This is my first post as part of the new Small Family Homes Blogger Network, started by Kate Saffle of The Streamlined Life and of the Cohesive Home podcast, which is how I first connected with her. All the writers in the network will share a new post each month on the same topic. Check out the links at the end of my post to see what other writers had to say on the topic of "the truth about living in a small family home."
Our house isn't small enough to be a hip tiny home. Not even close actually. You can only have a cozy 400 square feet to proclaim your home truly a tiny one. Technically we don't even live in a small home (1,000 square feet or less). Many, or perhaps all, of the other writers in this new network live in smaller homes than we do. Which might make you wonder why I would be part of a small home network.
When I quickly imagine an inventory of our friends' houses, ours falls towards the smaller end of the spectrum. It definitely seems small when I look at average home sizes from the most recent U.S. census. In 2010, it was 2,392 square feet. This is compared to an average home size of just 1,565 square feet in 1983, the year I was born.
So our house is both small and big. We just call it home.
When I read about the network Kate was starting I wanted to be part of it because our 1,776 square foot home will still seem small to many, especially for a family of four. So I hope I can offer the perspective of living in a small(ish) family home.
In the eight years since we bought our house it's become the backdrop for so much living. The significant moments and celebrations and all the everyday living that matters the most. In late March of 2010 we drove away from our home to Austin, TX and returned a married couple. In April 2013 we brought home our first baby boy and in December of 2014 our second. In 2016, we bestowed the name HiFi House on our little desert abode.
Our house keeps us comfortable whether it's hot, cold or rainy. Every Christmas we welcome a live evergreen tree inside and decorated it with lights and ornaments. Our house gives us a place to be together as a family and to be completely ourselves - whether that's having a dance party to Katy Perry or letting the boys run around naked. Sometimes both. We have a backyard where the boys help me fill bird feeders, where I find my moment of zen watering the plants, and where we can eat outside in nice weather.
The only time I think of the smaller size of our house is when we have big family or friend gatherings. To host Thanksgiving we borrow a folding table to set up next to our dining room table. For other gatherings people spread out between the kitchen island and the dining room. It has caused me some stress before but I've learned that people don't mind making do. These are people who care about us and just want to be together, after all.
The size and layout of our house means that our family is close to each other even if we're in separate rooms. We count this as a positive. I love not needing to use a monitor to be able to hear my boys during the night and being able to get to them quickly. The modest size of our home has also motivated us to minimize our belongings and get the full use out of each room. It actually feels like a fun challenge to see how efficiently and creatively we can use the space we have. Over the next year we're looking forward to putting the boys in one bedroom and creating a family den with a movie projector for family movie nights.
Perhaps my favorite blog post I've ever written is the one outlining our ideal life. It's a list I came up with after reflecting with Chris on the question, "What would our ideal life look like?" Our ideal life includes being debt-free, spending lots of time together as a family, and traveling to new places. We thought about our ideal life home environment and came up with a light-filled and uncluttered home with views of nature and a kitchen we love to cook in.
At the time I wrote that blog post I thought the list might guide us in moving to a new home in our 5- or 10-year future. I loved the idea of living in a house with more character and nicer finishes (like counters, bathrooms, floors, and landscaping).
Instead what's happened is that I've started to see how the HiFi House actually checks all the boxes of being our ideal home. It doesn't have high-end upgrades but that wasn't on our list. It's light-filled and uncluttered with a kitchen where we love to cook daily. Out our back windows we see trees and flowers, lucky to have backyard neighbors with lots of trees that give us a feeling of semi-privacy despite the small size of our yard. There are also parks we can walk to, several neighbors we know, and an elementary school right in the neighborhood where the boys will go until 6th grade.
But increasingly there's another aspect of our small(ish) home that makes it our ideal home: the affordability. We bought our house for $200,000 in 2009 and put $20,000 down. In 2015 we refinanced our mortgage for the second time and secured an interest rate of 2.875% on a 15-year mortgage. Our monthly payment is $1,280 and we'll pay off our house before our oldest son starts college. That feels incredible and makes me love our small home even more.
Having a smaller home means a smaller mortgage which allows us to save aggressively, bolsters our financial security, and lays the foundation for future opportunities including early retirement and family travel - and who knows what else!
And so when I think about our home and how its size compares to friend's homes and the average American home I get a particular feeling. It's not a feeling of envy. Or a desire for a bigger or nicer house. It's a feeling of affection for our cozy home. Because our small(ish) house is part of why we are able to live such a full life.
Megan Barnum-- “The Truth About Living SMALL” : What does living in a small space look like for a family of 4? Probably not a whole lot different from you.
Little Bungalow-- "Less Space, More Happiness" : In a small home, less space doesn’t equal more happiness. Except, of course, when it does.
600 Square Feet and a Baby-- "The Truth About Living in a Small Family Home" : Living small as a family of four is sometimes uncomfortable, a bit awkward and never boring. Sharing the awkward and imperfect of living small with 4 humans that you always wanted to know (or maybe you didn't.)
Shelley Vanderbyl-- "Five Things You Don't Need in a Small Home" : Gatekeeping is about recognizing what things you don't need or want, and trying to keep those objects from coming into your home.
The Justice Pirate-- "What Small Home Living is Like" : No matter if I lived in a cardboard box or a small home, I just like being with my family, who are my home.
Family At Sea-- "The Meaning of Space: Thoughts from a Former Tiny Home Mom" : After moving onto a boat, I thought the hard work of decluttering and downsizing was done, but I didn't realize that living in a tiny space was the beginning of the real work of the soul.
Real Food Simple Life-- "The Realities of Living in a Small Home with a Big Family" : A look into the benefits and challenges that a family of 6 (going on 7) experiences living together in an 800 square foot home in Scotland.
Tiny Ass Camper-- "I Didn't Know Tiny Living Was For Me" : My thoughts on the give and take of living tiny.
Family Pedals-- "Location Trumps Size" : The truth is, it has been our home's location--not size--that has determined our happiness in a given space.