Benefits of living in small spaces?
July 28, 2017 2:39 PM   Subscribe

I prioritized location (and my relatively tight budget) and bought a very small house (less than 800 square feet.) I'm just about to move in, and I have a bit of cold feet.

My house is in a "hot" neighborhood in Chicago. It's 2 beds, 1 bath, plus a finished basement, and with the exception of said basement, every single room is small. Small kitchen, cramped bathroom, narrow living/dining combo, one small bedroom and one tiny bedroom, you get the picture. There's also a small yard, and a normal-sized garage.

It's kind of cute in a cottage type way, but doesn't have the gorgeous wood-beam ceilings and trim or craftsman bungalow cuteness or greystone elegance that Chicago architecture is known for. A few of my friends have purchased absolutely gorgeous condos, or houses in less-costly (further out) areas. Their pictures make me drool!

When I look at it objectively, I know I made the right decision for me: I love my location, and it was important to have a bit of yard for my dog and gardening. I could not have afforded a prettier, larger house in this area. And it's just me and my dog, so it's not like we really NEED more space.

I want to focus on the benefits of living small and simple, and stop thinking wistfully about all the pretty architectural features I'm giving up. So far I have:

-Faster and easier to clean
-Will cost less to furnish
-Utility bills will be lower
-Will encourage me not to accumulate stuff I don't need

What else? If you live in a small space, tell me about how much you love it!
posted by ohsnapdragon to Home & Garden (37 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I live in a ~700 square foot apartment in Chicago (and our previous place was ~400 sq ft) and it's super cozy in the winter. Big houses get drafty, but small houses are really great when it's cold outside.

Also, when we lived in the smaller place (tbh 700 square feet feels palatial now), we went outside a lot more because, like, you had to. Limited space encouraged us to spend more time out in the neighborhood – we knew all the bartenders and baristas within a mile radius, and the park was basically our backyard.

If you decide to repaint/redecorate it's a lot quicker when there is less space.

This isn't exactly "small"-related but if you seriously own a single family home in Chicago that's the dream, man. Your friends in fancy condos still have to deal with loud and/or nosy neighbors and not throwing parties late at night and not wearing shoes in the house. You can do whatever you want! That's amazing and worth way more than fancy condo, imo.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 2:48 PM on July 28, 2017 [14 favorites]

Best answer: I felt a lot more on top of my stuff in a smaller place. I won't pretend like it purged me of clutter, because it didn't, but there was less capacity for clutter to accumulate. I knew what I had and where I was; I wasn't digging through fourteen unpacked boxes of junk two years later, like I have been at times since (sigh).

I also felt more in control of my home as a whole, in a way that's difficult to express. Mentally, I didn't feel like there were rooms or corners drifting out of sight unattended and forgotten about - because I didn't have the space to forget about anywhere. It felt 100% lived in, every square inch, in the way that bigger places never really have.
posted by Catseye at 2:59 PM on July 28, 2017 [9 favorites]

Best answer: You really hit the nail on the head with the list you already have. My house sounds almost identical to yours and it is SO fast and easy to clean. I can vacuum almost the entire house without unplugging the vacuum cleaner. The house can go from a disaster to sparkling in an hour.

Cost to furnish is a huge boon too - you can afford to get way nicer, higher quality items because you need so much less than in a larger house. We've gotten to the point, after 5 years, where we absolutely love almost every piece of furniture in our house, whereas friends in larger houses have rooms full of unwanted, unloved second hand junk (not that second hand is bad - I'm talking about hand me downs they just took because they needed to fill space) or low end IKEA because that's all they can afford with so many rooms to fill.

If you end up with a partner or roommate... togetherness. My husband and I can have a conversation in a normal tone of voice from any two rooms in the house. I've been in houses where two people at opposite ends couldn't hear each other if they were screaming at the top of their lungs.

In the same vein, I always feel super safe because I can see/hear the whole house. I get creeped out in larger houses because (in my paranoid mind) someone could be in the house and I'd never even hear them.

