The Space we Want and the Space we Need.

The suites at the Hilton are much bigger than Our Little House

October weekends are typically busy here at Our Little House.

I have the get together with my good friends from school and Dale and I usually like to take off for a weekend as we know winter will be setting in shortly.

We also like to get to one of the larger cities to get in anything we need that we cannot purchase online or get in our small town.

This past weekend, we drove up to Branson for a 2-hour trip on the scenic railway. I had long wanted to take the scenic train ride and we thought fall to be the perfect time of year.

Although my dad worked for the Santa Fe, I hadn’t been on a train since I was 18 months old and my family headed west to California for a trip.

We took the dinner train in Branson and we were very disappointed in the food and railcar. The meal was catered in and I don’t think we had ever had a piece of prime rib so overdone and tasteless.

I think we also must have been on the dining car that hadn’t been renovated. It felt old and dirty. The food didn’t spoil our ride. The staff was extremely nice and so were our table mates, who were vacationing from Wisconsin. We traded dog stories and photos, it’s always fun to find like minded dog lovers!

The trip was nice, it took us south back into Arkansas. I told Dale if we had waited one more week, the colors would have been in full season, but it was still an enjoyable, relaxing ride.

Our accommodations were familiar; we stayed at the wonderful Branson Hilton Convention Center, which never disappoints.

We always sleep so well and unlike the weekend of Dale’s birthday, I did not fall in the soaking tub and injure my leg, which made for a more relaxing soak.

I had to laugh when we checked out because although we had a suite, we only used the bedroom portion on this trip.

I had to wonder if we were growing more accustomed to having a small space and really not knowing what to do with a larger space when we do have it.

“Such a waste,” I told Dale as we were leaving. “We didn’t even use the living and dining areas.”

True, we were only there overnight and much of that was spent on the train and shopping for necessities we can’t get at home, but it did remind me of all of the wasted space we had in the house in Kansas City.

When we returned to Our Little House, I was even more aware that each and every inch of that space is used for living.

Do you have space in your house that you do not use? If you were to downsize, what rooms do you think you would actually need?

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46 Responses

  1. After moving across the Pacific three times in the last six years, we’ve really purged and gotten rid of much of the unnecessary stuff. We live in about 1200 sq. ft, but our closets are probably only half full.

  2. sarah henry says:

    My son and I live in under 800 sq feet and we use every inch of it well. There’s no room for stuff that isn’t necessary or functional.

    Sometimes, when I go to homes that have big rooms and lots of ’em I have space envy. But then I think about how much time these mansions take to clean.

  3. Steph Auteri says:

    I live in a good-sized one-bedroom condo, and I always complain that we don’t have enough space. In fact, when we first put our condo on the market in the spring of 2010, we put about half of our belongings in storage for staging purposes. And things still feel cluttered.

    Perhaps the problem is in the importance we place on things. I so admire your ability to live with — and embrace — less.

    • kerri says:

      It was during the staging process in the city that I believe we first realized we could live with so much less. Thanks for your comment.

  4. Sheryl says:

    I suppose once you get used to living in smaller spaces everything else seems large (and unnecessary)in comparison. I’m slowly wrapping my arms around downsizing. I long to simplify my life!

  5. Merr says:

    I’ve been thinking more about better utilization of our minute storage space in our own little-ish house. It’s a shift in thinking!

    • kerri says:

      Like with anything else such as diet, it is a shift in thinking. Once you do it, though, and see how much the clutter adds to your life, you’ll never go back!

  6. Kim says:

    Kerri, I’ve heard lots of not-so-positive things about the Branson railway. My general impression is that it’s a somewhat shabby operation.

    If you’re keen to drive a bit further, over in Springdale, AR there’s a train that travels from there down to historic Van Buren. The trip takes a couple of hours, then you have a few hours to eat lunch and wander the shops, and then pile back on the train for the trip back– about 8am to 5pm. The cars are refurbished early-1900’s– very nice.

    It makes for a VERY long day, especially if you travel over there and back from here– but it’s not grubby, you don’t have to eat a meal on the train, and you get a full day’s adventure out of the deal.

    Train site:

    Discount ticket site:
    (click on “branson” tab and download the .pdf to see their deals… it’s about 50% off the regular ticket prices)

    My mom and I took our kids a year ago and loved the trip!

