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  • Minimalism and House Size

    The short version – Can you maintain a minimalist lifestyle and live in a big house (>3,000 sf)?    It seems that the minimalist movement is obsessed with “tiny homes” or living with large families in smaller homes (+/1,000 sf).  It is almost like a badge of honor for the smaller your space. 

    The longer version - I know there are many aspiring minimalists on here, so this question seems appropriate…   I am not a minimalist and do not want to be a minimalist (as far as counting the number of items I own or doing without needed items just for the sake of being minimalist).  I have, however, adopted the idea of becoming an “intentionalist” after reading many minimalist blogs and trying out their practices.  The idea is that we would be intentional about the items in/out of our home, as well as our schedule, and not just mindless consumption or consumerism.

    That said, we are looking to purchase a home.  We are soon to be a family of 5 with frequent house guests.  We are finding that either the houses are very small/old (deemed tear downs), they are varying larger sizes with weird layouts due to being renovated and added onto over the years, or new/newer builds.  The new/newer builds are attractive because the layouts are more efficient and there are often more open spaces.  We are leaning towards a new/newer build for this reason – the problem is that all the newer homes are (or at least to me seem) HUGE and are making me wonder – can you maintain a minimalist lifestyle in a big house (>3,000 sf)?  We have a showing for a 3 story, 5BR/4BA, 2 car garage, 3500 sf house next week and although it has a very efficient layout, it is giving me anxiety just thinking about it.  Husband is not a minimalist (but is slowly seeing the benefits of living with less) and does not think that a house this large will be a big deal – “this is the time of our life when we need a bigger house, when kids are growing and lots of family visiting.”

    I like the idea of having a larger space that is free of clutter and that it will feel more open, spacious, inviting, and peaceful.  However, I am wondering is that realistic?  Will a large home just naturally become full?  Will I go crazy with constant decluttering and cleaning and maintaining a home this size?  I just wish that the current trend was 2,000+/- sf builds, but that is just not the case.  I can see the first recommendation being – “buy your own lot and build your own house.”  That will not likely work in our case, as the developers are buying up all the lots before they go on the market, the stress of home building, and concerns over resale of a “small” house in a market where the people want these big houses.

  • #2
    3500sf for 5 people and frequent guests doesn't seem big, at all (if anything, it sounds small). I think that a house of any size will get cluttered if you allow it.

     

    I share in the idea of "intentionalism", though - lack of superfluous "stuff" and only having what you "need" certainly reduces anxiety (for me, at least).

     

    I mostly wanted to reply to validate your concern that older houses with less "efficient" layouts are infuriating. Spouse and I (no kids) have a 2400sqft 80's build that's been renovated a few times, and we are constantly frustrated with the feeling of "not having enough space" even though we have an excessive amount of square footage. Tiny closets? We've got 'em. Entryway so small you have to turn sideways when carrying groceries is? Yep. No convenient bathroom for guests to use? Absolutely. Can you walk in the kitchen while the dishwasher is open? No chance. Enormous dark "living room" spaces? We have two!

     

    Don't worry about the square footage. If you have to, convince yourself that it's a necessary evil to ensure the ability to re-sell.

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    • #3
      large homes don't have to be full.  they can be whatever you make of them.  they can be full if that is your preference.

      clutter is determined more by personality than by house size, although at some point (way smaller than 3,000 sq feet) obviously some clutter is inevitable.

      i don't think most people on here would think 3,000 is small.  probably average, especially for family of five with guests.  but how they use the square footage is important.  we loved our last house, but the bedrooms were just too small for growing boys.

      find what's right for you, not what's popular.

      good luck!

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      • #4
        As usual; depends.  Location+costs will probably be a larger driver than anything.  3000ft beachfront is very different than 3000ft suburbia vs 3000ft Metro NYC.

        If talking about basic needs for nuclear family four - 2200-2500 ft is probably the sweet spot for 2 Standard Deviations of America.  Enough room for each individual space when needed in the bedrooms (more than just a full size bed and a closet) and room for some guests without crowding.

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        • #5
          I think you can live with intent in a big house. We have about 4000 sq ft for a family of 4. We are long term planners and have ideas of what we want each room to become. We took a year to buy bar stools for our kitchen. We still have our med school big lots couch. Eventually though I believe you'll not have as much empty space as you think you will.

          The only caution I have with buying larger and larger houses with small children is that it is hard to keep up with them. A 3 year old can outpace you when you're trying to feed a newborn. Tracking them down or monitoring what they are doing can be an ongoing challenge. I can't imagine what will happen when they become teenagers. Either they'll need that alone space or I'll never see them again because the hole up.

          We have a newer house that is very energy efficient but the layout could have been better. More square feet does not always equal more easy to use space. I feel like our 2900 sq ft rental was just as open as our 4000 sq ft house we own.

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          • #6
            We are a family of 5 with frequent guests too. We went from a 2200 to 3400 sqft garage. We of course spent a bit more to furnish the place but we are still minimalistic. Don’t necessarily think sqft goes hand in hand with clutter.

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            • #7
              No.  You will accumulate stuff to fill the space.  While it may not be cluttered, you will hold on to things longer than you should because you have the space.  It is easier to keep stuff than to get rid of it.  Smaller houses force efficiency.

