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What's the secret to wanting a smaller home?

Posted by lavender_lass (My Page) on
Mon, Feb 27, 12 at 16:37

Alright, I want to hear from everyone, who has a smaller home. Did you choose to 'live smaller'? Is it for financial reasons? Ease of maintenance? Because you like cozy spaces? All of the above?

I thought it would be fun to share what appeals to each of us, about smaller homes. Since I'm kind of on 'probation' with my recent larger home plan (but I am back to smaller!) I'll let others post first. Thanks for sharing :)


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: What's the secret to wanting a smaller home?

We moved to a smaller home mainly because we were ready for a single story. Where I live the singles tend to be smaller. I also wanted a view and since view homes are more expensive, again I went with smaller. Of course when we moved here we were empty nesters. But they keep coming back! So, like now, it's pretty tight.


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RE: What's the secret to wanting a smaller home?

well, for me it's financial and physical. I am doubling my space with the new place tho. I can't do a whole lot of stuff - like keeping up a big place. I think with more space it'll be easier tho because i'll have 'places' to put things, like closets, cabinets, the pantry etc. Things are so crammed together in this little place I can't find anything most of the time. It gets disgusting - totally frustrates me.

AND my things won't be crowded so it won't be as dangerous for me. It'll be much easier to get around safely in there.

It doesn't make sense to have more space than that either - it'd just be more than I could handle and the expense of a/c would be way more than I'd want to pay. Heating not so much - it's usually only really cold at night and only a few of those. We only have a few wks where it gets below 40 at night.

1400 sq ft will be plenty for me and my dog(s).

I do plan to make lists of where things are stored to make that part easier for me - and anyone else if something should happen to me.

the only 'more' space that I could use would be a garage!

before I got sick I was planning on a new dw w/1800-2000 sq ft. I did have 2 rowdy dogs then tho. 1 @ 60lbs and 1@73 lbs. Now girl isn't rowdy by any sense and after she's gone I doubt I'll get a 2nd one. It's just too much on me.

Since being sick I can't afford to go into debt. I did pay off my land and I like not having a mtg/land pymt to make. After 14 yrs in this beat up 'ol trailer it didn't take 'new' to look much better to me - lol! No pymt on it makes it look grand!


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RE: What's the secret to wanting a smaller home?

I am with Steph - our last move was to a bigger home, not a smaller one. We went from a 1400 sq ft home to a 1675 sq ft home. We were okayed for a much larger mortgage, but saw no reason to do that. We figured that we knew more of what we could afford than the bankers did. We are super glad that we did not go bigger. We have had two houses (four mortgages since they both have HELOCs) since October 2005! We don't have enough money to sell our old house. It was worth $160K when we moved out, is worth less than half that now.

We think about heating and cooling some of these newer homes with the soaring ceilings and cringe. Wow. I bet a lot of those homes are drafty. Our snug 1978 ranch needed better insulation (we did that) and a new furnace (we did that) and new air (we did that) and we got the most efficient systems that we could afford. Having two stages on the furnace burn and two different fan speeds really helps a house feel more comfortable. I highly recommend it!

We have enough older housing stock in our area that a house of our size is "normal." Newer homes are larger and getting huge, but not everyone has to go that route for a home. We are a middle-aged childless couple. We moved to bigger digs when DH's dad moved in. There really is not anyone left who will seek lodging with us, unless the economy truly crashes. We do not need a McMansion with big empty rooms and furniture sparsely peppered throughout.

I guess the secret to wanting a smaller home is a combination of good old common sense, a memory of wearing mittens inside our schools during the 1970s energy crisis and not wanting to heat and cool that volume of air inside a McMansion, not wanting to live beyond our means, and wanting an older neighborhood with mature trees (ergo: smaller homes in an older neighborhood).


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RE: What's the secret to wanting a smaller home?

We have lived in small 800 SQ FT to larger 1850 SQFT and all sized in between. We are about 1375 here. Some times I wish for more space. Most times I like the challenge making it all work for us within whatever space we have. I know I do not want to go back to anywhere near 1850 SQ FT. It just took me too much time to clean it.I am happy with what we have now and we do not plan on moving.

We do have vaulted ceilings here but only 9 foot or close at the highest point. It makes our smaller house feel open and spacious. But I am all with you Nancy and glad they are not any higher.

We are not running our electric furnace this last winter. Only have been using the vent-less propane heater. I keep my studio and guest/sewing rooms closed. Unless we have company or I plan on doing some sewing. No point in heating rooms we are not in all the time. I do use my studio often but just the chandler in there will warm the space enough for me. We had company this last week and the guest room door was cracked open at night. I am sure our heating bill would be more if we did not keep two rooms closed most of the time.


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RE: What's the secret to wanting a smaller home?

'We think about heating and cooling some of these newer homes with the soaring ceilings and cringe.'

