My wife and I took possession of our current home 13 years ago this month. October 10th, 2006, to be precise. We moved in with three very young kids in tow, our youngest was not even 3 months at the time. I’ll never forget that first night in our new home.
After everyone was asleep, and with all of the lights off, I got out of bed and walked through the kitchen into the living room. I just stood there, in the darkness. I could hardly see my hand in front of my face, but there I stood for probably 10 or 15 minutes, overcome by an incredible sense of gratitude.
Our 1200 square foot, cozy, one and a half story house was built shortly after the Second World War, though it was moved onto a new lot and foundation in the late 1960’s. It has 3 small bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, surprisingly, and a partially finished basement. Oh, and I should add, a single car, detached garage.
In other words, it’s your typical starter home. However, standing in the living room that night, 13 years ago, it was more like a palace. I remember how spacious everything felt, especially with our two older kids tucked away neatly on the 2nd floor, a luxury we didn’t have in the even smaller house we had just left.
Thirteen years later, I still love this home.
In 2019, in places where homes are actually affordable, the trend is for families to skip the starter home idea altogether, opting to stretch into their ‘forever home’ right out of the gate. And for many that do ‘start out small’, they more often than not seek out a larger, more comfortable abode as soon as the family, the paycheque, or both, begin to expand.
Lifestyle inflation 101.
Check out this Mortgage Affordability Calculator from my friend Andrew over at Millennial Homeowner. It’s a great tool that will help you figure out how much house you can SAFELY afford!
Our kids have grown quite a bit since we bought out house. They’re now 19, 16, and 13, and we’ve also added two dogs to the family. Our income has grown more than 400%. Upgrading to a larger house in a newer neighbourhood is something we could manage without much difficulty. Yet here we are, content with our small home.
While our house is far from perfect, (there are things we would love to change), here are 5 reasons why we still love the place.
It’s made work optional for my wife
I grew up in a single parent home, with my mom and my younger brother. While my dad provided financial support, my mom eventually had no choice but to work full-time. At times, she even took on second jobs to make ends meet. She’s the strongest person I’ve ever known, and although I’ve never once heard her complain about her situation, I knew that all my mom ever wanted was to be at home with my brother and me.
Because of this, I always told myself that when I got married, I would do everything I could to make sure my wife had the freedom to choose between working, or staying at home to raise a family. Isn’t it interesting how our values are so often shaped by childhood experiences.
Fast forward 30 years, and it’s become very difficult for dual-income families to make ends meet, let alone when only one parent is working. One of the reasons Mrs. MMM has been able to be at home full-time with our kids, is because we’ve stayed in our small home.
We’ve never felt house poor
Don’t get me wrong, we’ve made our share of money mistakes over the years. Overspending, credit card debt, you name it. There were times early on when we really struggled. But one trap we’ve been able to avoid is becoming house poor. We’ve never bought more house than we can afford.
These days, we’ve increase our mortgage payments substantially to pay the balance down more quickly, but the minimum payment we’re required to make is less than our monthly rent was almost 20 years ago. This would not be the case if we had decided long ago to upgrade to a larger home.
Location, Location, Location
There are better locations. There are nicer neighborhoods, and communities with more to offer in the way of amenities. And there are certainly places with shorter winters. But where we live works really well for us. With the exception of my daily commute to work, our entire life is contained within a three block radius of our home. School, church, the grocery store where our oldest two kids work. At some point this will change, and when they do, we’ll be ready. But for now, our small home is exactly where we want it to be.
It keeps us from accumulating stuff
Remember what I said about our home feeling like a palace when we first moved in? Well, it no longer feels that way. When you have 5 people and 2 dogs living in 1200 square feet, space is at a premium. The upside is that it forces us to take a minimalist approach to life. We don’t hold on to things we no longer use. As the kids have grown out of toys and clothes, we’ve given them away. We make a point to go through the house at least a couple of times a year, and get rid of anything that doesn’t serve a purpose.
It brings our family closer together
This might be the best part about living in a small space. We are a close family, and if you ask me, having only one main living area in our house definitely helps with that. Our kids are getting older, yet on any given evening you’ll find the five of us together, in the living room/kitchen, with our two dogs lying nearby. Chances are, there’s a hockey game on, or Netflix perhaps. I’m probably on my laptop, and my middle daughter is definitely on her phone, but we’re together. This is where we laugh, cry, tease, debate, argue, encourage and uplift.
It’s also the jump-off point for family activities. When Mrs. MMM and I go for a walk, or a drive, at least one of the kids will join us. Sometimes we’ll go to the park together with one of the dogs. My son and I will often head down to the basement to work on a song idea in the recording studio. The point I’m making is that I’m not sure we’d be as close if we lived in a sprawling house, where everyone had their own space to hang out. It would be more difficult, that’s for sure.
Embracing our small home
Our home is far from perfect. There are things that need to get done, like new shingles for the roof next summer, and painting that I’ve been putting off for far too long. One thing Mrs. MMM and I find especially difficult is not having a lot of space to entertain, which can be frustrating. But over the years, we’ve learned to embrace our home, and appreciate the many lifestyle benefits it’s afforded us.