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Smaller House = Bigger Life

Yesterday, while sitting in the salon getting foils, my stylist exclaimed with joy, “We just moved into a new house with more space!” She went on to explain how it has a few extra bedrooms that they can put guests in, how the kitchen is larger, and how her fiancé now has a man cave. Then her joy instantly turned to disappointment as she remarked, “Unfortunately now I never see my fiancé because he is in his man cave.” This struck a nerve, a lesson that I learned long ago, and one that I have been sharing for three years now. A message I really, really take to heart, smaller house = bigger life.
This is a message that when I share here in Texas ears automatically turn off. Half the time I don’t think that people even listen or absorb what I am saying. Everything is bigger in Texas and people here love their big houses. I understand, it’s the dream, it symbolizes the epitome of “look at me I’ve made it”. Before you stop reading and click out of this article, let me tell you that I am not advocating living in a tiny house—I could never do that. What I am stressing is to think about the spaces you really need, how big those need to be, and eliminate those which rarely get used. Think about family dynamics when choosing a home. Think about what purpose you would like your home ultimately to facilitate. Then let those goals choose your dream home.
Let me explain where I am coming from. D and I had four children by the time we purchased our first home. It wasn’t a huge home, if I am remembering correctly it was around 1950 square feet. For me, with four young children, this home it was pretty perfect. But, as the kids got older and bigger I started feeling the squeeze. We couldn’t all have a seat to watch a movie, kids had to be on the floor. The living room off of the kitchen was small and the kitchen itself was more of a galley type which just didn’t function well with such a huge household. By the time baby number five was born I was ready to get something larger. I was ready to move onto the dream of owning a big home. But before I get into that story and living the dream, I want to point out some great things that I loved about our first home.
  1. We were always all together. There weren’t several redundant spaces to spread out. This meant I was always with my kids and because of this fact I felt like a close knit family. We hung out and played games together, watched television together, did homework in the same areas, I loved every minute of the togetherness.
  2. I got to know my children’s friends. Instead of the kids running off into a different living space I was there with them, getting to know their friends too. I loved this interaction.
  3. It sparked creativity and fun projects. D actually turned the third garage into a fun office and extra entertainment space. We had a lot of fun doing that project together. I remember one year we threw Jordan a big party with more friends than I can number. They brought X Boxes, and televisions, and played until it was day light.
  4. It was easy to clean. I could clean this house in one day top to bottom. It wasn’t too big to be overwhelming.
  5. Small house payment. There was a time in that home when D was laid off from a job and we were able to keep up on the payments without any outside help from family. This would not have been possible in a large home.
  6. Small utility bills. It wasn’t a lot of home to heat. {Besides with seven bodies inside we probably didn’t even need to turn on the heat.} lol
  7. We had more money for fun. Adventures, travels, and fun all on one income. We were able to do it in this house.
My four at the ages when we moved into our first purchased home.
Little did I know the huge shift in the dynamics of my family that were about to take place once we moved into our 4000 square foot dream home.
I remember when our home was being built. D and I went over one night to walk around, which we often would do during the construction. We had taken the builder’s floor plan, had chosen  a lot that would accommodate a huge walk out basement, and paid for an unfinished basement to be put in. {You know, a place for those three teenage boys to live}. They would get a whooping 1200 square feet to themselves, complete with huge bathroom, separate laundry room, and a family room.
On this particular day my heart was full of gratitude and joy as I walked in the kitchen I saw markings on the floor where all of my cupboards were going to be. I jumped up and down with pure excitement! Tons of cabinetry, a ginormous fridge area, a huge pantry, built in desk, wiring for television, large dining area that opened into a huge family room. Just down a bit on that same level was a nice double door office, a bathroom and I can’t forget to mention the double door entry into the house directly into a large entryway complete with wrap around staircase.
Upstairs was yet another family room, huge master, two bathrooms, two bedrooms and a nice laundry room. I was freaking out, I felt so blessed, I was in love with this home. To make the dream even better we had executed plans for a basketball court to be poured in the back with rock retaining walls, pavers..the whole nine yards. This was a dream come true and we were about to live it.
Within a year of living in our dream home I started to feel a disconnect with my older boys. {You know, the three oldest that we threw downstairs.} I’m not saying that we didn’t hang out together, have dinner together, or have conversation together. We had wonderful times too, I have amazing memories in this house and there were certainly times of complete gratitude and happiness for the amazing life that we had. But I slowly felt a distance, a disconnect, and I felt we weren’t as tight knit anymore. Heading straight into the teen years; it was not a good time for this to happen. I just didn’t see them as much because, well, they were downstairs. Eventually I moved my craft room down there, I turned that basement into the family television room, I moved children’s bedrooms around continually when I felt a child needed to be upstairs for any given reason. My home was a constant remodel and relocating trying to get that old feeling back that had once existed in our smaller home. There would be times that I could capture it, but it wouldn’t stay long. The house was just too big, too easy for people to disconnect and hide out, it just wasn’t working; and both D and I knew it.