I remember starting back around 2000 when a lot of building started around me, looking at the huge houses going up with windows everywhere! I kept thinking they were in for trouble a short time down the road - it's here now. Here the a/c costs are what soar.

I also have vaulted ceilings - but also have ceiling fans in all bedrooms and LR/DR. I do love the open feel it gives. My kitchen is pretty open to the LR/DR and I'll be opening it up a bit to the tv room (knocking a doorway into a bedroom (to be the tv room). All of the windows are the low E something or other too. I do have a good number of windows and look forward to the sun shining in - except in the summer - lol! I'll be making insulated 'shades' for the 3 west facing windows (1 is really more south). They'll be up late May thru mid Oct. Those are the 2 rooms that will seldom be used. 1 also has a north facing window that will let light in.

I won't have to run the heat a lot either. I have a fireplace / heater for the tv room. A new furnace/ a/c unit was just put in about a yr ago. I only used it during part of last summer. The unit was in but not hooked up to electricity until mid summer. The installers put it on the W side of the home and the electrician had wired the electrical on the south side. duh. the electrician had to come back and rewire it!

The new place also has insulation - this place doesn't. The windows and doors here also don't shut tight. Dirt just blows right on in! I'll be so happy not to live with that anymore.


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RE: What's the secret to wanting a smaller home?

By the definition of this sub-forum, I've always lived in a small house, so it wasn't a conscious decision. The house we're in now is just under 1600 sq ft, and it was very comfortable for 3 people. Now that our son has moved out, it's too big, with a lot of space simply going toward storing stuff. I've heard that 500 sq ft per person is about right, but I've failed in trying to design a house 1000 sq ft house for us to build in SC. In fact, it keeps coming up around 1300! But that's what we'll build, since I can't seem to fit all of our wants and needs in a smaller house. Time will tell.....


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RE: What's the secret to wanting a smaller home?

I prefer smaller because it's cozy, easy to heat, easy to clean, easy to furnish. I hate dusting and vacuuming.

I've had large houses before and I much prefer this smaller one for the reasons above.


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RE: What's the secret to wanting a smaller home?

We weren't looking for a "smaller" home. We had an amazing 1925 Spanish-style bungalow with tile roof and all. Unfortunately the neighborhood was just never going to turn the corner like it needed to for us to stay there long-term. It had 2,600 square feet and only 3/1.5. The rooms were all very large. We unexpectedly got a quick offer on the house so were scrambling to find something.

We wanted to be in a certain county, and we wanted a home with minimal level changes. The thought was that if we were to never move again, we wanted to be happy aging in place in the new house. We also wanted it to have some degree of architectural interest and wanted a large lot rather than a neighborhood/subdivision setting. We found a few typical 1960s-70s ranch houses that could have possibly worked, but they didn't really speak to us, and I probably would have gotten bored after a while.

Then happened upon the house we bought. 2,000 square feet, but 4/1.5, so smaller rooms than the last house. Post-and-beam 1960s plan - MCM all the way with glass walls and everything. And on three acres with lots of privacy. And at the right price point. What wasn't to love? We've been here 4.5 years now and it's been great. The commute is a bit long for DH, but that was one of the few sacrifices we had to make.


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RE: What's the secret to wanting a smaller home?

By Jay " In fact, it keeps coming up around 1300! But that's what we'll build, since I can't seem to fit all of our wants and needs in a smaller house. Time will tell....."

You will be building close to what we have Jay and I really do use every bit of our house.

Funny how a few months ago our friend called and said he would be up to visit. Then his plans were canceled within hours. Well I had already set up the sewing room to guest room. Figuring he still would be coming along soon I left it set up as guest room. Now he has come and gone and I put it right back to my sewing/ get away room and I can not tell you all how nice it is to have my little room back. I have already gone in there and used it as a get away room when I had a headache Sunday. I just wanted quiet away from the TV but did not want to go to bed in the afternoon.

I have a couple sewing projects that were put on hold while it was set to guest room. I missed my space. It is only 9 by 13 foot but I use it often and now I know how often. I do feel rooms need to be multi use.


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RE: What's the secret to wanting a smaller home?

I have a 980sq ft house. I bought it in 1977, and was thrilled to be getting ANY house. It's 3BR, no family room, 1 bath. I'm really glad I didn't move up. I see young people on TV shows buying houses twice my size and calling them small, talk about rising expectations.

But to answer the question, read up on simple living. That will get you in the mood for smaller.


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RE: What's the secret to wanting a smaller home?

