Living Well in a Small Home

FlowerLady6September 19, 2008

*** You can enhance your satisfaction with your surroundings. Architect Sarah Susanka, whose 1998 book The Not So Big House (Taunton Press) has sold more than 250,000 copies and spawned the recent sequel Creating the Not So Big House, believes that many people have a "starter castle" complex  they're obsessed with "the notion that houses should be designed to impress rather than to nurture." Susanka argues that houses can be small, beautiful, and richly detailed, and that these qualities are more rewarding to the spirit than mere size. ***

Another great article.


Here is a link that might be useful: Living Well

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Another great articel courtesy of FlowerLady, right down to the part about "lose 15 pounds fast". :) I recognize the Montana house from HGTV. I like it! Living off the grid adds additional challenges but is worth it to take advantage of the right setting.

So many of today's technical advances make living in a small space so much more practical. Just think of everything you can do with a laptop and an iPod. Throw in a Bose Wave Radio and your square footage can easily shrink. I'm personally working on converting my over-abundant storage of old paperwork to scanned storage.

I can't wait for the concept of smaller home living to take off as a full fledged trend. I recently posted some statistics showing average home sizes around the world. Can you believe the average size home in the UK is 850sf? Didn't get any comments last time I posted that.

There are a few challenges involved in small home living I haven't resolved in this tiny little mind of mine. Such as;
Vehicle parking. I prefer to park under a covered space. Incliment weather, dew, ice are all annoying and sometimes dangerous conditions. Many families have two vehicles. Provide covered parking for two vehicles and you have increased the under-roof footprint by a great deal. At times, the vehicle storage dwarfs smaller home designs and not everyone wants to raise the house and park underneath. I'm not going to move down to a Mini (car) or Smart for Two as long as behemouths with distracted drivers roam the roads so vehicle storage remains a relatively large space.

Toy storage. I live an active lifestyle. My sons and I ride bicycles, I own two canoes and want to buy a couple of kayaks. Lawnmowers and other power equipment, scuba gear, camping gear, etc. I need a reasonable amount of lockable storage for these items. If the small home trend were to take off, typical developer/builder mentality would be to alot just enough space for the home and a speck of driveway assuming people wanting to "live small" would not want a yard. Thus, no room for a storage building. Does that bring us back to more square footage inside the home to accomodate the toys? Renting isn't a palitable option. I pay about $100 to rent three kayaks for the day. Buying is cheaper.

I guess everything has it's trade offs. Your thoughts?


    Bookmark   September 21, 2008 at 7:25PM
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Parking is definitely one of my issues too. All the homes in my neighborhood are around 1000 sf, and we all have single (a couple double) detached garages. I don't know of a single person (except my neighbors with a double-detached) who park in their garages. We all park in our driveways, and the garages contain the gardening tools & equipment, mowers, trikes & kids outdoor toys, etc.

As a single mom with 1 toddler, I know if I really worked at it, I could creatively reorganize and park in there, but it's not high on my priority list right now. I never have been one to keep a lot of "stuff" for me it's do-able.

I see some of my neighbors with husband, wife, and a couple kids. Garages are nothing more than a storage unit for them.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2008 at 8:53PM
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I think if we had a 3 car garage, I could still manage to fill it. Parking is an issue with me too, as well as the toys columbiasc mentioned - not my toys, but dh's.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2008 at 1:02AM
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Well, if you have a small place, you won't need mowers to any extent (being green dictates that you'd have planted any yard space with perennials at least, if not veggies), but for everything else, presumably you will have 'some' space around the home after all, enough to put a shed up in the back if nowhere else... I mean unless you're actually thinking of the 1-200 sq.' places to live in (in which case you'll have bigger problems than where to put a bike). And since cars are getting awfully small these days, that shouldn't be a huge problem either (why do you assume that just because your home is small there it will be so chock-a-block with all others nearby that you won't have room for a garage, whatever size or shape it may be)? I have similar issues, but they're about indoor space, for a crazy plant growing habit for which I've collected a LOT of diff. size/shape pots over the years, a lot of small bins with diff. soil components, tools, etc. and a whole other slew of stuff for picture painting, plus boxes of tchatkas I can't get rid of!

