I've had it! I want my big ass house back

Change Your Life

I've had it! I want my big ass house back

I gave this whole "living small" thing a good college try, and boy, am I ever regretting this dreadfully ill-conceived decision! What possessed me to ditch our big ass house for this 200 square foot shack?

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I've had it! I want my big ass house back

The truth is I had everything that I ever could have wanted, and I squandered it.

Interior of our Airstream: Look at how cramped it all is!
Interior of our Airstream: Look at how cramped it all is!

A couple weeks ago we put our 1600 square foot house on the market and moved into our Airstream. This thing is only 200 square feet, almost like the manufacturer purposely wanted to test the American people's ability to withstand hardship and torture.

Look at this place, it's tiny! Even by New York standards. Sure, the dogs are comfortable here because they like to feel cozy, but I am sure we all know the word "cozy" is a code word for small as hell.

What is considered a big house?

As with anything, the size of a house and determining if its big is an exercise in relativity. For my wife and I, the bigness of our house was measured by how little space we actually occupied relative to the amount of space the entire house and its huge backyard encompassed. We had an upward of four rooms that remained untouched for the majority of the year and awesomely large swimming pool that maybe five to ten backstrokes by the end of summer. And boy was it exciting heating and cooling those extra rooms in variable temperatures and maintaining the pool in the “off season.”

In determining whether or not you live in a big house, the best gauge is if each family member occupies a single room when dispersion is maximized. If you have as many vacancies as we did, then yes, you’ve got yourself a big ass house!

We loved to clean our big ass house!

Living small taught me an important lesson - living small sucks.  Like, seriously bites.

I realized over the past couple of weeks that the countless hours my wife and I spent cleaning our previous big ass house was time well spent! It was our "together time". So yes, bigger is always better in my opinion. We got to really know each other amid the piles of dust we removed from our furniture in every room that was unused. We cuddled. This was our time to shine - not just shine the house, but "us". Like many other owners of big homes, we shined.

The hour my wife spent dusting the dining room and cleaning the bathrooms was absolute gold - not fool's gold, but true gold. "AU" gold. It was almost like passive income. You should have seen the smiles. Experiences speak louder than things, after all, and cleaning large homes just freaking tops the list. I so miss that.

With each stroke of the mop across the nearly 1600 sqft of floors, I felt a sense of accomplishment. After the first 20 minutes, I'd stand and admire my handy work. All that section of the house is clean. Look at the square footage sparkle! After the next 20 minutes, same deal. And after the last 20? Man, I felt great and my smile grew even bigger. This is what ownership of a bigger house is all about, damn it. It’s a big lesson learned.

My sense of purpose overflowed. Who wants to spend time outdoors when you have floors to clean and purpose to experience, anyway? With larger homes comes more purpose. You just can't get this shit living in an RV. Owning a McMansion on the other hand yields a completely different lifestyle.

Dining and family room from our big ass house; look at all that space!
Dining and family room from our big ass house; look at all that space!

Cleaning the Airstream is a joke.

It takes less time to clean an airstream. It took us like 5 whole minutes to clean all the floors in this thing - not just a mild sweep, but a deep scrubbing. I mean, where's the satisfaction in that? It takes around 15 to 20 minutes before we truly begin feeling a sense of achievement to begin with. Cleaning these floors, we're never in that "satisfaction sweet spot", are we? I swear these RVs are talent killers as we’re barely spending time feeling purposeful.

But just when I thought my purpose in life couldn't possibly get any more magical by cleaning our floors of our largest house, we also had a pool to maintain, and that upped the ante.

Cleaning our backyard pool lifted my purpose up into the fucking stratosphere. I miss the hours I spent dragging a pool vacuum across the surface of the pool...cleaning up those impossibly small devil leaves that always seem to make a b-line straight for the swimming pond, even in a calm breeze.

And the sweet smell of chemicals was unspeakably awesome. I don't know what to do without buying chlorine and sprinkling it around the pool and meticulously testing the water's chemical composition (I forget...does muriatic acid raise or lower pH? Ugh!).

And grinding pumice stone around the edges of the pool while dodging beads of sweat dripping from my head in an often-futile effort at chopping away at calcium build-up? Damn, man, this is livin!

I guess I never realized how wonderful this experience was until it was gone. Hey guys, remember the girlfriend that dumped your ass because you never truly appreciated her (you bastard), and the subsequent crying game that evening (that you will never admit to) because you finally realized how much of an asshole you were to her?

