12 ways a small house has improved my life. ~ Bea Johnson

Via elephant journal
on Feb 21, 2012
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This is an original post from The Zero Waste Home.



When I moved to the US, I dreamed of living in a large home. Mansions as seen on TV, represented my American dream.

When Scott and I bought our first house, we indulged my aspirations. But after seven years of living large, varied circumstances led us to move into a house half the size. The move presented logistical challenges and I worried about “status”, but I was excited about change.

Today, I have completely embraced small living, and could not even envision going back to big (I actually dream of smaller). I have come to learn that bigger is not necessarily better.

Here are areas that I have found our small house has improved:

1. Family bonds: We brush our teeth together, eat together, watch movies together, and even bump into each other ;), which sometimes turns into a wrestle (my fave).

2. Housekeeping efficiency: Five minutes to pick up, two hours to deep clean. Cleaning used to take all day, now it takes a morning.

3. Home maintenance cost: Although everything gets used more, there is less in quantity to break, and therefore less to repair. We can also easily stay on top of repairs.

4. Community exchange: We reach out to friends or community for seldomly used items. Today I sent out an email for a pair of hiking boots size 6, by the end of the day, I had located two pairs (Thanks Tina and Mary!)

5. Utilities cost: A smaller house is evidently cheaper to heat and light, but also cheaper to retrofit (e.g., insulation, windows, and solar).

6. Space optimization: We use all the available space. I used to have a guest bedroom in my previous home. It required year round cleaning and heating, for only a couple of uses per year. Today, we simply offer the kids’ bedroom to guests, and the kids get excited about camping in their playroom!

7. Home security: I definitely feel safer in a small home. I know every nook and cranny of the house. A monster cannot hide in the closet:)

8. Ecological impact: It makes Zero Waste manageable. “Less space, less stuff, less waste”, Leo once said.

9. Residency options: For us, downsizing has afforded a spot within walking distance of great schools and an active downtown – after we were told that there was no availability in our price range.

10. Parental awareness: We used intercoms (baby monitors) in the old house. Now we can hear each other sneeze across the house. We might have to move when the kids become sexually active;)

11. Health: For two reasons…1) A smaller space is easier to clean, which means that dust does not linger in hard to reach places; and, 2) A small house encourages outdoor activity – in the summer, my deck becomes my office.

12. Stuff management: Stuff has been easier to manage in a small home for 3 reasons

  • Consumption: Small spaces control the amount of stuff coming into the house. In my old house, I bought furniture just to fill large rooms. Now, we focus on double duty and functional items.
  • Organization (once you have decluttered): It’s easy to put things away, easy to find things.
  • Access: It’s even easy to get to things (closer distances).

When I asked the kids, what their thoughts were on living in a small house… Max replied: “You can’t play hide-and-seek.” That’s one drawback that doesn’t seem to bother him though, because he is already talking about building his own tiny house someday.

And that would make One Proud Mama.


(prepared by Jill Barth)

Bea, of The Zero Waste Home, says “Refuse, Refuse, Refuse. Then reduce, reuse and recycle (and only in that order).”

Meet Bea and her family in this video: Second Act: The Johnson Family

Since embarking on the Zero Waste lifestyle a few years ago, Bea’s life and that of her family has completely changed… for the better. They now not only feel happier and eat healthier but also lead more meaningful lives, based on experiences instead of stuff, and action instead of inaction.

Today, Bea participates in media and speaking engagements to share her stories, tips and the benefits of Zero Waste living. She also provides home consulting services on decluttering, living simply and waste reduction.

Living simply and waste-free offer countless advantages. Are you ready for it?


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2 Responses to “12 ways a small house has improved my life. ~ Bea Johnson”

  1. Jenifer says:

    I have to agree on a lot of these counts!

    We moved from a 1300 sq ft condo to a 500 sq ft cottage. Two adults, one child, no pets.

    it's really great. It's afforded us a great neighborhood (and a view of the sea), close to public transportation and a short distance to the city (where we work).

    Clean up is a breeze — takes me about 1.5-2 hrs (depends upon how messy that 3 yr old has been!) — and it forces us to consider everything that comes into the house! I get pretty intense about everything from toys to clothes to . . . and most especially. . . paper!

    It is very nice. We love the closeness. We (still) share a family bed, and while DS has started to talk about having his own (and we have a day bed in the lounge area set up for him), we are not ready! LOL We love to cuddle with that kiddo!

    We had my parents staying with us, and it was great — mother slept on the day bed, we shared the family bed, and my father had a foam mattress on the floor (which we keep under our bed when not in use). It was close — sometimes a bit too close -= but we did ok. 🙂

    I like it a lot. I don't think I want to go higher than 1000 sq ft, when we do decide we need more space. 🙂

  2. Jill Barth says:

    Thanks for sharing — we love these insights.