Cost of home ownership is ultimately lower even beyond utilities - think repairs too, because there is less plumbing, electrical, and so on overall to break. One HVAC unit costs less than two when they need to be replaced. Smaller roof is cheaper to replace. Etc etc etc.
posted by raspberrE at 3:13 PM on July 28, 2017 [14 favorites]

It takes me 10 minutes to vacuum my 700sf house. I rarely loose anything because it's so small. It's cheaper to maintain than a larger place, and much cheaper to heat than my sister's house (which is nearly 3x the size). The downsides are not a lot of storage or room to host people, but you can work around that.

I recommend spending some time on Houzz or looking at pictures of cottages to inspire you for things to do to make the house cozy and fun.

Keep in mind that in a house this small, you'll need to be careful about your furniture: sectionals and king-size beds are unlikely to fit..
posted by suelac at 3:27 PM on July 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My partner and I downsized from a 3br house with garage and yard into a 1 br/1ba,750 sq foot apartment last year. I LOVE IT. It has all the pros you list, plus more. Cozy in the winter, encourages mindful consumerism, lower utility bills (and feeling good about my carbon footprint as a result), has allowed me to dial in ~ my aesthetic ~, we have much more free time! And on preview, +1 to it feeling 100% lived in, and mentally easier to manage.

The biggest adjustment was being willing to spend money to make things work better. In a house you can kind of get away with just shoving things in drawers or using a second closet, but if something isn't optimized in a small house it's infuriating. Things like organizing bins, those vacuum seal bags for linens, shelf dividers, etc. can make life a lot smoother.
posted by stellaluna at 3:29 PM on July 28, 2017 [3 favorites]

The pretty architectural features are really a separate issue, aren't they? You could have them in a tiny house, or not have them in a much larger house.

800 sq ft for one person is quite a bit. In my merely sub-500 sq ft place, I find it hard to keep up with dusting, so...
posted by praemunire at 3:29 PM on July 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Location, location, location! You're located close to things, and it's easier to plan city activities. Your transport costs and time will be less than your farther-out friends to get places, and you'll be more likely to actually do things if it's not such a pain to get to them and get home easily. The pendulum toward inner city living and away from suburban living will continue as boomers retire and want smaller, more manageable homes and easier access to cultural activities, so the value of your home and its urban location will only increase over time. If you'd like to meet new friends, there will be lots and lots of people mingling in local coffee shops, bars, parks, restaurants, etc.

And as others have noted, it's cheaper and easier to paint, clean, and furnish. Enjoy your fabulous new home!
posted by citygirl at 3:29 PM on July 28, 2017

Best answer: I'm going on 12 years living in a less-than-500 sq ft. apartment, most of that time with my husband, and I second what Catseye said about feeling that my entire home is lived in. I don't have a pile of stuff I'll deal with someday, or a bunch of boxes in a closet somewhere, because every inch of our place is put to use.

I also co-sign your list of advantages. I especially like that I can deep clean the whole place in a morning. That includes, like, washing the baseboards and washing the windows.

And finally, living small has made me a much better judge of my own wants and needs. I'm sure part of this is getting older, but I have gotten so good at knowing whether or not a purchase is a good idea. I don't shop for entertainment or out of boredom, because I have learned that doing so causes way more problems than it solves. And I'm not a minimalists. I just have 2) what I need and, 2) what I use and, 3) what I find beautiful. (On that last point, neither of my apartments have been in any way architecturally distinguished. But with the money I saved living so efficiently, I have amassed beautiful art/rugs/furnishings, etc, and I no longer mourn the lack of a coffered ceiling or a butler's pantry or whatever.)

Congrats on your new place! I think you're going to love living small in a great neighborhood.
posted by minervous at 3:31 PM on July 28, 2017

You can pay more attention to making every square inch beautiful.

It also seems designed to make you more social. You can and will go out more, which will bring you closer to other people.
posted by amtho at 3:34 PM on July 28, 2017

Best answer: One story, not a lot of architectural wingdings? Much, much, much easier to maintain in the scary expensive roof-and-foundation way, not just cleaning and painting. (And those count too!)

You can make it charming. You could probably trim it out beautifully over time -- woodwork, like furniture, is easier to afford in a small house.
posted by clew at 3:34 PM on July 28, 2017 [3 favorites]

Credential: Family of 3 + 2 cats in 650 square feet for the last 8 years.

You can tidy house wide and vacuum the whole place in 1 hour.