Well, I've been a small homer for some time. We are in a 2 br 1 bath that we made into a 1 br 1 study 1 sun porch and 2 bath by bumping out enough for a tub and a closet. The house space is currently roughly 1000 square feet. We plan to add only about 60 more sq ft when we do the kitchen remodel. Oh not add it to the KITCHEN, but add that much more to our bedroom as a sitting area and space for two large bird cages. We are really downsizing though, because we are incorporating into this smaller home the belongings from my DH's home up in Massachusetts. Where are we storing all the STUFF? Well, in a renovated cement block former garage which is about 500 square feet. That, my dear friends, is my Teahouse get-away greenhouse studio. It is not "my" space YET, but it will be after the kitchen remodel is complete.

And, I am about to add doors to the double doorway between dining and living room, to create a guest room out of our living room. We removed the pair of french doors there, because they would not open all the way back against the wall. But what I propose is two pair of bifold french doors, such as the ones we've used to good advantage in 3 other spots in the house. I cannot use the study as guest room, because we are now watching TV in there along with our two computers, the file cabs are in the closet, and our dachshund's love seat won't make out into a bed. I guess I could get a huge ottoman to make the love seat into a single bed, but I don't want to. Right now, the living room is the least used room in the house, and it could easily, with the doors closed, be very spacious and comfortable as a guest room. I have a chest in there already, which could even hold clothing if needed, although there is no closet.
Besides, we very seldom have overnight guests.

In our case, small is beautiful. I worked on boats for 20 years, and lived on a houseboat for 10 years. If you have good builtins, attractive storage, and a place for everything, you do not need a lot of room. When I bought MoccasinLanding after selling my houseboat, I rattled around in its 1100 sq feet like a beebee in a wash pot. I had only 2 wicker chairs and a sea chest to move in with. I even had to buy a bed and borrowed a sofa for the first couple of years. As time went by, I expanded (like a gas) to fill the space. BUT, I know that it is possible to live small and be very happy. My years on a boat were very happy ones.

About heating/cooling. I agree with others that is a big expense. I use ceiling fans in every room, even the kitchen and sun porch. So far none in the Teahouse. When we do the kitchen over, I'll convert to gas stove, gas water heater, and put in an appropriate gas fireplace heater in the living room. We have a central heat pump whole house now. The backup emergency heat is elec coil, which sucks up the money, which is why in very cold weather when the heat pump cannot draw heat from outside, I will use the gas fireplace. I also want DH to insulate beneath the new metal roof to help keep the attic cooler in the summer. You can touch the ceilings in summer and feel the heat radiating into the house. Our ceilings are 8' 2"...and I think climate change will see more hot weather--hotter AND longer each year.


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RE: What's the secret to wanting a smaller home?

Years ago I came across a quote that said if you live in a small house you will live like a king ~ we've found this to be so true! When we bought our 1400 square foot home over 20 years ago we could have afforded something larger and more expensive, but a lower mortgage payment and lower energy bills gave us the money to spend on nicer furniture and wonderful landscaping, as well as being able to put a lot of money into savings. Over the years we've grown to love our cozy little rooms ~ as hubby likes to point out, you can only live in one room at a time.

We are currently planning our "dream home" ~ we purchased several acres in a rural setting with a fabulous view ~ and we are bound and determined to build a cozy cottage very similar to our current home. It will be a bit larger to accommodate lots of visitors, but we want our living spaces to remain cozy ~ no soaring vaulted ceilings or grand huge rooms for us!


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RE: What's the secret to wanting a smaller home?

We didn't intentionally buy a small house. We were more interested in the land than the house. Since we had lived in a tiny apartment and then a townhouse before buying, this 1400 SF house seemed big enough to us. And it has been for the most part. If I were to buy again I wouldn't go much larger - for many of the reasons mentioned. Also because I do think about my footprint on the planet.


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RE: What's the secret to wanting a smaller home?

Recently divorced and approaching 60, in 2003, I needed a house that was VERY affordable, and one that I could easily maintain. This 1100 sq ranch had all the requirements: 3/1.5 with 8' ceilings, on a flat lot, in a well-maintained neighborhood. It had no updating, so was a blank slate to improve to my personal taste and budget. The landscaping was grass and three trees, so I could design and plant to my hearts content... which I have. This little cottage is easy to clean, very cheap to heat and cool, and is now very personalized! Besides, as another said, you can only live in one room at a time. Now, however, I share my home with my sweetheart... how fortunate to have found him and such happiness in the later time of life!!!


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RE: What's the secret to wanting a smaller home?

We fell in love with a property and are remodeling the house that came with it. About 1200 sq ft. Too close to water to expand the footprint which we weren't wanting to do anyway.

The smaller home to me means a bit of everything mentioned above but esp. more resources to use on living, and by resources I mean time, money, energy (mine). After years of living with clutter in a 5 bedroom home I am ready to downsize... majorly. Less is more really, really sounds good to me.

We also follow the Dave Ramsey philosophy of living on less than you make, and this house will allow us to do that in our retirement.

(All one needs to do is spend a week in an 18' Toyota motor home and you find out quick what small is and what is really necessary, lol. I've got a whole new perspective on small!)