    Bookmark   September 22, 2008 at 6:47AM
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Fly, I would love to have a small home with entities Suzanka creates. They are way out of price for me though.

Scott, I did see your comment about the UK. Would take one of those lovely small cottages so many live in there. And they always look so cozy, filled to the brim too. My surprise on the sq ft was Japan, much larger than expected. And, I am on my second MINI in 6 years. You are right about the big guys I have to drive around with, they can be a serious problem for me. Akin to truckers with loads, I stay away from them as much as possible and always make sure other drivers have some sense of where I am and what changes are being made. Getting cut off is a common event. They either don't see me or due to it's size believe there is no power.

Garages....have a single garage, but it is longer than the norm. I recently built a pergola across it to the front door. Made a huge difference in the look of the little ranch I have. Built in shelves on all sides and a freezer are in the garage. I'm in snow country and personally would not park outside, far too much work to shovel snow off the car or scrape ice, so the garage always has space for it. We don't have many who do park outside if they have a garage. Maybe environment has to do with this. Storage for me is two small sheds in the backyard and they are full. I really miss a basement.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2008 at 8:40AM
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columbiasc- I saw your post about house sizes in other countries- very interesting. I've always said that a modest US house would be a mansion in much of the rest of the world! Here in FL (where there are no basements), the garage becomes the basement. There are miles upon miles of houses with attached 2-car garages, and very few people park in them. Of course, we don't have the snow and ice to deal with. Our old house had an open carport- very inexpensive to build, and only useful for parking a car, since anything stored there would probably 'grow legs'. At least it would keep the snow and ice off.

I've often posted about my mother's unique property in CT- she has a tiny house, but a good-sized barn. The barn is divided in two, with one half having attractive windows, paneling, and heat and A/C. We always had the big get-togethers in the barn, and only used the utilities on the occasion we used the barn. It's a big, rustic room, which looks great with a 16' Christmas tree, and a fire going in the woodstove! Meanwhile, it costs her nothing the rest of the year, since she mostly pays taxes on living space. Of course, you've got to have some land to do that- it would be pretty hard to fit in a barn on our 1/6 of an acre 'spread'.

The best solution to living in a small house, and the bitterest pill to swallow, is simply getting by with less stuff.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2008 at 3:53PM
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Not sure there is an answer that suits all, just making the observation. What I am envisioning for myself will be no more than about 900sf, maybe less. That will be down from my current 1000sf. But if you build something that small and incorporate attached, covered parking then it's half the size of the house. Combining the two in an aesthetically pleasing way is a challenge.

As for editing stuff, I have done a lot of that already. But as I said, my two sons and I are active, that calls for three bicycles and two canoes right now along with camping gear that has to be stored somewhere. Compared with the "normal" household with boats, motorcycles, jetskis, snowmobiles, what have you, my toys are minimal. Throw in a wheelbarrow, (I do garden) a small lawnmower (21 inch push mower) and the normal yard tools and you can fill up a one-vehicle space before you even get the vehicle close to it. Maybe when the boys are older and it's just me 99% of the time the problem may resolve itself. But unless I just want to sit around and watch the world go by, a certain number of toys are required.

As for living green and eliminating the mower, maybe so if I could start from scratch. My current lot is 100 by 250 with an unpaved driveway and a 1000sf house. That's a lot of property to maintain. Grass is about the easiest thing to maintain. The few beds I have created need constant weeding. Wild blackberry vines pop up everywhere and nothing will kill them. They will take over a pernenial bed in about two seasons if not constantly battled. I can't imagine trying to have this much property planted in beds and trying to keep it all weed free. I would have to quit my job and still hire about three full time laborers. Less is definately more. In a more rural setting I could clear just enough for the house and a small garden. But a 55 year old neighborhood is just that and recreating a "forest" would take a lot more time than cutting grass.

