I like thumbing through Sarah Susanka’s architectural books in the “Not-so-big House” series. I interviewed her a few years ago for All the Money in the World, and have looked through those books far more than I do through the average book that a publisher sends me.
Somewhat ironically, around the time I interviewed her, my husband and I purchased a home that is, to be honest, not-so-small. That was one of our rewards for moving outside New York City. We have three little kids, and since I work from home, we’re there a lot. We use most rooms most days.
I know that over time one adapts to most things, and it turns out that our sense of what is normal for space has changed in the past few years. I have been reminded of this as we spend two weeks in our beach rental house, adapting to less square footage.
This little town on the Jersey shore is charming and quaint. One of the big appeals is that you can walk to restaurants, stores, the ice cream parlor, etc. We get ice cream most nights, I’ve taken the kids out for pizza, and I bought bagels at the bake shop the other morning. Of course, part of everything being walkable is that the houses need to be smaller and closer together. Also, since it’s just my immediate family here this time (rather than going joint on a house with friends or relatives) we didn’t need a huge place to fit multiple families.
Some parts are cozy and nice. Other aspects -- like all of us sharing one upstairs bathroom -- are a little harder. Not being able to send the kids down to the basement to play, so their toys are all over the living room coffee table, is also a challenge. We have the beach, but not much of a yard to send the kids out to play in. So they can’t all retreat to separate spots. Hence the constant bickering.
We have no plans to move back to NYC, but if we ever did, I’m sure we’d eventually adjust to having less space more permanently. We somehow lived with four of us in a 2-bedroom apartment for years. But right now, while I’m loving the proximity to the beach and everything else, and I could see staying in this same place again in the future, I also realize that I really like having my own sink.
Have your thoughts on how much space you need -- or at least do much better with -- changed over time?
In other news: My story on Why Entrepreneurs Shouldn't Do Everything Themselves ran at Women & Co.
I have a longer piece at City Journal called "If you serve it, will they eat it?" on school lunch, and the recent changes in the program. I'll write more about this topic later, but please give the piece a read!