Small is Beautiful
Why build and live in a small house? First of all, it is more convenient to have what you need nearby. Life proceeds smoothly when the things you need are close at hand. Also, I might point out that limited space forces you to select only those things that you really need to live with, helping to keep clutter out of your life.
Another fairly obvious point is that a smaller house costs less to build and maintain. Housing represents the greatest expense that most of us face in this life. It is common to take on huge debt to pay for a house, which multiplies the cost even further, and places us in a kind of servitude to both the creditors and the house. Rob Roy, in his book “Mortgage Free!,” points out that the word mortgage comes from old French, and means “death pledge.” In it he describes many ways to build without debt. If you are able to own your house free and clear, all those years of your life that would have gone into paying off the debt can be utilized to positively affect your life and the world.
Obviously, the smaller the house, the fewer resources are consumed in creating it. Since the use of many building materials has a negative impact on our environment, keeping it small lessens the impact. Then there is the environmental cost of heating and cooling a house to consider. The smaller the house, the less this cost will be. Burning fossil fuels, either directly (such as propane heating) or indirectly (such as heating or cooling electrically), consumes these finite resources and contributes to carbon dioxide pollution. It is much easier and more effective to design a solar heated house that is small.
Another impact to consider is aesthetic. Does the house fit in with the landscape? A large, imposing edifice may seem out of scale with the surrounding land, whereas a small abode is more likely to fit in nicely.
To illustrate some of these concepts, Suzanne Frazier has graciously allowed me to use her home as a model “small house.” Built in 1994 by “Cut No Slack” construction of Salida, Colorado, Suzanne's house is more or less conventional in materials used (wood framed, etc.). She wanted it to conform to the Uniform Building Code so that she would be sure of its integrity as a house over time.
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