I grew up in a rather wealthy area of New England where large homes line many of the streets. When I was younger, I had dreams of owning a spacious antique home like the ones that dot the quaint main street in my hometown. Early into married life, my heart would often struggle with jealousy when friends my age were buying large single-family homes. I sometimes felt like I was being left behind as we continued to live life in our small townhouse, with lots of neighbors close by, and an itty-bitty yard.
The Lord has been faithful to refine my heart for a number of years now. When I look back to college, and the time I spent on staff with Campus Crusade for Christ, I see many circumstances that led to this heart change. From the year 2000 to 2009, I lived in seven different apartments. Every time I moved, I was faced with the reality of how much stuff I owned. The most significant being the year I spent in China. When I flew to the other side of the world to my little Asian apartment, I could only bring two large suitcases, and two carry-on bags. Talk about prioritizing what you actually need!
After living in our small townhouse for three and a half years, my heart has changed drastically. Our small living space, abundance of neighbors, and tiny yard became immense blessings that grew in me a heart of contentment and thankfulness for what God had provided us with.
Our culture is quite preoccupied with an abundance of possessions, and running after The American Dream. As believers, we ought to be characterized by great generosity, holding our possessions loosely, while storing up treasures in heaven. Those treasures will not burn away like our earthly ones will.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying it is sinful for a follower of Christ to have a large home with many possessions. It’s all about the disposition of one’s heart. Depending on how many children we may be blessed with, we might need a larger home one day! However, I would argue that there is immense freedom in living on less, and great blessings in a small home.
This October, Adam and I will begin renting a small house that is closer to our church (isn’t it adorable?!). In actuality, the square footage is probably not much more than our little Pittsburgh townhouse. After living with my parents for the past four months, I’m really eager to begin the challenge of making the most of a new small space. I’m excited to eventually share the story of how we found out about this house. God has been so kind to meet many of our deepest desires with it.
If you’re like me, and struggle with contentment in your small space, here are some reminders of the blessings that can be found in a small home.
1) Lower utility bills
With less space to heat in the winter, and cool in the summer, your bills will certainly be lower than larger homes. This will free you up to give more, get out of debt, or save for something your family may want.
2) Less space to maintain
With a larger home comes a larger area to maintain. More walls to paint (interior AND exterior), a larger deck to repair, more lawn to mow and landscape, or a longer driveway to pave can be costly and become a burden over time. With our townhouse we were part of a homeowners association, so outdoor maintenance was covered for us. As we consider houses for the future, the amount of space that needs maintenance will be a high priority.
3) Less space to clean
Less space to clean = more time saved! I loved that I was able to clean my townhouse from top to bottom in 2-3 hours flat. That included dusting some baseboards, and other odd cleaning tasks that would be easily overlooked in a larger home. This one is huge for me. I know that if we are blessed with children, cleaning isn’t going to be this fast and easy anymore. I would much rather have a small home that can be easily cleaned, than a large one that sits unkempt.
4) Less space to decorate
With less space to decorate, and less rooms to furnish, money is saved. If you are on a tight budget like us, this one is very important. With my heart for making our home a warm and cozy haven, I want to fill my walls with beautiful things, and my rooms with unique furniture. Having space I could not afford to fill (or would unnecessarily stretch our budget to fill) would end up being a burden.
5) Less space to clutter
If there is less space to store unnecessary items, we are forced to purge and de-clutter on a regular basis. Making a drop-off run to Goodwill, or blessing a friend with items we no longer need feels amazing. In our townhouse we didn’t have much space for an office. This forced us to keep our paperwork to a minimum, and countertops cleared.
6) Growth in creativity
Living in a small space has grown my creativity. I was forced to make the most of our closet space by utilizing unique shelves, baskets, and drawers. This was especially helpful in the kitchen. I had limited cabinet space and needed to make the most of my storage to keep things functional. Ikea became a good friend of mine! Remember our IKEA hack on the billy bookshelves? This was one of the best storage spaces we had for our small home! It’s always a fun challenge for me to spend time thinking of ways to creatively make the most of our small spaces.
7) Learn to use your small yard to its greatest potential
You can see in the picture at the top of this post that we had a teeny tiny side yard, with an even smaller patio out back. We were extremely blessed to have the end-unit townhouse in our neighborhood! I made the most of that little sloping yard by planting a square foot garden in the sunniest location. If we had children, that little hill would have been perfect for sledding and slip-n-slides. Be creative to make the most of your space!
8) Smaller mortgage or rent
This one is a no-brainer! If your house is smaller, you will likely have a smaller monthly payment. This frees you up financially to give more, and bless others with great generosity.
9) Learn to hold possessions loosely
After moving seven times in nine years, and spending a year in China with only a couple of suitcases worth of stuff, I’ve learned to hold my possessions with a loose and open hand. Being in a small home forces you to reevaluate what you truly need. The spiritual ramifications of living with less are huge as well! What if God were to call Adam and I overseas one day? I want to be ready to go at a moments notice without a large house load of stuff holding us back.
10) More possibility for ministry opportunities
If you live in an apartment complex, or a townhouse neighborhood, I guarantee the ministry opportunities will be easy to come by. Adam and I were constantly interacting with our neighbors in Pittsburgh, and could easily start conversation with them while getting in and out of our cars, dropping off some Christmas cookies, or sharing some fresh herbs from the garden. One of my favorite things about the house we will be renting in the fall is that it is located in a more urban neighborhood where the homes are very close together. With sidewalks lining the streets, we will be walking past our neighbor’s houses all the time. I can’t wait to get to know them!
11) More opportunity to grow in your marriage and as a family
I believe this one is the greatest blessing, and my personal favorite. In a smaller home, there is less space to hide and do your own thing. In our Pittsburgh townhouse, we had one family/dining room where Adam and I spent most of our time. This large room was wide open to the kitchen as well, so I could easily chat with Adam while making our meals. With a small space, we were forced to be close, even if we didn’t want to be (i.e. during times of conflict). Our TV was in the living room, so there was no option to be entertained separately if we couldn’t agree on a movie together. Our kitchen table was used as a meal space, craft space, and Adam’s rehearsal space. I truly believe our small living space brought us closer, and strengthened our marriage in countless ways. For this reason alone, I would choose a small house over and over again.
I love this verse because it gives a great picture of contentment for the believer:
“But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” – 1 Timothy 6:6-8.
How about you? Do you live in a small space and find it to be a blessing? What other blessings have you discovered?