When my husband and I went looking for a home six summers ago, we knew we wanted to look for our forever home – not one to build equity and then trade up when we could afford bigger and “better.” Months and numerous offers later, we found it. 1350 SF on a quarter acre lot (large for in city), backing miles of park and forested trails. We were thrilled. At 23 years old, we had found our forever home.
We shared our excitement with our friends, and over and over again, we got the comment that it was such a “great starter home” – most people couldn’t wrap their heads around the fact that we were planning to stay for the long term. According to most, it was “too small” for a family. Oh, how American views on home size has changed. When our home was built fifty-odd years ago, the average home size was under 1000 SF, and most people had more than 2 children (the most we’ve ever considered – though we are now likely one and done). After World War II, a single family home was considered an important luxury in and of itself, and returning soldiers flocked to these homes to raise their children. In the years since then, homes have gotten larger and larger, filled with more and more stuff – and then we fill storage units with the things that spill over from there. We didn’t want to fall into the trap of packing a home full of things, so we went smaller. When you have a smaller home, you have to be mindful what you bring in because you don’t have the space to hide it in closets and basements. By choosing smaller, we were choosing less in a positive way.
We still struggle with enormous amount of “stuff” in our home, and it is a consistent struggle to keep it in check, but I’m thankful our home isn’t larger. The sheer size of our space limits what can stay and what must leave. A closet filled with items you no longer use becomes a burden when you then can’t find space for your essentials and becomes the catalyst to pare down again.
While I may never reduce our belongings to minimalist standards, I hope to reduce to a reasonable, uncluttered space that is enjoyable to live in. By reducing our space to what we really need, we leave room for the things that really matter – which isn’t cleaning.
While the inside of our home may be smaller, we have a lovely yard and we spend lots of time in both the front and back yard. Lounging in our front yard has made it so we talk to our neighbors and really get to know them. We have block parties, trade homegrown veggies, sled down our hill in the snow, and generally enjoy each other’s company. I think in some part this comes from living on a street of smaller, older homes where people spend more time out front and decide to stay long term because of the community it engenders.
Our property may be only a quarter acre, but we have over 14 miles of trails directly out our back fence and many more once we cross the street. In a way, it feels like we have hundreds of acres, but without the enormous tax bill and maintenance that would come with owning that kind of land individually. By choosing location over the house itself, our lives are so much richer for the time in the woods.