In Praise of Small

So apparently the average size of a new house built in the United States is around 2,400 square feet. The average price tag is nearly $200,000 in North Carolina. This is nothing new, and its definitely the norm for newlyweds to dream of living in a McMansion one day. In fact, I think its becoming socially weird to not want this. When we went through our nightmare renovation last year (I can’t believe its been a year!), many people remarked on what a nice “starter house” we would have once it was all over. We’ve lived in less than 1,000 square feet since we got married four years ago, and have no plans to upsize. Sure, everyone is quick to say that when we have kids we will want something bigger/better/newer/nicer. But all of those things come with a hefty price tag, and we are totally happy where we are right now. Do my future children deserve a bigger house?

I will never forget having a conversation with someone about my age during the process of buying our first place. His words followed another comment about the “starter house” idea : “Well, you can upsize because you’ll always have a mortgage.” I understand the sentiment – buy small, sell, and use the equity for a down payment on a better place. But when does this process stop? Should I still be paying a mortgage at 80 years old? Honestly, its just not worth that to me. I would rather raise my children in 950 square feet and use my financial freedom to let them experience the world. In fact, hopefully this quaint little place will be free and clear by the time the kids arrive in the picture. A lofty goal, but not out of reach.

Let me admit, I was once part of the McMansion dreamers. Not long after we graduated from college, Clint and I bought a beautiful piece of land on a pond in a pretty upscale neighborhood. It was a great deal. We purchased the property knowing that there was a 2,400 square foot minimum building restriction in place. It didn’t take us long to realize that this was not our dream, but society’s dream for us. We would have had to work for years to build that “dream house” and decades to pay for it. Sounds a bit restrictive to me… all for a media room, a home office, and a formal living room (all three of which are comprised by my cozy family room here). After a couple of months, we quickly sold the land for a profit that would become the cash that renovated our new place. I hope that other young people can start to see that it’s okay to live small – your starter house can be your forever house 🙂


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