You can probably reach everywhere in the kitchen from the dishwasher without moving your feet at all. Makes unloading very fast.

You won't be able to accumulate too much junk.

Smaller carbon footprint, lower utility bills.

if you're lucky enough to be able to afford a house cleaner it will be less expensive. We can only manage once per year but a deep clean costs $220 in a very pricy city.
posted by Cygnet at 3:47 PM on July 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: *cracks knuckles* My husband and I downsized from ~2400 feet to 800. It was one of the best decisions we've ever made, and because we made it on purpose we also moved into a "hot" neighborhood in our area that we could afford by buying smaller. After almost 5 years, we never want to buy bigger again - we're much much happier with our smaller space. And one could say our house, although cute, isn't "architecturally interesting" in the way that you may be talking about. But it has a yard and amazing light, and there's a few things we've done to make it more "interesting" with long-term plans to do more. Remember: It's YOUR house and you can do anything you want with it (within code and safety), including dream big and dream small. But more on that in a moment.

There are a lot of practical benefits like you mentioned. For years I dreamed about having some kind of "house cleaning plan" like this one, particularly due to the dog, but couldn't ever realize it until we moved here. But for us the biggest benefit is that it forced us to downsize substantially, and it was so freeing! I would suggest purging as much as you can before you move there, and if you can afford it, even getting rid of some stuff that may benefit from replacing after living in the space for awhile. For example, instead of being forced to live with a couch that doesn't work, you figure out what kind of couch will work, then save to buy it. Or maybe after living without a full size desk for a little while you realize you don't actually need one. Buy items for the space instead of forcing them into it, that kind of thing. (We ended up getting the perfect couch for free on Craigslist but had to live without one for 2 months - so worth it.)

Psychologically, it was great too - all that stuff takes up a lot of mental space, some of it quite burdensome. Letting go of things like items bought for the hobby we never quite took up and which made us feel guilty took some doing, but it was incredibly liberating in the end. You may not be a "minimalist" but it may be worth starting with that kind of foundation because a) it makes you more open minded about what you can and can't do with a space (maybe not a couch but two cozy chairs, for example) and less inclined to follow "the rules" and b) it helps you prioritize. And buying good quality items makes each item an investment which requires some forethought and cuts down on impulsive buying - for us, anyway.

Also? Our dog is a really energetic dog so we were a little worried, but she is obviously a lot happier in a smaller space. That's a benefit we didn't foresee.

One of the keys to making small living work is good organization. It's worth it upfront after living there for a month or two and seeing how you "use" the house to invest in good quality organizational systems, like a landing strip at your main entrance or your kitchen pantry. Keep track of the amazing sales at The Container Store - they have some really good deals with some pretty clever systems. Living with Chicago winters will be a lot easier if you have a place to take off coats and boots with say, a boot tray and a fold-down drying rack for wet socks and mittens.

Along those lines, furniture that is multi-functional is always a good investment. We don't have a coffee table; we have a chest on wheels that can serve as a foot rest, a coffee table, an extra seat for guests, and it holds blankets. You may not need juice glasses and wine glasses - you can buy stemless wineglasses that serve both functions. Those kind of things.

Or maybe you love your yard so much that you spend time and money making a nice little patio that you can spend three seasons in -reading, having friends over, eating in - that you wait a few years to make your dining area "nice". The sky is the limit.

You can do a lot long-term, but you may want to do a few things in the short-term to "ease" into your place and make you feel better if having a drool worthy place is a long-term goal. Painting or picking just one area to make "beautiful" is one way to go about it. And that's what we did with ours. But really? Because we live in a great area and have a lot of life "outside" the house, it's not as big a priority as it once was. We could spend the evening installing crown molding, or we could go for a walk around the lake and then go to "our bar" for a beer. The walk always wins! It's great to not be taking care of house shit ALL THE FUCKING TIME. We feel like we own our home, instead of our home owning us. You may have a similar experience.

One thing I would suggest is to look into the tiny house movement. Your house isn't "tiny" but there's a lot of tips and tricks, particularly with interior design and organization, that you can pick up. Plus, it's just fun to see owners and followers of the movement that really dig where they live get excited about it - you get the benefits without actually having to live in something less than 200 ft. I get excited about what I can do with our place when I see what people manage to do with their much smaller ones. You'll get some great ideas for making your place more "interesting" as well. Find a few tiny-small homes that really appeal to you and study what they've done. You may like deep jewel tones in a bathroom, for instance. Or no furniture in the living room but lots of poufs and floor pillows - remember, the space is yours to have FUN with.