  7. Such a contrast with the picture of the hotel room about your little house. I must admit, when I’m traveling with my family, I like the extra room in the hotel;)

    • Kerri says:

      Yes, it’s usually nice for us to spread out a little when we’re traveling too, it kind of gives us a little more room than we have at home. But, this time we just didn’t use it. It was a short trip though. When we went to KC in July for 5 days, we did use all of the space at the hotel. It was kind of nice for Dale to be able to go to the sitting area and watch tv while I had plenty of room to spread out and read or get on the computer.

  8. We have lots of space in our house that we don’t regularly use. In fact, just recently we began to furnish a sitting room upstairs … and we’ve been in this house for 10 years now. I hope that means we’ll use it more this winter.

    I do kind of like having extra space though. I’ve realized these last couple months with my mom in a double-occupancy nursing home room that tiny spaces makes me a little anxious. Maybe I’m projecting the situation on the space, but there were several times I had the urge to swing my arms to clear space around me. Weird, I know.

    • Kerri says:

      The amount of space we all need is relative, Roxanne. It could be that you’re projecting. I just know that I don’t want to spend my time now worrying about a large space to clean and maintain. I would rather be out enjoying the beautiful scenery here! 😉

  9. Alisa Bowman says:

    Our house is pretty small although not as small as yours. We have plenty if areas we don’t use much or we mostly use for storage. I think in reality, we need very little.

  10. NLM says:

    Love the little house! I’m not there yet, but I’m on my way soon…
    My post today asks “How Low Can You Go?” (sq. ft. that is).

    Thanks for the post!

  11. dawnielle says:

    HI!! I love your house!! we are going to be building in the next few yrs and there are 7 of us…so i was wondering while looking at your floor plan…..where is your bedroom? or do u double use a room? thanks!!!

    • Kerri says:

      Hi, Dawnielle, welcome to our Living Large community and congratulations on your plans to build. Our Little House was actually going to be a guest/house and office for me, so the room labeled as the office is our bedroom. We built a separate writer’s studio for my office needs. There is a post in either June or July about The Belle Writer’s Studio. It is an open 320 sq. ft. Let me know if I can answer any other further questions!

  12. Vida says:

    Hello Kerri,

    I live in a small house, about 580 sq ft. My husband and I live comfortably with 4 dogs. Our house was (is being) renovated from scratch which means that we could really make the spaces and storage count with efficient design.

    Even so, your post got me thinking: is there any space in my house that I don’t really use? Well I would say that the guest quarters in the loft area is the least used. When we don’t have guests, the mattresses on the platform bed are moved around to form an L shaped lounging area and piled with cushions, for reading or relaxing. That was the plan anyway, but I don’t really use the area yet as we are too busy to have time to lounge around! I would not like to do without this area though as we DO have guests often and in summer we even move out of the house entirely and set up a tent when a boatload of summer visitors arrive.

    Sometimes as a mental exercise I like to imagine if I had to design the space sans our current bedroom AND loft space. What would I do? Well at 300 sq ft I’ve imagined tons of great designs. For a very small house I would give priority to a flexible main living/dining area and a small but efficient kitchen. Bathroom can be tiny (it already is, but could be Tokyo-size) and bedroom could be in a cozy niche. I would pay attention to light and air flow/ventilation. Above all, storage, storage, storage.

    By the way, I don’t think that expressing your distaste for poorly cooked food is negative. It happens and as long as one does not let it spoil the entire outing then it’s just a stated fact. Obviously you had a blast, in spite of the bad meal and that’s pretty positive.

    • Kerri says:

      Thanks, Vida, and given how Dale and I love our food, it could well have spoiled the evening! 🙂 It only proves to us more and more that we can do better with most foods at Our Little House!

      I too, could do with about half of my office if I didn’t have a sitting/sleeping area for guests when they come here to visit. While we don’t get that many people that often, it does make it nice when they do come as they have their own space/bathroom, etc. Thanks for your comment. I’m glad it got you thinking.

  13. Kerri, I can relate to this. Suburban townhouse is full of empty spaces, including 50? sqft under the stairs (carpeted closet) that contans absolutely nothing. In fact, we total 4 closets with abslutely nothing in them. Imagine that, for a family of 4? Country cottage will be 360 sqft, and I imagine that it will be appropriately filled to a comfortable capacity.. yet simple and uncluttered, as it will be for weekend visits, etc. The trip out of town sounds wonderful! Fall leaves (early or at the perfect time).. a train ride does sound lovely!

