Think Smaller

Dear Readers,

You don’t need as much space as you think you do. Truly. It baffles me to no end on why people believe they need a home bigger than they actually do. I have heard so many excuses and have even used a few of them myself. “We need a guest room for when people come to visit”, “What if we all need to use the restroom at the same time”, “I want a huge entertainment space for family”, etc. But is this really true or are we, as Americans, just fascinated by bigger, grander things; Even will to go as far as to put ourselves in massive amounts of debt to achieve such standards? While I am only a renter and have no skin in the housing market, my husband and I both came to the conclusion we have far too much space for two individuals.

Zack and I live in a three bedroom townhouse that is roughly 1,700 square feet. This is ridiculous. Our original thoughts for getting such a large home centered around two main arguments:

A) We had this notion of what a newly married couple should have (A guest room for family and friends to come visit).

B) We had never lived with each other before and I thought we need more “alone time” and “our own space” than we actually do.

It has become abundantly clear over the past 7 months of marriage we need neither of these two things. First of all, no one wants to visit the middle of nowhere, which is where we live. It was definitely more of a reality check for me than for Zack, who has been living on his own for quite sometime. Unless there is some important event or you live in a favorable location for vacation you are HIGHLY unlikely to get that occasional weekender just stopping in to say hi. And even if we DO get that occasional weekender, an air-mattress will do just fine.

Secondly, I believed we would need more time “alone time” than we actually do. “Alone time” is a necessity for me. I will get very cranky or drained if I am around anyone for too long. Luckily I work from home for half of my work days, so I often have alone time in the morning. Zack, while he needs some “I’m studying, I need quiet to concentrate” time, he does not need an office to be alone in all of the time; In fact he hates it.

While our scenario is highly specific to not only newly married couples, but to us as individuals, the thought that “we need more space” than we actually do is not. In a news article titled American Houses Keep Getting Bigger written by Ryan McMaken from the Mises Institute, McMaken attempted to conclude whether American Houses are getting bigger. The answer is yes. McMaken writes “New homes built at under 1,400 square feet are quickly disappearing, and fell from 13% of all new units in 1999 to only 3% in 2016. We can contrast this with single-family homes of 4,000 square feet or more which increased from 4% to 11% of all new units from 1999 to 2016” (McMaken).

McMaken continues on stating that the pricing of the square footage of these homes are not decreasing, but rather increasing. This is quite the conundrum, McMaken ponders, considering the 2008 housing crash. “We’re often being told that housing is becoming unaffordable, and Americans are too deeply in debt. If that’s the case, though, then why do houses keep getting bigger? After all, if Americans are getting squeezed on housing, shouldn’t consumers be demanding smaller and more economical living spaces?” (McMaken). Apparently not.

McMaken scathingly remarks a possible explanation for this is that Americans will happily go in debt in order to circumvent scaling down their homes. In 2018 “mortgage debt in America is now  only 4 percent below its sizable 2008 peak, and is rapidly heading toward its old peak levels reacher right before the financial crisis” (McMaken). In 2019, the Wall Street Journal in an article titled “U.S Mortgage Debt Hits Record, Eclipsing 2008 Peak” reported “U.S. mortgage debt reached a record in the second quarter, exceeding its 2008 peak as the financial crisis unfolded. Mortgage balances rose by $162 billion in the second quarter to $9.406 trillion, surpassing the high of $9.294 trillion in the third quarter of 2008, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York said Tuesday” (Torry).

It should be noted that lending standards are definitely stricter than they were before the 2008 recession and debt is not as delinquent, but why are people going into debt to own more house than they could possibly need? I do not know, but I implore these individuals to think smaller.

Is it truly worth going into a cumbersome amount of debt to live in a 4,000 sq/ft home? No. Is it a bad thing for children to have to share a bedroom? No. Is your guest going to complain about sleeping on a couch rather than a guest bed? Maybe, and if they do, they can get a hotel room to be frank. Plus who wants to waste money on spaces they do not use (I.E. that guest room we have that no one has used).

Spend your money wisely, think about what really is a necessity, and think a little smaller the next time you are looking for a place to live whether this is renting or purchasing a home.

Peace, love, and my prayers for you,

The Soaring Magpie

“Small rooms or dwellings discipline the mind, large ones weaken it.” 

-Leonardo Da Vinci

Articles Referenced:

American Houses Keep Getting Bigger — And so Does American Debt

U.S. Mortgage Debt Hits Record, Eclipsing 2008 Peak

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