As we wrestle through the issue of what to do next regarding housing, I find myself returning to what I call My Little House in the Big Woods Fantasy. I’m smart enough to know that life for the Ingalls family was not simple. It was hard work to do all that they did in Little House in the Big Woods. I have no illusions of having a cow and making my own cheese. Rather, it has to do with the idea of living in such a small house and having less stuff.
Sometimes when I watch the television series Little House on the Prairie or read to Caroline from the Little House pictures books, I wonder what it would be like to be able to be content in a little house. What would it be like to be content with just a few dresses?
Now maybe the Ingalls family would gladly trade places with me. I’m sure they would love our central heat, comfortable carpet, indoor plumbing, and seemingly endless clothing options. I do, too, and I’m not giving those up.
Getting Rid of All the Stuff
But I still have this question of what would it be like to be able to just get rid of all this stuff and live very simply? I mean really simply.
Here’s my reality check.
The other day I was thinking about how many mugs and cups and saucers we have in this house. We have currently:
- 6 winter mugs in the cupboard that we use pretty much daily
- 2 tall mugs we use year round
- 8 Christmas mugs that match the Christmas dishes
- 8 cups and saucers that go with our everyday dishes
- 6 cups and saucers that go with our good Lenox china
- 12 cups and saucers that go with my Grandmother’s china
- 12 cups and saucers of various pansy designs (which I collect and display most of them)
- 2 cups and saucers that I saved from some previous dishes because they are cute
- 4 clear cafe style mugs
- 8 clear Christmas tree mugs packed away
- 24+ Christmas mugs that go with Christmas dishes for a crowd
- 12+ mugs of various designs that are in a box marked “mugs” in the basement that we switch out each season
- 4 fall mugs in the box of fall decorations
- A few more mugs scattered here and there packed away with teaching mementos and such
That is over one hundred and eight mugs and cups and saucers in this house.
For two adults who only occasionally entertain.
Mary and Laura shared a single tin cup because they only had the one cup for the two of them until they received their own individual cups from Mr. Edwards at Christmas in Little House on the Prairie.
So back to my fantasy.
Living Without a House Payment
My fantasy is to live somewhere so simple we have no house payment. Seriously. I absolutely hate the idea of taking on house debt again. I was only partially joking when I made the comment the other day about becoming debt slaves again. And yet I can’t figure out a way to do what we want to do and still have enough room for the essentials and not driving the three of us bonkers because we are constantly on top of each other.
And yet for many, many years people lived that way. If you look at houses even build fifty or sixty years ago, the bedrooms are tiny and people shared one bath. But they happily survived and were glad for the central heat and not having to shovel coal each morning. Seriously.
Ack. It’s just hard.
We look at these nice houses that would give us so much room and I calculate how many hours we will have to work for the next x number of years to pay for it and all I can think is I want to live in the Ingalls house on Little House on the Prairie so I can sleep in, read a book, and watch the sun set. I don’t want to work that hard just to pay for a house.
Which leads to the next idea of having to live up to the house you buy. But that’s another post.
Brandy @ Afterthoughts
I romanticize the Ingalls family, too! Of course, I DO dream of owning a cow but I know that I am possibly insane when it comes to that stuff. 😯
I know what you mean about simplicity. When we moved here I pared down a lot, and I seriously don’t miss a thing. The only “stuff” I really have to manage is clothing, with four little people growing in and out of items all the time. But my am I thankful for what we don’t have, if that makes sense. 🙂
Yeah, me too 🙂
Last summer I put away almost all of my kids clothes I think I left them each 3 outfits (not counting church clothes) and 2 pair of shoes. It was really pretty great.
I also know a lady and her family (husband and 4 kids) that live in a two bedroom yurt. I think it is about 700 sq ft. It is REALLY crowded/cluttered. That might bother me? But I like it in theory.
Ah clutter! I’m drowning in it right now. One of my projects for the summer is to rent a dumpster and do a massive purge of every inch of this house. I did it two years ago and it was awesome, but it all came back! There is something about having the dumpster on my driveway that frees me to really throw things out.
Good luck on your househunt.
Sallie @ a quiet simple life
Part of the rub is when do you cut back so much that it becomes a negative? Living in a cluttered 700 ft yurt doesn’t sound like simplicity to me. It sounds like stress. I’m not sure I could pare down our clothing that much. I think I would be constantly washing and that doesn’t simplify either (at least from my perspective).
Mugs aside (wink) we really don’t have that much stuff. The biggies that are the exception to that are books and all of my teaching/homeschooling stuff. And I will pare that down, but to get rid of stuff that we can use for the sake of getting rid of it doesn’t make sense to me.
