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.

      • Kelley says

        I don’t think Joshua is “judging” anyone, but rather just pointing out some potential reasons why people buy big and why they may want to consider buying smaller.

    • 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).

        • Adele says

          If extended family, friends and hospitality are important to you, then considering visitors when you plan a house is not unreasonable. I see these very small houses which are fine for the intended family but would be awkward to have dinner guests, let alone sleepovers.

          I like the idea of not having too much space or too many belongings but being hospitable to others is important to me too. This doesn’t necessarily mean a dedicated visitors room, but a reasonable sized dining table and room to throw down some mattresses on the floor out of the walkway would be essential for my family.

          • Elisabeth says

            We love accommodating guests, too, but I have been really into tiny houses now and found a solution that my husband and I are really excited about. We would turn a shed into a guest house, maybe even with a composting toilet (since our main home would only have one bathroom). That way, we are not heating and cooling extra space every day that we don’t need, and when guests stay, they have plenty of privacy. Our other plan is to move into a cohousing community we like, they have guest rooms you can reserve for guests for “free” (obviously you pay through your regular HOA fees).

      • Sandy says

        We had six kids and two adults in 1000sq ft. Three bedrooms. With one bathroom. 1942 size closets. Original kitchen cabinets, which means, like, 2 drawers and four cabinets. Everything you said is soooo spot-on. We ARE very close but some bickering or frustration could have been avoided easily with some space to retreat or relax. And it drove me crazy trying to keep things clean and not worn out. Thank you for commenting.

      • Angie says

        Devrie, you are absolutely right. I am experiencing every one of those frustrations. People talk about clutter like a family of six just have a lot of junk. We use our stuff. Six people even with a minimal wardrobe have a lot of clothes. Six active people with hobbies and interests have a lot of supplies and equipment. We have a disabled person in our home who needs large pieces of equipment that eat up space. Blank space is soothing to the eye. It is nearly impossible to have blank space with a family of six in a small house. And I can never have nice floors cause every space in the house is high traffic. Small might be nice for some people, but it’s not for everyone.

    • Mary says

      Yes yes yes. I grew up with 6 people in a 1500 square foot, 3 bedroom, 1 bath home and it was miserable. It was genuinely dreadful every single day, I swore I would live in a mansion alone once I got older. The stuff, the noise, no privacy, the chaos! Funniest part of it is that now in my late twenties i am a minimalist and tiny space enthusiast. Why you ask? Our house as children was filled to the brim with junk and too many people (for me personally) !!! We cleaned non stop and decluttered daily. Everyone wanted to keep their own stuff and it was terrible. – the key is having less stuff, not less space. But when you have less stuff you can easily have less space. Now, I live in a studio apartment with my significant other and I feel as if I live in a palace… Because we own so few items… Less people, less stuff, less stress, more space, more happiness.

      • Christina Nelson says

        Having had 7 kids age 3 to 17 in a 1500 sq ft house with 3 bdrs and a bonus room, living room and eat in kitchen I can only say I thought I was losing my mind. Yes .. I it was fun sometimes, but older kids and parents, have very different requirements for privacy and space than the 4 kids under 7. There was no place at all to escape. I expect as y’all’s kids grow up, either you’re going to demand more space or those kids will be spending a lot of time at their friends homes.

      • Katie says

        It’s interesting what people think of as miserable. I grew up in a family of five in about 1000 sq feet. Three small bedrooms, one bath, tiny closets, not a lot of money. I never thought we were poor or that the space was terribly cluttered. 1500 sq feet sounds like a palace. Full disclosure- dad, the only male, put a concrete shower and a toilet in the garage when we reached the teen years because he could never get in the bathroom. :-)

        • Chris says

          I was thinking the exact same thing. We are a family of 5 and lived in an 800sq/ft house for almost a decade. Infact, we JUST moved and what prompted that was converting the second closet into a crib for our youngest… 1500sq/ft sounds like a dream to me.

  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.

    • Bonni says

      I’ll buy it off you….lol! I need somewhere to hang my wet towel and all the clothes I want to wear once more before laundry day……

  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?

    • Amy says

      Our realtor was so excited when we walked into the house we ended up purchasing. He kept repeating over and over “I wish we (his family) still lived in a small house, now we end up spending so much time apart”. It really made a big impact on me. I love my house but I also wish I could shrink it down in some places that we really just don’t need as much space. If it wasn’t so expensive to build a house we would go that route with a MUCH smaller house built to our liking and design.