Hope I haven't stepped on too many toes, just painting with a few more details to clarify.


    Bookmark   September 22, 2008 at 8:33PM
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Glad the article has been enjoyed and that we've got some action happening here. It's been rather quiet lately.

Oh that we could lose 15 lbs fast. Ha. Those ads on websites are so annoying. You just have to put up with them while you read what you went there for.

Very interesting that the average home in UK is 850 sq ft. They must think we're ridiculous over here. Not exactly the land of milk and honey, but certainly of greed and wanting more and bigger, which is just a vicious cycle that gets one nowhere.

Emagineer ~ I'm sure your home is lovely and you are working with what you have to create it to be the sanctuary you need in your life. We all can't have bigger and better, or fancier, so we go with the flow of what we do have, creating our own unique living spaces.

flgargoyle ~ Your mom's property sounds great! That's really cool. ~ You are so right about living with less being a bitter pill to swallow. It is NOT easy getting rid of stuff, although, the more you declutter, the easier it gets as you see the space around you grow.

Scott ~ Can you buy a shed to put your toys in? Your property sounds large enough. You don't have a lot of toys by today's standards and I can understand your wanting to have them so that you and your sons can enjoy doing outdoor things together and that is GREAT!

I have a push mower also, a simple one, that, gasp, does use gas, but I don't have a lot to mow these days. I also use an electric weed wacker, and an electric hedge trimmer. I have flowers beds, and garden areas, but at this age am not planting any more. I want to relax more and gardening does take time and effort. (I'll be 60 shortly and things are getting to me more that didn't a few years ago.) Gardening is my favorite hobby though. I work part-time, do my own house work and cook from scratch. I'm getting ready to plant seeds for some fall/winter/spring color. I'm trying to plant more perennials but annuals are great fill ins. I have weeds, as I'm not that gung-ho to get out there and keep everything weed free, especially in the summer heat and humidity that we have. I don't have the time for that. I do what I can to keep things at bay. Those blackberries of yours would be a problem that's for sure. Gardening for me is great therapy, physically, mentally and spiritually. I enjoy it.

Living in a smaller place is an adjustment and I'm sure with time you will do fine. You will find different ideas that will work well for you and keep on refining them.

The thing is, as with most things in life, is to 'try' not to stress and to relax and do what you can with what you have.

Wishing you all lives that are 'living well' in your small homes.


    Bookmark   September 23, 2008 at 7:37AM
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Flower, Am older too, retired. It does get harder to maintain all and the garden is one of my favorite places to be. As you mentioned, each year it is a bit more difficult. And I'd rather mess around pulling weeds than mowing, so each year I dig out more grass and add flowers.

Actually I am off the grid with this. Most gardeners in my area hate agressive plants, but have found them to be wonderful for smothering weeds and creating areas which need very little upkeep. Mexican Primrose is one plant everyone says to stay away from, but it is beautiful in bloom and creeps through plantings just enough to keep weeds out. Succulants too as they also grow well here. Colorado takes forever for new plants to grow as it is, at my age by the time agressive becomes a problem it will be someone else's to deal with. Well, this sounds a bit on the non caring side, I really am a nice person.

As for a mower, I got an electric one a few years back. The gas are much heavier and became an issue trying to start the darn things along with everything else that needed tweaking, etc. I'm pretty good at working with a power cord around it. Plus I reseeded with mixtures of clover, achillea and grass which keeps mowing to once every two weeks. A very hardy lawn and unless you look close, looks like a lawn. Another one of my off the grid projects which paid off in work and water resources.

Scott, haven't seen anywhere that you stepped on any toes. We all have unique living requirements, environments and interests. It has been interesting hearing about your life with sons and smaller plans ahead. Keep on sharing.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2008 at 9:14AM
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Hummm I never really considered our shop and garden shed as part of the living space. If so then we are living huge. sigh. The shop we built is 30 by 30 and just added a 12 by 30 carport to one side of it.8 by 12 storage loft inside.

