Most People Don’t Need a Big House

Over at, they’re discussing how people who live in big houses only use a small percentage of their total square footage when it comes to daily living. That wasn’t true of us.

Our big house had five bedrooms and an office. We ran two businesses from home, and I homeschooled our children. For many years, every single room of our house was used every day. I used to say that we got more mileage out of our mortgage payment than anyone else we knew.

But that was then. The kids are in their 20s and 30s now and on their own; we downsized to a smaller house several years ago. There are three of us living in 1000 square feet, and we’re quite comfortable. However, had we stayed in our old house, we’d be rattling around with more space than we’d know what to do with. I can easily imagine that, like the people mentioned in the link above, we’d be spending most of our time in just a few rooms of the house.

Thinking about how you use the rooms in your house is a really valuable exercise. Unless you have more money than you know what to do with, you might want to consider whether your current house is really larger than you need it to be. A smaller house means lower costs; lower costs equals more freedom because you don’t have to earn so much money to support yourself, leaving you more time to do the things you really want to do.

I suspect that for many people, the big house ties them to their jobs. If they love their jobs, that’s fine. But many people don’t love their jobs. Living in a smaller house might free them to work somewhere that pays less but offers work that they love.

Some people love the status that a big house confers on them. If status is your goal, then you probably don’t care whether you use many rooms in your house or not. You’re more concerned about what other people think.

I certainly enjoyed having all the space we had in our big house (the master bath was bigger than the master bedroom in our current small house). But that house took a long time to clean, cost us a fortune in property taxes, and maintaining it would probably wear us out now, since we’re a little older (ahem) than we were when we built it 30 years ago.

I loved that big house, and I miss it. But I love this little house, too. Ultimately, some people actually need and use a big house, as we did, but only for a certain stage of their lives. After that, I think most people will find that living efficiently gives them more freedom.

Trading a Big House for a Tiny House

This story about a company in Missouri that builds tiny houses has an interesting lede: a family is selling their big house and moving into a tiny house even though they can afford the big house. The reason? The big house eats up so much money that they haven’t been able to go on a vacation in seven years. They’ve decided to live debt-free and be able make memories instead of spending all their cash on a big, impressive home.

I get it. I used to live in a big house. It was a great place to raise our large family, but it cost a lot in upkeep, utilities and (especially) property taxes. So I understand where the woman in the article is coming from. I imagine that no matter how much you love your house, when it begins to keep you from doing other things you want to do, you start to fall out of love with it.

I suspect this woman may find her new digs to be a little constrained. She might be better off buying something a bit larger than a tiny house, but more affordable than her current large home. In any case, we’re seeing more and more of this sort of thing as people try to stay afloat financially and enjoy life at the same time.

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Too Much House

A dear friend in her early 60s complains that it takes her all day to clean her house, and afterwards she is exhausted. I feel sorry for her, but the truth is that her house is way too big for her. She raised five kids in it, and is emotionally attached to it, but the kids are grown and gone and she doesn’t need all that space anymore.

Maybe it’s just as well that I was forced to give up my big house. It held many memories and I miss it, but I love having a small house now. I remember after we made the offer on it, and I drove by it with my daughter, who hadn’t seen it yet. She exclaimed, “It’s so small!” and I responded, “That’s what I’ll say about my electric bill each month when I open it,” and that’s exactly what I do say every month.

As King Solomon said in Ecclesiastes in the Bible, there is a time for everything: the time to have a big house is when you have lots of people to live in it. Once they’ve grown, the small house becomes a great idea for so many reasons:

  • It takes me about two hours to clean my little house (except for the basement, which I clean once in a while), leaving me more time to do things I enjoy.
  • Our utility and property tax bills are small, which helps us stay debt-free. We had to sell our big house because we couldn’t afford the $7000 property tax bill anymore and didn’t want to risk losing a paid-off house to unpaid taxes.
  • I always wanted to live on acreage, but now that we’re pushing 60, I can see that our modest yard is more than enough work for us at this stage of life.
  • Whenever we have to make an improvement to the house, it costs less time and money than it would on a big house. We replaced eight of the ten windows in this house a few years ago, and that was expensive enough. The rental house we used to live in had 56 windows. Can you imagine what those would cost to replace? Yikes!

I feel sorry for my friend, but I think at some point she’ll be ready to give up her big house. Or I guess she could just hire a cleaning crew. Personally, I’ve found that downsizing is the way to go.