      • Josie says

        I am moving from a 1700 square foot house I inhabited alone, to a 750 sf house. Both houses are rentals as I moved to this city about a year ago and am still settling in before I buy. My goal in this process is not only to save funds for a down payment ( the smaller house rents for a few hundred less per month) but also to test what I want and need both in a neighborhood and a home. I have lived in a small home before as a single, and do not remember any complaints aside from the occasional inconvenience of having a house guest with one bathroom. But I don’t have guests too often, and my family is very low key and undemanding. It also helps that I love the neighborhood , which is very close to my work and downtown entertainment, dining etc.

    • Rebecca says

      Yes!!!!!!!!!!! There is. Please lead the way and other realtors follow you. People looking to buy a home are vulnerable and often insecure about what their priorities really are. A realtor holds a lot of psychological power and should build a reputation on wielding it well. Best of luck to you!

    • Bonni says

      Good for you! Then, clearly, you have hearts in your eyes and not dollar signs. You are a rare breed of a realtor and deserve to do well with those intentions. We have downsized twice now and are in a small bungalow with no worries of what will happen if the knees wear out. On the weekends when the kids and grand daughters come and visit are interesting but you can make nice conversation while lined up for the one bathroom.

  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?

    • Meg says

      Yes, definitely – around NYC (and the densely populated large suburban towns), small can often be equated with a more expensive purchase price, not less. So, it becomes more of a lifestyle choice than a price-saving one.

  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.

    • mumof4 says

      Yes! I love this comment. We are a family of 6 living in a 675 square foot apartment. 2 bedrooms 1 bath. I just want a better layout and hopefully another bathroom but the square footage is great for us. I too love being close to everybody.
      I grew up in a mansion literally (5,000 sq ft)and when my parents downsized post retirement(1500 sq ft), we grew much closer. My parents admitted that smaller was better and it impacted me greatly so much so that I now know for us large would be 1,000 square feet.

  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

    • mumof4 says

      Love your comment. Agree about the privacy in the bathroom lol. We are a family of 6 in a 675 square foot apartment, 2 bedrooms 1 bath.
      I’d love to hear from you about homeschooling and how your move into a smaller space is coming along. Cheers

  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. ;)

    • mumof4 says

      We are a family of 6 living in a 675 square foot, 2 bedroom, 1 bath apartment. My children’s ages are 11, 8, 5 and 1.
      I love your comment and agree about being close. We are extremely close to each other and living in a small space is the biggest reason I that.

  22. Kim Raulston says

    Great article and I couldn’t agree more but with one exception In relating to an agent convincing them to buy more than they can afford. Yes, I’ll get on my soapbox.

    I’m a realtor and while I understand totally the concept of downsizing and minimizing, which is what I specialize in, I don’t agree in you making a blanket statement that they are convinced by a realtor that they can afford it! The agents out there making a true living and doing an excellent job at it, work very hard at what they do and take great pride in having clients for a lifetime. ( which does not include, by any means, persuading them to buy more than would they can afford.)

  23. angel ramsey says

    I love your site! I’m selling my 1730 sq ft home in Austin and moving home to KS to purchase my great uncle’s home of 852 sq ft. I’m so excited to purge all this clutter. All of the teaspoons you posted are #1 on my list!

    • angel ramsey says

      I love your site! I’m selling my 1730 sq ft home in Austin and moving home to KS to purchase my great uncle’s home of 852 sq ft. I’m so excited to purge all this clutter. All of the reasons you posted are #1 on my list!

  24. Armadillo says

    I read your blog regularly– usually you get positive feedback–amazed at all the defensive nay-sayers this poked. You never specified a size, and immediately, people get defensive that you must mean their situation. Your point is that a smaller house is often overlooked by buyers who have been sold the foolish notion that bigger is better.

    I moved from a moderately large house…to a smaller one….and then to my current one, which since becoming a minimalist, I have found to be entirely beyond what I need.

    As soon as the market recovers and I can sell, I will be moving to a an even smaller place. Who knows…in a few years…maybe one of those “Tiny Houses.” Thanks for speaking the truth–keep the gospel coming. Less is always more.

