Why I love our smaller house, but not it’s closets!

I am fascinated by the small house movement, and while I can’t see mr husband and myself ever living in a “tiny” house under 400 square feet, I do love the ideas and inspiration from small houses and apartments. I’ve never been comfortable in large houses, or even large rooms, and I enjoy decorating a space by editing out what I don’t need, finding the perfect piece of furniture for what I do need, and not having all that extraneous “stuff” just to fill up floor.

By current (US) standards, Claymire is not a large house. At 1209 square feet, it is about average for our neighborhood, larger than a lot of the world would expect, but by no means a McMansion. Some people may argue that it’s not a small house, but considering the average US house is over 2000 square feet, I think it qualifies.

Three of us lived here for a decade quite happily, even without a good organization plan. Now the two of us find we have ample room, even without a basement, second bathroom, walk-in closets or all the other things we are frequently told are necessities. We even have an extra bedroom that is basically a catch-all space; currently home to the orphan kitties, it serves as my office, sewing room, library and guest bedroom a couple times a year. I am glad we have the room, but if we had to live without that space, which is about 10×12 feet including the closet, I think we could do it.

Claymire is the largest house we have owned. (our first was 540 sq feet) When it was built in 1949, the house was about 845 square feet, two bedrooms, 1 bath, a small eat-in kitchen and a separate utility room. It was home to a family of four, and was considered adequate for its time. They added a small work room in the 1950s (that spare bedroom), a garage in 1951, and a breezeway in 1969, which is currently our living room. About that time, they took out the utility room and made it part of the kitchen. It made a larger kitchen, in theory, but no more storage space; just more floor! I would have preferred having that separate utility room/laundry room, but its too late for that now!

This is part of the original “breezeway” that linked the kitchen to the garage. To the right is the 3rd bedroom addition.

The bedrooms aren’t that large, and the closets are small, although we do have five of them, plus a pantry. This weekend we did a little improvement to the “master” bedroom. That room is about 10.5×13 feet with 2 windows and a 42″ closet. The one wall where the bed fits best is between two doors and in front of the heating duct, so this weekend, we moved the bed in front of the window. I know, I know, it’s not supposed to be done, but, hey, it works!

I now have a bedside table, too, courtesy of my dresser.

We attached the headboard to our bedframe with some 1x4s we found in the trash last weekend! Then mr husband and I found these great wall lights at Lowe’s ($29.95 each), so we both have reading lamps, as well.

I like the linen-finish shades. They use 25watt ceiling fan bulbs, perfect for reading.

The room feels so much larger now, so I took it one step further, and decided to combine our clothes into the tiny closet. Since we moved into this bedroom, mr husband, who has MANY more shirts and pants than I do, has been using the closet in our spare bedroom. I realized, though, that I don’t have that many clothes, and most of my closet space was being used to store things like extra purses, scarves, nylons, etc. Basically, stuff I need a couple of times a year, that don’t need to be front and center on a daily basis. So I cleaned that stuff out, put his stuff in, and voila! We have a shared bedroom closet.

All it needs is a light! It is still a little messy….

There is even a space left on that shelf for more stuff! I used all slim velvet-covered hangers – pink for me, beige for him. He has just slightly more than 1/2 the hanging rod, but I have most of the top shelf, so it’s fair. You can’t see it in the photo, but there is a top part to the closet, too, where all my shoes are living!

He had an easier time getting dressed for work this morning, not having to traipse across the house to find his clothes!

It may be a small space, but that will keep me organized. The larger the space, the more I tend to fill it up with junk! The old closet now holds occasional clothes; extra jewelry boxes, formal dresses, mr husband’s tuxedo, etc. It, too, will need some serious purging, but that’s a job for another day. For now, we are enjoying the feeling of having our whole bedroom put together, and fitting us both. Somehow, that makes the whole house feel larger, but in a good way.

So I began this post intending to explain why I like our small house. I don’t enjoy always feeling the need to defend the choice to people (especially family) who just don’t get it. I think in some families, especially ones like mine where they have had to work and struggle for everything they have, there was always an attitude that if you weren’t striving for something more, you were failing somehow. There must always be the bigger house, bigger yard, better car, more vacations, etc.

My parents lived in a trailer when I was born. They currently reside in a 4,200 square foot Colonial on an acre of land. In between, they lived in a small cottage, an 1830s historic Greek Revival, a farmhouse on 17 acres, a brick colonial on 1/2 an acre, and a house on a mountaintop with amazing views. Always getting better, larger, more impressive, more rural (or suburban.)

We started out in a two-room apartment, moved to a 4-room apartment, a 540 square foot 1920’s bungalow, a 1040 sq ft1915  foursquare, to our current home, with a couple other very tiny apartments in between. Our choice has always been a smaller house in a metropolitan area. I think it’s a valid choice. The trade-off for living in the city, if Royal Oak can be considered a “city,” is a smaller house in a great area. Different choice, but still valid. Living in a large house in suburbia would be worse than death to me! My next goal, if we ever leave Claymire, is to live in an apartment over an old store in a downtown area.

Other great points?

1. Any room can be painted with only 1 gallon of paint.

2. We replaced all the flooring for a couple thousand dollars. After all, there’s only a little over 1000 square feet of it!

3. It’s easier to clean – seriously, I can vacuum the whole thing in about 10 minutes.

4. Ditto for mowing the lawn – it actually takes me longer to get the mower out, fill the gas tank and push it to the front yard than it takes to cut the grass there.

5. Our taxes are reasonable.

6. It’s cozy – but not cramped. Sure, when we have company, it can get crowded, but I can’t see maintaining that extra square footage for the few hours a year we may have guests. If we were big entertainers, we may do it differently, but we still have a 16×16 patio and a big back yard, so we will stick to summer-time shindigs!

7. I can afford to decorate, and redecorate, when I want, without breaking the bank.

Our outdoor living room adds an extra dimension to our house.

I know our current space will seem extravagant to some – after all, we have a garage, a workshop and an attic attached to our place, which gives us a lot of room for projects, tools, etc. Some days it does seem small; some times I even wish I had a basement (horror!), if just for the cat litter boxes! But then, I remember that the people we bought the house from lived here with their six children, and I realize I really have nothing to complain about!

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About claymire cottage

I'm a museum curator who lives with a wonderful husband, Rowley the golden Retriever, and 2 cats; Mr. Cookie, and Mabel the Magnificent.

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