your small home begs for simplicity

Living a less-distracted life : your small* home begs for simplicity

Our humble table is the centre of our home. It’s where we gather to eat and talk, play and work. More often than not it holds the weight of our days; literally and metaphorically. We place books, pencils, homework, diaries, cameras and flowers on it. Over meals we laugh, talk, divulge, confess and argue.
A few days ago I cleared the table and left a candle, some freesias and a pot of thyme; it was a relief to see the surface with all its imprints; marks of makers and too-hot teapots.  When I rose the next morning I found Che playing there whilst the sun and window created shadow plays on the wall. He stayed there while I cooked pancakes and took photos. Right now it’s the foundation for an array of miscellany and I’m typing amidst it all.
Our home is a little rough around the edges; thick cobwebs vignette each window and the paint is chipping on the edge of the walls. If I stand in the middle of it I can see each room (it’s easy to find quiet toddlers). Sometimes Daniel talks about the day when we have another baby and the fact that the house will be too small. I then tell him about the beauty of small homes; so conducive to good conversation, cuddles – actually living together. But more importantly, small homes are comfort caves to return to once evening falls; they encourage you to move out into the world, even if that means walking barefoot to the bottom of the garden.
I think we’re accustomed to large homes in this country. But in reality, a lot of us, out of necessity or choice, prefer small spaces – spaces that require less of our time and are therefore, easier to live in. However, little houses get filled easily; with school notes, collected bits + pieces, children’s projects. If you don’t stay vigilant piles of “things” start to sprout from the table, windowsills, benches, door handles. Before long you realise that your simple home has become a higgledy piggledy cottage complete with scooters in the hallway.
And so, as spring nears and the seasonal clean approaches, I am starting to get rid of the wintry clutter – giving the walls some space to breathe, giving us a little more space to move.
So : live a less-distracted life by, quite literally, clearing the distraction. Get rid of the unnecessary to create physical and mental space.
I don’t think I’ve ever asked you about the size of your home. Is it big, small or tiny? Do you like it or do you long for the opposite?
*I’ve never lived in a big home so I can’t really comment.
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Showing 43 comments
  • Michelle

    I really enjoyed reading this. We rent a biggish house but some of the spaces are rarely used (except for piling up clean washing). My kids have a room each… but they sleep in the queen bed in the spare room together! I think I'd prefer a smaller house – less to clean…as long as it had good storage. I really love storage 🙂

  • Michelle

    I love this idea of a small home, we have a big kitchen but the living room is tiny and we have one bathroom. It's a cottage and I was happy to live like that, to buck the Australian trend of a big house. But the recent school holidays, after two wet and cold weeks stuck indoors, I am starting to change my thinking….but in the meantime…a declutter might be in order.
    I love that photo of Che x

  • aluminiumgirl

    Our home is big enough for the four of us (and two beagles), small enough to feel crowded when holding any more. It is often cluttered and imperfect. Definitely has a "lived in" feel. It is light and airy, a place where you can come visit just as you are, and feel free to tuck feet under you on the couch, while you sip (or accidentally spill) tea, coffee, wine…

  • Lou Archell

    Summer is coming to end here soon, and my home is full of clutter also. Piles of drawings from the boys that I need to sift through, camping gear in the hallway that needs to be returned to the attic, and then there is the slow changing over of the seasonal things, sandal to be put away, and woolies and rugs to come out… it doesn't matter what time of the year it is, there is always a state of chaos and flux here. x

  • Tara Lucia Zaicz

    The house we rent in Cape York is huge. The biggest home we have ever lived in and have become quite accustomed to it. Our River Nest home on the other hand is tiny – two bedrooms in fact, but it's the 20 acres of landscape that makes it feel so free. I can''t wait for the day we move into the River Nest house… cosy, clean, simple space. x

  • Silver Prowse

    Oh I always wanted to live in a castle, but mostly because I love the idea of rummaging through generations of things – and me, never throwing things away…. and having room for tiny ponies, and llamas

  • emma

    We live in a small home, and even with four kids it seems to work for us. I like small spaces, for them to be just the right size without wasted space. I find that extra spaces mean extra room for clutter, and goodness knows, we already have enough of that. Besides, a bigger home means more housework, and who wants that? Just like your home, you can stand in the middle of ours and see all four external walls, and I find that comforting. Oh, and there are cobwebs on our windows too…big ones!xx

  • Ruby Hoppen

    I grew up in a big old terrace with lots of rooms and spiderwebs. My dad is a collector of weird stuff and a painter so I remember everything smelling of dust and linseed oil. My mum is a big advocate of neatness without being fussy, so I think it was a very lovely and relaxed place to grow up. We live smack bang in the city now, in a relatively small bluestone house although my mother in law raised three kids here so I suppose size is relative. I think it's small because we have so much stuff. I do keep saying I should have a garage sale one of these days just to clear it all out. I folded all of my fabric yesterday and it feels very good to be in the sewing space/study space and to be able to see the floor! Your house sounds and looks gorgeous.