One thing I've picked up on is that natural materials strategically placed, and greenery, can do a lot to uplift a space; one thing I've learned is that good quality paint, like Farrow & Ball, can really make a room go from meh to amazing. (It blew me away what a little lovely paint did to our totally boring kitchen. The walls just have this soft glow about them. The paint may be more expensive, but the space is so much smaller that it's not as big a bite as it could be.) But since you have a small place that also gives you permission to experiment! You can take more risks because you don't have a huge house to furnish and take care of.

I realize "living small" is not for everyone, but it's worth taking the risk to try. It's a way to re-invent yourself and make the choices that make YOU happy because the space has to work for you and nobody else. I feel like living in a small space gave us a lot of permission to "break the rules" and not conform because the space has to work for us and a dog, and that's really cool and freeing. It's a really exciting place for you to be! Just remember, your place will take some time to get "right" - it's a long-term thing - but having boundaries like a small space can make you very creative and encourage all kinds of ideas. We think of our small house as a lifestyle choice*, not just a place we live in.

*But don't get me wrong, we also realize we are incredibly fortunate and privileged to be able to do so.
posted by barchan at 4:02 PM on July 28, 2017 [3 favorites]

Also, feel free to MeMail me if you want pics of what an "average" non interior designer type was able to do with our small space or book/blog recommendations!
posted by barchan at 4:08 PM on July 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

We went from a 600 foot one bedroom to a 900 foot two bedroom, and it's completely fine. Two tips:
1. Small furniture.
2. Not too much stuff.

Don't buy a huge sectional couch. Don't buy a dining room table that seats eight. Butt the table you have against the wall and pull it out only when you need it to seat more folks. Buy an expandable table. Don't have a separate kitchen table. Buy a queen or smaller bed. If you've got multiple bookshelves, side tables, keepsake cabinets, sofa tables, dressers, etc. your space is going to feel cramped, and for us, the key to living in a small space is to give yourself room to breathe.
posted by cnc at 4:15 PM on July 28, 2017

That might be small in comparison to your friends' houses, but it's not small small. Our flat in London is 750sqft, and we think it's massive. There are two adults and a baby, and we have no plans to move anywhere bigger for a couple of years (probably if we have a second child, or when DS is old enough to appreciate a garden).

Most of our friends and siblings are in much smaller flats. We often get comments on how spacious our place is. The average 1BR newbuild is about 500sqft here.

To add to what Barchan said about storage - go high. Our kitchen cabinets are double height (we have a step-stool to reach things from the upper shelves), our clothes storage and bookcases are ceiling height. Stuff rotates in and out of loft storage each season. We have regular clothing culls.
posted by tinkletown at 4:15 PM on July 28, 2017 [4 favorites]

Less time wasted running back and forth between rooms, and less losing things. We lived in a too-large-for-us house once and I could never find my phone.
posted by radioamy at 4:53 PM on July 28, 2017

Best answer: I lived in a 900 sq ft house by myself for a couple years and I often said it was the greatest place I would ever live. I think the thing that made it really workable was the very well-made and beautiful built-in storage, most of which had doors or otherwise closed.

I didn't need to get additional furniture to store things, there was a place for pretty much everything, and at the times when I got behind on cleaning, I could just shove everything in a cupboard and close the door and ignore it for a few days if needed. The house never felt cluttered even though I own approximately 67 bottles of nail polish because everything could be hidden away.

Adding well-designed built-in storage could add architectural interest AND massively increase the functionality of your space!
posted by Snarl Furillo at 5:06 PM on July 28, 2017

My ex and I had no problems hosting another couple for dinner in a 600 sq foot place. People really need less space than typical Americans are used to.

She had a lot of fun getting the space functional for her needs (I had a vote but didn't care as much) and setting up tasteful decoration.

