Thursday, March 31, 2011


Molly and I are prime candidates for "downsizing" our home. Don't get me wrong, I am not going to get out the chainsaw and start cutting away, but with our kids grown and gone we rattle around like a peanut in a boxcar in our existing place! Eighteen years ago when we built our home it was just the perfect size for us, our two kids, all of their friends and two dogs. Just perfect! That was then and this is now...

In Tuesday's blog we talked about the difference between "square footage," and "space." We live in space - not square footage. If Molly and I are considering "right sizing" our home based on today's needs we don't need either the space or the square footage. Aging does funny things to you! Where we didn't mind taking care of our property and paying the light bill when the kids were younger and still at home, now that we are older we really mind! It's not just the maintenance and the electric bill that are driving me crazy, it's the manageability and the fact that we don't have a downstairs Master bedroom that has pushed me over the edge.

The Europeans have gotten this right for generations. Where I don't subscribe to the idea of multiple generations of family living together and sharing a "flat," somehow they have managed to survive without all this space. Cautiously I would submit to you that perhaps America is one of the few places left in the world that lives horizontally and not vertically (not having travelled throughout all parts of the world I could be persuaded otherwise on this topic!). So Sarah Sasanka, born in England and educated to be an architect, has been heavily influenced by European culture to take this shrunken concept with her as she relocated to the United States. She's made a complete career out of The Not So Big House book stressing quality over quantity. Brilliant!

Molly would like a space for the grandkids. Bob would like a space for the grandkids that was all upstairs so that the mess can be closed off. Molly would like a larger Dining Room, more storage, and a bigger Pantry. Bob would like the basic living "pod" of the house zoned separately for heating and cooling so that the rest of the house can be basically turned off until either guests or grandchildren arrive. And on it goes... If we're not careful we will end up building that camel (a horse designed by committee) that we talked about a few blogs ago! Suffice it to say that we don't seem aligned on what the real needs are here!

One thing we did agree on several years ago was the need for a room outdoors for entertaining. I seemed like a good idea at the time - still does. We have really enjoyed the addition of another "room" to our house (much less expensive than an add-on to the main house!) but it probably would have made more sense to have added that room on to a much smaller version of what we currently maintain. Not complaining, just telling...

This trend has become popular. With our Texas climate many have found the wisdom of creating cheap space by taking in porches for outdoor rooms. This is a great way to add space with minimal cost (compared to the costs of building additional rooms on the house) while making your home feel much larger.

Matter of fact, these folks liked the concept so much that they asked us to change out the screens to glass panes so they could enjoy their outdoor room year round! Air conditioning and heating was added for comfort.

As Molly's and my debate continues, here is our short list of items we are focused on while downsizing:

  • Manageable space - though different for everyone, we have identified (I think!) which spaces we need where, and what size they should be.

  • Flexible design - Master Bedroom on the first floor, and space that can get bigger when family comes. Most probably the flexible space ends up upstairs and is zoned for heating and cooling accordingly.

  • Property taxes - certainly an issue in Texas because property taxes supplement our State budget instead of having to pay personal State Income Tax. With the economy down most counties and municipalities need to make up the difference somewhere - property taxes seem to be the place. These can be really big numbers!

  • Energy efficiency - the world is going green, and we should too! Can a downsize be designed so that it is wildly energy efficient?

  • Re-sale - always a dirty word but being practical, can we sell it, or can the estate sell it on down the road?

  • Accommodations for live-in health care - now we are really taking a long look down the road, but how is the home designed (or remodeled if currently existing) so that it might include space for someone to take care of us in our old age?

There are probably other issues and considerations which we have yet to uncover. I keep reminding myself that this is a journey, not a destination!

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