a larger space).

  2. tracey says

    Four years ago we moved from a 3500′ house in Montana to a 2100′ in AZ. Other than my son’s small bedroom the rest of the living space is workable, though I do miss having large rooms. Storage is another issue. This is the first place I have lived that had neither basement nor attic storage. This year I have been working hard on doing a good purge. it will take the full year, maybe two but as we have less stuff the house feels better.
    It is not just the size that matters but how it is laid out and utilized as well. this year I finally figured out how to configure our open floor plan living room/dining room into a play area with storage and a combined living/dining area that we now use daily as opposed to twice a year. And though this house is smaller it is more work and money to maintain. Stucco vs brick, a pool, pulling weeds out of rocks vs a quick mow etc. When we buy our forever retirement home I will be a lot smarter in knowing what to look for as to ease of life!

  3. says

    Love this post and the reasons listed, mirroring what I hear around our house over the last couple of months since moving into a significantly smaller home in our same neighborhood. Best move we’ve ever made, don’t miss anything about the big “dream” house we sold. Redefining what the dream is, and it’s about less which allows for more.

  4. Brink Brink says

    Raised 2 boys in 1,100 square feet with one bath. It was okay. Transfers kept us renting small condos until we retired 18 months ago. Bought a 3,000 square foot home. Finally we can have a real dining room, 2 living areas,,,,important for retired folks such as us who like some solitude. We each have our own bath. It’s heaven!! Housing size depends on peoples needs,,,,,,whether they still have kids at home or are retired and need their own space at times.

    • Jen says

      These points absolutely apply to living in an RV. My spouse and I (both retired) are getting a 24′ Class C and living in it fulll time. Who needs stuff when you have this whole beautiful country before you?

  5. ralf says

    The largest home I ever lived in had about 75 square meters. 4 rooms plus kitchen and bath. 2 parents, 2 kids. Plus a bit of basement for the preserves, tools and 4 bicycles.

  6. Katie says

    We moved from a large sprawling farmhouse to a small craftsman-type bungalow. Yes, storage was a big issue at first. After six months of unpacked boxes stored at other people’s houses we realized we didn’t even know what we were missing and we donated all of it. LOVE LOVE LOVE our small house!! Easy (not to mention much, much cheaper) to heat, easy to clean, and we know where everything is. We even use it all! We have a room that is a combination study/tv/music room that has an extra bed so we can have overnight guests – our grown kids or other friends. Unlike our last house, this one even has two full bathrooms, so no waiting. I would never go back to a big house.

  7. Alex Cavelli says

    I am a Realtor. It’s a conflict for me when I see a family of 3 looking at 3,500 square foot houses right down the street from where they currently live. You really wonder “Buy why?” (Answers are above)

    Yes, the universe is indifferent and I never try to convince anyone against their beliefs. What I really want to say is, “when you stop trying to define your growth by your external circumstances and possessions and instead start focusing on the internal, then who needs a big house? Who needs a big anyTHING?”

    I’d love to build my real estate business around helping people pare down their possessions, move into smaller homes, and focus on what really matters. I’d love to do this BEFORE they become “too weak to use the steps.” Is there a market for that?

  8. Kate says

    I live in a 3000 sq.ft. house with my husband and 3 kids, with another soon on the way. I read a lot of these articles because I often feel like our house is too big. (Though most friends/family think our house is just fine for a family of 6.) But in the area of CA where we live, (as with most urban/suburban areas in CA) to move to a smaller house, would mean moving to a more urban city center= more EXPENSIVE house. I would imagine this would be the case in other urban areas, ie. NYC. Does anyone else find this to be true where they live?

  9. Michelle says

    I would love to share this as I am an advocate of small homes. However, I am also a Realtor and won’t share something that mentions my profession in a negative light. We cannot convince someone to buy something they don’t want. It’s not an impulse purchase.

  10. Jamie says

    Our family of 8 have been living in an 800 sq. ft. bungalow for almost 2 years and we love it! It has 3 bedrooms and 1 bath. We are currently putting in a 2nd bathroom in the basement (5 of our 6 kids are teens!). I think the biggest reason we love it is because of the social interaction. We have lived in bigger homes and I always felt so far away from everyone. There are moments that each of us wish we had our ‘own’ space, but overall the pros greatly outweigh the cons.

  11. Mark says

    the girlfriend and I have lived in a basement for 9 years whilst saving for a deposit for a house to start a family. I was a master of condensing and getting rid of anything not useful or taking up precious space.
    We now live in a 4 bed semi detached home with large garden front and rear. Driveway for two vehicles and a garage. Whilst we lived minimally previously. Our home is a vast space. Which we thoroughly enjoy with simple decor in a room.
    I agree with a smaller home and benefits. However the space and peace we both find is beautiful. Our wellbeing is significantly better.

    Shall keep you posted on future children…..
    Kent England

  12. says

    As a South Dakotan, I would love to know where you vacation in our fine state!

    My four-person family lives in the old wooden granary on our farm, which we converted into a home five years ago. It’s something around 1,500 square feet–technically a four-bedroom, but the bedrooms are small. I figure that forces people into the central living spaces more. Most of the time the house works great–when it’s not working great, I know we’ve brought too much stuff in the house, and it’s time to get things out. Careful thought to storage is important. The small space also encourages us to get outside more–when the kids get too rambunctious, outside they go. Even in winter in South Dakota. :)

  13. Becky says

    We downsized by half and I love it! Also, I’m a realtor and I don’t convince people to buy outside their means, so I’m not sure what that’s about, but ouch.