Cleaning and decluttering was a breeze.
posted by Jacen at 5:15 PM on July 28, 2017

For perspective, see if your library has a copy of the book Material World. It has photographs of families from thirty different countries standing in front of their homes with all of their possessions. It's amazing to see how limited a US person's view of "normal" can be.
posted by FencingGal at 6:16 PM on July 28, 2017 [5 favorites]

My apartment has less square footage than your house. The small size means I can afford to come in and clean regularly, which would be impossible for me in a larger space.
posted by bunderful at 6:23 PM on July 28, 2017

Would a bit of a kick up the arse help?

We live in a house that's 550sq feet, ish? It is an exact duplicate of my husband's grandmother's house, which is basically around the corner. She raised five children in that house, with no hot water, and an outdoor toilet. This house is luxurious. So is yours! The amount of space is more than sufficient to the needs of one person.

You can make this work, and make it work comfortably. The key is furniture that is correctly sized for the space; furniture that does double duty (see); and a layout that encourages good flow. None of that is a hardship.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:46 PM on July 28, 2017 [3 favorites]

Cheaper utilities, great location, makes sure you aren't hoarding unnecessary things. Also if you forget something in the other room, it's like one foot away (seriously, this actually makes a difference!)

If it feels really cramped, can you knock down a wall?
posted by Toddles at 7:27 PM on July 28, 2017

What in the world would you do with more space and who taught you it was important? It would be a lot of extra work to keep those extra square feet clean and used (and you'll look so Trumpian ;))

I live in 200 square feet, with a hound, and adore it. My life does not revolve around my stuff. My life revolves around my friends, my dog, nature, values. Not two shiny bathrooms I have to scrub.

With the money you save, you can go 'visit' wonderful architecture and even have an amazing cup of tea, glass of wine, conversation while you do so!
posted by Vaike at 7:56 PM on July 28, 2017

Speaking of knocking down a wall - depending on the layout you might could eliminate the tiny bedroom and have a larger bedroom or living/dining space.
posted by bunderful at 8:17 PM on July 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

Check online about RV travel, including smaller multipurpose furnishings and household items and tips and tricks for storage.
Really, if you can deal with a person showering (?) on the other side of the wall at the end of the couch... when you are having a conversation with guests... and you can see his feet when he gets out of the shower... yeah, that's getting up close and personal with your living space.
Snowbirds have a lot to share about making every inch of space count without going stir-crazy.

As tinkletown said above, go high. The area around the upper walls is prime real estate for storage. Folding step stools are excellent. Some obvious areas are above beds, couches, desks and bureaus. But for heavy items, go low.

Enjoy the cross breeze from an open window to the open outside door. Install some shelving or plant a few things just outside a window to "extend" that area, or add artwork on a fence just outside the window to match what is in the room.

Consider the outdoor areas as living spaces. Think weather-safe furniture, umbrella stands or roll-out awnings, a big-screen TV mounted on the house wall. Think fencing to keep unwanted dogs out. What would make the patio lounge area more inviting in heat / cold / bad weather / bug season / at night?
Do you need outdoor privacy? What about sounds / traffic noises / odors?
If you do need to store outdoor furnishings (vacation, bad weather, etc.) can it be collapsed smaller and put away?

Is there usable space in the attic or crawlspace?

Please, do not use the garage as a junk room. As the real estate agent told us when we looked at our house, "Most people put items worth a few hundred dollars in the garage and a vehicle worth much more out in the elements." If it comes to it, the garage can be enclosed and used as an extra bedroom, but look into building codes before doing it (most codes require two points of exit for bedrooms).

And strive to simplify and downsize now. Some tools and equipment can be borrowed or rented. Hire a neighbor to do yard work (no gardening / lawn care tool shed).

Use color and texture inside and out to give your new home a pulled-together look (again, look at RV interiors and small house websites). Something as simple as a continuous floor covering can bring it all into focus.

And when you get tired of it, you can switch from Scandinavian blue and white beach theme to amber-toned Southwestern pottery barn -- with just a coat of paint and a few accessories.
A little goes a long way with a small home.
posted by TrishaU at 9:21 PM on July 28, 2017

Will encourage me not to accumulate stuff I don't need

This is such a huge benefit that it should count as more than one item on your list.

