10 ways a smaller home will make us happier

Published February 3, 2016   Posted in How to Think

Fresh off of our report on Claudia and Garrett’s transition into a smaller home, I’m ripe with enthusiasm over the clear and convincing benefits of maintaining a much smaller dwelling than you might think you “need”.

Pinterest: 10 ways a smaller home will make us happierNote: This article also appeared over on our companion blog, Power of 10.

With an average home size of over 2600 square feet, our homesteads are becoming monsters. Huge liabilities that need to be properly funded to maintain. Maybe there’s a better way.

As many of my readers know, my wife and I plan to move into a 200 square foot RV later this year, and I am convinced that a much smaller dwelling will flat out make us happier, and here is why.

Why a smaller home will make us happier

1. Smaller homes are less expensive to purchase – Clearly, the smaller the home, the less expensive it will be compared to an equally furnished home of a larger size in the same area. Cheaper homes help to minimize our debt, keeping more money in our own pockets rather than funneled towards the bank. Don’t forget a much lower tax and insurance burden, too.

2. Smaller homes force us to downsize – Let’s face it, getting rid of stuff can be tough – both physically and especially mentally (“But I might need this!”). Smaller homes have a way of forcing the process of becoming much more discriminating with the things we keep.

3. Smaller homes are much easier to maintain – Imagine spending 10 minutes cleaning your entire house. That’s it, 10 minutes. In our 200 sqft house, that’ll be about the time it’ll take every week to keep it clean. Our current home takes nearly 20 minutes just to clean the floors alone, and we live in a 1600 sqft house…far smaller than the average.

4. Smaller homes use less energy to heat and cool – Beyond the cost savings alone of heating and cooling smaller abodes, the environmental impact of smaller living is truly profound. Smaller homes take fewer resources to build (less wood and metal, etc) and are far simpler to heat and cool through smaller air conditioners and furnaces, less complex duct systems and generally more energy-efficient appliances.

5. Smaller homes are much easier to organize – My wife is a big-time organizer, but the bigger the house, the more difficult and time-consuming it is to find the right place for all of our things. Smaller homes store less stuff, and the less stuff we have to store, the easier it becomes to find the perfect place for everything around the house. It may also encourage us to be a little more creative with our storage options.

6. Smaller homes maximize our urban experience – Depending on the city, urban living can be expensive. Space is at a premium in metropolitan areas and grabbing our slice of property can be both tough and pricey. But, smaller living spaces enable cheaper living in busy communities, enabling many of us to live closer to work and live without a car. Check out some of these beautiful New York micro apartments.

7. Smaller homes improve work/life flexibility – Spending less money on your home improves your ability to pick and chose your work much more freely. While larger and more expensive homes may require more stressful and high paying jobs, maintaining a much less expensive dwelling allows many of us to live a more balanced work / life relationship by avoiding the trap created by high-income lifestyles.

8. Smaller homes are often smarter homes – The smaller the home, the less space that can be wasted. There are some incredibly ingenious techniques that smaller homes use to provide the same luxury as larger abodes while using a fraction of the energy and space. Think built-in storage units, fold-down beds, furniture that doubles as storage options and movable staircases. Check out this tiny house tour for an example.

9. Maintenance and renovations on smaller homes are less stressful – Replace your roof on the typical 2600 square foot home and you’re easily looking at several thousand dollars. For that matter, any exterior maintenance or home renovation will come with a much less expensive price tag with smaller homes, and a small enough home might even allow you to tackle the job yourself, even if you aren’t exactly a handyman!

10. Smaller homes improve quality of life – By definition, smaller homes bring people together by the way of their reduced square footage. We humans tend to gravitate towards cozy spaces. They bring a smile to our face as we enjoy our time spent enveloped in warm, small and well-designed rooms. Our brains want big, but our hearts appreciate the small.

What say you? Do you think a smaller home will make YOU happier?

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29 responses to “10 ways a smaller home will make us happier”

  1. Yes! This is such a timely post. I absolutely love real estate and must continue to remind myself that our small home is the best home. Oftentimes I get dazzled by the grandiose abode on the wooded lot, until I start running the numbers. Then the anxiety sets in and I remember that it just isn’t worth it. The freedoms that come with small homes (as you mentioned) are incredible!
    Mrs. Mad Money Monster

    • Steve says:

      Thanks Mrs. MMM – I agree, those small house freedoms are just amazing, and our big homes very often just become lost in the weeds as we lose an appreciation for them over the months and years of living in them and maintaining them.

  2. Ernie says:

    I would LOVE a smaller home…especially because of reasons #3, #4, and #9…but my family and I aren’t at a point where we can consider a move. Perhaps someday.

  3. Back when I started my career I would plug in how much money I figured I’d make at say 35, and see what a mortgage calculator would spit out for how much house I could buy. Those days are long gone now that I’m on the FI journey. Plus I’ve realized how much time, effort, and money people have to put in to maintaining their homes, and big ones even more. I’m all for smaller!

