The Not So Big House

“Oh my gosh, WHY DID YOU MOVE – you had such a big, beautiful house!” asked an acquaintance in the parking lot of the grocery store last week.  Good question, I thought. It was not such a good week – I was coming to terms with a new move in date, I was overwhelmed with details in several parts of my life and my stamina was waning.

To boot, I had driven by our old house on Monday, and say what I will about it, it had great curb appeal. Our new house will, too. It’s just that we are in full swing, re-model mode and it is hard to see the garden through the weeds.

In spite of my mood, I know we have done the right thing. Years ago, I read the Not So Big House: A Blueprint for the Way We Really Live by Sarah Susanka.  TNSBH changes the way people think about the American home…and gives homeowners the language to ask for what they want: a house that values quality over quantity and that emphasizes comfort, beauty and a high level of detail. It really impacted my perspective on how we were living in our house and how I was living in my life (She also wrote The Not So Big Life).

Sarah describes how people have huge houses and barely use their space. We had 3,200 sq ft and two major rooms sat empty – the back study and the front dining room. The front dining room was the only room that got direct sun light (which I crave) as did my study – where I spent the majority of my time. During our 10 years there, we used the rooms in different ways, but in the last few years, things changed and we couldn’t quite get it up to comfort, despite my constant efforts.

Sarah writes of using one’s “formal” living room for entertaining “guests”. When you are first getting to know people, you sit there. If you like them, where does everyone go? The family room or the kitchen. If you don’t, you stay in the “formal” living room. So, in essence, you have now spent a lot of money on a room for people you don’t even like! What if you reframed that all guests were welcomed (that is why they are there in the first place) and you had one room that everyone gathered in – a warm room that was just the right size, used often and was near the kitchen. One friend put a ping pong table in her “formal living room” and turned it into a game room – we sit in the family room, attached to her kitchen or on the patio, amidst an amazing urban oasis.

I liked that idea. There are only 3 of us. And I wanted rooms with sunlight, cozy but big enough to sit with friends and a small back yard that enveloped us with trees and birds. I’m not a yard work person. And while our old house looked great from the front, the back of the house required a lot of work and over looked a parking lot. I hated it. Lucky for me, my husband concurred.

According to David Sanders, my Kabbalah teacher (, a house isn’t really just a house. It’s a metaphor. It can look good outside, but not be good inside. Or it can put on a good front (curb appeal) but not have any substance inside. Perhaps the basement is cluttered, dark and messy, stuffed full of old boxes and things that could be cleaned out and let go of. Maybe it is perfect and everything is in its’ place and if someone sits on the couch, you freak…

Who are you?  How do you feel? How does your home reflect the state of your life?

As the week progressed, I felt better and by Friday, I made peace and realized that everything happens for a reason. I could see that everyone inside the house was working really hard toward completion and that they were in good spirits doing high quality work. That moving slowly vs rushing to get it all done in a short amount of time was also a metaphor for how I wanted to be. Someone who slowed down and stop over-doing. A person of quality and ease.

On Friday, Chris, our GC, offered to power wash the back patio for us, revealing beautiful stone pavers with pieces of pottery and colored glass embedded in the grout. It sparkled in the sun. Chris is good at revealing/creating homes and making them sparkle. If you live in Denver, and have been thinking of making some home changes, jot down the number for Vintage Homes on the sign in the house picture of last week’s posting (or email me and I’ll give it to you) and give Chris a call. Read Sarah’s book and perhaps you, too, will find ways to make your house, and your life, Not So Big.

Then, think of all the time you’ll have to visit with family and friends. After all, as my dear and wise friend Ellen says, “ Its’ the experiences and moments that make our lives rich. Not the stuff.”

How do you MindFULLY create a not so big home and life? Let us know!