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Why I Don't Want a Bigger Home

When I set out to write a book about small spaces, I wanted to find people like myself who had chosen to live in a smaller space (not ones who were forced to by circumstance). I was just as curious about why people were living small as I was about how they made it work. My own family could have stretched our budget to get a bigger apartment or we could have moved out to the ‘burbs, but we made a conscious choice to buy a smaller place close to where we work. We wanted to stay in the city we love, minimize our commutes, and keep our costs and stress low. As the years have gone by, I realized I don’t really want a bigger home. Here’s why I think my family will be living small for the long haul; maybe my reasons will help you see your small space in a new light:

Photo by Laura Fenton

1. A small home keeps our costs low

Every time my husband and I start talking about looking for a bigger apartment, we quickly conclude that we don’t want to spend any more money on housing than we already do. Living small has given us financial freedom. We’re not alone in our thinking: When my book came out it was the very first weeks of the pandemic. I checked in with the individuals and families featured in my book to see how they were feeling about their small spaces now that they were spending all their time in them. Again and again, they told me they were so grateful to have rent and mortgage payments that they knew they could handle even in uncertain times. My husband and I both found ourselves temporarily unemployed and were so grateful our monthly nut was low (and that we had savings because we hadn’t been spending every penny on a bigger mortgage).

2. Less space means to less clean

I’ve spent time in bigger houses and I can say for certain that a smaller space requires less upkeep. In my 690 square foot apartment, I have just one bathroom and minimal kitchen surfaces to clean. We also have fewer belongings to maintain and keep organized. Because I can tidy my whole house in less time I have more time for other pursuits.

3. Living small keeps my family close

Living in tight quarters, my husband, son, and I are often in such close proximity that we could lean over and touch one another. I believe that physical closeness allows for more moments of connection. My son is still young, so he wants to be around us, but I suspect that as he gets older, we’ll be glad he’s forced to be close and can’t hide in a remote corner of the house.

Photo by Laura Fenton

4. A tiny home gets us out of the house

Anyone can go a little stir-crazy in a small space, but (pandemic aside) I think that’s a good thing. Come the weekend, my family is ready to get out of our apartment. If we had a bigger space, I suspect we’d be less inclined to take mini adventures like trips to museums or Central Park, or even just a stroll to our neighborhood coffee shop. Because we keep our living costs low, we have more money for vacations too. Living small makes adventure on a grand scale possible.

5. We can indulge more

Because our home is small, all of our renovations were relatively cheap, which in turn meant we could splurge on a few things like marble countertops, pricier light fixtures, and new baseboards that weren’t strictly necessary. If I ever get around to painting my small bedroom, I won’t feel bad about buying the Farrow & Ball color I’ve been eyeing because I only need one gallon. Plus, those splurges have a bigger impact in a small space.

However, it’s not all sunshine and roses living (and working!) in a small-ish apartment. There are many days I wish we had more space. I have an ongoing daydream about busting a door through our foyer wall to the studio apartment that is for sale next door. Here are five honest reasons I long want a larger home:

Photo by Laura Fenton

1. More space = room to breathe

I love my homey apartment, but I am not a natural-born minimalist. I love books, art, and dishes, and I’m a mom to a six-year-old maximalist. If we moved to a bigger home but did not increase the number of our possessions, our home would feel so much lighter—we’d have more breathing room. Living small means I need to be constantly vigilant about what’s entering our home.

2. There’s no dedicated work space

I have a small desk where I store my office-y things, but I almost never sit there because it is so tiny. Instead, I’m nomadic, rotating between the dining table and the desk in our bedroom, depending on who else is home and what they are doing. It would be a dream to have a small office where I could work, store my books, and not be distracted. I’ve tried renting an office space in the past (and I might again in the future), but for now, I am scheming up a better WFH set-up (which I’ll write about next month!).

Photo by Laura Fenton

3. I dream of a king-sized bed

I am sure other small-space dwellers can relate to this one! Whenever we stay in a hotel or rental house with a king-size bed, my husband and I absolutely luxuriate in the larger bed. If we could upgrade to a king, we’d sleep better, but it would be hard to walk around in our tiny bedroom if we did, so we continue with our queen and keep the king on our wish list. Maybe when our son moves out we can rearrange the furnishings to make it work!

4. Room to host overnight guests

When I bought my sofa more than a decade ago, I purposefully bought one that would be comfortable for an adult to sleep on, but it’s really a sleeping spot of last resort. When we have family visiting the city from out of town, they usually stay in a hotel. It would be wonderful to be able to host friends and family, but again, we cannot justify the additional monthly expense for the relatively rare occasion we have visitors. Plus, having houseguests sort of stresses me out, so maybe I should count this as a win?

5. Space to celebrate would be swell

We’ve hosted small birthday celebrations in our apartment, but there is not enough room to have one of those invite-the-whole-class parties or honestly, even a half a dozen kids. When my book club gathers at my house, I have to kick my husband and son out for the evening. I wish we had space to host in a bigger way, but that’s only one or two days a year.

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What are your best tips for living small? Share with us in the comments!
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