Misconceptions: My House is Too Small

America is a nation where everything is bigger. We super-size meals, cars and even houses. We are the proud nation that invented McMansions after all, and many of us expect to one day advance on our property ladder to the seven bedroom monstrosity that seems to have become a large part of the American dream. Really, who wouldn’t want more space in which to truly live?

Well, this mentality that we must advance to bigger and better houses as we age may just be a misnomer. Large houses come with a lot of upkeep, higher utility costs, and frankly, a lot of wasted space for the majority of everyday living. Let’s look at these ideas more in depth.

Upkeep…Up the Wazoo

When you own a home, you know that maintenance plays a big part of your life. Siding must be painted, roofs must be replaced, windows and doors need to be maintained…and the list goes on and on. Of course, these large projects can actually be overshadowed by the daily maintenance: yard work, cleaning, and miscellaneous repairs can take up a lot of your time.

Imagine all of this upkeep on a larger home. Dusting alone could become a monumental task when you have 5,000 square feet of rooms filled with furniture and knick knacks, but add in vacuuming, scrubbing, repairing and raking leaves and you’ll see your free time dwindle to nothing.

Utility Costs Go Up…and Up…and Up

One of my least favorite bills to pay is the heating bill. To me, it feels like such a shame to live heat-bill-free for six glorious months per year only to be forced to pay up to $150 per month for the other six months. And this is for a three bedroom home. Imagine if I had to heat a McMansion!

Of course, the heat bill is not the only cost that will rise with larger houses. Other utility costs, taxes and insurance are a few of the other fees that could break the bank. Additionally, choosing a McMansion could mean increased HOA fees (homeowner’s association fees) and additional upkeep costs related to HOA rules and regulations.

Wide Open Spaces…Wasted

Some people are drawn to large houses because of the extra space available for parties. Many envision weekly shin-digs where guests drink Champagne and eat caviar. Others see the space as a place for more relaxed family get-togethers. Whatever the plan in purchasing so much extra space, sometimes planning to become Party Central may not be worth the extra cash.

Paying for the upkeep of this square footage may not return enough on your investment. For example, if you only throw a party once or twice per year, the cost of the space may be an unnecessary drain on your pocketbook. On the other hand, if you love to entertain quite often and have budgeted for your party-throwing hobby, the space could be welcome.

Overall, big houses could just be a waste of money. If you are not regularly using every room in your house, you could be paying a pretty penny for upkeep and utilities (not to mentions the square footage purchase price). So before you upgrade, you may want to consider if you will truly throw those dream parties or if the space could just collect dust (that you’ll have to clean).

Does anyone else out there love a smaller house? Will you stay there forever?

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Anonymous's picture

Melissa wrote:

Wed, 11/02/2011 - 12:07 Comment #: 1

Man, you could not be more right. This irks me all the time! I have a relative who lives (alone) in a massive, probably 4,000 or 5,000 square foot house, and she seems to think that anything smaller is just unacceptable. Some other relatives of ours are "downsizing" from a poorly laid out 3,500 sq ft house to a 2,500 sq ft condo (because the space in their old house is so terrible, I actually don't think they're losing much, if any, usable space), and this person was going on about how that is "way too small" and "you just don't understand, Melissa, because you live in such a small apartment" and "they will be walking all over each other."

What?!?!

Then she made some comment about, think about how much space 100 square feet is? That's like a closet! Their new place is so small! To which I replied, 100 sq ft is actually the size of my (fair sized) bedroom. Le sigh.

My apartment is 425 sq ft, but it's used efficiently, and it's more than enough space for one person.

Christa Palm's picture

Christa Palm wrote:

Wed, 11/02/2011 - 15:27 Comment #: 2

Melissa, this person lives alone in a 5,000 square foot house?! Wow. I agree that 425 is enough for one person. My husband and I lived in a 600 sq ft apartment for 3 years, and we were happy with our space. Now our 1500 square foot house seems way too big!