  25. Allison Faunce says

    What vibrates the most from this entry and from my own experience living in a smaller home, is the closeness you are forced to deal with. We live in a 2 bedroom (1001 sq. ft) home, my husband, myself, and our 2 boys (our bunny and dog as well). Before we bought this home, we had rented various size places from 400 sq ft to 2800 sq ft. We have felt emotionally on top of each other and we have felt isolated from each other, in all size places. However, living in our home now has ensured, we must work together. Yes, our oldest can still slam his bedroom door in anger at his younger brother, but eventually he has to open it because they share that room. We all practiced patience when our little one was potty training and monopolizing the only bathroom. My husband and I learned to talk more calmly to each other for the recognition we can be heard from any part of the house (a great reminder that children are always listening any way). And if we all want to watch a movie together, with only one sofa, it is inevitable some legs and laps will meet. There is certainly many opportunities and comfort in this forced closeness for our family of 4. I ache at the thought, inevitably, there will come a day this home will be too much space for my husband and me.

    • Jen says

      We have lived in the same 1500 s.f. home for the last 20 years. 2 adults, 2 dogs and 4 children in a 4 bedroom, 2 bath duplex that has a family room, laundry room, small living room, dining area and smallish kitchen. No garage; just a 10 x 10 storage shed for tools, mower, etc.
      In this home we ran two businesses from a home office, set up a bench for my husband’s hobby spot, homeschooled all 4 of the kids from K – 12, had lots of sports gear for the kids and a lot of musical equipment. (Several of my kids were in bands, so we had acoustic and electric guitars, amps, drums and recording equipment in the house.) This was also the hang out spot for all of their friends, so we had dozens of other kids here, as well. And my kids are not Munchkins. Although my daughter is of average height, my three boys range from 6’2″ to 6’4″.
      No one ever complained of it feeling crowded, cluttered or messy. (Their own rooms were messy as teenagers, but that was their choice. Community areas like the living room and family room were kept picked up; they knew they were sharing the space and weren’t allowed to leave a mess in those places, nor the kitchen or dining room.) We’ve had Christmas parties here with over 50 people in attendance. Little groups just spill into other rooms and everyone has a blast, with people hanging out in the kitchen, dining room, living room, family room, even a bedroom – sitting on the bed talking. We’ve had mini-concerts in the family room, pushing the furniture out of the way and having a full band set up in one corner, with 20+ kids watching the show, either standing or sitting on the floor. A small home hasn’t kept us from entertaining or opening our doors to our kids’ friends.
      Prior to living here, we were in a three story 2500 s.f. house that had way more space than we needed. When we moved from there into our 1500 s.f., it seemed small at first, but it didn’t take long for us to realize that it was a perfect fit for our family. Now it’s a little more space than we need, with it just being my husband and me living here, but we’re content to stay put. (The duplex is paid for and we have have rental income from the renters on the other side, plus the property is very low maintenance.)
      Living in a smaller home has certainly worked well for us! :)

  26. Carole says

    I’ve always lived in smaller homes (under 1600 sq ft). I’ve never understood what the big deal is. As a society we’ve been brainwashed into believing that bigger is better, even if it’s unnecessary. I’ve got friends who don’t understand how my husband and I can live in such a small house. I don’t understand the need for larger. The larger the space, the more stuff, the more work keeping it all up.

    So many families are disconnected by busy lives, electronics, and living spaces so large they don’t even connect at home.

  27. Carole says

    Oh yes, and I don’t consider 15-1600 sq ft small in the least. A lot of that has to do with the open floor plan, but still, my “tiny” house is quite comfortable. When it comes time to retire we’re talking about downsizing to quite a bit less. Give me a piece of property, an open floor plan, and lots of winows and I’ll be happy.

  28. ralf says

    I shared a room with my younger sister until I was 14. Very extensive bonding aka fights every day. Then we moved to a bigger flat where I had a room for myself. Then our relationship changed.
    Now we are all out and our parents moved to a flat with just one living room and one bedroom. Rented, like all homes before.
    Now, after losing sibling after sibling to cancer and having to clear up their belongings, they start decluttering. Every time I visit I get a heap of their reserves, like teatowels in their original packaging from 30 years ago..

  29. Jane says

    My husband and I are getting our home ready to put on the market and downsize. We have multiple reasons to do this but moving will be difficult as we have 4 acres and will no doubt end up on a “lot”. Currently I have 2 boxes in the living room marked “Goodwill” and “Garage Sale”. Wish us luck!

  30. Michael says

    A couple of months ago we went to an open house to see a smaller home. It was quite a surprising discovery. The house was 1250 sq ft. What made the house so wonderful was that it was divided into 3 living zones. One was a large kitchen with a fireplace, area to dine and have a seating area. Plenty of cabinets and counter space.

