Location Trumps Size

Since the birth of our son nearly five years ago, we’ve lived in five homes. They ranged in size from a one-bedroom short-term apartment rental to the 1500 sqft house we live in now, with the majority of the time lived somewhere in between.

The first time we experienced living in a smaller family home was when we moved from the house we owned to a rental house. We moved not because there was a problem with the house itself, but because it felt too isolating to be a car-free family in a neighborhood where little besides a park was in walking distance.

The rental house had plenty of living space, but significantly less storage than we were used to. It was in that house that I embraced a minimalist approach and went through multiple rounds of purging. My shift in thinking was partially an effort to clear space before our daughter’s arrival, and partially a necessity in a house with only two closets. I was drawn to minimalism because I needed minimalism to feel comfortable in that space.

My newfound philosophy was immediately put to the test when our family of four moved to a one-bedroom apartment. We were only there for six weeks between our lease in Austin running out and our move to Indiana, but it was enough time to force us to think creatively about our space and sleeping arrangements (think: the baby sleeping in a closet and Neil and I in the living/dining room). It wasn’t ideal, but it worked.

The reason both those moves invigorated me rather than frustrated me is that we gained something more valuable than space when we downsized: a prime location. In each case, the space we lost paled in comparison to what we gained from living in walkable, bikeable neighborhoods: access to amenities and connection to our community. In the apartment we may have had limited real estate inside, but just outside the door was a park, a pool, and the childrenโ€™s museum. In the bungalow we may have only had two closets, but the library, three parks, three splash pads, a pool, tacos, and coffee were a ten-minute walk away.

My experience with living in smaller family homes has shown me that the square footage of where we live does not determine our family’s level of happiness–location does. Being able to walk with the kids to the library story time meant more to me than storage space and extra rooms. Every family needs to figure out what is makes them happiest in their home. For some, that is space to entertain. For others, a yard for a garden, kids, or pets. For us, the truth is that location trumps size.

This post was written for inclusion in the June collection of the Small Family Homes Blog Community. Read below for more writings on the truth about living small from our community of writers. Check back next month for a new topic and posts in the series and follow our community board on Pinterest for the latest small homes and family minimalism pins!

Megan Barnum– โ€œThe Truth About Living SMALLโ€ : What does living in a small space look like for a family of 4? Probably not a whole lot different from you.

Little Bungalow– “Less Space, More Happiness” : In a small home, less space doesnโ€™t equal more happiness. Except, of course, when it does.

600 Square Feet and a Baby– “The Truth About Living in a Small Family Home” : Living small as a family of four is sometimes uncomfortable, a bit awkward and never boring. Sharing the awkward and imperfect of living small with 4 humans that you always wanted to know (or maybe you didn’t.)

Shelley Vanderbyl– “Five Things You Don’t Need in a Small Home” : Gatekeeping is about recognizing what things you don’t need or want, and trying to keep those objects from coming into your home.

The Streamlined Life– “The Truth About Living Small: Less Possessions, Greater Value“: Just because you’re a minimalist family doesn’t mean you aren’t sentimental.

The Justice Pirate– “What Small Home Living is Like” : No matter if I lived in a cardboard box or a small home, I just like being with my family, who are my home.

Our Nest in the City– “The Truth About Living in a Small Family Home” : My post gives three challenges to living in a small home with our family of five, and counters them with three ways we “cope” and thrive despite it all ๐Ÿ™‚

Fourth and West– “You Can’t Have it All” : Small space living requires compromise and sacrifice.

RISING*SHINING– “The Truth About Living in a Small(ish) Family Home” : A smaller home is why we’re able to live such a full life.

Family At Sea– “The Meaning of Space: Thoughts from a Former Tiny Home Mom” : After moving onto a boat, I thought the hard work of decluttering and downsizing was done, but I didn’t realize that living in a tiny space was the beginning of the real work of the soul.

Real Food Simple Life– “The Realities of Living in a Small Home with a Big Family” : A look into the benefits and challenges that a family of 6 (going on 7) experiences living together in an 800 square foot home in Scotland.

Tiny Ass Camper– “I Didn’t Know Tiny Living Was For Me” : My thoughts on the give and take of living tiny.

Birch and Pine– “It’s Not Always Easy” : Living tiny often means defending your own life and choices: daily.

12 COMMENTS

  1. Kate @ The Streamlined LIfe | 6th Jun 17

    Such a great post, Sarah! We definitely chose location over size as well, and it was the best decision. Now we also have the freedom to drop down to just one car and a handful of bikes. Thanks for writing this!

    • Sarah Kopper | 7th Jun 17

      One-car family! Love it. I have found that active transportation enhances my life in so many ways. Thanks again for organizing this blogger network–so much food for thought from everyone participating.

  2. Victoria the Justice Pirate | 6th Jun 17

    I especially love your last paragraph!!
    So glad to read this. Keep living intentionally no matter where you are!

  3. Kendal | 6th Jun 17

    I agree with this completely! Location has determined both of our house purchases. Affordability has then meant both of those houses have been quite small. Wanting to live in a prime location but not wanting to be house poor has meant buying the smallest house on the street. It’s no sacrifice when coffee shops, libraries, parks and community squares are steps from your front door. I would take city amenities over extra closets any day ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Sarah Kopper | 7th Jun 17

      Exactly! We made the mistake with the house we owned in Austin of being just a little too far out and we felt it big time. We made many compromises on the house we own now, but the location is perfect. Worth the trade off, for sure.

  4. Jenn | 6th Jun 17

    Yes! This resonates with me so much. Currently our home has wheels and we can move it wherever we want, whenever we want, but it makes me hyper aware of what environments feel like home and which don’t.

    • Sarah Kopper | 7th Jun 17

      So cool that you get to experience so many different environments that way! We’re currently on a road trip and in every place we stop I am checking out the downtown, seeing how walkable it is, and looking at nearby neighborhoods to evaluate how well we’d fit in. I think I have a bit of wanderlust in me and I can see the appeal of being on the road!

  5. Megan | 8th Jun 17

    Location location location! We’re looking at moving and I’m like “as long as it’s close to the babysitter’s house” ๐Ÿ˜œ some things matter much more than space. Xo @minimalistmeg

    • Sarah Kopper | 18th Jun 17

      Babysitters are another key to happiness! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  6. A Life Shift | 29th Jun 17

    Back when we lived in the Vancouver suburbs, my husband and I both commuted for no less than 45min downtown to work. We didn’t ever consider living downtown, though. Now we both have a maximum 20min commute (I walk, he takes the train + walks) to work, and can both get home in time to tuck our baby into bed. I never would have imagined a move to Hong Kong and life in a 590 sq ft apartment would put things in perspective and enhance our quality of life in so many ways. Location absolutely trumps size for us.

    • Sarah Kopper | 6th Jul 17

      It’s so easy to accept things as “normal” until we are forced to rethink! Moves have definitely done that for me in the past.

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