I hear that I live in an itty bitty house. When you don’t count the basement or the loft (with its attic style ceiling only permitting visitors to walk down the middle of the room) the living space in our 80-year old cottage is somewhere around 850ish square feet (I can never remember the exact number). This seems shockingly small to some, though perfectly comfortable to me, my husband and our 12-pound dog.
I suppose I can see why people find it so tiny. The average square footage of living space in the United States is 1875. Our living space, at 1,000 feet less than that clocks in more in line with Finland at 823 and Greece at 856. The average in Europe is 976.5. (“The EU vs. USA,” [pdf]— Fredrik Bergstrom and Robert Gidehag for the Swedish think tank Timbro.)
Travel is our obsession. Unfortunately it’s a bit of an expensive obsession, even considering how often we fly and stay free with miles and hotel points. It definitely cuts in to the cash available for housing. Had we saved money for a down payment rather than gallivanting off to Europe six times between 2001 and 2005 when we bought our house we could have purchased a larger home. But would I like to have a bigger house? Maybe.
It would be nice to be able to fit four people around my dining room table without requiring the table to be moved to let in the fourth person in back by the window. Offering a “real” guest room to the handful of overnight visitors we have rather than the air mattress in the loft would be pleasant. And I’d like to be able to fit a coffee table in my living room, though the ottoman serves a dual purpose handily enough.
Would I trade our once-or-twice-a-year trips to Europe for a thousand more square feet in order to have these things? I suppose if we doubled our mortgage we could ratchet up that square footage.
I like the rhythm of cooking with Brian in our little kitchen – calling out “left,” “right,” “behind you,” and “hot pan!” to warn of the other of our approach as we dance around one another in the few feet between the stove and the sink, preparing and cooking food. I like that we can talk to one another from any room in the house. I like the cozy intimacy of the living room, and how easily conversation can flow in its close quarters. I like that our fireplace heats nearly the entire house. I like how quickly we can clean it top to bottom. I like that we could buy the most beautiful (therefore most costly) Italian ceramic tile for our kitchen because we needed so few squares of it. I like that we live in the city of Louisville rather than in the suburbs where our mortgage payment would buy more space. I like that our yard takes 20 minutes to mow (not that *I* mow it).
But most of all I like that we don’t have a mortgage that imprisons us in a large house year-round with no adventures in Europe possible. I like my itty bitty house.