    The second area was a large master bedroom, with a great bath and a huge walkin closet. It had room for a nice sitting area as well.

    The third area was a spacious living room with another fireplace and an alcove for an office area and plenty of book cases.

    The house had wonderful, windows with great views and interesting architecture. A wonderful outdoor space and lots of storage. It was in a great neighbourhood with a great park and lots to do.

    What we realized is that it had everything we needed and not any more. It was the spaciousness of the rooms, the interesting architecture, views and light that made the house something special and enough. Being in a community that we loved and wanted to be out in helped too. We didn’t buy it because we were just starting to look and were not ready to strike but after seeing it we have a new perspective and what we really need and figuring out that what we need, if done right could be a joy.

  31. says

    I myself find that 1300-1900 square foot homes are more than adequate for 2 or 3 people and 1900-2300 is more than plenty. I don’t like way to small under 1000 square feet but I don’t like them way too big in excess of 2500 square feet. I deliver pizzas to some people who live in $500,000+ homes. They are very nice and large. Probably over 4000-5000 square feet. Even though I think their gorgeous I ask myself what I would do with a house like that even if I could afford it. It is only me and my brother. I looked at a very nice house the other day. It was $225,000 and had 2,146 square feet. It looked more.than plenty big to me. I guess it all depends on the person when it comes to house size.

  32. Nerida says

    All fine Except for point 12. When the majority follow the mantra bigger is better and buy the biggest you can afford, the bigger market is not going to be the smaller more affordable house.

    I know of a young family who have had their small house (on foundations) on the market for quite some time. It is beautifully presented, with a largish garden but not too big, room for grow your own and a dog and a couple of kids and chickens. It backs on to open fields and is a short walk to a local shopping centre. A lovely wide street and not much traffic.

    It is delightful. A good price, easily affordable by most people who would be looking to buy. So why cant they sell? They are repeatedly told – “It’s too small”.

  33. D says

    This was a good article except one thing that gets me every time. Why put in the list of reasons of why people buy bigger homes is Realtors try to convince you, you can afford it. That is just a false comment. I’m a Realtor and every Realtor I know would never do that. I have done the opposite many times telling my clients they don’t want to be house poor. Yes there are agents just out for themselves but they are few. No different than any other business which has mainly good people and a few bad apples. Ok feel better now :)

  34. Becky says

    All, I SO appreciate finding this blog at THIS moment! Our reasoning for raising a family of 6, plus, pets, in a ‘smaller’ home was because we didn’t want to make all of our memories in a larger home & then ‘down size’ to someplace NOT ‘home’ once the kids moved out.
    We ARE an extremely close family, I believe, at least partially due to the small quarters we have shared, who really appreciates any time we all get together. We even camped for vacations & slept, for 10 years, in a 16×20 tent…I mean, it was just for sleeping & how much room did we need for that & a place to keep our clothes?
    Our last son will go to college this August. Our oldest son is moving out w/ his wife, 2 small daughters & their 2 small pups, after living here for the last year. Our only daughter is moving 5 hours away once she graduates from college. Our 2nd son is on his own. Our parents are all four in their 80’s now.
    While I never thought we’d ever move from here, the neighborhood that was so ideal is ‘decaying’ as it becomes the more ‘affordable’ housing in the area for renters, lower income families. We literally need to sell NOW to get anything out of this home we’ve loved.
    Having had our son & his adorable family here taught us that we can, in fact, live in ‘a couple of rooms’—having been ‘forced’ upstairs to our ‘apartment’ (bedroom, bath, loft and walk-in closets) for sanity’s sake, by the energy of youngsters combined w/ distracted parents.
    We are now 10 years from even thinking about retirement and we have very, very little to support that venture.
    However, what drew me to this blog, my parents have a studio apartment above their wood-working/catch-all/garage ‘shop’ which they built for my dad’s parents 20 yrs ago. No one ever ended up living there, but it is ‘open’, full of light, has high ceilings & is just a tad smaller (because of it’s kitchen) than our space here for the last year.
    I am proposing to my parents that we clean out here, sell all but our simple ‘essentials’ & unload this house; move into their apartment, adjust, then be there for them as they grow to need us more…i.e., chauffeuring my mom to family events up & down the East Coast being my first ‘assignment’ this spring.
    As for a place for incoming family to stay (i.e., my college student for the next four years), my parents have two empty rooms & lots of floor, as well as, couch space.
    My husband & I would be free of a mortgage, could put a LOT more into our IRA’s, attend to our own ‘put off’ health issues; help out in my parents’ 3 acre yard ‘as needed’–doing the yard work still keeps them necessarily/healthfully moving; come & go as we please (w/ built in dog sitters *winkwink*) until we can’t anymore.
    Additionally, my parents get to stay IN their home for as long as is feasible (perhaps another 10, 15-20yrs–they have longevity on their side) thereby saving the family ‘fortune’ rather than spending it on a retirement community. Family will have even MORE reason to visit them on our newly formed ‘compound’!
    I just see this as an awesome opportunity &, again, I am really appreciative of all you had to say about the ‘ins and outs’ of living smaller. Thanks!!