  14. Jan says:

    Hey, Kerri, I am enjoying reading your website! I am sorry Eva had such a bad experience and hope she is able to find a blog that suits her needs. Let’s hope you can buy some prime rib locally and create a mouth watering meal to make up for the less than was expected meal you had on the train recently.

    • Kerri says:

      Actually, Jan, we have a prime rib I bought Dale for Father’s Day. He loves to grill and smoke meats, so I thought that would be a fun challenge for him. We agreed that it would be probably best done at home. Thanks for your encouraging words. You know what they say, you can’t please everyone, but I hope our community is overall pleased with what they read here.

  15. Mary Brown says:

    As you may remember we sold our house last year and rented from a friend for a while. The house we sold was 1400 sq ft and it was a down size to move to that house, our prior house was 2500 sq ft. We rented a 650 sq ft house from our friend but then our two grandsons 6 and 3 years old moved in. It was tight but we did it with all that stuff that kids have. Although we did it I really needed and wanted a bigger kitchen. We have moved again to another rental that is 1080 sqft which is better but like someone mentioned the layout could be better. Our Bedrooms are really big but I would rather the bedrooms be smaller and the kitchen be bigger.

    I think the rooms we need are a kitchen, living room,2 bedrooms,2 bathrooms, a craft space, storage space for out of season stuff and garages. I’m sure we could get by with less if we had to but this is the minimum space that I would be happy with.

    I’m still going through things and either giving them to my kids, selling them or freecycling them as I realize I don’t really use everything that is stored but there are things I enjoy and just won’t part with willingly….LOL Mary

    • Kerri says:

      Hi, Mary, Yes, I remember your move. Good hearing from you again. Maybe when you get into more permanent digs you can find something that better suits your needs? This morning, I was really wishing the studio were connected to the house. It was raining cats and dogs! 🙂

      • Mary Brown says:

        We just got back from a 2 week trip of looking at towns and house to retire to. The good news is we were able to cross some places off our list. We found a couple of areas that are good in two different states but I think it will be hard to move away from my grandkids.

        • Kerri says:

          Good luck with your decision, Mary! Look at it this way, you can be the fun place your grandkids come to visit in the summer!

  16. NoPotCooking says:

    At this point, I don’t think we could. If anything, we’re feeling cramped. My 19 yo daughter is not going anywhere for a long time (college, then med school) and my 13 yo isn’t moving out anytime soon. This generation can’t afford to move out, so there will be no empty nest for quite a while, and until then, we have no space to spare!

  17. mat says:

    Eva, the whambulance has been dispatched…hold tight.

    My wife and I have this discussion a couple of times a year, as part of my ongoing crusade to downsize. The way I see it, intelligent space planning will go a long way toward converting the non-believers (like the one I’m married to). For example:
    Our bedroom is 10×15, with a long, 18″ deep bay in it. But. The windows in the bay are 20″ off the floor. And the closet door is right at the corner of the room. And the radiator takes up 5′ of another wall–and corner. Because of the door placement, there’s 2 places you can put a bed–and both of them don’t especially work well for a queen bed. With smarter door, window, and radiator placement, the room could be 10×12 and we’d comfortably have more options for locating the bed and dressers. Plus fit our queen-sized bed.
    My kitchen is 9×15. It has 2 base cabinets in it: a 6′ wide sink base, and a 6′ “island”. Because it’s got 3 doorways and 2 low-hanging windows. It’s laid out sooooo poorly that it could be reduced to 9 x 9 and we’d retain all of our useability…such as it is.
    And that’s how the square-footage reduction game goes. Right now, I’ve drawn up a plan for a 24×28 cottage that I just LOVE. It’s got everything we need–a 10×13 living room that seats 5, an 8×9 kitchen, an oversized dining booth, a real bathroom (with a bathtub), laundry, and 2 fair-sized bedrooms. The wife isn’t sold…but I’ve got time.

    • Kerri says:

      LOL, Mat. So often, I learn from your comments. I had to look up whambulance and was surprised there is actually a definition for it! Thanks, you’ve just expanded my vocabulary. 🙂

      I agree with the space argument. It’s not really how much space you have sometimes, but how it is used. If I had known we were going to use our space full time when we built Our Little House, I would have definitely designed it differently and maybe a little more carefully.

      Good luck with your wife. Does she read LL? 🙂

      • mat says:

        Hey, my pleasure. Anytime you have to look up something on urban dictionary…is a fun time.

