The big blessings of living small

More than one person has said this to us since we bought our small-ish condo four years ago: “You could get a bigger house if you moved inland.”

Five people and one fluffy labradoodle living in just under 1200 square feet of space isn’t “living small” by big-city standards, or especially by world standards, I imagine, but in terms of suburban America, we could definitely “get more house for our money” elsewhere.

Of course, that’s the rub: we don’t want to live elsewhere.

Our community, our neighborhood, and our three-mile drive to the beach make our “small” space worth it to us, and whenever our discontent gets the better of us, we are quick to remind ourselves of our value system and why we’ve chosen to live where we do (and love it).

Maybe someday our value system and/or our budget will change, but for now this is it for us. Here’s how we work around what we don’t have and why we feel at home in a small space for this season of life. 

The big blessings of living small

In the moments of uncertainty, when we find ourselves fed up with our space or wanting more, what we most often lament is not having a bigger yard.

But having small patios honestly urges us to get out beyond our own fences more, which I think is a good thing. Rather than sticking to our ourselves and our own space, we’ve found ourselves, and our kids, enjoying the neighborhood and shared community space more.

I like the idea of gardening, but for now, wine barrels with simple herbs fill that void a little in my front yard, and I can still eat local by belonging to a CSA. It’s not quite the same as straight-from-the-backyard, but it’s less work, which leaves more time for other things.

We can’t just let our puppy out free in the yard (although he gets that experience when we’re over at my parents’ house), but instead I have a reason and motivation to get out and walk around the cul-de-sac a few times day, and hopefully as he grows, so will my walks with him.

The big blessings of living small

And it turns out our already-friendly neighborhood has a whole other element of community when it comes to dog-walking, so I’ve found myself meeting new people who stop to pet my dog.

While more land and space would have its amazing benefits, in this season of raising young children, we love living in close community with our neighbors in addition to the coziness of being together in our our home.

More bedrooms and bathrooms would be wonderfully convenient, but on the other hand, I certainly like having less to clean and less space to acquire clutter. (Of course, I notice the clutter more, because there are less places to hide it, which is why–yay!– I’m thrilled to be taking Tsh’s decluttering class this spring.)

The big blessings of living small

And entertaining in a small space, while it can be tricky, is still totally doable I’ve found, especially when we employ our patio as a little “second living space.”

My gathering spaces, the table and the comfy seating of the living room, are not only central, they’re well, pretty much all there’s room for in our main downstairs area, and to be honest they’re all we really need.

The table is where most of life happens (as can be seen on Instagram at the tag #atthebennetttable) anyways, so these days I’m more concerned with the size of my table than the size of my home.

Maybe for our family and the season we’re in, small living is helping us look outward more, rather than at the house itself and what’s inside.

Just like so many issues of contentment, living in a smaller home is all about perspective and priorities, so we set them and stand by them, and we choose to be grateful for the privilege to have the choice to begin with.

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22 Comments

  1. Katie

    Thank you! I love this! The encouragement I needed this morning. Living small to do more/enjoy more.

    • Nicole Bennett

      I’m so glad it encouraged you!

  2. Missy June

    Your place sounds delightful and there are so many benefits of living within your means in the place of your dreams! Your children will remember the community and beach as their spaces – what could be better? AND, we own three acres and an enormous home…but I still bemoan lack of yard space for our children. It’s almost completely wooded and we don’t have room for a trampoline or volleyball setup. Any place has its drawbacks and we must focus on what we gain. Thank yo for sharing.

    • Nicole Bennett

      Yep, it’s all about perspective. Thanks for reading and chiming in!

  3. Rebecca

    Love this! Needed these words today.

    • Nicole Bennett

      Thanks for reading, Rebecca!

  4. Tara

    Hey Nicole, I stumbled upon your blog a while back, You have been such an inspiration to live and be content with what you have. We too live in SD county (San Elijo), bought around the same time and had to make the sacrifices of not having a yard, large family, small condo life. It’s tough and you’ve got to constantly be organizing and adapting. Though it’s a challenge, just seeing how close my family has become is priceless.