  35. says

    I find the whole concept of a smaller house to be fascinating but also culturally biased. I’m not from the US, unlike the majority of people commenting on this blog. I’ve been fortunate enough to have spent the last decade living in several other English-speaking countries, which aren’t especially dissimilar and where people still bemoan the same first-world problems. Initially the idea of living in these large spacious foreign houses seemed exciting. I mean, who wouldn’t want all that extra space that we would never have afforded in our home country. Then came all the extra stuff we could fill the space with. Well almost – we woke up! In fact, I’m from the UK, where we own a very average-sized 3 bedroom family home of 880 (ish) sq ft. Sure, this might be little on the snug side for our family of 6, but a good whack of the population live in less space, and still marvel at the tiny spaces our Scandinavian neighbours call home. The concepts of ‘family rooms’, ‘rumpus rooms’, ‘basements’, ‘laundry rooms’ and ‘dens’ are almost completely alien in much of Europe. Many people don’t have a separate dining room, extra bathrooms or a study and their washing machines live under the kitchen workbench (or in the bathroom in parts of Europe). It’s not because they’ve deliberately chosen to live ‘small’ !

  36. Gail S. says

    While, I would personally not be comfortable raising a family of four or more in a smallish home, for a single person or a couple, it is great. Furthermore, the demographic shift towards more single households in the future will not only make smaller homes such as 2 BR 1 Bath more desirable, but I believe those homes will appreciate more on a percentage basis than larger homes. Based on trends, in 10-15 years and beyond we will have more seniors living either singly or in pairs as well as more unmarried individuals living alone compared to today. Smaller homes will be at a premium. In the meantime, enjoy living small.

  37. Lisa says

    In 4 days my husband and I are leaving our home of 20 years where we raised our 2 kids. It is a 4 bedroom, 3 1/2 bath home on a 1/2 acre with an in-ground pool surrounded by way too much landscaping, a stone patio, deck, and screen room. About a year ago I started thinking that life was just too difficult. Traveling 1 – 1 1/2 hour each way to work 5 days a week and then spending the entire weekend cleaning, cutting the lawn, weeding the gardens, to finally run out and grab some dinner at 8pm completely exhausted. Life has to be better than this. We needed to get rid of lots of things and downsize. We realized we really only need a kitchen, family room, bedroom, and bathroom, because that is really all we ever use. So, we started cleaning out and decided we would encourage each other to get rid of anything we really didn’t need. We have sold this house and bought a townhouse about 1/2 way between the old house and work. All the work to get to this point has been exhausting, but I definitely see a better life ahead. Lately, I am a little sad to leave all that we have built, so I get on the internet and read blogs about “have less, live more”, “downsizing”, and “living simply” to make myself remember why I started the whole process in the first place. I can’t wait to spend my evenings and weekends doing fun things or just relaxing.

  38. says

    This has been a truly interesting read for me! Me and my husband are discussing moving into a smaller home at the moment to cut back our expenses and hopefully starting to save more and it’s been helpful to read this. Thank you so much!

  39. Someone says

    Same advice:

    I went from small, to large and now I am moving back to small again in just under 3 months. I regret trying to get a bigger house. I feel like a stranger in my own big house. Very awkward, and soon I will move again to a smaller apartment. I love the cozy apartment I once had. Don’t fall for the lie! bigger isn’t always better!

  40. Andrea Hjerpe says

    I’m sorry but this is the most absolute poverty stricken mentality article that I have ever read! If you happen to be single for the rest of your life or if you do happen to get married and only you and your spouse have adopted living arrangements like this, than this will work just fine. However if you have 4 kids like my husband and I do (and we plan to have more, don’t ask why because it’s none of your business) the tiny house strategy would never work for us or anyone else that have more than 3 children. This “small house” theory is a complete fallacy and closely parallels to a communism method that is disruptive to your family, your community but more importantly yourself. Living in crammed living conditions causes many mental health issues as well as other physical ailments that you would not want you or your family to experience. Sorry Joshua Becker but you did not think this through at all!