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RE: What's the secret to wanting a smaller home?

When we bought our house in 1994, we had three young children and one income. After our first child was born, I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, so a smaller, older, fixer-upper was perfect for us. As a matter of fact, no one else wanted this house because it needed too much work! We completed some initial updates, then added on as our children grew and we could afford materials.

It was a good move--the house is comfortable, cozy, sturdy and attractive (if a little dog-eared in spots), and small enough that it allowed us to enjoy our family without financial stress. It filled our needs, without being filled with excess.


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RE: What's the secret to wanting a smaller home?

Great Post, you guys have the best topics on the smaller home forum(dear to my heart)
I have always lived in a small home. As soon as I moved out of my parent's house which was a nice tidy split level(I could not afford that house today) I moved into apartments. Studio apartments, studio basement apartments, 2 bedroom w/ roommate apartment and finally a 500 sq foot co-op apartment. I had roommates in this apt. for ten years(10 !) before I could afford it on my own then I met my husband (who is currently mad at me, we are "gut" renovating and nearing the end BUT I not totally thrilled w/ the (gently used)cabinets we bought BUT I think I can save them by having them painted).
For me the decision was financial/neighborhood. I LOVE MY NEIGHBORHOOD and my neighbors next door, the butcher, the proximity to a farmer market, the asian supermarkets I could go on and on.
I have always kept my bills to 3:gas/electric, phone, rent. It's my rule.
It allows us to go away for 2 or 3 months a year. We just returned from Ireland. My SIL(RIP) passed away from ALS a week before Christmas. He was there 4 months total, I flew over Christmas Eve and stayed for 2 months. We would never be able to do expensive last minute flights with a big house and the big bills which come along with it ! LOVE TO TRAVEL.
"when you close your eyes you don't know how big the bedroom is" direct quote from DH.


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RE: What's the secret to wanting a smaller home?

'I see young people on TV shows buying houses twice my size and calling them small, talk about rising expectations.'

I do also. gotta wonder about 'em. entitlement? were they raised in a mansion or what? many go into first time house buying wanting everything possible, all updated and to their taste. geeze.

ML - is there a bathroom in the teahouse? if so, could you use that as an occasional guest house? does sound like your LR would be a good set up for a guest also.
that having the builtins, closets etc is what I figure also and am looking forward to. Have a place for everything and get rid of anything that doesn't have one!

reading other posts reminded me of something - i've had bigger places - but had to share 'em with the X and / or kids! They took up more space and their 'stuff' required more also. This one is all my space - and the furbabies of course! always had at least one of those around before too.


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RE: What's the secret to wanting a smaller home?

and can we please remove the term "starter home" from the stupid real estate lexicon. Someone I used to work with bought a 365K home with 10% down during the "boom". I remember at the time starter home was used...bet it's not starter home anymore.


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RE: What's the secret to wanting a smaller home?

I thought I had a "big" house, 1640 sq ft. Our last house was 1265sq ft but had a 1265sq ft finished basement. This house has
an unfinished basement of about 1240sq ft. Plenty of room for storage, the kids are grown and gone so the house seems big,
to us. Relatives of ours have houses from 2000-5000 sq ft so they think our house is small...


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RE: What's the secret to wanting a smaller home?

EATREALFOOD, Ilike that you mention Asian markets. I know how you feel about that, having recently discovered the benefits of shopping there. Plus, I just ordered a Vitamixer so I can begin the green smoothie revolution...this after I now have a lovely little Italian gas range sitting in the Teahouse waiting for me to install it. Yes, "starter home" is gone from the vocabulary, I don't think anyone on this forum has ever used it. I'd have to do a search to verify that, of course.

And Steph, no bathroom in the Teahouse. The city did not want me to turn it into a rental, so no water supply there. However, I do have an outdoor shower, and I'm thinking about a composting toilet for contingencies. I am moving my outdoor shower from the north side of the house to the south side when we do the kitchen. It makes more sense to get the warmth there, but the motivation is the "peeping tom" neighbor who gets on his roof to see what we are doing behind our privacy fence. I'd rather not be overly concerned about privacy in an outdoor shower, you know what I mean? Takes all the fun out of it.

Just this afternoon, I was wheeling the big trash can to the curb when a resident walking his dog said hello as he passed by. He said he always liked to look at our place because we had such nice flower beds and the plants were all different looking from the usual plantings, and the HOUSE looked so comfortable. I was told this a couple of times before too, by other walkers on the street, even one car stopped to tell me they enjoyed the view of our little place. You know, that is nice. People can be really nice right out of the clear blue sky. Which is why I always wave when a car drives by, or wave when I drive by someone working in their garden. I have a theory that neighborhoods begin with such gestures.


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RE: What's the secret to wanting a smaller home?

Thank you for all the excellent responses!

