Sunday, November 30, 2008

Space

Your mother-in-law is coming? She's staying with you? Where are you going to put her?

My neighbor asked me this. I didn't think two minutes about it but then she apologized for it the next day, and I still don't care that she said it because it's certainly a fair question. Where would we put a guest in our 650 square feet house?

Jeff and I are on the crappy-house-good-location real estate investment plan. We live in a 1926 bungalow that has not been changed by any of its owners. Historic, right? Riiiiiight. We are saving for the time when we can either remodel or move. Not bothering with small enhancements, because there are no small enhancements. Finish the basement means redoing the stairs to the basement which are too narrow to redo the way they are which means changing the size of the stairs and then we'd cut into either our already tiny bedroom or our kitchen that we use ever inch of and then boom we are into an addition off the back and if we did THAT then why don't we just make a second story because there is that great view of Lake Union from up there? See? Aren't you tired just thinking about it?

We love our house, our location, our neighbors, our neighborhood. We love living within our means, having to tame our cluttering tendencies daily, an excuse to have a family bed. We love sitting with our laptops in the evening, elbow to elbow. We love feeling like we are green, sort of, by living close in, taking the bus, and having fewer square feet to heat. But we really could use a little more space, so either a move or a remodel is in the works. Sometime. This year or next. You know, when we get around to it.

It's so interesting to watch others watch us live where we do, to watch our little cottage elicit strong reactions. A child says I could never live in a house this small, parroting his parents loud and clear. Someone else says I bet Hugo likes playing at our house because we have so much more room. And always, I thought of something you could do with your basement/kitchen/living room.

I have always believed that my lesson from our house was to figure out a decent relationship with clutter. But I think it is also partly to hunker down to carve out our spot in this world. The Thanksgiving holiday has shown me again that our families are wonderful, and that we sometimes, still, let them into places we shouldn't. I like to think that when we make our housing decision it will mean that all those voices are in the places they should be in our lives--in support of our family and our decision, but from the sidelines.

Or maybe not. This whole seeing lessons in everything can get a little out of hand, no? Maybe we are just supposed to move to Europe.

Oh, and 650 square feet can hold a lot of futons and gracious guests.

20 comments:

J and J Acres said...

I need to measure our house and see how many sq. ft. it is. It's not very big either but it saves on heating costs and it prevents us from buying a bunch of crap we don't need.

That being said, we are also saving for a bigger house one day. And the little house helps us do that!

The Finely Tuned Woman said...

Go on and be happy with your little house. There's nothing wrong with that as long as it is realistic for you and your finances. You may be doing a very smart thing by staying there. Ignore the remarks of other people and tell them that in Europe lots of people live very happily in small houses. Home is where the heart is, after all.

wheelsonthebus said...

our house is pretty small for 5 people, but i love that i always know where my kids are.

Mrs. G. said...

Beautiful.

Misty said...

i've had the privilege of smaller homes and larger and honestly, i prefer the smaller. the intimacy. Some of our happiest times were in a tiny, 500 square foot urban apartment.

Kristen M. said...

I wish you had said "650 square feet" when you were talking about cleaning the other day. I would have totally driven over and helped!

Jennifer said...

Our first house was a 780 sq. foot cottage-y house, built in 1890. We "upgraded" when we knew we'd be going from 1 to 2 kids and now have 3, so we did need more room, but, oh, we miss that little house so much. It was so cozy and so charming and so us. I drive by that house still, sometimes, just to say hi.

Her Royal Troutness said...

We were squished into the upper half of our home for the last 7 years. Now that we've expanded, we still stay close together - literally and figuratively. I love those lessons. I also love the idea of moving to Europe (where 650 sq. feet would raise no eyebrows whatsoever).

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

Five of us lived in 1100 square feet for a while. It really wasn't that bad.

Vanessa said...

I say be happy with your house or rather what's in it. The (former)SO and I shared a 5000 sq ft house which was absolutely gorgeous, but one of the most miserable, lonely times of my life (not to mention the $1000 electric bills). My apartment while much smaller is infinitely happier. Home is what you make of it and if you are truly happy, square footage does not matter.

JessTrev said...

Hey, former neighbor - I live in 2 floors of a DC rowhouse (about 700 sf). I am still waiting for a better relationship with clutter to emerge. ;) But like Her Royal Troutness we all glom together anyhow. Lovely reflections.

bipolarlawyercook said...

I think you're right. We should learn how to make so with what we have, and it's a good reminder that smaller and simpler can be not only fine, but good.

apathy lounge said...

It's the quality of the lives inside the house that matter. I'm betting yours beats the crap out of cold and impersonal mansions. I choose your house.

Lisa Milton said...

I think as the economy changes, maybe people will rethink their McMansions and the cost and the clutter.

It's more costly, in every way.

Staging our house to sell - though we are still here - really forced us to decide what matters, what stays; who we are.

I love that you made this decision and live beautifully.

We could all learn a lot from you.

Tootsie Farklepants said...

I LOVE quaint bungalows! I always wanted to live in one in Hollywood when I was young and single.

An aside: if my mother in law stayed with us in 650 square feet one of us would not live to see the next day. And I'm younger and stronger than her, so...

JCK said...

Your 650 square feet sounds very homey. And admirable. For all the reasons you listed.

Lovely post.

And congrats on your 30 posts, girl!

Phil said...

The second story might be a good idea. The view basically pays for it, and, because you'd have to go to a maximum R-factor, you might end up even greener.

You're smart to start now being vigilant about junk collection. After 34 years in the same house, we couldn't move unless we had a fire.

phd in yogurtry said...

I agree about the coziness, closeness & greenness of small homes.

My husb has done a lot of "pop up" remodels (adding a second story master bedroom / bath). I loved those. Fascinated me no end .. one day no upstairs, next day, second floor! Good luck with whatever / whenever you decide. The joke my husb makes to anyone who has completed a remodel, "and you're still married?" He is not kidding. Very fractious.

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