Anonymous's picture

Miss T @ Prairie Eco-Thrifter wrote:

Wed, 11/02/2011 - 17:17 Comment #: 3

Great post. You make a lot of great points. I think your house is big enough when you can do all you want to do in the space you have but also making sure you use all of the space. We don't live in a huge house and we do just fine for now but once kids come we may want to expand. I think it should be based on need whether you have a big house and not on a striving for an image or to impress others.

Anonymous's picture

Alex | Perfecting Dad wrote:

Wed, 11/02/2011 - 22:19 Comment #: 4

I don't even want a house. I'm sad that I bought the last one. You're totally right about the cost and effort, but I might also add that there is a lot of mental weight with all that expense and upkeep. You have to fill it up with furniture, fill the garage with cars, heat it and light it like you say, etc. Also it's probably out in the burbs so now you have to commute a long time. Add to that now you're tied to the place for years or decades. Terrible. Thanks for depressing me :)

Anonymous's picture

Kris @ Everyday Tiups wrote:

Wed, 11/02/2011 - 23:35 Comment #: 5

You echoed my sentiments exactly. I always laugh when I watch House Hounters and they pick a house because of all the entertaining they can do. Yeah, I want to pay 100k extra so I can throw 3 parties a year? Oh, and a man cave, gotta have that too. (I have been wanting to write about that for awhile now.)

By the way, I envy heating bills that are just $150 a month in the winter! However, I refuse to sit around cold, so I keep my house warmer than most probably.

Great post!

Anonymous's picture

Niki wrote:

Wed, 11/02/2011 - 23:55 Comment #: 6

Right now we are a family of five in a 2000 sq ft house. I think it is perfect.

I thought I wanted a bigger house but I am so glad we stayed in this size range. When it eventually becomes just the two of us, I will definitely downsize.

Anonymous's picture

Lindy Mint wrote:

Thu, 11/03/2011 - 01:56 Comment #: 7

I used to have dreams of a big house too, but more square footage equals more places for my kids to scatter their toys all over. I'm pretty happy with our 1500 sf, though I do hope for a slightly bigger house when my boys reach teenage years. I'm pushing for a den or a gameroom to shut them in when they get too loud :)

Christa Palm's picture

Christa Palm wrote:

Fri, 11/04/2011 - 20:21 Comment #: 8

Miss T, I love your point that your house choice "should be based on need...and not on a striving for an image or to impress others." I agree wholeheartedly.

Alex, so sorry to depress you! I agree that sometimes renting or condo life is the perfect option. Good luck on your house upkeep ;)

Kris, I always shake my head at those House Hunter peeps too. I know someone who bought a huge house just to throw parties, and she only has about four per year. She's finally downsizing though!

Niki, your house size seems perfect for your family. I also think we'll downsize when it's just me and the hubby again.

Lindy Mint, it would be a pain to find toys in every corner of the house, especially if the house was huge. How 'bout when they're teens you just lock them in a dungeon for a few years ;)

Anonymous's picture

Weekly Favorites, Gratitude, and Giveaways #46 | Budgeting I wrote:

Sat, 11/05/2011 - 10:53 Comment #: 9

[...] Vesting with Misconceptions: My House is Too Small  I’m fine with not living in a [...]

Anonymous's picture

femmefrugality wrote:

Sat, 11/05/2011 - 21:13 Comment #: 10

I love the houses that have a formal dining room that people use twice a year at best. And then the family room AND the living room....really?

Anonymous's picture

Emily Guy Birken wrote:

Sun, 11/06/2011 - 18:48 Comment #: 11

My husband and I talk about this all the time! We are both small house (and old house) people and we have trouble understanding the need for bigger and more. Our old houses (we owned a 1921 Bungalow in Columbus, Ohio before we moved to the 1940 Cap Code we're now living in in Indiana) were well made, full of personality and details, and no more than 1400 square feet. Because thought was put into the layout and livability of these houses, we use all of the available square footage AND we know our neighbors because small houses also means smaller yards and more walkable neighborhoods.