For me, as much as a larger house would be great (at times) on a daily basis, I just have a very hard time justifying the expense, if we're not using the space. I've been working on my farmhouse plan FOREVER, but most of my challege has been making spaces flexible enough to 'live big' when some/all of my husband's eight brothers and sisters decide to visit (with families), still allow friends to visit and stay for dinner, but cozy enough, for just the two of us, the rest of the time. Not easy...but I never would have gotten this far, without the wonderful people on GW, especially this forum.

I think living in smaller space makes you more flexible, more open to new ideas, more creative and I think we can all agree...we use our outdoor spaces more creatively, too. When the weather is nice, I plan to throw most of the friends/family out onto the patio and garden spaces. Maybe we'll stick with summer entertainment/holidays/get togethers :)


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RE: What's the secret to wanting a smaller home?

When we bought this house, we weren't looking for small either, just location. Of course I never intended to stay here long, but here we are 16 years later. lol

I'm like LL though, I want a small house for ease of cleaning and costs, but one that lives large for entertaining. Hard to get that mix in the house we are in now.


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RE: What's the secret to wanting a smaller home?

I think it all boils down to the multi-function rooms. I think that is on another thread. I believe this is how we make our smaller house live large. Why we chose this floor plan to work with.

About looking for a smaller house.Marti you jogged my memory a bit. In all the times we were buying and selling houses we never looked for a larger or smaller house. I guess because we were flipping houses we were just looking for the bargain we knew we could fix up and resell.

When we bought this house we did try to consider size.Having lived in the 1850 SQ FT and all the upkeep of it. then down sizing to the 1250 SQ FT. So much less upkeep but felt a little cramped. I had a pretty good idea adding the 125 extra SQ FT and the better lay out made all the difference in the world to how we live in our house. Some times it is not always size that matters it also relates to lay out. A bunch of cut up little tiny rooms might not live large for one person as it could for another. I think it all depends on how a person uses their house.

the other night I came across floor plans in my old computer. I saved them some where to bring to this computer and need to remember where that some where was. If I can find them I will load them to pinterest.(SP?) Might be helpful for some here when considering remodel. I forgot I had them. Now I hope I can find them again. LOL


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RE: What's the secret to wanting a smaller home?

I'm so happy to see so much activity on this forum! I joined GW back in 2006 (I think) and didn't see much participation here for several years.

We were first-time home buyers in 2004, and this was the most charming (or least terrifying) of the houses in our price range. We bought it with 5 percent down, which I don't think is possible anymore.

Considering how much effort we've put into things like finding exactly the right dollhouse-sized furniture and squeezing bookshelves onto a tiny portion of empty wall on the upstairs landing, it's hard to think about moving on.

We added a second bathroom in our basement, which has greatly improved our quality of life (and enables us to entice guests by calling our tiny basement a "guest suite"). We also turned a screened porch into a four-season sunroom/office, and installed small his/hers closets in our bedroom (I like to refer to them as "European closets").

As the foreclosures have increased in our town, we're glad to be in a house we could afford even if we were down to one income.


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RE: What's the secret to wanting a smaller home?

An affordable mortgage certainly is nice. We qualified for nearly double what we paid for our current home. Looking back, I'm glad we were sensible and didn't max out our mortgage. Because of living within our means, the house I'm building now will have NO mortgage!


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RE: What's the secret to wanting a smaller home?

Ah yes Jay, the 100% down, 0% interest mortgage. Gotta love it!


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RE: What's the secret to wanting a smaller home?

17 years ago my DH and I bought a 1500 square foot ranch (I love ranches!) in a great rural neighborhood in a great school district. Our motives were to find a house we could afford on his salary (we were new to the area and not sure what my income would be) and, most importantly, give our children a sense of having a "hometown". The house had enough flexible spaces for the 5 of us to live in "harmony" (teenagers, yikes!). Most importantly, there was great outdoor space and plenty of kids to play hockey, basketball, tag, etc. they were outdoors until nightffall. It was as exactly what we hoped for when we bought our house.

Now, we're moved to a new area and are building an 1850 sq ft house with a master bathroom! Oh joy! We have kept our living area on the first floor with only the guest rooms and my office loft upstairs. We last walked through in the drywall phase and are a little nervous about the size of the common areas, but then remember it's it's only the two of us (and the 22 year old on a "temporary" basis.

Both my SIL lament having built big (albiet gorgeous) homes. We loved the fact that we actually saw our children and hung out together because we only had one spot to watch TV!

PS. I just reread this, please ignore all the quotes. Way to many!

PSS. I LOVE this forum. It's so warm and friendly.


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RE: What's the secret to wanting a smaller home?

When we bought our house back in 1983, a 1400 sq ft 1927 cape cod, I never really noticed that it was small. Because it had a lot of windows and was very open plan it appeared large? weird huh? Something about my home and the large yard just feels right. I was attracted to the sheer charm of our house... It had a good size greenhouse attached to the house and a sunroom..... For me it is not really about size, it's whether it feels right. I never felt the need to do any big remodelling projects until starting the Kitchen 2.5 years ago.