Yesterday we took a load of bulky things to the dump and all we had was enough to fill our trunk. That’s it. (Well, it didn’t even fill the trunk. We also took our trash for this week since we had to pay to use the dump.) Anything else we would get rid of we would give to Goodwill. So we are pretty ruthless about clutter. We’re definitely not horders. But home business, hobbies, homeschooling and being readers adds up to a lot of things. There is just no way around it.
The answer is finding that magical square footage and home layout where we are comfortable but not spending money on space we don’t use. We know people with houses who tell us they never use this room or that room. That’s just wasted money to pay for all that space and maintain it.
And I dream of not having to maintain anything. I dislike paying for upkeep and marginal improvements on a house that probably isn’t increasing in value and won’t for years….
It’s hard to make decisions about when and what to work on. We aren’t handy, we don’t own fancy tools, and my husband works too many hours and finds it very stressful to try and figure out how to fix things when he is off. So… that means we end up paying somebody else to do just about everything that needs to be done.
I liked renting because everything was somebody else’s problem. If a pipe burst directly underneath the sidewalk, it was their expense and hassle to repair the pipe and replace the sidewalk. (Boy, that was one expensive and totally non-sexy house expense. =)
If I were you, I’d be tempted to buy a condo with no yard (but a playground and pool within walking distance). When the kids grow up, we’d like a place near downtown and local walking trails… no upkeep… =)
I definitely feel the same pull sometimes. My husband… not so much. He’s not excessive or anything, but just not interested in minimalism at all.
Recently we went on vacation where we rented a two bedroom condo and it was so amazing how simple our lives became. We have a small 3 bedroom ranch house so its not like it was that much smaller but it was so nice… for instance I brought some blocks and cars and a couple of books and card games for my 4 year-old son and he was happy as a clam the whole 10 days. It made me wonder why we have so many toys and such at home 🙂
This made me think of Gen. 26:22, Isaac seeking “room to flourish”. It’s something that I’ve thought about during various searches for housing and employment.
I too am very hesitant to take on a mortgage. Ideally, I think, we would buy a small house with cash, and add on rooms and outbuildings as we had the time and money. But our society has been set up to keep most people in wage and debt slavery. If you’re out watching the sunset, you’re not watching ads on TV, and so on.
I agree with you Sallie about paying for square feet that don’t get used. We just came up with a plan for the last 300 sq feet that have been awkward for the last 7 years. I look forward to using that space. I understand about wanting to move to a smaller house and have less to manage and clean. So I accomplish that feeling by owning less and having sparse furniture. It helps keeping clutter down and the house is easier to maintain. As for the outside I love bark mulch that makes the landscape look nice and keeps the maintenance low.
A Quiet, Gracious Life
My husband and I have moved *a lot* in our 19 years of marriage (it’s just the two of us–and 3 dogs and 1 cat) and have lived in all different types of housing. For me, ideally I’d like about 15-1700 square feet, 3 bed, 2 bath all on one level. I LOVE the great-room concept and think that would be the most useful and easiest to maintain. We are not formal people so we don’t need a formal dining room. I like the togetherness the great-room concept would promote.
In my experience, the layout is more key than the actual square footage. We’ve lived in a larger home but with an awkward layout and for me it was just more to maintain and get cluttered. We are not hoarders, nor are we minimalists but we have found that unless you are VERY diligent, whatever size house you live in you will fill it up in a few years. We have also done the dumpster thing, twice, and it *is* very freeing.
You mentioned how people used to share one bathroom. I think in those days it was easier because people didn’t blow dry their hair or use curling irons and flat irons. The ladies usually only washed their hair a couple times a week and then they set it in rollers and the men kept their hair short and greased it into place. And the ladies usually had vanity tables in their bedrooms to do their hair and apply their cosmetics. In our modern age we do just about everything in our bathrooms to get ready for the day, other than getting dressed.
I agree with you about the debt thing too. Only technically you *never* truly own your home. With property taxes you basically are just renting it from the government. And if you fix it up too much you get penalized by having your property taxes go up. Ugh!!!
My husband, six horses, three dogs, and three cats are about to down-size again. Finally, I am achieving my life-long dream; to live in the barn!
I’ve lived in an executive home, an unfinished basement, and been a rancher/horse trainer with many acres, cattle, horses, donkeys, and hay to bale.
As we near the date to move to our new home (the barn) I simply feel blessed. I aspire to less. Less to care for, to clean, to trim, to store, to maintain; because everything we have requires stewardship.
Simple is the key to life. Just like an algebraic equation, we discover the right answer once we have reduced it to its simplest form.
Best wishes for finding that next home!