Pros and Cons of Downsizing Our House

by Emiley Thacker on 2009-03-3126

The pros and cons of living in a small house.

A few years ago, my spouse and I bought a gorgeous, late-1920’s Dutch Colonial home in a not-so-fabulous hamlet where I was raised, by Tarrytown, New York. This house is about 2,800 square feet on a little less than two acres, and was something I just fell in love with. However, over time, we eventually realized that the house was a bit too large for our tastes. So we sold the place last Spring and house hunted for something smaller. And just recently, we accidentally stumbled upon a diamond-in-the-rough type house in a village by my hometown.

The new place is great. The interior is practically brand new and has all kinds of fun upgrades, like a towel warmer in the guest bath, a jetted tub in the master bath, huge windows, and a fantastic stove in the kitchen. The best part? It’s low maintenance. Our village lot will be easy to maintain with a push mower (the spouse’s job), and the roughly 1,600 square feet interior will be a breeze to keep clean (my job).

As I consider the differences between our previous large home and our current smaller one, it strikes me that there are many pros and cons to living in a smaller home. YMMV, but here are my findings:

small home, downsizing our house, small house
Image by Eco Joe’s

Downsizing Our House: The Pros of a Smaller House

  • The financials! Our mortgage payment on the smaller place is within a few dollars of the payment on the larger place — the difference is that it’s only a 15-year note as opposed to thirty, and we hope to have it paid off in five years or less. We are also looking forward to lower utility bills and upkeep costs.
  • Cleaning is a lot easier when there’s a lot less house to clean. In the old house, I would spend eight solid hours cleaning every weekend in addition to the little stuff I did every day, and still not get everything done. In our new house, a half hour on weeknights and maybe a couple of hours on the weekend keep the place spic and span.
  • We have time to appreciate our house. With the reduced amount of time spent on maintenance comes an increase in the time we can spend actually enjoying the house. We’re finishing up the unpacking and settling in phase, but have already managed to have a few friends over for a visit — something we rarely had time for in our larger home.
  • We’re living more simply. I’ve got less of a propensity to hang onto unneeded stuff when living in a smaller home. Whenever we move homes, I use it as an opportunity to purge out the extra clutter and recycle away our old possessions. This is a great time to consider doing away with the things we no longer need.

    Here are a few articles that may be helpful on the subject of decluttering:

The Cons of a Smaller House

  • We need to be more organized. If I don’t keep up with the cleaning, our clutter tends to take over our home more quickly; it’s something we can’t ignore nearly as long as we could in our larger home. So it’s imperative that I try to organize our home as best as possible to keep control of our stuff.
  • I no longer have a “buffer” — that space we’d like to preserve for ourselves while at home. When the spouse gets annoying (you know yours ticks you off from time to time, too), it’s harder to get away from him. Not only that, our large home had two stories, and the new place has only one floor. So stomping off in a huff loses some of its drama without the stairs.
  • Less space. Every new purchase has to be made with space taken into consideration. Before I buy something, I have to think twice about how to accommodate the new item in our house. But the silver lining here is that this will be a big money saver for me. After all, I can’t make too many impulse buys when there’s no place to actually put the stuff!
  • Fewer house guests. Downsizing from four bedrooms down to two really puts a damper on those visits from friends and family from out of town. Although, I know quite a number of people who will say that this is actually a positive development in their lives! Some may actually see this as an advantage of downsizing.

It’s funny how quickly priorities can shift. A couple of years ago, I wouldn’t have dreamed of living in anything smaller than 2,000 square feet, but now I’m quite happy in a home far smaller than that. I know many people would consider my home a shoe box but to me, it’s definitely quite the castle!

Copyright © 2009 The Digerati Life. All Rights Reserved.

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Baker @ ManVsDebt March 31, 2009 at 6:43 pm

This is a great article! My wife and I are considering moving onto a sailboat! Talk about a downgrade in size. We would be most discouraged by not having the room to host visitors and guest, however it would be fun to at least take them out on the boat!

ObliviousInvestor March 31, 2009 at 7:45 pm

My wife and I (no kids) currently live in a Chicago apt that’s roughly 850 square feet. It feels too big to me. I feel guilty heating this much space when most of it is just storage for our stuff.

Your 1600 sq ft shoebox is quite the castle in my eyes! Hehe.

Jose March 31, 2009 at 8:07 pm

Love small home living. Had a home in Florence that was 264sq/ft and was the best place i’ve ever lived.

Well done.