I've known people who live in large houses where every member of the family is in a separate corner of the house, each watching television alone or otherwise not interacting. I'd rather have my whole family using a small space and have neighbors, parks, stores and libraries close by (which is not possible with McMansions) than 1500 square feet all to myself.

Anonymous's picture

Lazy Sunday Weekly Recap! #1 | Your Finances Simplified wrote:

Sun, 11/06/2011 - 18:53 Comment #: 12

[...] :  Misconceptions:  My House is Too Small.  My very first home is a “McMansion”.  We bought it as a foreclosure and a bit [...]

Anonymous's picture

Lazy Sunday Weekly Recap! #1 | Your Finances Simplified wrote:

Sun, 11/06/2011 - 18:53 Comment #: 13

[...] :  Misconceptions:  My House is Too Small.  My very first home is a “McMansion”.  We bought it as a foreclosure and a bit [...]

Anonymous's picture

Julie @ The Family CEO wrote:

Mon, 11/07/2011 - 14:33 Comment #: 14

I think about life in a smaller house all the time. Ours is about 3500 sq ft and I would never want anything bigger. It's the cleaning and upkeep that get me down.

Christa Palm's picture

Christa Palm wrote:

Mon, 11/07/2011 - 16:07 Comment #: 15

Femme Frugality, I agree that I would rather use all of my space...plus I'm not a formal dining room type of gal!

Emily, great points about the layout, smaller yard and sense of community! I just raked leaves this weekend, and I'm so happy my yard is just big enough for my dog and my family. BTW, your houses sound beautiful -- I love those styles!

Julie, I agree that the cleaning and upkeep are a little tiresome on a large house. My mom's downsizing soon, and she's never looked forward to anything so much in her life!

Anonymous's picture

Kellen wrote:

Mon, 11/07/2011 - 20:52 Comment #: 16

When I was looking at houses I found an adorable 2 bedroom 2 bath house at under 1,000 sq feet. No storage space, but then, that's good motivation not to gather a bunch of STUFF. And, since the house took up less space on the lot, there was plenty of room out in the yard - so if you keep your entertaining to good weather times, you'd be able to host quite a crowd out there!

Christa Palm's picture

Christa Palm wrote:

Tue, 11/08/2011 - 14:04 Comment #: 17

Kellen, very good point! I do all of my entertaining in the summer months for that reason, too.

Anonymous's picture

Women and Finances: Getting Started Budgeting and Investing wrote:

Wed, 01/18/2012 - 21:15 Comment #: 18

[...] smaller is better. Living in a small home can sometimes be a blessing and save you [...]

Anonymous's picture

Anonymous wrote:

Mon, 05/21/2012 - 10:54 Comment #: 19

Hmm...I loved the post, it made some really great points but I have to say I love my large home. First, I must say that it is NOT a McMansion but a historic brick colonial built in 1907 in my city's only good school district.

I think the point that everyone is making is that people should have the space that best accommodates their lifestyle and their family's needs. For me, for example, a small home would be nearly impossible since we are a family of six, plus my Dad, plus my mother-in-law, plus our dogs and almost always a visiting relative. SO with eight people living here full-time and relatives here maybe 6 months a year a 6,000 sq ft. 9 bedroom was perfect.

I am not opposed to small living spaces having lived in a teeny 650 sq ft. studio in law school and 900 sq ft. in the apartment me and my husband lived in. If we had fewer people, say a household of five, I would love to own a smaller 3,000 sq ft. home. Just not an option but I think it worked out for the best.

Christa Palm's picture

Christa Palm wrote:

Mon, 05/21/2012 - 18:38 Comment #: 20

Anonymous, your situation sounds ideal for you. In your case, you and your family members use every square inch of a huge house -- kudos to you guys for working out a great living situation! Large homes are only a waste, in my opinion, if the space is not being used. So enjoy your big house and your large family!

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