When my wife and I retired a few years back, we moved out of a house in an El Paso suburb that had almost 2,000 Square feet of living space. We moved in to a house that my wife had purchased from her folks that had approximately half the floor space of the El Paso house. We bought a few acres to add to the Blanco home place with the intention of building a modern new house. Then reality set in.
Upon retirement, our income was cut in half. If we built a new house our property taxes would increase dramatically. As we surveyed our situation we found that we had a roof over our heads, we were warm in the winter and cool in the summer, we had a little money left in the bank and, in truth, we had everything we needed. Although we felt a little cramped, we began to question the wisdom of building a new dwelling--in spite of its appeal to our vanity.
So, now we live in a small but comfortable home and have unused household goods stashed in three separate places. We still have enough room for the grandkids to visit and we are in the enviable position of being retired without a mortgage payment. Life is good.
Since the 1960’s there has been a trend in this country of building larger houses. This usually means adding family rooms, bathrooms, additional bedrooms and rooms used for special things—sewing, collecting or for office space. Kitchens have been transformed from smelly but functional to functional but pleasant. The family room and kitchen have become places where people spend their time—the places where they really live. Less and less time is spent in formal places.
“When architect Sarah Susanka visited potential clients’ homes, they often invited her into the formal living room. ‘We would stand until they would determine that I am a nice person, and then they would say, ‘Let’s go visit in the kitchen, it is more comfortable in there.’ It would happen every single time. I don’t think I ever sat in someone’s formal living area. The joke is we build formal living areas for the people we would rather not have in our houses.” (“Super-sizing the American Dream House” by Michael De Groote quoting from Susanka’s best selling series of books “Not So Big House.”)
Nowadays, we tend to have a lot more stuff and we have fewer individual rooms. In most new homes today, the kitchen has been opened up so it is the center of the home and it is where we really live. Susanka encourages people to cut out the rooms they don’t need and create rooms that can serve dual purposes—like a library alcove that can be used for formal dining, if the need arises, by taking the kitchen table into the room. She says you don’t need a lot of square footage to feel bigger and the type of space we live in shapes us immensely. In today’s economy, a smaller home can make our lives and our wallets seem bigger.
Thomas S. Monson, in an address to college students, said: “As I drive through the many parts of this land, as I see the homes of America, I note that most homes have a room for Mary, a room for John—bedrooms, eating rooms, play rooms, sewing rooms—but I ask the fundamental question, ‘Is there room for the Son of Almighty God, our Savior, and our Redeemer?
“The invitation of the Lord is directed to each of us: ‘Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him’ (Rev. 3:20). Make room for the Lord in your homes and in your hearts, and He will be a welcome companion…” (BYU Devotional, May 11, 1965).
May this Christmas season find our hearts and minds at peace, and our homes, whatever the size and whatever our circumstances, filled with cheer and good will.