    • Nicole Bennett

      Aw, thanks for your kind words! They mean a lot. And it sounds like yes, you understand the trade-off well. 🙂

  5. TigerKim

    Oh yeah, having a big house and yard is great if you have enough money for a team of other people to take care of it. But if not, you become a slave to the property, instead of the property working for you. There is more to life than just owning something for the sake of owning those things; you have your priorities right. (Other people need to mind their own business.) And, as you said, when it no longer works for you, changes will be made. Living small also helps bring out clever ways to create storage in a house as well, which can increase the selling price. This Fall, I am installing a Murphy-style bed with shelving, that I am getting ‘used’, for a steal. So when there are guests, I have a proper bed, but also can use the room for meditation, exercise, crafting and storage.

    • Nicole Bennett

      Murphy beds are great! We had one in our last rental house and it worked so great to have that option for guests. We would just slide our son’s crib out of the way and put him in a pack in play elsewhere. 🙂

  6. Breanne

    I love your home!! It’s so welcoming and cozy and real. You inspire me to embrace my space and extend a welcome, regardless of the size of our house. XO

    • Nicole Bennett

      Aw, thank you friend! Hopefully someday we’ll come visit you!

  7. Melanie

    It’s always nice to hear about other families who desire simpleness instead of stuff and extra space to clutter up.
    We are soon to be a family of 11 and our home is 1100 sq ft. So many friends and family think we are nuts. But we don’t feel like we are falling over each other.

  8. Tonya

    You are so right about the dog! We live out in a more rural area and I find that neighbors rarely interact, but when we got our Goldendoodle puppy the same week our neighbors got a Boxer puppy, suddenly we were chatting over the fence almost daily. It’s been a great way to get to know some of the neighbors!

  9. Hillary

    Love this Nicole! We are a family of 5 and an Aussie dog, and are currently relocating: moving “up” from our 1000 sq ft to 1200 sq ft. When it came time to choose a house and location in our new city across the country, we realized all the benefits of living in a smaller house. I love that Saturday mornings have us all on the couch reading together, or that I can keep an eye on my toddler from the kitchen while I’m cooking, or that I can tell if someone is sick at night, or that it takes the whole family joining in on tidying but we are done in a quick minute. Being in a community where we can walk and interact is great, and a small house forces my introvert side to get out and about.

  10. Paige

    Our family of 4 live in what many in our area consider to be a small house (1700 sq ft) in a less-expensive neighborhood. We choose to live in this neighborhood and to drive 10 year old paid-for vehicles, so we can remain debt free (other than mortgage) and take vacations and do fun stuff as a family.

  11. Jen V

    This really has spoken to me during the past couple of days. We are looking for a new apartment in a part of the country where space is at a premium. It really makes us rethink our values and what’s most important in a living space.

  12. Orla

    It really is a matter of perspective. We are a family of five living in a two bedroom apartment, with no garden. Yes we would like to be able to afford a slightly bigger property. Fortunately the layout of the living room gives the illusion that we have more space than we actually do. We are surrounded by lot’s of green spaces and nature even though we live in a city. We are learning to live with less and make good use of storage.

  13. Leah

    As you stated, 1200 sf is not living small in most cities. That’s luxury in San Francisco! Living outward may be my new catch phrase in life. It will be my encouragement as we prepare to move for the 3rd time in 18 months in the bay area. Completely agree that it pushes us to spend more time outside of our own backyard. I read a long article about how the “suburb movement” of the 60s-70s changed everything about how we relate to others in America. At one time, we congregated in front of our house, we knew our neighbors and lived life together more. Now the backyard is what most strive for, as we focus inward, and it’s made us even more detached as people (even before technology took over). Thanks for your encouragement here!

  14. Shankar Lakkaraju

    Living within your means and dreaming big…wow, wholeheartedly appreciate. I felt happy after reading the article.

  15. Lauren Banks

    Weird question, but I love the table cloth on your photo of your outdoor table. Where did you find it?

    • Nicole Bennett

      Thanks, Lauren, I think it was from Target las summer if I remember correctly. It’s one of the ones that has a zipper to go around an umbrella. 🙂

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