        My wife doesn’t read LL…she doesn’t really use the internet much, though when we sell her books and she gets a tablet, I think that’ll change. She doesn’t do Facebook, doesn’t really do personal e-mail, E-Bay, etc, etc. I think it’s because all of her family and friends are fairly localized. Conversely, my family and friends are pretty scattered (Columbus, Boise, NY, etc), so the digital realm has always been a good go-to for us to keep in touch.

        • Kerri says:

          Every time I looked at that word yesterday, it had me LOL. Thanks, that really made my day!

          My husband also does not use the Internet. When he needs to look something up, he comes and has me do it. He was very upset that the Craftsman tool catalogs can only be found online now.

  18. Sheryl says:

    Space is relative! About 5 times a year we go camping in a tiny camper , and upon return home, I’m always blown away by the size of the bedroom (I think we could park 3 of our campers in the room.) In comparison, the house feels like a mansion. Our house is now too big for us (we’ll remedy that when we move to our 900 sq cabin). When I walk past currently unused rooms that have collected things over the years, I’m reminded that the space I need, and the space I take up are two different things. It took me a while to get to that thinking, and it will take longer to get rid of the stuff filling those rooms. Ha.

    • Kerri says:

      Congratulations, Sheryl, on your impending move. Just remember, the most important thing is to be patient with yourselves. Downsizing is a process. We’re 4 years into it and there are some things I’m just now parting with. The sentimental things of my mother’s are the hardest.

  19. Alexandra says:

    Whew, Eva, chill! I think everyone has a right to complain once in a while.

    Sorry you were disappointed with the railroad. My dad used to love trains, his memory of childhood train rides in Russia remained vibrant even when he was an old man.

    I have thought about living space and how little we really need often. Need the bedroom and the kitchen, really.

    • Kerri says:

      Thank you, Alexandra. I didn’t mean it so much as a complaint as it was a warning. The added expense of dinner was substantial and we wish we would have spent our time in the “big city” eating at a better venue. We have so many readers in our community from the Ozarks, I felt it necessary to inform. The train ride was nice, however, and I would recommend that. You’re right, for a couple, a nice living/sleeping and kitchen area, is good for us.

  20. Sounds like a great trip, and how fun to take a scenic train ride through the Ozarks! Must have been lovely! Too bad about the food, but at least you had all those wonderful restaurants in Branson to look forward to.

    One of the things we like about our house is that it’s big enough to accommodate ourselves and meet our needs, and also roomy enough for our daughters and their respective boyfriends when they come home for a visit. There is plenty of space for everybody to have their own sleeping quarters and bathroom when the house is full.

    But- another thing we like is that if it ever became necessary, we could actually reduce our own living space to just the downstairs and close off the upstairs entirely. Heating and cooling is zoned, so we wouldn’t have to waste energy on empty space. We wanted a house that we could grow old in, without having to move, and this one gives us that flexibility.

    As it is now, we use the upstairs space for TV viewing and our office area, and there is an upper deck that we love to sit out on and enjoy a starry night, or the beautiful colors of autumn leaves.

    • Kerri says:

      The whole point of the Small House Movement is not to say that everyone must life in 320 sq ft or 480 sq ft., or whatever it may be. It is to get people to recognize that they may not *need* 4,000 sq. ft., to only have the space they need and will use. It sounds like you did that when you chose your new house, Kathleen!

  21. Heather L. says:

    Most people who have large houses typically only use three or four rooms in that house. But unlike you, they don’t usually realize it. I’m happy to say we also use our entire house, which isn’t tiny, but just right for us. Your suite at the Hilton looks lovely. At first glance, I thought it was your house.

    • kerri says:

      The Hilton is a beautiful hotel, Heather. It is more modern than the decor at Our Little House, but it is a nice change of scenery 1-2 times per year.

  22. Eva says:

    i was interested in reading your article, but was disappointed. You started nicely…but quickly slipped into a rhetoric of negativity…at the age of 18 months you decided that, and I quote you: “and I don’t think we had ever tasted a piece of prime rib so over­done and tasteless.” REALLY? I am surprised.
    I haven’t read this much negativity in an article which – so I thought – might enhance the feeling of well-being by living in a smaller space than we are used to. Instead of feeling good – I don’t. I will fetch a nice piece of music to get back into a happier place – No – i won’t come back…