by Shannon Ables
Eastern Oregon writer
The Simply Luxurious Life
Since the recession, McMansions quickly began to be less desirable to potential homeowners. In fact, as a result of the housing crisis, the average square footage of primary residences dropped to 2300 square feet, and while it has slowly crept back up about 100 square feet in the past year, many people are finding the luxury of living in smaller homes to be very attractive. Not only is it less expensive to own a smaller home or apartment, but it also provides many unforeseen opportunities to enrich our lives.
For nearly four years, I have had the itch to move back to Portland, or at least rent a studio in the city to escape to on weekends and during the summer months. And while I’m already a homeowner that takes care of a yard and more than 2600 square feet, I become giddy at just the thought of living in a small 500-600 square foot studio. Why? With less space to decorate and care for I could simply enjoy all that the city has to offer. If Powell’s bookstore was calling my name, I could easily arrange my schedule. If a stroll through the famed Japanese Gardens tugged at my need for tranquility, I could indulge without feeling guilty that something was being left unattended at home. And most importantly, if a friend wanted to drop in, I could quickly pick up the studio at the last minute and thoroughly enjoy their company. In other words, with fewer material items and space to tend to, more opportunities could be ushered in to improve the quality of my life rather than living a life quantitatively.
I realize such realizations may seem obvious or common sense, but in a world that bombards us with unrelenting advertisements whether in magazines, on the radio, television or online, if we do not consciously limit these intrusions, subconsciously we become persuaded ever so slowly and subtly. Living with less can be the foundation of a more fulfilling life if indeed what we seek is a life of more memorable moments and fewer material goods.
Today I’ve gathered ten benefits of living in a smaller sanctuary. Ranging from financial incentives to a reduction in stress, have a look and feel free to add other worthwhile bonuses you have discovered upon choosing a cozy rather than grand house floor plan.
1. Less Home, More Money Saved. Financially, buying or renting a smaller home saves you money. Money that can be placed in savings each month. Money that can be spent traveling to Florence as you’ve always dreamed. Money that can be spent anyway you want, instead of having to spend it as you must. Imagine what downsizing by even just a few hundred square feet could do to the many memories that are waiting to be created? So maybe in a studio you don’t have a formal dining room? Purchase a chic bistro table and dine as though you were in Paris gazing at the passersby or the stars. A home can become a sanctuary no matter what the size.
2. Less to Clean, More Time. This benefit has always been a selling point for me, as I chose to clean the house on Friday in order to allow the weekend to be spent in a clean house. However, after a long work week, I’d rather relax than vacuum the floors. While there will always be cleaning to do no matter what the size of the home, having less to tend to shortens the time we have to spend keeping everything clean and tidy.
3. Less Stuff, More Quality. While initially having less space may make us feel cramped, it is actually the amount of stuff we have that creates the illusion of spacious living rooms or itty bitty bedrooms. Once we have less space, we are required to be mindful about what we bring into our homes in order to maintain an open living area. And when we no longer need a long list of furniture to fill our home, the furniture we do purchase can be of much higher quality which will ultimately maintain its use and value far better.
4. Less Space, More Opportunities to Strengthen Relationships. Last year as I was reading Going Solo by Eric Klinenberg, he made an interesting observation. He asserted that people were becoming more accustomed to living alone in small part because many Generation Xers were afforded their own room as a child as their Baby Boomer parents were able to afford larger homes. While having one’s own bedroom is certainly a luxury as a child, it made me wonder. While having my own bedroom is something I will always need, if we take this need for more personal space even further (the McMansion craze for example), we begin to live in homes so large we can easily avoid the ones we live with. And you have to wonder, if you are living with someone you don’t particularly want to come into contact with, why are you living with them. Choosing to live in a small home creates an environment of interaction and an opportunity to work together, respect the small space we each may need from time to time and strengthen the bonds with those we love.
5. More Energy Efficient = Smaller Carbon Footprint. By choosing to live in less house, we also consume less energy to heat or air condition our homes. As energy costs rise, smaller homes are becoming more and more of a buyers’ choice and far more marketable than the larger homes that contain an extra bedroom or more living space.
6. Less Maintenance and Upkeep = Less Stress. The ridding of any unnecessary stress should be a must-do when it comes to structuring our lives, and when we have a smaller home to care for – pipes, windows, roof, yard, etc, we have fewer opportunities for money to be spent fixing what might need repairing or replaced.
7. Efficient Use of Space. Living in a small space may at first appear to be problematic when it comes to organizing an office space, as well as a designated foyer for shoes, keys, etc., but ingenuity is spurred into action when there is a need. More and more retailers are creating multi-use products, streamlined storage and hideaway bins and drawers that allow for stylish and spacious living even in the tiniest of places.
8. More Social Options, Less Isolation. If you choose to live in a small apartment in an urban area, you are likely to be surrounded with entertainment, cultural and social activities that will engage your mind and your passions. The few people that I know that live and work in New York City may live in miniscule apartments, but the gift of living in such a magical locale far surpasses living in a 400 square studio as the opportunities that are at their fingertips are priceless.
9. Less Consumption, Better Physical and Emotional Health. This past August, while traveling in London, the flat I stayed in couldn’t have been larger than 650 square feet. However, it had high ceilings, windows on every exterior wall and the furniture was wisely placed. For such a small living area, it felt open and spacious. With that said, the refrigerator (as many are in London flats) was less than half the size of a standard US refrigerator which meant they shopped nearly every day for fresh food and produce. It also meant that exercise was done outside of the home – taking classes and walking everywhere as my hosts did not have a car. Not only was it mandatory that they not have much food in the house to nibble on mindlessly, but I found the daily walking done not as a “workout” regimen, but a lifestyle requirement was conducive to a consistently healthier way of life.
10. A Simple Life is a Fulfilling Life. As I have discovered and shared on this blog since it began, quality truly does surpass quantity when it comes to creating a life of fulfillment. Having a bigger house will not make you any happier if you don’t already know how to live well with what you have. There comes a point when more is simply more. For each of us the proper size will be unique to ours and our family’s needs, but the key is to find the tipping point between enough and too much.
Now I realize that changing the size of the home we live in is not something we can change tomorrow. It takes time and a conscious decision to search for something that both fits our needs, but doesn’t exceed them either. Choosing to live in a smaller home is something to consider if you’re wondering why you have less time to do the things you enjoy and smaller stashes of cash than you’d like. Most importantly, if you want improve the quality of your life, the size of the home you inhabit many be something to consider.
For those of you who have already chosen to live with less square footage, I would love to hear your experience. Please do share.
~Looking for small space decor inspiration? Visit my newly created Pinterest board for just this purpose.