  14. Victoria Gibson says

    We have a family of seven and are in the process of downsizing. Right now our home is 1800 sq. ft and takes forever to clean. Since we have wood heat in the living room/kitchen (that’s all the heat we have) we all have taken to sleeping in the living room. I’ve sorted and donated and thrown out til all of our ‘stuff’ fits into that one room. The kids are happy because we don’t take all day to clean the house, I’m happy to declutter, and my hubs is happy to come home to a clean and peaceful home every night. We plan to move to a smaller home of our own with around 1000 sq. Ft or less. It’s doable with a big family, just depends how willing you are to declutter, and how close the family is. Since I homeschool the kids, we are very close and don’t mind all staying in the same room together. Privacy? That’s what the bathroom is for. Lol

  15. Greg Sweatt says

    My wife and I built our own house using a lot of recycled materials. We built a 3000 square foot energy efficient house. We couldn’t live much cheaper than we do! My wife would very much like to live in the heart of Denver but it would cost us much more for a smaller space and I would have to give up my workspace. I am an artist and need my studio and workshop. a condo would be an option but I don’t think I could run my bandsaw and not disturb the neighbors. by the way we built for around 15 dollars a square foot.

  16. Judith says

    I always want to be in a small house, but I do want bigger than I have. My husband and I have lived in apartments from 600 sqft to 900 sqft but we also living in Canada, where last year we had over 7 months of snow. Indoor space is needed to stay sane in the long winter. And the fact that my family all lives more than two days driving away means we need to have a guest room, because giving up our room for my parents and sleeping in the living room gets old fast. I would like to live small, and the minimalist life will always inform how much stuff I have, but buying a small place for dream reasons is just as bad as buying a big place when it comes to your happiness in life. It is different for every person, every family.

  17. Mary Beth Elderton says

    Hubz and I downsized to a very small home (with a basement.) We only have room for one guest to sleepover, but we save more on the electric bill alone in a year than it costs to put occasional guests in a nearby hotel. As for decorating, a much smaller space means I can go up in luxury and durability with better quality cabinets, counter tops, window treatments, even door hardware for the same or less money than it takes to do a mediocre job on a bigger space.

  18. Zennifer says

    We wanted a smaller home. We really did. I studied Tiny homes and small homes for several years. We were in a new duplex on 1/10 acre. It sucked.

    Here’s a problem: wanting to not be too close to neighbors! When you picture yourself in a small home, don’t you picture it in nature? With privacy? And lots of outdoor living space? I do.

    I pictured a cute home on an acre or more. There are virtually none of those! And to build one new is NOT cheap at all. We looked into it.

    It’s all housing developments here, or older neighborhoods where homes are still pretty close, maybe right next to each other sharing noise and tacky decorating. Or parking boats, trucks, etc. near your front yard.

    And many older, smaller homes have big problems: wet basements, old plumbing, ancient kitchens. If it’s small but great quality, and you have some peace and quiet, awesome! Where is THAT house?

    We gave up and bought a large home on 1/3 acre in a development. We are very happy here. The views are beautiful, the street is quiet. Couldn’t find a small home with a big yard in the woods. So instead of more outdoor space we have more indoor space. We are 5 min. from a park with a lake and beach.

  19. Tina says

    6 months ago my husband and I moved from a 1800′ home down to a 500′. We absolutely loved it for all of the reasons listed in the article. We moved for all of the reasons listed as well. We do live on 10 acres and have never been happier. We work on the property so I discontinued our gym membership. We use well water so the only utility is our electricity which has been running $85 a month! We talk more and snuggle on the couch. We do have a small loft that has a bed just in case we have a overnight guest. I am waiting for winter to set in to see if I will go “the shinning” on my husband!

    • Rachelle Loven says

      We moved into a smaller cottage house a year ago. Still making some adjustments when we have company but at those times we live life in a crowded place together. Fortunately we do have bedrooms on all levels for those holiday moments. Although we are just 60ish, we decided to move into a retirement home early so we could make it ours while we still could enjoy that renovation process. Everything we need in on one level. The first things we did was to do the plumbing and electrical work to put the washer and dryer in a closet on the first level. Amazing!

  20. Haley says

    My husband and I are in the process of purchasing a 1200 square foot bungalow, and although we are in our early thirties, we couldn’t be more thrilled at the prospect of “downsizing.” Our previous home was more than twice the size both in acreage and square footage, plus it came with a pool. For the two of us, we didn’t need all of that. In exchange, we are getting a house within walking distance to great schools, the library, train, downtown, and minutes away from awesome bike paths. Those are experiences and opportunities we never would have had in our more traditional neighborhood.

  21. Lina says

    We bought a 3 bedroom 2 bath (1 bath is in the basement) 1000 sf house (with a 1000 sf basement) in ’06 before the housing market tanked. This is the first year our home value almost equals what we owe. I never planned on staying in this home, but life happens and our family grew (both two & four legged) and job situations have changed.

    I now love our “low” mortgage payment. This has allowed us to payoff debt, build an emergency fund, and focus on saving for retirement. Every time I start snooping around realtor sites I ask myself how much more I want to pay. We could comfortably afford another $500 towards a mortgage but I then think about what else I could do with that money. Retirement, college fund, or even paying extra on our current mortgage’s principle are ways that, seem to me, are better use of that money.

    With baby #2 on the way, so many people have asked when we plan to move because *they* can’t possibly imagine having a family of four in a small house. When I tell them we have no plans to move, they are shocked. Making room for #2 was simple for us since we decided to purge the house and live clutter free when #1 was on her way. We tossed, sold, and donated anything we were not using, could live without, or didn’t need. It was hard to part with some things but I don’t miss, nor remember, most of the stuff we got rid of.

    Since we routinely make sure toys are put away after use and the sink is clear of dishes each evening, I can quickly clean (dust, mop, and sanitize) my entire house in about 2 hours a week.

    I like that our family is close together and I am within earshot of my kid(s) rooms. This will be especially nice whey they become teens and start dating. ;)

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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