Others have already elaborated on the related pros. I have noticed one minor con, i.e., I am so baffled by the amount of shit that people with more room accumulate that sometimes I have to bite my tongue to prevent my snarky thoughts from becoming rude comments. I don't know what bugs me more—misc functionless/"decorative" knick-knacks or unused (though but perfectly useful) things in perpetual storage in the basement, garage, attic, extra room, whatever. I mean, if you're never going to use it and don't want the hassle of selling it, just give it away, for crying out loud.
posted by she's not there at 2:25 AM on July 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: A good friend of mine lives in a house that sounds exactly like you are describing: 2 bedroom, 1 bath, all the rooms are small, no defining architectural features whatsoever. And I LOVE going to her house. Like others have said above, when you're not furnishing very much space, you can afford to go much, much nicer. This friend has a gorgeous clawfoot tub in her bathroom, a beautiful iron bed frame, solid wood bookcases, the world's comfiest, squashiest couch that is sheer perfection for movie marathons...and since it's just her and the place is wee and there's zero excess stuff or clutter sitting around, it's always VERY clean because she can and does blast through it in less than an hour on weekends. Visiting her house is always a pleasure.

And this probably makes me kind of an outlier but I've always considered it a big perk that living in small spaces makes it impractical/difficult/impossible to host people (I don't really have the hospitality gene). I have other friends who have large houses with multiple guest rooms and it seems like their families are constantly descending on them with little to no notice.
posted by anderjen at 7:17 AM on July 29, 2017 [3 favorites]

There's a subreddit for you. Despite Reddit's reputation, you'll enjoy it.
posted by WCityMike at 8:08 AM on July 29, 2017

I just moved into a ~700 sqft studio. My power bill last month was $12. (Never ran the a/c, 1 small fan, super-efficient lighting, I enjoy dim lighting, etc.)

In a bit more seriousness, I have the advantage that I don't have walls chopping the space up into rooms, and I can use furniture to 'make' rooms (my bed is in a little nook created by a oriel window, my dresser and a 2x2 Kallax unit). I absolutely love it and can't imagine living anyplace larger -- it's perfectly sized for all my stuff, and with a lot of storage in plain sight, I can keep my crafty stuff tidied away. Cleaning takes maybe an hour, tops?

Everyone gives really good advice, but I'll add -- you'll adapt. Faster than you'd think. My bathroom is the size of a walk-in closet and my kitchen is literally wedged into a closet (I think? My building was a single-family home chopped up into apartments in the 1930's so who knows what the floorplan was) and I couldn't be happier. You really, really will get used to it and love it.

Apartment Therapy makes me grit my teeth with their samey-ness, but they really do have good articles on tiny space living, and it helped me make good decisions when I was shopping for kitchen stuff in particular, and making sure the space doesn't feel cluttered or too full of furniture.
posted by kalimac at 9:13 AM on July 29, 2017

So I just moved into a house with small rooms (especially the master bedroom) and was freaking out a bit, and my friend made an amazing point that really turned my attitude around: when you live alone, the whole house is your master bedroom.
So don't fret about the individual bedroom being small; think about how you can arrange all 800 sf to your liking!

What also helps is downsizing furniture to suit the smaller space well; I downsized my bed to free up more room for the dresser I love in my bedroom, and shopped the "apartment sized" category at various furniture stores to get a sofa and armchair that didn't overwhelm my space.
posted by TwoStride at 10:00 AM on July 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

Ahhh I'm jealous. A small space in a great neighborhood and it's all yours to set up just the way you want??

No clutter! Not a single thing you don't need!! Have you packed up already? Because if you haven't I suggest very strongly that you only pack the essentials, the stuff you can't live without, and leave everything else. If you've already packed, then do this on the other end. Keep the moving boxes handy as you open them and anything that isn't "LOVE" or "NEED" gets boxed right back up and handed to Goodwill. Don't throw it in the basement. Respect the basement! If it's empty, you will have the option of doing cool stuff with it in the future!

Ikea is so cheap and you can furnish small spaces SO cutely and functionally with their stuff. Even bathrooms. Don't just use your old stuff, if you can get something that will work better in your new space.

