Seven months ago, Andrew and I moved back into the little love-nest we bought when we were engaged almost six years ago. We bought a two bedroom, one bathroom 900ish-square-foot "cottage" in a cozy suburb nestled next to downtown a few weeks before we were married.
While we were overseas, we rented it out. And moving back in was one of the highlights of our transition back to the States. How many people get to move into their home a second time? It's a chance to do everything you wished you'd done the first time around. The experience has taught us so much about how to be happy in (and even love) a small home.
Ironically, our home in Cambodia was a bit bigger than our American house - the bedrooms were smaller, and it had no closets, but the trade off was a huge open living space with lots of windows and sunlight. We've had to adjust to a different style of living here in Kansas City. And slowly, I've fallen back in love with our (almost) tiny home.
But it's been a process. I've had to readjust my expectations of personal space. And I've had to choose to be content right where we are and not allow jealousy to creep in when I visit my friends' more spacious dwellings. Fortunately, there are so many reasons to live in a smaller home (considering the average American home size is about 2,600 square feet, we are definitely below average). What I want to talk about today is how to actually love living in one.
If you live (or have lived) in a smaller home, I'd love it if you shared your thoughts in the comments, too!
Stop wishing you lived somewhere else.
The first step in being content is to stop wishing your house was bigger. When I allowed that frustration to creep into my thoughts - "why can't I have my own office? Why is this kitchen so small? Why can't we have a bigger living room?" - my dissatisfaction with our home skyrocketed. I browsed the realtor's websites, checking out the other options, despite knowing we weren't ready to move any time soon.
But when I chose to be thankful for what we had and to stop thinking about moving, those feelings of discontent went away. Happiness is our choice, and we can decide to be content in the house we're in. Start choosing today.
Get rid of stuff.
I have heard a lot of people complain about their small house being too small for all their stuff. I have to bite my lip to keep from saying, "Maybe the house isn't the problem." Most of us have way more material possessions than we need, or even realize. And a small house that is cluttered and disorganized would make anyone want to move.
But nature abhors a void, and most people, upon moving to a bigger home, slowly accumulate even more possessions to fill up the extra space. It's not the house, my friend; it's you.
We need to see our small homes as an opportunity to pare down what is not necessary. If your clothes don't fit in your closet, give some away. If your books spill out of the shelves onto the floor, sell some at Half Price Books. Granted, this is easy for me to say, because I am an unsentimental purger by nature (my husband has jokingly asked friends to buy back any photos of us that may show up in our neighborhood thrift store). But doing so has made our small house feel larger, because we have more space to enjoy.
If this makes you nervous or uneasy, start by reading the best book I've ever read on organizing - The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. She is a Japanese tidying guru and has crafted a book on organizing without a single photo that has inspired me to get rid of anything that doesn't create "a spark of joy" in my heart. It really will change your life!
Only buy furniture that can play double duty.
After getting rid of the unnecessary stuff, get creative with your storage space. Every square inch counts, so only buy what gives you the most functionality.
Our round dining table has two drop leafs so we can keep it against the wall or open it up for more company (you can fit a lot of people at a round table). The living room holds a storage ottoman that functions as a mini-office space (with file organizers, laptop storage, and books I'm reading). Our couch has a hide-a-bed, which is handy when we have overnight guests, since we don't have an extra bedroom. We sleep on a platform bed base from Ikea with drawers that hold our extra linens, shoes, and seasonal clothing.
Vintage typewriter tables make fantastic side tables with their drop leaf sides, a half-shelf on the bottom that can hold baskets for books, and wheels so it's easily moved. Having less space available to store things means we have to be very selective on whatever we allow into our homes.
We take William Morris very seriously when he said, "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful." In a small house, do your best to find things that are both.
Don't wait to make it your own.
It's easy to feel like a small house is just a "temporary" home - to wait til you move somewhere bigger and better to do everything you love on Pinterest. But don't live like a temporary guest. Even if your small home is a rental that you will only spend a year in, make that year beautiful. Hang meaningful art. Paint the walls. Take decorating risks. Plant flowers. Meet your neighbors. Make that small house your home. You will never regret creating a space in which you can rest, be yourself, and connect with others.
If you're stuck on how to do that, The Nesting Place: It Doesn't Have to Be Perfect to Be Beautiful is an inspiring, approachable book that gets down to the whys of creating a home you love (even if it's not yours) before giving you the hows. I read very few home decor books, but I devoured this one within a few days. Another great resource is this post on how to make a home for families in a small apartment - like, New-York-City-sized apartments - which make my home seem huge by comparison!
In the end, being content in our homes starts in our hearts. God places us where we need to be, and for many, a small home teaches us contentment, simplicity, and intentionality about our time and possessions. Our small home has actually made my life better, and I'm happy to be here as long as God wants us to be.
If you live (or have lived) in an almost-tiny home, I'd love to hear your thoughts on how to love being there. And p.s. I'm sending out my monthly newsletter (soon?), so if you'd like to get a more personal update (and what small habit has changed my mornings for good), sign up here.
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