  • Alison

    Our home is small but it fits us well. It was built at the end of the war and I think of all the mothers before me who raised their families within these walls. Small living really does demand simplicity and I sort through the kids' crafting and piles of treasures at the end of each day. There may be six of us living in just two bedrooms (I use the third bedroom to write, sew and practice yoga in) but I don't think I could keep a bigger space clean. But on wet and wintry days I do dream of having just a little more living space one day (when my boys grow into gangly teenagers).

  • Reply

    Our current home, which we moved into 18 months ago, is far too big. Cleaning is overwhelming, and space is abundant {in a negative way}. So, we are about to move again. We have bought a small, homely house that ticks all of the boxes for our little family. I'm in the process of cleaning, culling and re-organising before we move….and it's very refreshing!
    I love this post Jodi.
    Claire x

  • mel @ loved handmade

    Our home is like a split level barn, it only has one shared living space, and it is loud! There's no escaping the noise especially with three little boys and a baby finding her voice. My husband has dreams of extending but I really don't want to. I like that we share our space together, and when we need our quiet time we go to our bedrooms..also there's less to clean!

  • Steph @ this brown wren

    Our home is tiny but suits us beautifully. I could do with a whisker more space for my growing collection of vintage fabrics though ;). I so agree with the idea that small houses encourage togetherness. Hope you have a lovely Tuesday 🙂 x

  • bluebirds of happiness

    Our home too is tiny. If I stand in our living room I can just about see every room. We have a large outdoor space, so in summer we spend a lot of time outdoors and I don't feel the smallness so much. I have to admit though to sometimes feeling a little claustrophobic in the colder months, everything just somehow feels a little close. But then the warmer weather rolls around and once again I love our little space and wouldn't change it for the world.

  • Lila Wolff

    Ours is tiny, sometimes I think it's too small and then I see the spaces that people live in in other countries and realise it's actually perfect.
    I've lived in a huge home and it was pretty but not happy, this house is ugly yet beautiful in the way we live here.
    It is truly time for a huge spring purge though.

  • Jessica Rebelo

    This post comes so handy today. We are looking to move next month as our house become "too small" for us after we had our boy. The new house we fell in love is bigger but "not big enough", my partner and I spent nights asking where we were going to put this and that, and I thought maybe it's time to get rid of all the thing we really don't need. It's scary as we both like to keep stuff, but I like the idea of simplicity and the fresh start of a new life in a new "not so big" house.

  • Michelle Barraclough

    As a step-mum of 3 big and mum of 2 small, the only thing I would add to the discussion is that teenagers need a separate space to gather with friends. Before we had our 2 younger kids, we always opened up our home to the teenagers and their friends. We wanted to create a happy, welcoming space for them. However, with just one living area, John and I would often find ourselves with nowhere to go except our tiny bedroom if we wanted to escape the ruckus! Or if you're having people over for a dinner party, it's nice to be able to shut the door on the kids and whatever loud movie or video game they have going on (we don't have technology or TV in bedrooms).

    Small but not too small. Biggish but not too big. A house that's just right 😉
    Michelle x

  • Kym Piez

    Such a practical and fantastic post Jodi! I am not a lover of large homes, the biggest we live in is now – 3 bedrooms, 1 bathroom. It's enough for the four-six of us! (Yes, six!) Currently, we are renovating another home and living in just three rooms. It's TINY, and I'm finding that a little hard to handle (oh yes, no toilet, bathroom, laundry and hot water is NOT helping!)

    I love a house that is pretty, but minimal. I'm not a fan of lots of clutter. Spring cleaning is one of my favourite things, and I'm often looking around at what isn't being used. Our little renovator cottage has a dining table and it has the works on it – magazines, laptops, lego, DVDs. It's hard not to want to get rid of it all. But where else to put it??

    Love this month's theme. x

  • leah.

    beautiful post! i love talking about space and homes with people – i think there are big house people, and small house people. i am a small house person, my husband is a big house person. we both grew up in small homes with many people. i shared a room with my three sisters, my four brothers shared another room. i didn't have my own room until i was divorced – sleeping alone was the most alone i ever felt.

    i still prefer sharing small spaces with people, he likes to have lots of empty space. our home is bigger than the one i grew up in, but not very large. like your daniel, he feels if our family grows we will need to move. i have told him i will compromise when it comes time: more rooms, but smaller rooms. this shouldn't be too hard to find in the big older homes in our area.

    i love that you wrote about this topic so thoughtfully, as i think all families have this conversation about space and home. i think it really affects the dynamics of a family more than we may ever admit.

