Why Less Can Mean More

Why Less Can Mean More

Sarah Coffey
Apr 6, 2010

Everyone is familiar with the modernist quote, attributed to Mies van der Rohe, that Less is more. There have been countless spin-offs on the line, including Robert Venturi's famous maxim, Less is a bore and (more recently) architect Bjarke Ingels' slogan, Yes is more. We'd like to add another variation to the mix, the idea that less means more, and we're not just talking about theory, but the way people live their everyday lives.

Living in a small home generally means living with less. Less stuff, less space, and—often, although not always—less headaches.

As much as we love the occasional binge clean, we'd rather spend our time doing other things. The Bureau of Labor Statistic's 2008 American Time Use Survey says that women spend an average of 2.6 hours per day on housework, while men spend an estimated 2.0 hours per day. Knowing that the average American home is around 2,400 square feet, we're betting that people who live in 1,000 square feet or less spend about half that time cleaning.

The economic downturn has caused more families to move in together and, while it's not easy, there are some benefits to living in close quarters. According to the AARP, multi-generational families can lead to better quality of life and less isolation for older family members. For children, it can mean a deeper understanding of cultural history and better transfer of generational knowledge.

A recent study from the US Labor Department reports that Americans spend 34 percent of their income on housing. Living in a smaller space doesn't guarantee you'll pay less—since prices vary widely according to regions, cities, and neighborhoods—but, in general, downsizing is one of the most effective ways to save money, particularly if you stay within your current regional market or move to a lower priced one.

Apartment rentals tend to be about half the square footage of owned single-family homes, according to a 2005 report from the US Energy Information Administration. There are obvious benefits to homeownership, including a sense of security and stability. On the other hand, renting a small space can mean the ability to get up and move without being encumbered by a home you have to sell.

We consistently hear from readers that small space living forces them to buy less stuff and invest in higher quality, longer lasting items. 2008 Small Cool contestant Andrea, who downsized from a townhome to a studio apartment, puts it eloquently: "It is incredibly liberating to pare down, not to mention much easier to stay organized, keep the place clean and tidy, and really savor those things I chose to keep."

Do you live in a small space? What do you enjoy about living with less?

Photo: Sarah Coffey / Amy's Vintage Modern Nest

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