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Get Rich by Thinking Small?

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Ever wonder how much money you spend on stuff you don't need? I never did - at least not until I started this blog. Eighteen months ago, I actually hoped to get a 3000+ sq. ft. McMansion. Why would we need a place that big? It is simply because we have so much stuff. Life stepped in and moved us across the country, but without this blog and if we were still in Boston we might find ourselves extremely house poor in a huge home right now.

I have some friends who have purchased big homes - 4 or 5 bedrooms. Very few of them have children and much of that space seemingly goes to waste. I remember that it was quite expensive for them to furnish. In the winter their heating bills are higher. In the summer, it's the same thing, but with air conditioning.

In the 3-4 years, we will be looking to purchase a new home. We've started to think about what size home would be the best fit for us. I suspect we'll go with something around 1800 sq. feet. The stumbling block is that we'd love to be able to entertain and that seems to require space. Otherwise perhaps we could go all out and get a really, really small home. Sometimes, I think we could save and invest a lot of money if we could get by with a small home.

Tomorrow I'll write about a few very specific steps we took in preparation of living a little smaller. I'll close with an excerpt of one of my favorite comedy routines.

That's all your house is: a place to keep your stuff. If you didn't have so much stuff, you wouldn't need a house. You could just walk around all the time. A house is just a pile of stuff with a cover on it... That's what your house is, a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get...more stuff! Sometimes you gotta move, gotta get a bigger house. Why? No room for your stuff anymore. - George Carlin

Last updated on January 26, 2009.

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26 Responses to “Get Rich by Thinking Small?”

  1. Mrs. Micah says:

    Mr. Micah and I live in a 1-bedroom apartment. I actually like how it limits what we “need.” And since we don’t have money for storeage, it limits what we can buy. So it saves money. :-) Your idea about having a smaller house sounds like a good one.

  2. dong says:

    Couldn’t agree with you more on the home. Designers should spend more time making homes effeciently sized and useable rather than grand. For instance I too like entertaining people at my home, and I would like a nice home office, but I’ll never use both spaces at the same time. I would rather have a home that had extra space in the living room for home office designed that when having guest over everything could be neatly tucked away.

    Designed something like this:


  3. David says:

    I agree 100%…it’s ridiculous that people need McMansions in order to live. House sizes have gone up while family sizes have gone down. The more space you have, the more stuff you accumulate.

  4. I think a small home is a great idea. Limits your stuff, plus feels more cozy. But really the big thing for me is that I could get a smaller home that was better quality or I could get a cookie-cutter McMansion with no charm and cheap materials.

    Nice post.

  5. JJ in Balt says:

    How you design your space really matters.

    We (the 2 of us) have a 3 level row home, about 1800 sq feet.. However, we have NO basement and NO attic and a total of 4 closets in the entire house. We don’t have any yard (unless you count our rooftop deck) Therefore, we don’t store, collect, hoard, and/or keep stuff we don’t need. There is just no place to hide anything! This saves a lot of money!

    We do have space for entertaining,, big kitchen and a wonderful multi-purpose room: office/art studio/guest bedroom. IMO, it is not the square feet that count, but what you do with it!

    Five bedrooms? What is that about?????


  6. Kevin Gunn says:

    We bought a 1450 sq ft house in 1992 and remodelled in 2002 or so to 1800. 3-bed/3-bath for our family of three.

    Like you, we like to entertain. The renovation was a huge help for us in that regard. We knocked out some walls so that our great room, kitchen and dining area are really one big space separated by a huge kitchen island. We have room for both of us to be cooking or mixing drinks in the kitchen while the kitchen island forms a buffet area and gathering place. It’s an incredible social space — and we can even move the furniture back to make a great dance space!

    1800 sq feet is PLENTY.

  7. The Baglady says:

    This is something my hubby and I disagree on. He wants a big home because he grew up in a very large home in Southern California. While I mostly grew up in apartments and small homes. Right now we’re renting a condo with both enjoy and he agrees that it’s not so bad when you don’t have kids. We also throw out a lot of things we don’t need because there is not enough room to store it all. I think when we buy we’ll buy a small-ish home.

  8. Lazy, you might change your mind once you have kid. Trust me, with two kids, you want to have more space. We live in a 2400 sq feet (including basement). While enormous is not necessary, I find that this is around the perfect size. I do have a room for my computer and TV, my kids has their playground and most of their toys stay in the basement. Believe it or not but toys take a lot of space!

  9. Lazy Man says:

    It’s true that having a kid does take up a lot of space. I’ve seen this first hand with my brother. We’ll have to think about that, but right now we live well in 1200 sq. ft. and could probably do with less. With 1800 sq. ft, I think that builds in some room for a child – possibly even a second one depending on how the first one goes.

  10. Brip Blap says:

    JJ and Kevin are right. I have a son, we entertain a lot, and we have a 1900 sq ft 3-story, 3-bedroom townhouse. By American standards it’s tiny, but it’s more room than we need already – seriously. One room is seldom used.

    Children will do fine in a small house as long as they get outside and away from the TV! I lived in a tiny apartment growing up, 4 of us in 2 bedrooms, and I don’t remember ever feeling cramped. What makes you feel cramped is stuff! Don’t let anyone convince you that more than 2000 sq ft is needed, ever.

    Well, OK, maybe if you have 5 kids or something… but otherwise it’s stuff that’s making things crowded, not the number of people.

  11. David says:

    Friends of mine live in S.F. in 1700 sq feet with 2 kids and they have more than enough room. It’s all about how you optimize the space!

  12. Matt says:

    Buying big for the sake of buying big is something that north american culture seems to really push. My wife and I took our honeymoon in Paris this summer and the lack of ‘large’ was really obvious. Very few big houses where we were staying (in fact most of them were apartments) and the cars were all tiny in comparison to the massive SUVs and Minivans we see in most of North America.

    Thinking smaller can save you a lot of money not only on your house but also your car and I’m sure if you started thinking about what you need versus what you want or think you want there would be a lot more things that could save you money if you didn’t need the biggest, best, or largest item.

  13. We have a pretty big family. I have lots of extended family over all the time and I need to put them up somewhere. So the truth is, we upgraded from a 4 bedroom to a 3 bedroom, small offc and 1 guest area. I believe we can grow old in this house even as my 2 kids become teenagers. Any bigger than this and we’ll really struggle with maintaining our home and family unless we grow our income radically. So we’re ok for now. I think the very small houses are nice and romantic and for people with certain situations, but it would be out of the question when you have kids that grow up to be big men.

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  18. chosha says:

    I lived in Japan for a while and they do things a little differently. Because pretty much everyone has a small home, they have a different view of entertaining and eat out with friends more often than having people over. Of course this does nothing for a tight budget, but even when I was doing things on the cheap I still met people out of home more than in, like at a park. It took me a while after I got home to get used to the crowd invading my space. Now I quite like it.

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  20. Ryuko the Chinese guy says:

    Try shopping for (or building) a more open home. My uncle has a small but fantastically simple and open floorplan – no walls between kitchen, dining room, and living room, but w/ a comfy nook for the computer desk. Our rather large family now goes there every year for our Thanksgiving reunion. 3br, 2.5ba, maybe 1700 sq’ max. Granted, their 2 kids are recently moved out.

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