Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Recognizing Enough

When I bought my little 742 square foot house I considered it a starter home. Since it was the height of the housing bubble (not that I realized it at the time), and I refused to leave my current neighborhood, I knew I was going to have to buy small. My little 1940s ranch is definitely small, the living area has a kitchen, living room, one tiny, tiny bathroom and two bedrooms. Yes, you read that right, there's no dining room and no coveted half-bath.

my teeny, tiny bathroom

There are some bonuses though. Half of the basement is finished, thanks to the boyfriend's drywall and ceiling installation skills. There's also a walk-up attic, so storage is not an issue. My mortgage payment is the same price as my former rent on a (cheap) townhouse.

There are some definite drawbacks as well. There's only room for a maximum of three people at the kitchen table, and that's pushing it. There's room for an office or a guest room, but not both. There are two closets on the main floor, and both of them combined are not able to accommodate an average American-size wardrobe. And did I mention I'd kill for an extra half-bath?

I always planned on upsizing to one of the numerous cute cape cods in my hood. Something that has a dining room, an extra bathroom, a third bedroom, and a large upstairs master. But those bigger houses have a huge drawback: more bucks for the mortgage and utilities, more time spent cleaning, more house to maintain etc.

After a few years of slowly culling some of the extra stuff from our lives, I came to what was first a surprising conclusion. My starter home has more than enough space for two adults and three cats to live in comfortably. Even more surprising, the boyfriend agreed with me.

Realizing this is enough, did require letting go of some previous notions, including:
  • I don't need an office; I end up sitting on the couch to use my laptop anyway.

  • I'm not the dinner-party-hosting type, and I rarely used a dining room when I had it anyway.

  • While having an extra bathroom would be devine, we're surviving quite fine without it.

  • Once I got rid of all the extra stuff cluttering my house, and the extra clothes cluttering the closet, the rooms didn't feel so tiny anymore.

I wouldn't want a smaller home either. While I find tiny homes charming, I don't think they'd be comfortable for me in my present lifestyle. Somehow I managed to pick just enough space on my first try.

How much living space is enough for you?


  1. Sorry I'm so late in leaving a comment -- I had trouble adding your feed to my Google reader, so I've had to resort to bookmarks. I love seeing the pictures of your small house. I think the amount of space sounds perfect for me. Hubby and I have more than we need right now, at 1100sf. There are areas we don't really use very much and although having separate bathrooms is lovely, it's not essential. We've been looking at the Tumbleweed cottages and really like the way that good design maximizes space. I hope we'll be ready to buy a place in a few years!

  2. I just discovered your wonderful blog and am "back reading" to see if you talk about the inevitable plague of cat owners -- where to stash the litter pan(s)! With three cats -- what's your solution? I'm ready to have a cat again but in my small city railroad style apartment, finding a spot that's out of the way is a challenge. Any suggestions?

  3. Jennifer - Trouble adding my feed to your reader? Aack! Say it ain't so.

    Are you using this link? What kind of trouble are you having? I'm subscribed to this feed on Google Reader (purely for testing purposes mind you) and it's still working...

    I wonder if anyone else has had problems?

  4. Anon - Ah the catbox conundrum in a small apartment? That is tricky.

    I'm fortunate to have a basement so we stash all four (yes, four! The vet recommends one more than the number of cats owned) in the non finished half. I live in fear of what I'll do when my geriatric cats (Alex is 14 and Mikko is 13, so they're getting up there!) can no longer hack the climb, cause I don't know what we'd do then.

    In my past apartments I lived with a single litterbox (this was in the days of just two cats). One was stashed in bathroom. In another two bedroom apt I lived in alone, I stashed the box in a spare room. Before moving in, the boyfriend stashed Pig's box in a spare closet (and dear god that thing stunk to high heaven, even after cleaning and attempting to deodorize.

    You might check this post at Apartment Therapy for more options.

  5. Min your white walls are beautiful! I think I fell in love with your bathroom looking at this post. You did a beautiful job on your vintage home. I loved it!

  6. your home is beautiful! So inviting and cozy in all the best sense of those words. i think it's a wonderful thing to ask ourselves how much space we *really* need instead of looking around at our neighbors and comparing ourselves..."oh, well, steve has *that* much space, so maybe i need more, too?" nah. i think we would all realize we're happier with less if we were honest with ourselves. your space needs might change throughout your life, however. i grew up in a tiny log cabin with two bedrooms and one bathroom. my brother and i shared a bedroom until i was 13. it was wonderful, until it wasn't. at 13 i was really wanting my own room. my parents put a little addition onto the house and i was so thankful for my own space. they intended to add a second bathroom, too, but to this day it is still just a closet...i guess when you get used to just sharing a bathroom, you don't need things to change! :)


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