Forget the Numbers: Living Large is a State of Mind

My Friend, Candy's, dining room


After posting a photo of a cabin on the Living Large Facebook page the other day, one of our Living Largers wrote, “Don’t get me wrong, I think this house looks divine, but I must not have the same understanding of the phrase ‘little house’ as everyone else that considers this house to be little.”

This reader’s comments aren’t uncommon. When the story I wrote about our house ran in Mother Earth News Magazine in 2009, there were some who said they didn’t think we had a “true” little house since we have out buildings and I have The Belle Writer’s Studio from which I work every day.

As the tiny/small house movement has continued to grow in popularity and more people learn about it, I’ve read many more comments defining what is and isn’t a tiny/small house.  Is it tiny if it’s under 400 square feet? Small or little if under 600, 800, 1,000? I have to admit, I was even confused for a while on what exactly defines a small home.

But after living in Our Little House (480 square feet) for seven years, my thoughts have evolved away from numbers and square footage to what the movement is really all about: Living happily in the home you need with only the things you need and love surrounding you.

In other words, Living Large is really a state of mind.

A friend of mine, Candy Barnes, who is a real estate agent here in Arkansas, recently moved into a new home. It isn’t small, but it isn’t a huge McMansion, either.

It’s just right. It feels right, not cluttered or too big, but comfortable. Candy recently posted photos of her home on her Facebook page and wrote, “If we surround ourselves with the things we love, the things that make us happy, the things that give us pleasure, then we will always have an oasis to retreat to in times of stress!”

That’s what home should be about, it should be our oasis that envelops us like a warm blanket when we walk through the door, not overwhelms. For much of my adult life, I wondered why I could not achieve that feeling in my own home and it wasn’t until we moved to Our Little House that we serendipitously discovered living small is our American Dream.

What was missing was I had that overwhelming sense when I walked into our 1,100 square foot home because it was cluttered with stuff we didn’t need in space we didn’t need. We had two living rooms (one formal, one family), four televisions, 1.5 bathrooms (although my husband worked nights and we were on opposite schedules), 3 bedrooms (one was our “junk” room) and a huge country kitchen.

It always needed to be cleaned or painted or some type of maintenance on our days off. The yard needed mowed, weeds pulled, bushes trimmed. It was expensive to heat in the winter and cool in the summer and the taxes were outrageous.

For some people, maintaining a home and yard is fulfilling, but it wasn’t for us, it was a chore.

It’s all about living happily in the home you need with only the things you need and love surrounding you and for each one of us, the number of things, like the number in the square feet, is different.

Do you think the tiny/small house movement should be defined by square footage/number of possessions?



You may also like...

2 Responses

  1. Carol says:

    When we started our discussion about retirement and moving to our little house on the desert, I measured the space we actually used in our current house. 420 sq feet. Just the same as our little house. We just didn’t need the extra living room, used only on Christmas, and the spare bedroom which has become storage for stuff we don’t know what to do with. We are planning to move in June, but did add on another 400 sq feet of living space so we can have an actual bedroom and family room. I still see it as a little house and am looking forward to having less things to manage and no yard work. I am going through my things and it’s exciting to find just the right things for the new space. Having no mortgage will be a big bonus! Things can overwhelm us and having just the right amount of stuff for us will be an adventure. Any downsizing and streamlining that makes you happy should qualify as small house living.

    • Kerri says:

      I agree, Carol. It’s all about the happy. Congrats on your move and going debt free, how exciting! I hope you’ll share photos with us on the FB page after your move!