Bonnie L. March 31, 2009 at 9:02 pm

I live in a 258sqft home and I have to say I love it ;) If I was attached it might be a bit difficult but my home is just the right size for me and my puppy. Due to me buying such a tiny place I was able to buy in a much better area of town, actually in the heart of the city. I live seconds from the subway, shops and restaurants and the cbd district where I work, and am able to walk to work every day.

Having a smaller home means I buy much less, and my house has become less cluttered as a result (and my bank balance is a lot healthier :P) Housework takes just moments every night, and I also noticed because my house was so small it cost a lot less to buy furnishings. In a lot of cases I was able to use remnants and samples at a fraction of the cost. Also it meant I could afford to get quality since I was buying so little.

It is harder to have a large group of people around but since I live near restaurants usually we just go downstairs to eat (which saves me the stress of cooking for many people). I love living in my dolls house ;)

Miss M April 1, 2009 at 6:21 am

OK Bonnie wins! How is there even a house that small, the smallest houses I’ve seen are around 400 sq ft. My house is 750 sq ft and people find that humorously small. But it has everything we need and as I’ve learned, various advantages. Most notably I haven’t acquired as much “stuff” since I have no where to store it! It does force you to live more simply. I wrote a post about it a few months ago

KISS — Keep It Simple, Small

Funny Quotes April 1, 2009 at 6:50 am

Living in a small house isn’t too bad, and can be quite relaxing. Like you said, cleaning is easier. I personally don’t live in a big house and I am enjoying it. Although, I do think the house in the picture is a bit too small for my tastes ;-). When I first read the title, I thought, I hope he’s not talking about homes of this size.

Neal Frankle April 1, 2009 at 6:57 am

I’ve been in really cozy homes that were small and very cold cavernous mansions. I go with cozy every time.

Stacey April 1, 2009 at 2:02 pm

It’s funny, my friends and I are having the same discussion right now – we’re all 20-somethings looking to buy or having bought in the past year. We love our 1,100 sq. ft. home, but if feels a bit large for two people. I’m sure that will change once we start our family – it didn’t make sense to buy a one-bedroom home if we are planning to have kids in the next 2-3 years.

I’ve got to agree, the “no overnight guests” limitation is a plus for us. When really close friends stop in from out of state, we just sleep on the couch and offer up our bedroom. But there’s no one else “inviting” themselves over, short of an emergency. I have other friends who frequently get uninvited guests spoiling plans for the weekend. Guests are great, but don’t invite yourself.

Michael Harr April 1, 2009 at 8:47 pm

I’m glad to find some people that can relate to ‘smaller living’. My wife and I live in a 1300 sq. ft. condo with our boys who are 6 and 10. We love our little condo, but I can tell you that we get a lot of looks from people that must think we have five heads and one eye. We live in the outskirts of Cincinnati and housing is affordable, but we’ve been here for 11 years and the urge to upsize just isn’t there.

By historical measures, we live in a relatively large home. In the 1950s, the average home size was just 941 sq. ft., a vast departure from today’s average of over 2,000! Smaller living is great for family (no place to hide), reduces unwanted guests, is great for the environment, and well, it’s easy.

Our ultimate goal is semi-retire when the kids are out of the house to a green cabin kit house on a lake in the middle of nowhere. Fishing, kayaking, and relaxation are the orders for that future day that will be considerably easier to fund than if we upsized our home.

Anne @ best term life April 1, 2009 at 10:18 pm

100% agree. It’s not practical to live in a huge home with only two occupants. I’m just wondering why there are still those with logic of living in a big house located in a big lot and so on and so forth. Me, I don’t go for it either. I’m contented living simply-just like you.

Sue | SA Commercial Propery April 1, 2009 at 11:56 pm

I have just come across your site and what a great read. I have to agree down sizing is the way to go, it’s more affordable and much easier to maintain a smaller property than that of a larger one. I myself live in a apartment yes it has both an upstairs and a downstairs but it is compact and comfortable for its size. There are two of us that live there and we have enough space and its great to maintain. I don’t miss having a huge garden like the one I had when I was young, I still have my plants that I love and its just perfect for the both of us.

Goran Web Design April 2, 2009 at 11:28 pm

If you don’t have a big family it doesn’t make sound financial sense to have such a big place. Good on you for downsizing and enjoying the benefits from doing so. An interesting exercise would be to do a monthly evaluation on money saved, and multiply it by twelve to see the annual savings. It might just help pay for a nice getaway / holiday!

fathersez April 15, 2009 at 10:13 pm

A 2 acre lot? Wow that is huge. Ours ( a 5 children family, with the 2 elder girls away) is a 3,400 sq. ft lot. The built up is about 2,200. And we think ours is big!