Let's just say tears were shed. I want that responsibility back, darn it. Whoever could have known that my house size could correlate so much to my overall sense of purpose. Now I truly have envy for those of my friends who have larger houses.

This RV also destroyed my love of spending money

We bought our Airstream for less than $50k. I mean, WTF? This RV is fully capable of housing a family of four inside its curved walls for decades, but we only had to pay less than $50k? Not only that, you are not charged the same property taxes as owning a large house as well. And we get to change our backyard whenever the hell we want?

Where's the fun in that? I'm so pissed.

And the utilities? What a joke! We've been running the air conditioner for weeks as temperatures in Arizona warm into the upper 80s and low 90s, and it only costs us about $1 to $2/day in electricity.

Come on, give me a break. There is something about having a huge mansion and those $300,000 mortgages that seem so...I don't know, elegant, you know?

The burden of a mortgage makes me feel like a freaking American. Dropping $150 to $200 a month on electricity for large house that is roughly 1,000 square feet - 1600 square feet is the cost of doing business as an American. It's good. Money well spent. Be. An. American!

And what am I now? Am I still an American if I don't have a mortgage on the place that I'm living in? What if I spend just a few bucks a day to cool the place? I'm scared about what I've become!

I feel dirty. I feel like an outcast in a sea of perfectly normal Americans. I want my big mortgage back. I want to once again experience that feeling of ecstasy (I think they call it the "American Dream") by opening up my latest utility bill, reading triple digit numbers, and watching my net worth decline. It makes me feel complete. Like a real person.

This sucks. I want my love of spending money back, and quickly. I. Need. A. Mortgage.

Who needs "outdoor time" anyway?

They say that we humans need more time outdoors, but I find the outdoors overrated anyway. While it's true that the RV does make outdoor living much more simple, there's also not-so-nice stuff outside. Like flies. The sun. Who wants to sit outside underneath the awning of your RV when you could be sprawled out on your couch watching your 65" flat screen television?

It seems like every morning and every freaking night my wife and I are walking around this campground. The people are insidiously happy, too, which is weird. Virtually all of them wave as you walk by, almost as if they actually want to be here and not overly pre-occupied by their own lives or their cell phones to give a shit about anyone other than themselves.

But not only do these weirdos wave, they also speak to you. Like, "Good evening!".

What's going on, and why are all these people actually speaking to me?!? I feel like I'm living back in the 50's when everybody in your neighborhood knew everybody else and were actively courteous to one another and gave a crap about what's going on in their neighborhood.

Seriously, who needs this shit?

What happened to the good ol' days when I only knew my neighbors by the cars they drive and maybe - maybe once in a blue moon, I'd actually wave or say hi? Those days were sweet.

Hell, I lived in a community south of Tucson for 7 years and didn't so much as know my neighbor's first name (on either side!). In the campground, we already know several of our neighbors, where they came from and what they do (or did) for a living.

Gawd, I want to return to my sterile existence again by hiding in a big house and defining my success by how much stuff I had, working endlessly at a nameless corporation for a big enough paycheck to maintain my lifestyle. This RV stuff is the pits.

Oh, and one last thing - just kidding!  :)

Does a bigger house make you happier?

If my account of living in a big ass house didn’t make you quiver with utter jealousy, then perhaps my actual candor will help. A bigger house does not in fact make you happier. The people who fill it do. And more importantly, the way in which space is orchestrated towards facilitating desired interactions among these people is key to determining if the size and layout of your house can lead to genuine domestic happiness.

Another thing I know for sure is that chasing after material things including a large home can lead to a life of absolute ingratitude, envy, and potential financial instability. That doesn’t sound too happy, does it?

While downsizing to an airstream was a radical shift in both size of our living space and lifestyle, this transition was met with an equally radical increase in happiness and financial comfort.

Big houses are a waste

Not only can big houses waste endless hours of your time, as it takes a ton of effort to clean them, they are a huge way of money. Think about property taxes, insurance, heat and electricity, and general maintenance. The bills really add up.

Further, an interesting Wall Street Journal article mentions there is a growing problem in real estate where there are now too many big houses. Baby boomers and retirees have built too many large, elaborate dream homes only to find that few people want to buy them. Perhaps, the rest of the U.S. is catching on to the fact that big houses are simply unnecessary ... and so living in an airstream is the absolute way to go!

Change Your LifeRV Retirement

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Steve Adcock
Steves a 38-year-old early retiree who writes about the intersection of happiness and financial independence.