In the shop so far we park the car ,jeep liberty, and dodge truck. Two snowmobiles horse/mule tack hunting camping equipment. Two freezers. Shop stuff. Then there is a small work area with nice bench built in under loft.

The house foot print is 1586 and that includes the covered but not enclosed porch of 208 SQ FT making the inside house 1378 SQ FT.

We do live in heavy snow country and have to store the skid steer at the ready to plow in the winter.Car port= skidsteer port LOL. We do have two mowers and as of yet no lawn but I do take care of the neighbors lawn for her. I do plan on planting drought tolerant fescue which can be left unmowed. I HAVE to have something over this dirt. The dust in the house is awful.

So if I figured it right we are less about 863 SQ FT than we had at our last place. In small house living that is a lot less space. We built a whole house that was 864 SQ FT living space. We are down 7 1/2 acres too. We do have a half acre here. Wish it were less but the way it is shaped,triangle and some of that hillside, we ended up using most of it for buildings dogs yard and septic system.

One little thing that I consider in our lifestyle. I do enjoy smaller house living style. But I am not going to punish myself to be able to live small. For us this is a comfortable size. I do not feel deprived at all. Yes we have had to make adjustments in what we keep or shed. These are adjustments we are willing to make. BUT if I really want something I have it in our house. So for the most part all is good.


    Bookmark   September 23, 2008 at 1:27PM
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emagineer ~ Gardening is part of 'living well', but outdoors. That Mexican primrose looks sweet. It's nice to have something that pretty as ground cover. ~ I've also used a power mower before and once you get used to it you hardly notice moving the cord around. It was quiet that's for sure. Maybe I'll get one of those again, but not this week.

Chris ~ I guess if you consider our workshop, small barn, storage building and two sheds, we live large also, but our space we live and spend time in is about 750 sq. ft. ~ Glad you are enjoying your new home and from what I've seen, you are decorating it very nicely also.


    Bookmark   September 23, 2008 at 3:24PM
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We do have a wonderful, upbeat group here. It's very refreshing.


    Bookmark   September 23, 2008 at 10:10PM
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Thanks Flowergirl. Scott too!! I know in some way we will all work out what is right for us.

I have lived in tiny houses and what I consider large houses,at 1850 SQ FT. Now we are about mid way between the large and the small. I hope we never have to move again. So sick of moving. Starting over.11 moves in 22 years.UGH I am not getting any younger. Hope this time we have it right.

The sale on my neighbors house fell through. It is the cutest small house on close to half an acre. More usable half acre than we have. So sad to have it sitting there empty all winter.


    Bookmark   September 23, 2008 at 10:57PM
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Scott...about a year ago I decided to start scanning a few documents onto my computer instead of keeping the paper. It's amazing once you get started what you can think of to scan and not have to store or organize the stuff.

It started with grandparent obituaries and the "programs" from their funerals.

I scan magazine pages with info, pics, or instructions I want to keep, but don't want to bother with tearing out the pages & store them...or even keep the magazine around.

I'm a big gardener. I scan in plant tags I want or need to keep so I'm not hanging on to envelopes or storage boxes of the tags themselves. Much easier to organize & find on the computer than digging through the mess.

I scanned in all my paper award certificates from grade report cards, perfect attendance, spelling bee, Kindergarten graduation certif, etc. Nothing here I need or want to take up space anymore...but I still have it!

Old college photos of friends, parties, etc. I scanned them all. My best friend from college scrap-books, so gave her all my "hard copy" photos and cleared up a ton of space in my photo box (which I never open anyway).

One you start scanning, you can't stop!

    Bookmark   September 28, 2008 at 8:15AM
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And once it's all stored digitally and properly backed up, the original stuff can be recycled and you need that much less space. It's so simple it's brilliant.

Of course, once we all get on board and start doing this on a regular basis, archeologists in the future won't have much fun will they?


    Bookmark   September 28, 2008 at 9:12AM
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Speaking as an archaeologist, I can tell you that no, Scott, that won't be much fun.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2008 at 10:07AM
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