(I've made my choices in life and they include a partner who has a hard time getting rid of crap, and children, who are crap magnets. I love them, I chose them, I make it work. But I fantasize about a small, clean, uncluttered, perfectly furnished-for-its function space.)
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:22 AM on July 29, 2017

My house is 1000 sq ft, was renovated really badly, and the layout's terrible. Low ceilings, cheap finishings, nothing is straight or square that should be. I have a great view and lake access, and I'm happy with it. In the last 10 years, I have spent time and money - removing the worst crap like fake brick paneling and a kitchen that was literally falling apart, making an ad hoc toilet in the basement into a proper bathroom, adding back the cottage charm that was removed so thoroughly. It will never be a silk purse, but it's not exactly a sow's ear any more.

You can decide that your home should be a charming Craftsman bungalow, and slowly morph it in to one. You can maximize its cottage charm, landscape the small yard, add a few gorgeous fabrics or use colors that inspire you. For 1 person, @ 800 sq ft is a great size. As your friends visit, ask for advice. I moved a door and it made a huge difference. In the summer, we use the large front and back decks and the house gets really large.

What you're feeling is fear at the huge commitment of money and time. You'll move in, the dog will be happy, you'll be in your fantastic location, you'll make it yours, and it will be fine.
posted by theora55 at 11:19 AM on July 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

its pretty cool to live in smaller spaces. these rooms might be a bit larger than what you're talking about (?), but kinda show how picking simple furniture can create a feel of more space and make for a chill atmosphere.
posted by speakeasy at 2:53 PM on July 29, 2017

Best answer: Everything you own will be useful, or beautiful, or both! If you have to look at an ugly, half-functional teapot every day because the only place to store it is on the stove, you will get rid of it and get a much prettier, highly-functional teapot that pleases you every time you look at it! You won't tolerate "meh" art on the walls because you don't have that many walls!

I have a small, terribly-laid-out kitchen, and I had to purge like all the limited-use appliances, gadgets, and gizmos from it. This has made me a much better cook -- I used to use crazy chopping gadgets (or haul out my food processor for simple chopping), but now I chop pretty well with a knife! (Not super-fast, but pretty well!) I used to have a specialized pasta pot with a drainer in the top (long story) that hardly worked, now I just have a big pot and a multipurpose colander. I used to have a million random pots and pans (that were all in the same middle size, of course!); now I have a small, and still-very-random collection of 7 pots and pans that run the gamut from tiny to huge and fill all my pot-and-pan needs. So many things I thought I needed specialized tools for I learned to do with just basic kitchen tools, and my arsenal has been honed to a set of kitchen tools that perfectly suits my cooking.

When your house is small, every single thing in it can be meaningful, whether it's because it's beautiful, or sentimental, or super-useful, or whatever. You just won't have the piles of crap because you don't have space for the piles of crap. Everything will be pleasing to you because everything will be pretty, or helpful, or something you love.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:08 PM on July 29, 2017 [3 favorites]

My, my husband, and two 40 lb dogs lived in a 475 sq ft place in Juneau until recently. I loved that little place. One important perk of owning a small place? When you go to renovate, you can buy pricier finishing materials because you have less to cover. So, go ahead and splurge on that incredible tile, the bathroom is a postage stamp! Quality over quantity means you can create that aura you admire in your friends houses.
posted by Foam Pants at 2:13 AM on July 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Square footage ends up being a major factor in calculating your assessment and thus the property taxes you pay. It's Cook County - you'll save a bundle.
posted by ndg at 11:44 AM on August 2, 2017

Response by poster: I've been living in my little house for over six months, and I love it.

Painting all the rooms in my house and getting them to a place where I was happy with them was so stressful and exhausting I am thrilled I didn't have one single more square foot to cover. I was going through a breakup at the same time as moving in, which helped me pare down my belongings since we were splitting things up and I got rid of so much stuff that I didn't love. Everything in my house new is mine and carefully selected and loved. It feels amazing and brings me pleasure every single day.

I renovated my bathroom and in addition to looking 200% better, it's very well-organized now making the most of minimal space and I have more storage than I even use.

Overall I am very happy with my decision. The location is perfect, my commute is cut in half, and I never want to leave. I'll probably always dream about original wood trim and arched doorways and stained glass but hey - maybe in my next house! There's still a lot more I want to do here and I look forward to it slowly evolving over time.

Thanks everyone.
posted by ohsnapdragon at 4:11 PM on February 20, 2018 [10 favorites]

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