  • Briseidy

    this post is so beautiful! I love your writing because it makes me stop and think about what's really important, thank you!

  • Marian Hazel

    The hut is only 4m wide by 27m long. So just 108sqm. But it never feels small. The way Rob designed it to make the most of the natural light and space outside – so when the girls are older outside will be just as important. The girls I admit have already increased the clutter, but we had visitors on the weekend so I cleaned up and put away and now we have some surfaces back. It won't be so easy once they can move around, but we hope to keep the hut tidy still!

  • misplaced texan

    Lovely post and so spot-on. I'm from Texas where 150 m2 is a very humble sized home. After living a few years in Paris, I became accustomed to smaller spaces and found that I thrived with fewer rooms and less clutter. Now, living back in Texas, we've found a place that's simple, small and open so that we don't waste our time cleaning or over-decorating.

    It's hard not to get caught-up in other people's gigantic homes full of glossy furniture and three extra rooms. But, when I'm at home, I feel cozy and connected to what's most important, and I realize I have all I *really* ever want anyway.

  • Jesi Yvonne Langdale

    Kitchen tables always seem to be the place where everything happens, regardless of culture or nationality. We live in about 900 sq feet (about 84 sq meters) and I find it too large! We hope to downsize to a place next year that is no more than 700 square feet. I am pretty simple when it comes to possessions so Ilike small spaces because large spaces tend to make me want to fill them with stuff!

  • Eloise

    This post is right up my alley! We three own a very small 48sq meter home (with garden) and we love it. It's a one bedroom home, perfect for living intimately. In honestly, weekends when all of us are home can be a little stifling, so we do venture out a lot – as a family, in pairs and (adults) alone.
    We talk about moving on, but in truth we cling on to our beloved little mousehouse 🙂

  • Anna

    We live in a large house with next to no cupboard space and it drives me crazy. I am in the middle of a rampant cull. It feels so good I feel it may never end.

  • jay

    Oh Jodi, such an apt post as Scott and I ponder a home, we too have decided that small, simple and great/creative storage is the way to go, our home now is a good size, simple with the living area being the biggest part. I think as the kids grow this is even more important to have the living space as a shared space were work can be done, problems nutted over and comfort gained (rather than them living separately in their big rooms, or even worse the teenagers retreat. Scott and I have a beautiful book called 'Little House on a Small Planet' and love this website: I find it so inspiring to make great use of a small space, clear of clutter, simplicity. It is amazing what happens to your mind when that space is available. Hope all is well in your world, counting the sleeps til Bali. much love jay

  • Craftysquirrel

    I pushed aside the items all over the kitchen table to sit down with my cup of tea, when our small home is ordered I love it, when it's not it makes me feel a little claustrophobic. Feeling the urge for a big spring clean and declutter soon. Yes there are cobwebs on my windows too – and handprints.

  • emerson-j


  • Andrea @ Hey Mama, Rock Me.

    We live in a 1200 square foot house in New Mexico right now, which is small in comparison to a lot of American homes. . . but it feels too big for us. It's just too much for us to take care of and we're already minimalists, but would like to be more so. So we have plans to make a dream come true and move to NYC (and downsize at the same time). I miss small spaces. They're cozy and you can focus on making each little corner a special place instead of having all this emptiness that feels like it needs to be filled with meaningless objects.
    I've really been loving this series! How many more are you planning? 🙂

    • Jodi

      I think I'm just going to keep writing them till I run out of ideas. What I've loved most about this series is the inspiration I've gained from it; it's keeping me motivated! We'll be spending a month in Bali in Sep/Oct so no doubt I'll have some interesting observations from life over there. x

  • Cat from Raspberry Rainbow

    We live in a tiny apartment in Hong Kong, and I love it. We moved from a modest (but not huge) house in Melbourne, it was a shock at first, but we got used to it quickly. It is easier to clean and there are less places to look when I have put some thing in "a safe place" and can't find it again. Living in a small space has made me be more organised that ever before in my life – I have to be! The only problem is my fabric and art and craft supplies, I am running out of room where to store them. Plus the bath is full of a few randon boxes and a heater and a ladder – no where else to put them.

  • Coal Valley View

    Hi Jodi,

    There are 7 of us squished into a 3 bedroom home but the living room is a decent size and there is a big attic/loft space that we are now using for the first time as a parent's bedroom instead of a spare room/study. I have no desire for a bigger home – too much cleaning! I also am a strong believer of the more space/storage you have the more you accumulate. When I can't fit things in a cupboard or drawer I just get rid of things. For us, it was more important to have space outdoors for the kids and hence the decision to swap the house in Sydney for the Farm in Tassie. I am happiest living with less 'things' and as a family one of our happiest times was travelling around in Australia jammed into that tiny caravan for 3 months with nothing but a little bag each.