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RE: What's the secret to wanting a smaller home?

"A bunch of cut up little tiny rooms might not live large for one person as it could for another. I think it all depends on how a person uses their house."

this is somewhat me. I'll have 3 bdrms about 10x12 (2' is closet). 1 will be for crafts, storage, sewing stuff - scissors, needles etc that I can close off and lock should any little people show up here. 1 will have my desk and bookcases, file cab and a misc dresser and dressing table. the middle tho will be open - area for an air mattress if needed. and the 1 that has a diagonal wall at the end of the kitchen will be opened up there to be my tv and computer room. then there's the big LR/DR area (about 13 x 24) and the kitchen (about 10x12) is very open to that big room. my mstr bdrm/bath are on the other side of the LR/DR. so I have areas that are open to each other with lots of light and some areas that are smaller spaces and can be closed off if needed. That makes it just right!

LL and Marti - Candance had a show this past wk - maybe thurs or friday where she did a table for a family that had extensions on the ends. they wanted it expandable for family holidays. Maybe they show it on the DIY site - look it up. and one of my sisters yrs ago had what looked like a side table that opened up and a long table pulled out of it - that might work for you too.


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RE: What's the secret to wanting a smaller home?

That sounds a lot like my table. It's a draw leaf. But I keep going back & forth on whether to keep it or not. If I keep it, I need to tweak it so it works for dh better. It's not tall enough for his legs now.


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RE: What's the secret to wanting a smaller home?

I've always been intruigued by small homes. Budget and proximity to my two sons limited my choices when selecting my "divorce shack" purchased in 2006 with zero cash down and now valued at 15-20% less than I paid for it. I turned 51 yesterday. Assuming I can sell this house, I must locate or build a house I am willing to retire in and one I can pay off 10 to 15 years while simultaneously increasing my retirement savings. Throw in what I am certain will be limited post-retirement income due to Social Secutiy shortfalls and sub-million dollar (quite a bit sub) retirement account balance, I will need that home to be cost effiecient to run and maintain. All of those factors add up to a small, efficient home. Thankfully I have always been intruigued by smaller homes.


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RE: What's the secret to wanting a smaller home?

Columbia- My mom did the same thing...and she's so happy in her smaller home. Very little upkeep, easy to clean, designed to her specifications and also room for a small, but lovely garden. Hope things work out for you, too!


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RE: What's the secret to wanting a smaller home?

I love the idea of the "just enough" house. Journeying towards a simpler way of life including a more minimalist perspective, I really appreciate the idea that one should only have items of purpose along with some items that evoke joy/beauty (even better if something can be both purposeful and beautiful!). My goal is to plan the right amount of storage as well so that everything has its place.

The main advantages of smaller homes in my opinion: cozier, easier to maintain, smaller footprint, more incentive to create outdoor "rooms," and more affordable. I also like the creative challenge of maximizing minimal square footage!


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RE: What's the secret to wanting a smaller home?

columbia - better you do it sooner than later. sometimes those later yrs aren't as energetic... I know - lol!

have you checked to see what you could get out of your house now? how big is it? what size could you realistically live in? check out some in the area you'd like in that size and see what it will cost you.

that'd be a start. we'll sure cheer you on and give all the support and help we can!


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RE: What's the secret to wanting a smaller home?

I have 1024 sf, 3 bedroom 1 bath. Freddie Mac's database puts the value of my house at about $70,000. That would put me at about a $10,000 loss by the time you throw in Seller paid closing costs, Realtor commission, minor repairs, etc. And that is assuming I could find a Buyer which seems highly unlikely considering;
1. Absolutely nothing similar in size/age is selling near me.
2. One bathroom seems to be a huge impediment, not likely to recoup cost to add.
3. HUD (FHA) is increasing both the upfront and monthly mortgage insurance premiums making it harder for lower income Buyers to qualify while simultaneously lowering allowable Seller contributions.
4. As a mortgage lender I can verify that average credit scores are pitiful meaning qualified Buyers are fewer and farther between.

I hate sounding like a pessimist but I have been monitoring sales activity closely for about two years now and the exit appears to be closed, at least for now.

But when that day comes, I could easily get by with 1000sf of properly designed space, less than that if I never intended to provide sleeping space for my sons when they come visit in later years.

I more or less agree with Flgargoyle's formula of 500sf per person. My take on that formula is 1000 for a couple and 250 more per child.


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RE: What's the secret to wanting a smaller home?

Happy birthday columbiasc! I totally agree with Steph. At 51 both dh & I were in pretty good shape, but the closer we get to 60, the more that changes, and not for the better.


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RE: What's the secret to wanting a smaller home?