  41. Xtatic to Downsize says

    Great article. My wife and I have 2 boys (7 and 6) and currently live in a 1780 sqf cookie cutter suburban house. It has a huge (by So Cal standards) back yard. We thought it was our dream house when we moved in 10 yrs ago, after moving up from our ‘starter’ 1000 sqf 3br 1ba house built in 1922, to start our family. 10 yrs later, we find ourselves ‘house rich and cash poor’. We both earn healthy salaries, but aren’t able to really enjoy it since we’re debt strapped and waste a bunch of money every month cooling our place and maintaining the huge yard. We’ve also come to the realization that we really don’t like where we live.

    So, we’re selling the house, paying off our debt and looking at a smaller 1300 sqf house (1920 bungalow) withing close walking distance of a quaint downtown area. Seems like plenty of size for a family of 4, given what some other posters have been raised in. We’re done with big (and our current house isn’t even ‘that’ big). Can’t wait to get rid of all the crap we don’t need either. And extra vacation money. Downsize, ftw.

  42. Fiona Cee says

    I am stuck in a 4 bedroom home that cannot be sold otherwise the other half share will be swallowed up as a bond for residential care, but the MINUTE i can sell, i will.

    only need a 2 bedroom place and maybe a study/small area for computer/office.

    And room for a pet, pref. cat, maybe small dog as well.

    but for now, am living larger than i need or want. and stuck with a mortgage as well. small but still a nuisance.

    yay, go small where you can!

  43. Grateful granny says

    Retired early and moved to a small town to be nearer married children. Currently have a 880 sq. ft. house with a basement and large garage (currently storing a ski boat for one kid) and my Fit “fits” nicely in the other half. Double bed for me, single in the guest/office and a futon/sofa in the living room that converts to a double bed. Can easily accommodate a family of 4 overnight; the parents in my room, kids in the guest room (with a mattress on the floor) and I take the futon in the living room b/c I am an early riser and can have coffee and breakfast ready when the oth ers wake up. Open concept kitchen/living room so the house appears much larger than it actually is. One bathroom -large. Raised 2 kids in a 1200 sq. ft. home with one bathroom. Everyone showered at night to keep bathroom time to a minimum in the am. Never a problem. We have been accustomed to everything on our schedule -just the way we want it-now; With a little consideration and planning you can make anything work. Europeans have lived for years in tiny apartments. Their community/cafes are their living rooms. Perhaps we could learn something from them.

  44. M.C. says

    Love grows best in little houses,
    With fewer walls to seperate.
    When you eat and sleep so close together,
    You can’t help but communicate.
    And if we had more room between us,
    Think of all we’d miss.
    Love grows best
    In houses just like this.

    To each his own, but I love raising my family in out little home. Less stress, more living.

  45. says

    I love the idea of a small house, but as a committed urban dweller, it’s not like you can just set one up in a park. I hate the thought of living someone rural. The largest percentage of real estate expense is the land. I’ll stick with my 1200 s.f. condo on the 4th floor in the middle of the city.

  46. Lizzie Hough says

    Didn’t read all the comments but my synapses is this: You HAVE to always consider your needs and and personality and needs of others. Bob and I presently live in a comfortably small, one bedroom home but it is only comfortable when we are here alone or better yet, when one of us is here alone. I jokingly tell my husband his “private space” envelopes our whole 930 sq. feet….Maybe it is bad design but there is no “private” area where we can just get away from one another.
    Also, we have five grown children and 9 grandchildren. Let me tell you, it is mayhem when we gather for Thanksgiving. If our old house was not still standing and available to house our extended family, they would not come home very often. That means I would be gone a lot more!!!
    Bob had to share a bunk house with three brothers..just enough room for two full size beds and shelves to hold their minimal clothing. They all, in their own way, resented that minimalism. I, on the other hand, was blessed to have a room of my own (from age 12 up). It was wonderful as prior to age 12 I had to share space with my sister. When we finally had our own rooms, hers was all bright yellow, orange and red and mine was white, blue, purple and cool. Our personalities simply did not work well in the same space.
    So basically I am saying, minimalism should always consider the personalities that are sharing the space. Otherwise, resentment can breed just as well there as in a mansion!

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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