    Mel xxx

  • Pink Ronnie

    This is the first time we've lived in such a big home. It's not one that we own – it belongs to the church, of which Rick is the minister. In a way, we really have no control over what type of housing we live in, so we're making the most of the lovely home that we are currently blessed enough to live in. Before this, we've lived in two bedroom apartments, a VERY small terrace in inner city Newtown and a three bedroom house. No matter where we live, I never allow us to build up clutter, because at the back of my mind, I'm always thinking about the next time we have to move. Even though we are completely spoilt for storage space where we are right now, I like to keep cupboards empty where possible as I don't like accumulating stuff just because we have the space for it. Less is more. (I always look forward to these posts of yours!)
    Ronnie xo

  • Anneliese Mac

    Our house is approximately 90 – 100 square metres, and I would like a bit more space, but not too much more. We need space for family to stay, and more living space. I would essentially like more space in the rooms, but not necessarily more rooms inside the house.
    We plan to build a double garage (which we really need) with a room on top to be used as my partner's man cave / guest accommodation. This would allow my parents some privacy when they stay (they are in their 70s and do not want to stay in the house as they don't feel we have room if both of them are here.)
    Storage is also really important, although I like to sell / donate / pass on items which are no longer wanted / needed.

  • Life at no2

    Our home is thirteen squares with three bedrooms but due to its open plan feels quite spacious. I wanted for bigger but after re-evaluating, I'm more than happy where we are. For us our home is our home but it is also just a base, a place to travel from and to.

  • Mother Down Under

    Our home is small…and we have not one closet…if is definitely a challenge.
    When I was home in my parents house…which is average by American standards but I think would be considered big here in Australia…I was amazed at all the storage. A basement! An attic! So many closets I don't know how my mom even keeps track of what is in them all. And that is exactly the problem…big spaces allow you to accumulate stuff. Stuff that has no importance and no real value. While our tiny home with no storage sometimes drives me nuts, I like that it is cozy and that every thing in it holds meaning.

  • freckles

    I grew up in a large 3 story, 5 bedroom, 3 bathroom home & we used intercoms to contact eachother between levels. It was way too big, we could easily disappear & not see anyone else for hours. My husband & i bought a 2 bedroom fibro cottage, it is tiny compared to what i grew up with & i prefer it. It is cosy & character filled, my only complaint is lack of storage so it always looks untidy & cluttered, especially since welcoming our daughter last year. Another bonus is our electricity bill is about half that of our friends.

  • Bungalowgirl

    I grew up in a teeny tiny house where you could see into every room and it was just right for my mum and I. With two little kids, for me the garden has been more important than the house but as my kids get bigger and noisier a larger space is appreciated, mainly so that we can have visitors without causing stress for our very noise sensitive eldest child. mel x

  • October Rose

    Since getting married we have lived in the same two-bedroom apartment with a little balcony on the fire escape and I love it. So does our little man; I think this home is just his size. 🙂 (And living here during his first year and a half of life has taught me it does not take as much money/stuff to have a baby as people seem to think!)

    Now that we are expecting twins, we are about to outgrow it. I do look forward to moving into a larger home where my sewing machine has its own place other than the baby room, where I can have a linen closet that doesn't share space with my husband's tools. But I will always miss our small and beloved first home.

  • Kristy

    The only thing I find hard about our house, is with 3 smalls, under 4 years of age – is each waking each other up – especially if the baby is crying, from 5am onwards. Everyone is up by 5.30am most mornings.

  • Jude T

    I thought our home was large until we had a baby – now I think it's tiny. During weeks where it rains non-stop it feels even smaller … Luckily we have a large block, and a shed the size of an airport hangar, with an awning to match.. perfect for playing under when its bucketing down!

  • tinyparticlesoflight

    Our home is definitely considered "modest", almost small by American standards. But I'm with you; I sometimes long for "more space" but really what would it be used for? More STUFF. And I am all about eliminating the stuff. When my husband can't find something he assumes I've thrown it away! 🙂

    I grew up in a modest sized home and am now raising a family in one. It feels right.


  • Amanda

    I'm loving these posts of yours Jodi, this one is especially lovely. Our home is what I would say is just the right size for us and while at times I wish the bedrooms were a tad bigger or had more storage, I often think that more storage space simply leads to more clutter. Having less storage means having to simplify and only keep the necessary.

  • flyingjen

    Our house is on the small side if you consider how big new American houses are. But our house is old and we like that. It has character and new homes don't have that. Also give our urban setting we also have one of the biggest back yards in the neighborhood which we love because we have to big dogs, a vegetable garden, chickens and still have room for our daughter to play. We are currently is a de-clutter stage. I have decided if we haven't seen it, touched it, used it in over a year (or in some cases longer) it is being donated to a thrift store.

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