Yes, Happy BD ColumbiaSC! A bunch of us on Smaller Homes are firmly in our fifties. Divorce is hard on families and on retirement plans. I am glad that you were able to stay nearby your sons, at least.

Another thing that you could add to your list of things that make selling difficult is that the younger generations have so much in school loans that they will not be able to buy our smaller sized homes as "starter homes." By the time they can afford homes, they will have children already. I have heard that this is going to depress the entire housing market because the lack of buyers at the starter home level will mean that no one with a starter home can move up to larger homes because there are no buyers. Either that, or we will ALL be reluctant landlords, renting out our smaller starter homes when we move up. DH are doing that now, and I do NOT recommend it.


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RE: What's the secret to wanting a smaller home?

Eatrealfood ~ I love this:

"when you close your eyes you don't know how big the bedroom is" direct quote from DH.

What a healthy perspective! I am trying to keep this in mind as I continue to fret about room sizes!


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Difficulty in selling homes

ColumbiaSC and Nancy in Mich ~ I am so sorry that the repercussions of our country's economic woes are affecting each of you so personally ~ how frustrating! I hadn't yet considered the student loan issue. I will pray that the right buyer will come along for each of you.


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RE: What's the secret to wanting a smaller home?

Affordable, affordable! When we bought our 1500 sq house we were young and it was probably more than we could afford, with two young boys; as the years went by it became more and more easy, we were able to make improvements, send the boys to college, and save something!

Now that we're in our 70's and retired (finally!) we're upgrading, although not changing the footprint, and am finding that when it is finally done it will cost more than the house originally did. But we're so comfortable, there's plenty of room for the two of us, have no desire for anything larger!

Lucky are the people who are satisfied and grateful for what they have...


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RE: What's the secret to wanting a smaller home?

Happily ending up building a small home, 1320 sq ft, 2BR, 2bath. Plan started around 1700 sq ft, but cost to build custom in Hawaii is $200/sq ft and upwards of $350/sq ft. In fact, final bid on the 1320 from 5 different builders had a $200,000 difference low to high bid AND we had everything specified before bid process down to towel bars! I am know thrilled with the house at it is going to be so easy to maintain but live much larger than stated square footage because our architect did an awesome shrinky-dink of the original plan, that is better than the original plan.
Photobucket


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RE: What's the secret to wanting a smaller home?

Ogrose, lucky, indeed!

My old house is in a neighborhood that had a few original owners left. I met a few when I moved in. They were so amazed at the prices people were getting for the houses in the 1990s, then in the first half of the 2000s. It was so nice to have these original residents as our "history keepers." Mrs. R. could tell me all about the couple who built our house.

Pay-it-Forward, our house is not even for sale. We are too young to take out the $45K that we would need in order to sell it, without having to pay a 10% penalty for cashing out an IRA. We have some savings, but not that much! We bought our new house a couple of months after DH's 89 year-old father moved in with us. We found very quickly that having a second bathroom was a real necessity. Plus, Dad was getting too old for stairs, and the laundry was in the basement in the old house. Maintaining his independence was an important factor in the move. He did his own shopping, driving,and laundry, so moving seemed the thing to do. I had been working a new job for a year, and our increased income supported the move, too.

Our problem was that we did not know that the housing market would crash. We followed the prices down, and never got ahead of the curve. The house was for sale for a year and a half before we got an offer, and it was for a rent-to-own. We went for it, but the buyer bailed out and bought a nearby house for about a third of what she was contracted for with us. We kept her down payment.

We have let one of Dad's former caregivers stay at this house. After Dad's death, she was unemployed for a long time. She is now working and they are trying to get back on their feet. For them, it is uninsured medical expenses that have ruined their credit ratings. He has a seizure disorder and kidney stones, she has an anxiety disorder. Until his son is past the child-support age, most of his check goes to support his son. I really don't know if they will ever get ahead. We would like to hold the house for them until they can qualify to buy it, but I may be losing my job soon. Despite our trying to always live below our means, we are at the edge right now. It is a good thing that we did not buy the first house we fell in love with, it was about 20% more expensive than the one we bought!


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RE: What's the secret to wanting a smaller home?

columbia - a wonderful happy birthday from me too!

well, hang in there. it's good you know the ins/outs of it. Maybe someone will come along who also wants to downsize and will have the money for it! You might lose some on the sale but you'll also be able to buy cheaper.

has anything in your area/size been put up for sale recently?


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RE: What's the secret to wanting a smaller home?

Nancy in Mich ~ My heart goes out to you ~ you have certainly had a lot to deal with. My parents also lost big due to the housing crash. They were able to sell their home, but at a huge loss. I so hope you are able to keep your job. Continued prayers for you!


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RE: What's the secret to wanting a smaller home?

