My house has no closets

A while back, Jennifer and I were chatting about building our own houses, and she mentioned that she’d design hers to have “just enough closets.” I love this perspective, because let’s face it: ample storage space just begs to be filled with stuff… which is then harder to part with once acquired.

One of my favorite Brazilian bloggers living in the U.S. recently posted about the “tiny house” movement in the States (original post in Portuguese or Google translation into English). Although I applaud the trend (fad?) of simpler living, I also shake my head at the fact that a small house is considered so “radical” in the U.S. People say “Oh, I could never do that” – but it’s simply normal for a huge slice of the world’s population. Christian’s family lives in a house only about twice the size of ours, and they are five adults and a newborn.

The average size of the American house has gone from 983 sq. ft. in 1950 to 2,349 sq. ft. in 2004 (source). Why? Is “small” just considered “not good enough” anymore? Of course there’s nothing intrinsically evil about increased square footage, but unless you have a very strong base of values that helps you resist the temptation, more space can lead to more consumerism and individualistic attitudes.

When each member of the family has his or her own TV in his or her own bedroom, why learn how to compromise or resolve conflict when two people want to watch something different at the same time? I once read about an Orthodox Jewish millionaire who, although he certainly had the means to live inΒ  spacious mansion, required his young children to share a bedroom so that they’d learn how to share and be considerate of others.

You can see that Christian and I don’t have a ton of stuff, and yet we still don’t have anywhere to put it. But I actually like the fact that the size of the house acts as a natural “check” against extraneous purchases – every time we consider buying something, we have to think about where to put it and/or what to get rid of to make room.

What do you think about the big house / small house debate?

  • I love the new location! I also always admired the name of your last blog.

    The right amount of space is essential…..I lived in co-housing on the USA, and there were not enough closets/storage space. It was a constant problem that had some people renting near-by storage space.

    I’m a fan of re-framing πŸ™‚

    • Shayna

      Thanks, Jennifer πŸ™‚

      Although we don’t have closets, maybe I could persuade my husband to put up a bunch of shelves… to at least get the stuff off the floor!

  • First of all, love the new page. Very nice! I was wondering where you went for so long!

    Secondly, oh, the house thing…

    I live in an apartment, not a small apartment, but not a big apartment. Still, it is big enough for the two of us and I say it is big enough for us to have babies in, too. But my friends don’t understand that. Our dining table is in the living room area (but I divided it nicely) and our office is in what should be the table area (but was really too small), but who cares? It looks nice, is easy to find what we want, and most importantly, easy to clean πŸ™‚ However, we have closet space, and I say a big hallelujah to that!

    • Shayna

      Easy to clean is KEY! I seriously could not handle a big house what with Brazilian daily cleaning standards.

  • Lori McHugh

    Your comment about more space leading to more consumerism is “spot on” – when we first moved into our house, we had only a futon mattress, lamp ,and TV – all on the floor in the family room. Now look how much “stuff” we have in that room now (of course, that’s our primary “live in” room).

    Love the new look and the new overall orientation – looking forward to future posts!

  • It could be argued that the increase in size of average American household is positive since more land is in private hands and hence is better looked after.
    Advocating TV sharing??? Humn, I have seen this associated with Havaiana Abuse. Remember, there is help.
    Oh, what paint did you end up using?

  • Maria

    Love the new site so far!

    Your observation of the American household is sooooo true! In fact, I hope you don’t mind but I just had to share this with some of my family and friends so they know that I’m not crazy and the only person who seems to notice the same thing as well! πŸ˜‰

    • Shayna

      Hi Maria! Of course I don’t mind – feel free to share away πŸ™‚

  • Lori McHugh

    How about if Christian puts up some berimbau closets?

  • I didn’t recognize the page when i came to your site. Great job.
    In regards to your latest post. Fantastic and so well put. I love how you said that having a smaller house keeps your spending on extraneous items in check NATURALLY because you have to think about where to put it.
    Travelling long term has that same effect. I am always thinking, can i fit it in my suitcase or do i want to move an extra bag with me to the next place and so on..

  • Over the last 12-13 years my husband and I have had to move several times. Each time we’ve downsized the house. I think our original house was about 2700sf, and the one we’re currently renting is just around 1000 sf.

    Not only does it help us get rid of things we don’t need, but we save immensely on energy costs and time needed to clean. We’ve already agreed that next time we move we’ll look for something even smaller!

  • When I lived in Japan, I doubled my living conditions 4 times. I started off with a small one room flat with no fridge, to buying a house with more rooms than my wife and I could use. Every time we ‘leveled up’ we ended up buying more furniture, appliances, gadgets, etc. The more space you get, the more you need to buy to fill that space.

    It costs money to buy more things and to heat/cool larger spaces, but the most significant cost is the all the time spent shopping and caring for things. My wife and I were always at stores or looking through catalogs to buy the next thing we wanted. We were full-on consumers and it was taking up time from things we really wanted from life.

    Now, we have almost no possessions and much of the chores and stresses of our old life are gone as well.

    We will probably get a house again somewhere, someday, but it will be a fraction of the size.

    • Shayna

      Wow! Yeah, my husband and I actually “leveled down” from our last place to this one – mainly to save on rent. We haven’t missed anything!

      What’s crazy is that so many people get caught up in that consumeristic cycle mindlessly – never pausing to think, “Is this what I really want? Is this lifestyle truly making me happy?” What were the catalysts that helped you and your wife break out of that pattern?

  • I love the post not only does it make sense in living more like a minimalist but it also relates to life itself.

    Having “to many thoughts, ideas, goals” and other things running around in your brain makes it hard to accomplish anything. I think I am going to have to write a post and link to you for this thanks!

    Max