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Thursday, October 05, 2006

Not So Big

Last night, I listened to a lecture titled "Not So Big Steps Toward a More Sustainable Community" given by Sarah Susanka, author of "The Not So Big House" and other related books. It was put on by the Center on Sustainable Communities, a new group in Des Moines that is doing some great things. I have read several of her books in the past, and I was so excited to see that she was going to be speaking.

Here are some of the highlights from her talk:

*Reproportioning...we shouldn't be so focused on square footage. You just need to find the right size for YOU/YOUR FAMILY. It's usually about 1/3 less than you "think" you need. The feeling of home has nothing to do with square should be quality, not quanitity.

*Building bigger and bigger homes is just kind of "expected" in our society. When you make more money, you should buy a bigger house. Status comes with the size of your house. What we really need to start doing is building smarter. Take the money you would have spent making it bigger than you need, and put it into green/sustainable design and give your house beautiful, unique features.

*We have no language/words in the real estate business for "small = better". We only talk about cathedral ceiling, spacious, 3 car garage, etc. We need to re-create the language so there isn't such a negative stigma to being smaller. We also don't have a model for knowing when enough is enough.

*It's important to create/decorate your home so you are inspired everyday. If you don't want to paint your walls, for fear of lowering the re-sale value...that's silly! PAINT THE WALLS! Whatever color will make you the happiest! Don't keep looking to the next place you'll fully in the space you are in NOW.

*"Kids understand implicitly the pleasures of a cozy nook. Adults can learn something from our children as we go about designing our homes." I loved this topic, because I could totally relate. When you were a child, did you have a special place you went to where you felt safe and cozy? I did...I had a little cubby under the stairs where I would hold "secret" meetings and set up my toys. I was so happy in that space. I'm still like that today...I love a nice, cozy nook to "hide" away from the world in.

*New Urbanism...building for community and liveability.

*Have spacial awareness...don't forget the 3rd dimension. She talked a lot about adding different ceiling heights, and other architectural details. But I feel like you can do this in an apt. as using hanging lamps, mobiles, etc. to create that 3rd dimension.

*Paul Ray and the Cultural interesting concept. I really connect with all of their ideals...I'll have to research this one more.

All in all, it was a great night. Even though much of the audience was made up of builders, architects, people who own homes or are building (and I am none of the above)...I really enjoyed it. She has a great sense of creating "home" and the importance of creating a home that you love and can't wait to come back to every day.


Anonymous laurie said...

I am fascinated by this new-to-me concept of reduction. I look forward to reading the links you provided. I have a question you may have answered in a different post (I just found your blog this week). How do you fit others into your house? Is there a philosophy of hospitality? My husband is a pastor. We have meetings almost weekly of 24-26 people. We also have large birthday parties for our four children. It really appeals to me to simplify, declutter, and reduce size of living space. I loved the pictures of your cozy and charming apartment. The only rub is this area of hospitality. Do you have any thoughts?

10/06/2006 4:55 AM  
Blogger Rachel said...

Don't keep looking to the next place you'll fully in the space you are in NOW (Hope the italics work!)

I really like what you said above. This is something I really need to remember. We have a great house, although a little bigger than we need right now. We've painted some, but we don't want to do a whole lot to it because we figure we'll move in a few years or less. Even if we do, we need to make it a place we love and enjoy now!

It sounds like you went to a really great lecture. I wish we had stuff like that around here! :-) Thanks for posting about it. I'll check out the links later when I have more time.

10/06/2006 7:04 AM  
Blogger Sara said...

Your comment made me think of something Sarah said in the talk...she really emphasized that the point is not in the smallness, or lack of space. The main thing is to use the space you have WISELY. So, if you're living in a space that is 3000 sq. feet, but you're only using 1000 sq. feet. That's just foolish :) Or if you live in a 300 sq. foot apt. with 7 kids. That would be crazy. ;-) She also encourages everyone to be creative and think outside the box.

So, in your situation (and I don't know how large your house is now), I would definitely take into consideration the needs of your family before you would downsize too much. There is also a huge difference in downsizing the SIZE of your home...and downsizing your material possessions. It is possible to live simply and downsize your belongings and still live in a larger house...using that space to create a welcoming atmosphere for others...and using it for the glory of God. God certainly blesses some people with the gift of hospitality. And it won't look exactly the same in any situation. I love having people over. I usually will only have a few people over at a time though. If I had a bigger space, I would entertain "bigger"...but right now, where we're at in life, this is how it is. It's awesome that you have the space to open your home, and should continue to do it! I've been in full time ministry, and I understand the need to open homes and have that as an avenue to reach others.

10/06/2006 7:39 AM  
Blogger angela said...

That sounds like a such a great lecture. I'm so anxious to read the links you provided. It's such a great idea. Something that I am trying to do in my everyday.

10/06/2006 7:56 AM  
Anonymous sarah said...

I'm glad you enjoyed it! I would have liked to go. Craftsman houses, though ours is on the bigger side, have historically been part of the "smaller is better" movement in acrhitecture. They were built as a rebellion against the ornateness and large-without-purposeness of Victorian houses.

10/06/2006 8:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a neat thing to attend! I love Sousanska's books. (Did I get her name right?) I've checked them out from the library from time to time.

I would love to eventually live in one of these:

10/07/2006 9:04 AM  
Blogger Heth said...

I love this so much. Especially the part about living fully in the space you are in NOW.

I have been thinking about this a lot. I know the people who will eventually live in this house after us will probably not want a huge mother sandbox in their back yard, but we do. So THERE! Same with my color choices and wall paintings. I'm trying to make this house work for US, not someone else.

I really like Laurie's question about entertaining. Our house is very small for our family size, but we are trying hard to make it work. It doesn't work for entertaining unless it's nice weather and we all stay outside. Especially now that all of our guests can play in our new supersized sandbox. *grin*

10/07/2006 1:19 PM  
Blogger owlhaven said...

Hubby and I love Sarah Susanka's books! Such good ideas!

Mary, mom to many

10/09/2006 10:08 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Oh, I was thinking of getting this for my husband for Christmas (do you suppose I can get it used?)...

The thing is, he's a pacer... small spaces seem to dampen his spirits... so I'm interested in reading more (okay, maybe it's a Christmas present for me as much as it is for him!)

10/11/2006 11:29 AM  

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