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              • #8
                I could have written the original post myself. We are aspiring minimalists. I got a dumpster for A week for my last birthday and we’re about 4 months into it. Like someone else said we are more “intentionalist” than minimalist, but I cleared out so much junk and “stuff”.
                Our kids are in school now and we no longer have an au pair so suddenly our “right size” house is too big. We have a 3400sq ft approx $800k house.
                We’ve been searching for a 2000 sq ft home and have come to the same conclusion as you. The lots in our neighborhood sell for 350,000+ so builders will only build $1M McMansions. We’ve looked at older homes (1940 and earlier that are the tear downs).... and there’s a reason they’re being torn down.
                We finally decided to keep the too big house. The 2000 sq ft house we would build by the time we put in another pool and landscape to make it similar to what we have now we’d be back at $800k or maybe higher. The lots are too valuable and then the price per sq ft is way too high for our market and we could never sell it. We have a beautifully restored historic home right now that’s appreciating nicely, is in a great neighborhood and we finally decided there are worse things in life than having a too big house. We have several rooms we don’t use that are guest rooms.
                Sometimes I think it’s easier to be an intentionalist in a bigger space. Our house is very organized and everything has a place. If we downsized stuff like camping gear, triathlon gear, scuba gear, bikes, lawn equiptment etc get smashed into where it fits. As we were trying to imagine our lives in some of the smaller houses we saw there’s a size where things would have become cramped. And we also deided we really enjoy some of our “stuff” like too many bikes and random hobby stuff.
                3400 is too big for our family of 4 but sometimes the other options just suck

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                • #9
                  I think you will probably accumulate more things in a bigger house because you have more space. You won't want the house to feel empty and bare and cold so you'll buy wall art, furniture and accessories for rooms you simply wouldn't have in a smaller home. But I don't think that should be the driving factor in which house to buy. Our house is smaller- we have about 1500sf of living space for 4. I love how efficiently we use the space. We use every room every day and that makes me happy. However, we need one more bedroom in a few years. So we can renovate our current space ( basement isn't 100 percent finished) to make it about 2200 SF. Or we can move. So I've been looking at bigger houses and they just feel so overwhelming to me and I think we wouldn't spend as much time together. And it just feels like there would be a lot of largely wasted space. But it would be better for guests and entertaining. I'm still not sure what we'll do but I'd try to figure out what is most important to you and buy based on that.

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                  • #10


                    3400 is too big for our family of 4 but sometimes the other options just suck
                    Click to expand...


                    great.  i am glad to hear that i am not the only one in a similar situation.  in some ways i feel like a hypocrite because I have been simplifying and decluttering for years now - and then I am about to turn around and buy a huge house....  just seems counter-intuitive.  but I am holding out for a very efficient layout where there aren't duplicate spaces that we will never use.  we have seen many houses with multiple sitting rooms (I never sit - especially with almost 3 kids!) and multiple dining rooms, loft spaces, etc.  Like you, if we buy one of these houses, our guest room will be empty most of the time.

                    great work on the dumpster and decluttering.  if you loose steam, be sure to join the declutter 2018 in 2018 challenge.  I completed the one in 2017 and it really helped me to keep going - especially once you are done with the easy stuff.

                    http://nourishingminimalism.com/blog/decluttering-challenge-2018-2018/

                    we are definitely getting to the point where we are thinking it would be better to be in a too big house than an older house that has been renovated and renovated and now is cramped and sectioned off.

                    i am also planning to not put anything into the attic, as that seems to be a place where things accumulate unnoticed.  we currently do not have anything in our attic and it is helpful to see everything stored in our garage.

                     

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                    • #11


                      You won’t want the house to feel empty and bare and cold so you’ll buy wall art, furniture and accessories for rooms you simply wouldn’t have in a smaller home.
                      Click to expand...


                      not sure about this.  we have been accused of having a "bare and empty" house now - mothers always speak their minds.  we are in a 1500 sf townhouse without much furniture, accessories, or wall art.  we would stay here but no yard and with a third on the way, we would benefit from the 4th bedroom as you note.  what one sees as empty and bare another sees as open and spacious.


                      So I’ve been looking at bigger houses and they just feel so overwhelming to me and I think we wouldn’t spend as much time together. And it just feels like there would be a lot of largely wasted space. But it would be better for guests and entertaining.
                      Click to expand...


                      i feel the same way.  i do not want to lose the close family feeling - especially when kids are teenagers - by being in a big home.  but yes, it would be better for having people over and we want a yard. buying a house is a hard decision.

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                      • #12
                        For a family that large I don't necessarily think you have a choice but to live in a larger house.  You can adopt a minimalist lifestyle though by continuing to do all the de-cluttering you already do.  Also, I think your plan on finding a very efficient layout is really key.  Making sure you minimize the size of house by only getting it just big enough to be comfortable with that many kids and for your guests.

                        I hope to be able to adopt a true minimalist lifestyle someday in the near future.  However, right now my wife and I live in an enormous 4400 sq ft Victorian downtown (we bought it 6 years ago when we had a strong desire to buy an old house and renovate it ourselves).  Currently no kids but just found out there is one on the way  The ONLY reason I haven't made us sell it and move is because the back part of the house has a 350 sq ft bedroom/bathroom that we rent as an airbnb and makes a nice bit of extra income (~12k/yr) with minimal effort on our part.

                        But, we don't clutter the house with things we don't use.  The biggest downside to such a large house is the larger utility bills and repair/maintenance bills.

                        My dream is to downsize to a small farmhouse (<1000 sq ft) with solar panels and a battery storage system and live off grid and grow our own food.  Then, we could afford to travel most of the winter.

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                        • #13




                           

                          My dream is to downsize to a small farmhouse (<1000 sq ft) with solar panels and a battery storage system and live off grid and grow our own food.  Then, we could afford to travel most of the winter.
                          Click to expand...


                          How does this increase your ability to afford travel? Most of those kinds of activities are costlier to do yourself, just on a monetary front not counting time/effort.

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                          • #14


                            Currently no kids but just found out there is one on the way
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                            congratulations! an exciting new chapter for you!

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                            • #15


                              Currently no kids but just found out there is one on the way
                              Click to expand...


                              I am so happy for you and your wife.

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