We are a family of six. Mum and Dad plus four kids. Late last year we sold our 3 storey, 2000 square foot Toronto townhouse. I loved that house. We bought it on paper and it is where I thought we’d live for a long time; where I thought we’d raise our family. It was big, bright and new. It had three bedrooms plus an office, a living room, a family room, a TV room, a spacious kitchen with a centre island and cupboards stretching to the nine foot ceilings, three bathrooms including a master ensuite and gleaming hardwood floors throughout. Sounds great doesn’t it? I really did love that house, but it just wasn’t right for us.
When we told friends and family we’d bought a new house I think they were surprised. One said, “It better not be smaller than this one.” Yes it is. Here’s the thing: we downsized. Our new house is an 1100 square foot bungalow. Yup, a bungalow; three bedrooms, one bathroom, a modest kitchen and a good sized living/dining room. It’s perfect for us.
Our old house was too big and we were way too spread out. My computer was in the third floor office, the TV was on the second floor, the kitchen was on the ground floor and for some reason, the kids loved to spend time in the unfinished basement. Everyone was always on a different floor. Despite the fact that bedrooms were on two separate floors, most nights all six of us would end up in one room. On top of all that we absolutely could not keep up with the housework.
Our front and back yards were pitifully small. Our back yard was only slightly bigger than a postage stamp. We’d watch the kids run around in circles in the back yard and it would remind us of hamsters in a cage.
With all the space of a 2000 square foot home came a whole lot of stuff; stuff we didn’t really need. We had linens; so many that we might have been able to open a small hotel. The same goes for kitchen wares; we had every small appliance, a wok we never used, and enough glassware to host a big party (which we only do once a year). When we took a step back and looked at what we had, it was embarrassing. We didn’t need the house for our family; we needed it for the stuff we’d accumulated over the years. Going through everything was an overwhelming task but in the end, we are so much happier with less.
We’ve been in our new house for several months now and it couldn’t be better. We have a big playroom in the basement and the kids can escape there when they need to blow off some steam. No matter where in the house I am it’s always close enough to know when things aren’t going well. The bedrooms are all next to each other so when the kids need us in the night, we’re close by. Everything is easier here; making dinner, bedtime, getting out the door in the morning, keeping the house tidy…everything. Somehow everything just seems simpler. Our backyard, probably the best feature of the house, is big. It is lined with perennial gardens and backs on to a huge park. We couldn’t ask for anything more.
This experience has really been an interesting lesson. It’s been said a million times but it’s true, less really is more. Fewer linens means less laundry, less laundry means more time to spend with the kids, baking or relaxing. A simpler house is less work and less stress. Fewer square feet mean we’re together more.
So, how much space does a family of six really need? As little as possible.