Small house life. Why we love it and hacks to make it feel big.

img_5785We are passionate about small house life but we didn’t plan to downsize. We did a dramatic downsize after falling in love. With a house. A pretty small 2 by 1, 1951 cottage.

We found an adorable little house in a garden reminiscent of The Secret Garden, and a lifetime of living in a big-house culture couldn’t compete with our feelings. However, we didn’t understand just how much downsizing it would mean! Since we hadn’t been planning to downsize, we had a big-house sized collection of furniture and possessions.

Once the removal guys unloaded the last item we (two parents, two teens and one dog) found ourselves a wee bit crammed!

When we bought the house it was two bedrooms and one bathroom. Quite average for families in 1951 but an adjustment for a western family from this current stuff-laden era. All the furniture and belongings from our 5×2 ended up crammed in and spilled out all over the patio and into the little shed. And I thought I was a minimalist before I moved in here…

The location is awesome though, and we saw the potential with the house, so we pushed through and sold off stuff every week. I am still selling stuff three years later (I don’t think it will e v e r end) but it does feel spacious in here now! I go for minimalism with a touch of humour by adding some funky colours and whimsy here and there.

When we first bought the house it was 82m (around 820 foot) but we added a room and also moved the laundry out to patio and now have three bedrooms and a study, and a lovely dining/living with windows all around which makes it feel airy! But still only 102m!

The average newly built Australian home is around 230m (2300 foot). However we have discovered it is absolutely awesome to have a small house.

We are total converts to small house life.

The small footprint means less housework, less fixing and repairing, lower bills. We also spend so much more time together instead of spread out, and, we also spend more time outside in the fresh air and sunshine with the trees and birds. My only regret is not having discovered this simpler lifestyle earlier!!

If you considering downsizing you will be greatly helped by hacks from other small house families. And even if you live in a big house you may find some of the these ideas inspiring. These hacks will make your space more airy and use-able.

Here are our favourite small house hacks.

  1. YOLO. In a small house one must think YOLO (you only live once) and only keep the awesomest stuff. Forget those crystal glasses you got on your 21st and never use. Forget the extra extra blankets for when 27 rellies come to stay (never). But seriously, it is fabulous to live with only your very favourite things and nothing else. Your favourite dinner set, favourite bedlinen, favourite clothes etc. Let go of all the rest and your cupboards will be airy and the time you previously wasted tidying up all that stuff will be down to a minimum. Plus you will not need as much furniture and that makes a big difference in a small space. Little house life can be great if you have this approach.  Instead of spares of everything in cupboards we do things like; using our extras in the picnic basket when hosting large numbers, or shopping at charity shops for travel clothes if we travel to a different climate once every few years. In a little house I can’t and don’t want to keep stuff ‘in case’. Most of our rooms are very simple with just some favourite furniture and a few smaller items. This way we don’t feel cramped at all in our 102m! For a good paring back strategy you can’t go past Marie Kondo’s approach. Gather every single item from a category (eg all shoes or all ornaments, from all over the house) to one place, so you see how much you actually have. Pick up each item and decide if it brings you joy or not. Keep only those that bring joy or are super necessary.
  2. White white white. If you want a big-space-feeling in your little house paint the walls white, use white curtains and maybe even have some furniture in white. You can have punches of colour in cushions or the bedspread or a feature wall. But if all the rest is mostly white your space will feel very calm and airy. The secret to light colours and white is that they reflect light instead of absorbing it. It is light that makes spaces feel bigger. Another tip is that cool colours make surfaces appear further away and warmer colours make them feel closer.
  3. Lounge on the patio. We have set up a lounge area with sofas, coffee table and cushions on the patio (which has a roof). It is a great extra living space. We have done this at every house we’ve lived at and it entices us to spend a lot of time outside. Our teens really used it a lot too as a place to hang out when friends came over. We have used a daybed in one area and some woven rattan sofas in another area.
  4. Exchange free-standing bookshelves for shelving mounted on walls. Some can be quite high up too. Wall mounted shelves also give a home character.  We have only the books we are reading in lower places. Apply YOLO to your books too – juts keeping your very favourites will free up a lot of space in your home. I have pared back to my 30 favourites  and they are my treasures, no longer swamped by all the others I never read. The library, kindle and the internet have all the books I could ever dream of anyway.
  5. You can free up loads of cupboard space by keeping only 1-2 sets of extra linen per bed. This year I made a radical decision however to eliminate the linen cupboard! Now each family member has their own extra set of linen in their own wardrobe. bedlinen in their own wardrobe (1-2 sets per bed). We also have only 1 extra towel each and they are rolled and kept on a cute shelf in the bathroom. Just in case we have a lot of guests and need more than our 1 extra set each, I also have another extra set of linen and 2 towels on a shelf in a general cupboard. They only come out for guests.
  6. We have had a very small cute linen cupboard. I also keep an extra set for guests.
  7. Keep towels limited. Instead of towel chaos in your little house buy two towels per person in a particular colour for each person. One in use, and one in cupboard. I keep 2 guest towels and a few beach towels in a separate place away from my kids view!
  8. Shoes. When you downsize to a little home you may find yourself literally falling over things like shoes, sport gear and even the dog! You don’t need a bigger house, just cull the shoes and sport gear down (save the dog). Keep only the most useful and highest quality shoes. Store out of season items in containers in the shed. Try to part with sport gear that isn’t being used and only keep out the stuff for the current season. Store next season’s gear in your shed. To avoid falling over our dog we had to make him a special corner with a bed and toys. 🐶
  9. Downsize the furniture! After moving here we realised that some of our furniture was large-house-furniture and swallowed up our space. So we eventually sold things like our big sofas and big cabinet and got smaller versions. They did the same job. Just smaller. Wow! It felt like we could breathe after that. You could also save the planet and your budget by using gumtree/craigslist for furniture changes.
  10. Become a TIDY NERD! If you pare back it’s much easier to keep a space tidy. However, in a little house mess can still pile up faster than you can blink. One has to be quite disciplined. Every time I leave a room I look for anything that doesn’t belong there and take it with me. I do not let go of it from my hands until I am putting it in its spot. This one habit makes a huge difference.
  11. . One more radical step we took was move our laundry to an area external of the house building. This freed up a cute little room which became a much needed home office for my husband. It changed our home a lot. We really don’t mind doing the laundry outside the main house. You could use your garage or patio, depending on your climate.

Whether you have downsized or are considering it I hope these small house hacks help you know that a little house can feel spacious and airy and calm and there can be lots of space for living and for friends to visit!



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