Small houses

            Growing up, I lived in a house that was 1,008 square feet according to the blueprints. I'm pretty sure that included the bathroom, the hallway, and the closets. At the time, through my child's eye, I did not realize how small that house was. To me, it was the world. The backyard was large, I had my own room (granted it was all of 9x10 feet in dimension), and I was free to roam the neighborhood. I had no concept of exactly how compact - yes, compact...I don't like the word 'small' - the house was. 

My swing in my backyard. 

            A few years ago, I was back in my hometown, visiting friends who still lived next door to my old house and I found my old house to be vacant. Given the fact that I lived there for 17 years, I knew how to break into (and out of...sorry Mom) that house. So I did. And wandering back through it was a trip down memory lane. The people that bought it from us had changed some things but many things were still the same. The atrium was gone but the marks on the pantry door, indicating my growth, remained. So did the initials I carved into the inside of the closet door in my room. And sitting in what had been my room made me realize just how compact that house had been. I felt like a giant in that room.

Our atrium.

            Even after I moved out, the largest space I inhabited was no bigger than that house, save for my in-laws' house where I lived for a year. But I lived in my husband's childhood bedroom so I didn't really count the entire house. Our house in Alaska was really a condo in an 8-plex and, though it was 3 stories, it was probably no more than 1,500 square feet. Our house in Alabama was a duplex and large but not that big - probably not even 2,000 square feet. And our house in Hawaii - as are all houses in Hawaii unless you're rich - was much smaller than that, coming in just over 1,400 square feet.

            For six years, we strained against that square footage. It didn't help that the garage was on the small side while my husband's collection of tools, computer equipment, and other garage-related machinery is, well, not. So we (and by 'we' I mean 'I') had to be creative in our storage of things and cognizant of the limitations of our space. And we longed for space. Well, MacGyver longed for space. I longed for less 'stuff'. 

He won.

            We PCSd to the midwest where land is plentiful and housing costs are a fraction of what they are in Hawaii so homes are bigger. MUCH bigger. The house we live in now is two and a half times larger than the house we lived in while we were in Hawaii. In addition to the massive square footage, we have an oversized garage - much to MacGyver's delight - and a fairly large yard. The Boy and The Girl each have their own room AND there is room for guests (though no bed unless you count the AeroBed...we're hoping to buy a new bed if we find out we get to stay in the Army and stay here). The school area has its own space. MacGyver's computer stuff has its own space. The video game/Lego mess has its own space! The dining room is just that - a dining room. It's not a schoolroom or an office or a sewing/craft room, or anything other than a dining room! Novel concept. All of this space for us to stretch out. 

Room to BREATHE! 


And I can't STAND it. 

          Don't get me wrong - I am grateful for our house. I am grateful to have a roof over our heads, a place to call home. But I can't STAND how big this house is. I thought I'd love having a place for everything and room to move and breathe and stretch. And I can't stand it. I lose my people. With so much space, I never know who is home, where they are, or what they are doing. In Hawaii, I knew what my children were doing at all times because it's hard to hide anything in 1,400 square feet. If they weren't playing in their room (singular...they shared. And their room was right off the living room so I could hear/see them pretty much all the time) then they were in the living room. Or in the backyard. Or riding bikes down the street.

            But in this house, their rooms (plural...they no longer share) are down the hall from the living room. And the video games/Legos are downstairs in the basement. And I lose them. I lose my husband too. He can be downstairs in the computer area, playing video games with The Boy and The Girl in the basement, or puttering in the garage. I never know where anyone is. The other day, we were getting ready to leave to go to a friend's house and I thought The Girl was at her friend's house down the road. I started to go get her and The Boy informed me that she was downstairs and had been for an hour or so. I didn't have a clue!

            Regardless of the outcome of the promotion board, we plan on moving when our lease is up. Not only is the house not a good fit for us, it's too far from the bulk of our activities in town and our gas budget is a huge drain on our finances. Even if the news from the promotion board is good news, I am going to push for us to find a smaller house. I want that closeness back again. We don't need to be living on top of one another and my children are getting to an age where sharing a room is not feasible (though it might become temporarily necessary if we wind up having to cut our living expenses drastically in preparation for MacGyver's exit from the Army) but I'd like to downsize.

            There's a lot to be said for living in a small(er) house. I've seen both sides of that and I prefer a smaller house. What about you?

One of my favorite architects (and one of my dad's too, I believe) is Frank Lloyd Wright. I love his simple, elegant designs and the 'bones' of his architecture. This book is on my wish list:


- hfs


Pogue said...

Give it a year and you'll fill all that space up. And you won't even notice it till you move! (Got _that_ particular T-shirt!)

Homefront Six said...


We pushed our weight limit getting here. And that was after a pretty solid purge on the departing end. We've been here 10 months and the only thing we've added is a coffee table. We have a refrigerator and a motorcycle to sell in addition to 2 closets full of miscellaneous stuff. And I'm still weeding through all of our crap.

Aloha Ya'll! said...

Totally agree. We finally got Kerry's dream of a big house when we were in VA. I hated it. Too much to clean. Too much space to fill with junk.

Sandi said...

5 bedroom, 3 baths, 3500 square feet and we're out of room. However there are 6 of us.

Oh Hell said...

Check out one of the "Tiny House" websites - you'll get a kick out of it. When they say "tiny" they really MEAN tiny!!!!

Homefront Six said...

I've seen those tiny houses! Personally speaking, I would love to live in one. It's the other 3 people in my household that wouldn't be able to handle it.

My first apartment was a studio in SoCal that *might* have been 400sf IF you counted the closet.

Aside from the fact that it was a cinder block pizza oven with 1 window and no a/c, I loved it.

Aadel Bussinger said...

I think the square footage matters, but so does house design. Our house is a tiny bungalow- and I long for a house where we can all be in the same room together without having to bump butts!

I like houses that "flow" well- and are logical to your lifestyle. We are still on the look-out for that medium between more space and better design. Hey- you can buy our tiny house! LOL

Crista said...

I remember a few years ago I went back to the city in New Mexico where I lived for 3rd-5th grade. My childhood memories recalled it as being a huge city, miles to walk from the condo to the building that housed the 4th graders. My adult mind has now seen it and the reality is far different. I drove by the 4 houses we lived in during those three years...all so different than my childhood memories. The neighborhood we lived in before that in Indiana is exactly as I recall it...We were in that house from 1977-1983. It's virtually unchanged, except for some new fencing around the property lines. I long to go inside that house...


Wrote this six years ago. Nothing's changed.  One of my favorite movies is 'Bull Durham'. And one of my favorite scenes in ...