10 Reasons You'll Actually Be Happier In a Smaller Home

The following post is from Joshua of Becoming Minimalist:

source: surlygirl

This past summer, our family of four moved from Essex, VT to Peoria, AZ. It was a big move. In fact, in almost every conceivable way our new home is different than our previous one: geographically, culturally, politically, spiritually… and I haven’t even begun to mention the weather.

Another change was our approach to house-shopping. Seven years ago, when we moved to Vermont, we had a mental picture of our ideal home. And like many Americans, it included the desire to purchase as large a house as our salary could afford. As a result, we purchased a large home with extra bedrooms, extra bathrooms, extra living space, and extra storage.

We soon began to regret it. We always made the payments on time, but were unable to escape the burden of paying a large monthly mortgage bill. We kept the home clean, but spent far more time cleaning it than we anticipated. And we kept it in good working order, but spent more dollars than we’d care to admit in routine maintenance… and I haven’t even begun to mention the not-so-routine maintenance.

So this time around, the definition of our ideal house had changed dramatically. We no longer desired to live in a large home. In fact, our hope was to find a home as small as possible while still finding one that functioned sufficiently for our needs. As we considered the idea of purchasing a smaller home, we took some time to make sure it was the decision we really wanted to make. It is, after all, a very counter-cultural idea to downsize your home on purpose.

As you can probably imagine, the process of listing the benefits of purchasing a smaller home only strengthened our resolve. Here were our 10 reasons why we may actually enjoy living in a smaller home:

1. Easier to maintain. Anyone who has owned a house knows the amount of time, energy, and effort to maintain it. All things being equal, a smaller home requires less of your time, energy, and effort to accomplish that task.

2. Less time spent cleaning. And that should be reason enough…

3. Less expensive. Smaller homes are less expensive to purchase and less expensive to keep (insurance, taxes, heating, cooling, electricity, etc.).

4. Less debt and less risk. Dozens of on-line calculators will help you determine “how much house you can afford.” These formulas are based on net income, savings, current debt, and monthly mortgage payments. They are also based on the premise that we should spend “28% of our net income on our monthly mortgage payments.” But if we can be more financially stable and happier by only spending 15%… then why would we ever choose to spend 28%?

5. Mentally Freeing. As is the case with all of our possessions, the more we own, the more they own us. And the more stuff we own, the more mental energy is held hostage by them. The same is absolutely true with our largest, most valuable asset. Buy small and free your mind.

6. Less environmental impact. A smaller home requires less resources to build and less resources to maintain. And that benefits all of us.

7. Encourages family bonding. A smaller home results in more social interaction among the members of the family. And while this may be the reason that some people purchase bigger homes, I think just the opposite should be true.

8. Forces you to remove baggage. Moving into a smaller home forces you to intentionally pare down your belongings.

9. Less temptation to accumulate. If you don’t have any room in your house for that new treadmill, you’ll be less tempted to buy it in the first place (no offense to those of you who own a treadmill… and actually use it).

10. Wider market to sell. By its very definition, a smaller, more affordable house is affordable to a larger percentage of the population than a more expensive, less affordable one.

We were fortunate to find a home that met our list of nonnegotiables: 3 bedrooms, dining room/family room sufficient for entertaining, opportunity to house overnight guests, pleasant outdoors, quality school district, lovely neighborhood, and high craftsmanship.

Through the process, we reduced our home size from over 2,200 sq. feet to less than 1,700 sq. feet (and 4-levels to 1-level). But more importantly, we reduced our mortgage payments by almost 50%, we selected quality over quantity (always a wise decision), we removed anxiety inherent in burdensome monthly payments, and we have fallen in love with every square inch of our new home.

I just wish it hadn’t taken a move all the way across the country to finally enjoy the benefits…

What other benefits of living in smaller houses would you add to this list?

Joshua Becker inspires and encourages others to live with less on his blog, Becoming Minimalist. He has also authored two e-books, Simplify and Inside-Out Simplicity. But more importantly, he loves his wife and two small children.


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