Downsizing Your Home to Upsize Your Happiness


“Downsizing can be stressful, but the benefits are tremendous.”

– Tammy Strobel

Despite all the news stories we see about minimalism and downsizing, home sizes continue to increase in the United States.

According to the US Census Bureau, the median size of a new single-family home sold in 2014 was 2,506 square feet, up from 1,650 in 1978. The average size of a new single-family home sold in 2014 was 2,690 square feet, up from 1750 in 1978.

Only 18% of the 2014 homes had 1,800 square feet or fewer, and only 4% had fewer than 1,400. A whopping 10% were 4,000 square feet or larger, a record. In 1999, only 4% were this large, and 36% were under 1,800 square feet.

What’s all this space being used for? Apparently, stuff, not people. Increased home sizes and smaller households mean the number of square feet per person has doubled in my lifetime.

“Downsizing from a big house has its upside, that’s for sure: There’s less square footage to heat and cool, fewer rooms to declutter and clean. The trick is to figure out a compact size that’s just right, one where you use every inch but don’t feel cramped.”

– Jill Connors

By choosing a smaller home, you’ll have the option of saving money by buying a less expensive home or spending the same amount and getting a nicer home or a better neighborhood.

Regardless of which you choose, downsizing can save money on utilities, as well as maintenance and furnishings. Also, stuff expands to fill the space available, and having a smaller space is a good incentive to keep clutter to a minimum.

Best of all for me, the smaller space means less to clean and ease of finding missing items.

Obviously, the right size home for you depends on a lot of factors.

  • How many adults live there? Do they share a room?
  • How many kids? Can they share a room?
  • Are you planning to have more kids?
  • What’s the likelihood a family member will need to move in with you, either permanently or temporarily?
  • What kind of hobbies do you have? Obviously a piano takes up more space than a Sudoku book.
  • Is the weather good enough you can usually go outside to get some time away from the rest of the household?
  • Do you often entertain large groups?
  • What about overnight guests?
  • How much of the stuff you own now do you think you can declutter?
  • Are household members usually at work, school or traveling, or do they spend most of their time at home?
  • Do you need extra space to accommodate wheelchairs or walkers?
  • How long do you plan to live in this location?
  • Does anyone work from home? Does that mean meeting with clients or sitting at a laptop?
  • Do you cook from scratch or eat take-out or frozen dinners?

Take some time to pay attention to how you use the space you have now. Do you have rooms you rarely use? Can you double up on the purpose of some rooms?

We love our new half-the-size home.

Earlier this year, we moved from a 2,270 square foot house to a 1250 square foot townhouse, and we haven’t regretted downsizing for an instant. We love the smaller space and haven’t yet found any downsides to it. It doesn’t even feel small.

Yes, we used to have a guest room, and now we don’t. But, we have guests only once a year. For those three or four nights a year, my son will give up his room (as I did when we had guests when I was a kid) and sleep on an air mattress in the den.

We also had a dedicated office, but having a desk in a nook off the kitchen is working fine. The only occasional problem was noise from the TV in the adjacent living room, so we invested in a pair of headphones for the TV (much cheaper than a bigger home!).

Have you ever downsized your home? What were the benefits? What were the downsides? Are you interested in downsizing?

2 thoughts on “Downsizing Your Home to Upsize Your Happiness

  1. In 2008 my husband and I sold our house and nearly everything in it and moved into a motorhome. Benefits included taking ten minutes to clean the whole house leaving us lots of time to go play. Which we did by traveling through all 48 contiguous states over the next three years. Now we are off the road again so living in a 2-bedroom apartment. It’s too big but my spouse insists we need two bathrooms as our aging bodies are less willing to wait for one, He’s right, you know, but I’d sure like to not have to clean all this space.

    • Thank you for sharing, Linda. My husband and I hope to do the same thing in several years. Right now we are thinking of ending up in something like 800 square feet when it’s just the two of us, but I suspect that if we do live in a camper for a year or two, we’ll want something even smaller.

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