It must be tough maintaining the 2 acre lot. In our country you will have a forest if left untended for a year…hehe

Katie Hilmes May 3, 2009 at 3:13 pm

Your right, living in a small home is less cleaning time and more time to spend with your family. Also, in some states that have to pay property tax it is cheaper, because it goes by your square foot of your house. It is cheaper to furnish it so you will need less furniture, too. You will have less windows to cover.

EscapeSomewhere May 8, 2009 at 2:21 am

Wow I thought I lived in the smallest place of my friends. We were in a place that was 590 sq ft. Now we are at about 800. Years ago we had a larger place. Small places are so much easier to care for. They have lower maintance and heating costs. They are often in the inner city which can translate to lower gas costs as well.

retro50sgirl June 7, 2009 at 2:30 pm

I am so thankful to run across this site. My husband and I are in the process of downsizing from a 2,700 sq. ft. stick built ranch home to a 1,200 sq. ft. steel building home. Since we’re building to our specifications we’ll have the amenities we didn’t have in the larger home.

Paul June 8, 2009 at 9:41 am

I do agree that we should all think practically.

Karyn August 3, 2009 at 6:58 am

I loved reading all of the comments. My husband and I live in 1000sq feet home and I feel like I need to keep up with the Jones. But I guess small is wiser, less costs and less to worry about. I sometimes wish we had bought a 2000 sq feet home, but with the economy the way it is, lets just be thankful we have a home.

JoeJoh September 12, 2009 at 7:29 am

Not only did I find a gorgeous house plan, but a realistic, down to earth philosophy on building small. I can’t wait to build mine! I travel for my living and spend about 80% of my time in hotel rooms so I have learned how to live “small” and it truly frees one’s spirit (and pocketbook). If you are serious, or curious…check out welovesmall.com.

Willysgirl April 20, 2010 at 1:43 pm

Glad to catch this site. My husband and I have given the thought to downsize and now I’m convinced. We live in a 3600 square foot house (for 2 people) that I designed and we built 12 years ago. A lot of room to amble in and not to speak of the JUNK we’ve collected over the years. Will be making some changes.

Timo July 17, 2010 at 11:24 am

The cleaning part is definitely the biggest benefit when living in a small home — it’s easier and faster to clean a small home. I just hate cleaning and now when living in a bigger home, it is a tedious task. Even if I do it with my wife :)

Derek November 16, 2010 at 1:45 pm

I love these tiny homes………..PERFECT!! My wife and I were discussing the lifestyle we would have after the kids grew up and out to have families of their own and I told her that I would love to own one of these but out in the middle of the woods somewhere quiet and peaceful!

Primrose November 30, 2010 at 6:43 am

A small home does not only become more cosy if less cluttered, but also brings the occupants closer together.

Deanna November 30, 2010 at 8:15 am

Eddie really likes this article because he’s so mean that no woman will want to marry him and live with him; because they don’t feel like committing to him due to his meanness. So thank you for showing him the pros and cons of his future living arrangements. :)

paco1105 December 13, 2010 at 9:27 am

I currently live in a 6 bdrm., 4 bathroom house with a living room, formal sitting room, formal dining room, large kitchen, etc., staircase is long & lots of hardwood floors that take extra care. All the rooms are large.

It is a bear to clean. The house that was the easiest to clean was my 1900 sq. ft. house. I am looking around and realizing I will need to put in at least 8 hrs. of cleaning on the first floor alone. Of course, half way through I will get tired and half the downstairs will be still be dirty. By the time other half is cleaned the other half will be dirty and the upstairs will be dirtier than it is right now.

My husband and two children do nothing. If I had to do it over, I would buy an 1800 or 1900 sq. ft. rancher. Thanks for listening.

Silicon Valley Blogger December 13, 2010 at 1:49 pm

@paco1105,
If you had a large house, you’d have to think about maintenance and budgeting for that size. For example, cleaning should be part of the budget. As in hiring house cleaners. In some places, it’s pretty common to have house cleaners and gardeners doing the work. Of course, you’d have to pay for that but it’s stuff you can outsource. In fact, in some metropolitan areas, you can even outsource meals now and have live-in babysitters.

What I mean is this — if you have a large house, it is assumed you could afford its upkeep. If not, then definitely think about downsizing.

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