Several years ago, my husband and I moved from our three-story, six-bedroom home to a one-story Mission bungalow. It’s charming. It’s in a location we love. It’s half the upkeep and half the cost of our former home. I saw our new house as perfect. My husband saw it only as “less.” Then I stumbled upon architect Sarah Susanka’s book, The Not So Big House, and it has made all the difference. Our new home isn’t less; in fact, it’s more. It’s a “not so big” house.
The idea behind The Not So Big House is that homes should emphasize how we actually live in them, and not focus on square footage. In a Not So Big House, every space in the home is used every day, so a Not So Big house does not have formal rooms that are rarely used. What we really crave, says Susanka, is intimacy, not open space. She uses the example of a window seat or an alcove with a window and reading chair. We are naturally drawn to these cozy spaces, in spite of, or perhaps because of, their size and intimacy. “Bigger is not necessarily better,” says Susanska. “Home has almost nothing to do with square footage.”
Susanka’s second book, Creating the Not So Big House, describes things you can do to make your home feel larger, especially the impact of light and lighting. Many are surprisingly low cost.
Focusing on homes that reflect how we actually live in them lead Susanka to a third book, Not So Big Living, which encourages people to start living their passions, to start looking at “What have I always wanted to do,” and then do it. Susanka encourages people to declutter, both their houses and their lives, so they can slow down and “show up” more.
The Not So Big movement is reflected in many aspects of today’s society: the move toward smaller cars and small portions, the increased focus on simplifying, recycling and reducing waste; in short — sustainability.
Not so big thinking not only fits my new home; it also fits what I do professionally. As a Senior Move Manager, I help older adults declutter and move into not so big spaces. For most people, appreciating not so big living takes time, but it’s a perspective worth having. I often think of a client who was moving from a villa in a retirement community to a two-bedroom apartment in the main building. The villa had a large linen closet in the master bath, and the new apartment did not. “Right now, that missing linen closet seems like a big problem,” my client said, “but I have many friends who live in the same size apartment I am moving to, and none of them complains about not having a linen closet.”
Individuals considering senior living options often focus on what they are giving up: the space, the garden, the extra rooms. Yet individuals who have already moved into senior communities seldom complain about missing these features from their prior home. They’re busy being in the present.
To learn more about not so big living, go to notsobig.com