I started working full time because I needed to contribute with extra money to have fun and do things. D could take on the larger house payment and extra bills the house had incurred, but for such a large family it was not enough. This added yet another element to my life that I didn’t have in the small house. D felt like he was working to accommodate a lifestyle that was foolish and unnecessary.
About five years into living the dream I soon realized that my blessings had become a burden. The huge house was an energy sucker, taking more than it was giving, I felt like I was slowly being swallowed up. Sure, we had plenty of room to accommodate visits from family and parties for children but those moments are really so rare that it didn’t justify the means. I had to hire help to keep it clean because my kids were so busy with school activities and with both parents working there just wasn’t enough time in the day to get the job done. The utility bills were twice as big now and that was not an extra added treat. My house payment was twice a big too. An added bummer is when the economy crashed and we lost all of the equity we had put into this home. Why was I paying for spaces I didn’t even use? I personally didn’t even use half the home and my children didn’t use half of it either. We never went into the family room off of the kitchen. So I changed that too. There was a time when I would just lock the basement and not allow children to go downstairs. I wanted my old life back, the way it used to be, could someone please hit the rewind button?!
Christmas morning in our big home with all five kids – I love this memory.
{I made all of the matching pajama shorts and each child had a reindeer as written on their shirts.}
Soon everything would come to a climax. I had been praying and pleading with Heavenly Father for a change, to find happiness again. What I didn’t know then is that He wanted me to learn a lesson. What I do know now is that lessons will keep repeating themselves until you learn them. The answer to my prayers wasn’t the answer I would have ever expected…that my husband would be laid-off of work and my oldest boys would soon all be off on their own adult journeys. But that change and huge trial laid the foundation for us to choose a different life in a different house. Would we take it to heart? Would we learn from our past?
When D and I started looking for a home in the Dallas area, we soon realized that homes here are pretty darn big. We found a neighborhood and fell in love with it. Knowing we wanted to downsize we looked into the smaller floor plans. Soon came the ultimate temptation {and I feel the ultimate test}. As we were deciding on which home to purchase we chose one of the smallest homes in our neighborhood, however, one of the largest homes was available for immediate move in and the builder was willing to lower the price to match that of the smaller home.
Talk about dangling a carrot in front of someone’s nose. Who wouldn’t take the larger, more spacious home? The one with the movie theatre, the guest suite upstairs complete with a private bathroom? The one with the second family room with a gorgeous balcony? US, that is who. Without much hesitation at all, we continued firm in our resolve to purchase a smaller home. This was the best thing that we ever could have done, it has turned into such a blessing as far as family dynamic and I have achieved once again that same close knit feeling I desired with my children and husband.
I cannot say that the change of downsizing and relocating didn’t come with a huge refiners fire of lessons learned. It hurt like hell at times and the struggle was real. However, because of my past experiences, I am a huge advocate for a smaller home. I was smart this time, knowing full well what I needed in a home verses what I wanted. This home accommodates it all, down to the extremely bright happy kitchen {not too big} that is attached to a very large and roomy family area where I can fit enough couches and chairs for entertaining. I absolutely love it, it makes me happy, and brings me peace. D and I often say that we could and will eventually go even smaller. One day we will get to that place, just the two of us {kids all grown}, where we comfortably live in the ultimate perfect home. Because for us SMALLER HOUSE = BIGGER LIFE.
 
Preston snuggling with D, me, and the dog Sunday after church. 
I love the close relationship I have with my teenager!
Sabryna and I went through a refiner’s fire of changes when we moved to Dallas. 
So happy that our smaller home accommodated togetherness instead of separation.
I love the relationship we have now, it is so fun to have her as a daughter and a friend!
 
Join me as I write a series of articles on “Midnight Mommy Confessions” in regards to raising my five children. As a well-intentioned mommy who loves her children more than anything in the world, I’ve learned and recognized that if I could do it over I would do a lot of things differently. Besides, you know what they say, Parenthood is the scariest hood you’ll ever go through. We need help foraging through this demanding and overwhelming century to find the best way to raise independent and successful children. I know, first hand, that even the best of intentions can be closed-minded and inhibiting. I ask you to open up your hearts and minds to seeing things a bit differently. 

Articles in this series:

Midnight Mommy Confessions: Smaller House = Bigger Life

Midnight Mommy Confessions: Helping = Hindering
Midnight Mommy Confessions: Letter to My Three Grown Boys: What I Would do Different

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