    • Steve says:

      Yup, big homes can be an amazing waste of time and money, no doubt. The loans that people qualify for are very, very misleading. As you know, just because you qualify for a certain loan amount doesn’t mean you need to spend that amount. 🙂

  4. Yay, smaller homes! I’m in a bit of a different position since I rent and have housemates, but the general principle still applies, I think. My bedroom is *barely* big enough to fit my queen-size bed, with just enough room left over to open and shut the door (and the rest of the house is not huge either). When I first moved in I was thinking, yikes, but now I actually think it’s great. Definitely easier to organize and clean. 🙂

    • Steve says:

      Exactly, Sarah – easier to organize and clean, and you are getting used to living in a smaller space, which means you probably won’t feel like you NEED to “upgrade” to something bigger in the future. It’s perfect. 🙂

  5. We’re home all day every day, so we need a little more space. Also, we both collect items. Still, 2,600 square feet?! We’re in a house with about 1,500 square feet, and that’d be plenty if we could a little better about tidying up/organizing.

    Even if we had a kid, I doubt we’d feel much of a pinch. I can’t imagine having so much space to clean and traverse. The thought alone is exhausting!

    • Steve says:

      I agree, Abigail – the thought of cleaning huge homes really is exhausting. There is no way I ever want to clean and maintain anything bigger than, say, 1,000 sqft…ever again! 🙂

  6. Mr. SSC says:

    We will downsize once we leave Texas. It is true though, that everything is bigger here, and well our home is fairly large, way more than we were wanting to get when we were looking for. Granted, we also saved $150k from what we would’ve spent for an older house, probably just under half the size, and the repairs would have been as much or more as this house, so what situation is better? i’ll take big/cheaper house, because we haven’t spent $150k extra on it yet. 🙂
    To go along with that though, are the higher costs to heat and cool, and maintain in general. I still would rather have a small house and large lot than the other way around, but since we’ll be renting when we move, I won’t get as much choice. Also, we’ll most likely be back to a 3BR place and figure out how to deal with guests at that point. I’ll be looking forward to way less space to keep cleaning up after – putting things away, etc…

  7. Jack says:

    Most importantly, love grows biggest in the smallest spaces.

    2 children in a small 2BR means more together time to share with each other. Wouldn’t want to have the family spread out in a huge McMansion, growing further apart by the square foot…

  8. We will definitely look for homes that are only big enough. Our big issue is the fact that we have three kids and want another one in the next year or two. Our current home works for now, because the kids are little. We will need something a bit bigger as they grow. I definitely like the way it forces us to minimize our collection of stuff.

  9. I hope you guys will share lots of details about your downsize into the Airstream — what you save and what you get ride of, what modifications you make to it to make it function better, what things you have to let go of that are hard to part with, etc. And then what it’s like to live in it day-to-day (and cook in it!). It’s such a big leap you’re making — can’t wait to hear how it all goes!

    • Steve says:

      Oh we will – both on this blog as well as another one that my wife will be starting. Every step of the way we intend to document. That means you guys will get to laugh at all of our mistakes. 🙂

  10. Erin says:

    We live in a smaller home – about 850 square feet, and are very happy with this choice for a lot of the reasons you mentioned. By not overextending ourselves, we were able to weather my several-year leave from work, due to an unexpected illness. And we still managed to pay off the mortgage on our downtown Ottawa home within 12 years. We have great access to amenities downtown, and were relatively unaffected by a long, wintertime bus strike several years ago.

    That said, I have to disagree on a few of your points: I question the logic of your idea that smaller homes are easier to organize, because you automatically collect less stuff. Rather, when you exercise discipline, a house is easier to organize, whether it’s large or small. And large houses still give you more flexibility in terms of storage space. Also, smaller homes are not necessarily smarter ones. Many of the smaller homes available on the market are older ones, designed to support different needs and technologies in different times. For example, installations in my basement are incredibly challenging in my WW1-era home, because the doorway and cellar stairs to the unfinished basement are incredibly narrow and steep.

    So… yes to smaller homes, but they are not the answer to all problems!

  11. I totally agree with you Steve, having a smaller home is awesome in many ways. I would love to live in a smaller home but because of the family size, and everything else that is going on, let me just set that for another day. Thanks a lot for sharing.


  12. “Our brains want big, but our hearts appreciate the small.” – I love how you ended with this line. So true! I used to live in a big house (well there were a lot of living inside it to be fair) but there are times when I find myself home alone and it really feels so dark and lonely. Transferring to a smaller location with my hubby was such a delight considering that everything felt so in reach and cozy. Anyway, good read!

    • Steve says:

      Thanks for your comment, Larisse. I completely agree, smaller homes can definitely feel a lot more cozy. Cozy in a GOOD way, though…not in a “small” way. 🙂

  13. Cindy says:

    Good post.

  14. I have experience in both living in a big house and a small house and I admit that living in a small house is awesome. You can save a bunch of money in monthly energy cost and also save lots of time in doing house chore and many more benefits. If you have never been living in a small house, then you should try it and i believe that you will love it like i do. Thanks Steve for an honest post!


    • Steve says:

      Thanks Edward. It’s true, the energy savings can be absolutely significant. Fewer chores, and the chores that you still need to do typically take far less time to complete. It’s a win-win, I tell you. 🙂

  15. Esther Diaz says:

    A small home can be good for person who leaves on their own or for a small family then it would be all worth it. A big home can be good for a big family, depends actually. I love your tips anyway because I leave on my own but in the long run you will be looking for a bigger home. Thank you for sharing this its a big help. You really have an informative blog, its really helpful! Keep it up!

  16. Elena Malta says:

    I agree with all the list but I really love the last part. Small homes improve quality of life.

  17. Angela says:

    Good piece of advice.

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