Well...I thought a small house was for me and in 2010 bought a 980sf house but with all the pets I have, it was definitely not the right time for me to downsize so I stayed there only 1 year, sold and bought a 2000sf house on 3 levels and I absolutely love it and my pets too. Winters are quite long here where I live and it's nice to have all that indoor space during that season.
The house also came with a few acres which was added bonus.

But later on, maybe in 10 years from now, I'll downsize because it will be the right time. It's often a question of timing.

Anicee


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RE: What's the secret to wanting a smaller home?

I haven't been on Gardenweb in years, and just found this thread. It's great!. My tiny cottage had a sign in the window that said "For Sale $69,000." This was back in 1997. It stayed vacant for two years. I ended up renting it, and then bought it a year later for $89,500. Best financial move I ever made. It's 567 square feet, but perfect for me. The lot is 7,400 square feet, so I'm able to grow my own food and have chickens and big dogs. My utility bills are super low. I am able to live beneath my means. My home is paid off, which is a great feeling. It's an excellent lay out, and I've been able to replace the water heater, qualified for a new heater from the Gas Co. and have done a few repairs each year. I found a like new air conditioner at the Salvation Army for $35.00. This house was built in 1944, and I've decorated it in the period style with antiques, vintage decor, and old lamps I've found at thrift shops. Mine is the second smallest house on the street. I've had people in the past knock on the door and ask if I know of any other cute little houses like this one that are for sale. It is a treasure. I feel like I'm in a bed and breakfast. Smaller is better! It's also only three miles from the grocery store, credit union, library and post office. So, I'm able to bike everywhere, which makes it even more affordable. Especially with the price of gas!


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RE: What's the secret to wanting a smaller home?

Well a big Welcome Back yogastef. Always glad to have more people to share thoughts and ideas with.

We love pictures too. Even doggie pictures.Your house sounds darling.

Chris


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RE: What's the secret to wanting a smaller home?

'I am able to live beneath my means.'

that is a very good thing! I can't seem to do that right now (but my 'means' are very low now). hopefully, the day will come again that i can do that.

and YES, we love pics. how about a pic of your darling little cottage?

pet pics are always much loved too. and pics of 2000 sf houses.


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RE: What's the secret to wanting a smaller home?

Thanks! Yes, living beneath your means is a big stress reducer. I live so simply that I don't know how to post photos. In fact, I haven't even taken any pictures in years! I really should learn. It can't be that hard. I don't buy gadgets, and although I love my computer, I'm way behind with technology. I don't even use a cell phone! All that stuff seems so expensive to me. Yes, this house is really sweet. I'm surprised builders don't cater more to all of the single people there are now. They could live affordably on their own in a small, energy efficient homes like this one. Neighbors always ask me if I'm going to add on, but I have no need for more space. I would consider buying another small plot of land for a miniature dairy cow, though. As other posters have mentioned, it's easy to clean, very affordable to heat and cool, (I have ceiling fans in the living room and bedroom,) as well as shade trees and conifers for privacy. They really shade the old fashioned front porch and the house itself. Buying a small house helps you get into the habit of buying less. One time I splurged and paid a woman to help me deep clean the house and she said, "What I like about you is that you just have what you need." Living is easier when you have less. I found and purchased a fabulous vintage Singer sewing machine from the 1950's that works really well. So, I have finally learned to sew on a machine, and have been making curtains and soft furnishings. It's a nice decoration, so well made! I also found some old Hummel plaques at the thrift store that add charm and beauty. I mulched over the lawn and put in a potager garden with herbs, flowers, and pumpkins. Now I don't have to worry about mowing the lawn, which I had avoided each weekend.


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RE: What's the secret to wanting a smaller home?

I don't get into a lot of high faloot'n (?) technology anymore either (tho, i did have a home computer in '82! and back then we wrote/typed in most of our own programs)

I have a cell phone (cheap trac one) for emergencies. it's been out of time for over a yr. I am gonna put some time on it soon for when I'm on the road tho.

posting pics - do you have a digital camera? if not, do buy a cheap one - you can get a pretty good one for around 100.00.

can you load pics into your computer?

if so, do you have a (free) host site like photobucket?

if so, upload pics to that site

on photobucket hover the cursor over the pic and a list of codes will pop up. copy the one that says 'html' (mine auto copies) and then paste that code into the body of your text here (in the 'message' box). click on preview and your photos should show up. try it. if they show up on preview then you can click on 'submit' so we can all see them!


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RE: What's the secret to wanting a smaller home?

I love visiting people's large, rambling homes, but have never wanted to own or live there. The smaller the better for all reasons stated above. Our home is just under 2000sq which may not qualify as small, but the entire first floor (800sq) is devoted totally to my business; we just live upstairs and it is perfect. I see us going smaller someday if I ever retire (I doubt it...).

Yard space is another issue...I love to flower and vegetable garden...lots of work but I will be very sad the day I need to let that go.


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