Debunking a Myth About Small Spaces

I’m interrupting the telling of the Our Journey to Now saga to fill you all in on a particular, pervasive myth that I myself have believed in the past about small spaces: namely, that a small space is easier to clean and keep clean.

For years I totally swallowed that line and fought Noah tooth and nail on plans to build a big house. Smaller is better, I said. Smaller is less expensive to heat and cool and the family is closer together and there won’t be wasted space and I don’t want to have to clean a big house!

It has been two and a half months now since we’ve moved into the bus, so I feel like I have some authority on the subject now and I will say without a doubt that between the 900 square foot house we were living in before and the 400 square foot bus – the house was easier to maintain.

Now, our situation is slightly different in that we do have three young children, more than most people in the US, and are living in a space that is much smaller than most US homes. Also, I’m pregnant, so cleaning/moving around in general is pretty onerous and could be (read: definitely is) exacerbating my perception of the situation.

NONETHLESS, here is my line of thought as to why small homes are harder to keep clean:

1. There is less open space.

Open spaces tend to be treats for the eye and small homes tend to lack them. In general, open spaces are pretty easy to keep clean and looking clean. You pick up whatever is on the floor (and toss it in a laundry basket if you have to), and then vacuum/sweep/mop/whatever. Done. Smaller spaces generally have furniture taking up the open space, which is not as easy on the eye AND requires more work to clean around.

2. The major chores don’t change.

In the house we lived in before, the two areas that required the most time and made the biggest difference in how clean my house felt were the kitchen and the bathroom. Sinks, toilets, dishes, floors, counters – all of those same fixtures exist in the bus and require the same amount of time and effort. Although, I guess this would make a difference if you were reducing the number of bathrooms in your home.

3. A little bit of clutter makes a much bigger difference.

Something left out  on the counter of a large kitchen is not as noticeable as something left out on the counter of a kitchen that is only fifty square feet. ‘Nough said.

I won’t go into our upstairs situation, because it really doesn’t apply to anyone but us. I don’t think that very many people hate making their bed because they keep smacking their head on the ceiling or have to deal with carrying all their laundry up and down a ladder, so I’ll leave that be.

Now, I still have to say that aside from those distinct disadvantages I’ve noticed, overall as far as quality of life and useability and familial happiness is concerned: we don’t really miss the extra space. We have room to do the things we need and want to do: eat, sleep, sit, play, watch a movie in the evenings (we just finished Walking with Dinosaurs, which was fantastic) and as long as you have that, what else do you need?

What do you think about smaller spaces vs. bigger? Does it actually take more effort or am I missing some vital information that would make everything a million times easier on myself? If so, please fill me in.

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10 thoughts on “Debunking a Myth About Small Spaces

  1. There has to be some kind of tipping point, right? When is enough space enough? We have friends of friends who are going to live in a new 2,500 sq ft modular while their 3,500 sq ft house is being built. The “little” house will then be converted to a guest house. Uh, that’s 6,000 square feet, folks! They do at least have 4 kids, but still… That’s an awful lot of dusting and vacuuming (or even dust mopping).

    Enough space to see the floor and play on it, counters to roll out pies on or watch seedlings grow on, bookshelves and bathrooms, I know what I want and, more importantly I think, I know what I’m willing to maintain. And 6,000 sq ft of space is about 4 times more than I want to worry about!

    Isn’t yours about 2,000? I think that’s not too bad for a family of 6!

    1. I totally agree – I think there is probably a place somewhere between a bus and a McMansion that would be “just right.” I think that 2,000 square feet is okay… I just keep thinking about how families did it with more kids in smaller spaces for so many years. The average home size has increased dramatically over the past few decades and I find it kind of irksome that we now consider anything smaller to be SO tiny. Which is why people get such a kick out of us living in a micro-home with so many kids. There are definitely challenges, to be sure, but overall, anything you’re not actively using is just wasted space, in a sense.

  2. I too, like smaller homes.

    I really like the idea of a small two story home.
    In a perfect world you would really only need to keep the first floor clean at any given time because visitors wouldn’t nessasarily go upstairs.

    Also.. stairs = excercise.

    1. I like smaller homes, definitely. I just think that at some point (around 400 square feet?) you start running into organizational difficulties trying to squeeze lots of people into a tight space. Just saying.

  3. Stairs and exercise are great EXCEPT, as all my older friends warned me and I listened not, for the knees. Ouch, ouch, ouch. And that is why our new place will be just, sigh, one story. But we’re on a hill, so I’ll pretend that we have, as the kids always call them, “high bedrooms”.

    1. I’ve heard this too… and we are not listening either! We didn’t even put the master downstairs like some suggested to avoid this in the future. Maybe the library can eventually be turned into a bedroom? I don’t know. But a one-story where we are would mean missing out on some awesome views, so we’re going to take those.

      1. And it’s much more economical to build up, rather than out. This time around, though, our house is just about 1300 sq ft, and only ONE bedroom, with lots of living space instead. Our company tends to like to all be in one space, anyway, so the hide-a-bed, window seats, etc. will take care of them. Our “living room” will be mostly library…

  4. I definitely think there is a tipping point. I think larger homes appear to be cleaner because of the open space, but they are a lot of vacuuming and mopping, etc. Small homes feel more cluttered. I think a smaller home that has lots of storage space and minimal, but useful, comfortable furniture, is the way to go. My house of about 1500 sq. ft. would be perfect if it had three things: the spare room were actually a second bathroom, there were more closets, and if there weren’t slanted ceilings in the bedrooms upstairs. I also whack my head on the ceiling when making the bed on one side, though I can stand up on the other side, unlike you. My solution is to pull the covers up as best I can while sitting up in bed and then just flipping the other side up with a jerk from my side. It’s never going to be made right, but doesn’t look half bad. Like another comment said, no one is going upstairs except us, unless invited.

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