(I originally wrote this post when we first moved into our not-so-small-house but I think some of you may still find it interesting)
Well, if you can believe it, only 10 months after we moved out of our big, old Victorian, we we moved again. Yep, that’s two moves in under one year. . We had been in our large, old house for over a decade when finances dictated that we move into different digs. We wanted to stay in the same general area of downtown Knoxville and pretty quickly we found a small cottage-style house that we liked. When I say small, I mean way smaller than we had been used to.. We went from more than 3,000 feet to less than 1,000 feet when we moved into this new house..
Before we actually moved into the Very Small House and lived there it seemed like embracing the “smaller is better” house movement would be very appealing. After all, with two kids in college we now needed much less space. I also felt like we had, over ten years in the same space that had accumulated just too darn much STUFF. My thinking was that by moving into a Not So Big House we could jettison a lot of what we owned but didn’t really use.
The Very Small House into which we were moving was a very sweet little 2 bedroom cottage of about 950 feet with lots of built in storage space for the stuff we wanted to keep but weren’t necessarily using. It also had a barn in the backyard for storage. With the storage space available for putting things like books in boxes out in the backyard barn for keeping if not actually using, I believed that 950 feet of living space would feel larger than it actually was. Also, there are only four of us living together full time now because J has graduated and moved to a new city where she lives in her own house with friends and E is now living in his fraternity house. With fewer people at home, I felt like I should embrace the small house movement and learn to live comfortably in far less space.
Well, suffice it to say that the novelty of living in 950 square feet wore out relatively soon for me. I know that many of my friends who live in big cities happily manage in apartments and condos of 950 square feet or even less, but I found it just wasn’t right for our family. At first the small size felt cozy and fairly well organized but soon, even with all the great built-in storage that the Very Small House had, things started to feel squeezed and claustraphobic and messy. I simply couldn’t keep a house that small tidy. Even as much as we downsized there I found that there wasn’t a place for a lot of our things.The house just always seemed messy to me. I just soldiered on, feeling less and less comfortable but resigned to lie in the bed (house) we had made.
I want to emphasize that the house itself wasn’t the problem. It was just the size of the house. The home itself was a very cute little house with an awesome retro kitchen, two newly redone bathrooms, new windows and hardwood floors, plus a big, fenced yard. Also, our landlord was great. Anytime we had any issue he took care of it within 24 hours. No, there was nothing at all wrong with the house beyond our own well intentioned error in judgment in having moved into such a small space.
At least we were all moved in from our previous large house and I can tell you that I said to myself at the time we moved from our large Victorian to the Very Small House that I’d do my best not to move again for the forseeable future. And one positive of the move from the big house to the little one was that as we prepared to move, we did a serious purging of things we didn’t need or use. I’d say we got rid of a quarter of what we owned before we loaded up the moving van. Several really great friends helped us on moving day, which was exhausting.
But then, after we had been in the Very Small House for about 9 months, a rather remarkable thing happened. My old friend Lisa (our families have known each other since my Bell Buckle childhood) reached out to me to ask whether we would maybe be interested in renting their farm. You see Lisa and her husband Dan had decided to undertake a grand adventure and move to New Zealand. When they first decided to move to NZ they planned to sell their farm but after having it on the market for a short while they realized that they loved it too much to sell it. So they decided to rent it out, but they didn’t want to rent it to just anyone. They wanted to actually know the tenants to be sure they would take good care of the house and property.
The farm is located in the furthest corner of northeast Knoville in a rural area. I had been out there once before when Lisa invited the kids out to go sledding. I remembered both the house and property as really beautiful. Jon had never been out the farm. While the idea of potentially moving again after only 9 months in the small house seemed INSANE, after looking at some photos of Lisa and Dan’s farm we both decided that we had to at least go look at it.
Here are some of the pix that convinced us to consider Lisa’s very generous offer.
After looking at these photos we decided that crazy as it might be, we had to at least go out and meet Lisa at the farm (she was back from New Zealand to manage getting their dog and cat migrated from the U.S. to their new home country) and talk to her about potentially moving to her place. Before we went out to the farm the first time we were a little anxious about how far it would be from everything but after mapping it online we realized that even though it was in a rural area, it really wasn’t that far from anything important to us. Yes, we would do a little more driving to get here and there but it was only 15 minutes to downtown and about 20 minutes to the little girls’ school.
So we went out to the farm one beautiful autumn day and within 30 minutes of walking around the property and house with Lisa, we were sold. The house is 2200 sq feet – an awesome size balance between our big house and the little house where were currently living. The farm house also has a HUGE basement, so there was plenty of storage for the stuff we had boxed up and stored at the Very Small House. The house felt airy and roomy and has 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. Dan and Lisa have renovated extensively so the kitchen. bathrooms and master bedroom in particular are really pretty. Two of the three bedrooms open up to a wraparound deck that faces the 20-something acres on which the house sits. I’ve always wanted a house with that specific feature.
And speaking of acreage, we were speechless at how beautiful the farm property is. It backs up gently to a gorgeous, high ridge that sits next to a local mountain. There are two spring fed, stocked ponds with a dock. There’s a picnic pavilion, a treehouse and a big swing that hangs from very high up in a tree. There’s a patio with a hot tub and a firepit. We didn’t have any of the kids with us on that trip to the farm that first day but we knew they would all love it, as would our dog Leo and our cat Milo (he’s an indoor/outdoor cat). There is also a beautiful flower garden that circles the house and a large vegetable garden spot already in place.
Well to make an already-too-long story somewhat shorter I’ll try to wrap this up with the inevitable ending. We quickly told Lisa we’d take it, There was just no way we could pass it up even though would mean going through another move and a little more driving to get where we want to go. We both felt totally blessed that this opportunity had found us (thanks Dan and Lisa!) We immediately called our current landlord to negotiate getting out of our lease early. He couldn’t have been nicer and as it turned out, he had a renter who wanted the Very Small House immediately so we didn’t even end up having to pay for the last three months rent. We even got most of our rental deposit back. We felt like the universe wanted us to live on the farm.
The actual move was just as painful as the one 10 months earlier. Two other (than the friends who helped with move #1) very nice friends helped us on ,moving day and we couldn’t have done it without them. After the one big moving day and a second day where we just brought smaller things over in the pickup truck that goes with the farm, we had finished moving. We were sore but very happy.
We’ve been here for 18 months now and we couldn’t be happier. This house is just the right size for us. And I love living in it. It has great flow, beautiful colors on the walls, beautiful tile everywhere, an awesome kitchen – the nicest kitchen I’ve ever had – and two fireplaces. One is gas and one is wood burning.
And the kids LOVE it. The big kids enjoy coming out for family dinners and bringing friends, something that was nearly impossible in the Very Small House because the dining room was so tiny that it barely seated 4 people, much less six and friends. And the two little girls adore the farm. The really like their room, and they love taking Leo for walks in the woods. They like playing around the pond and they are really looking forward to this summer when they can take the inflatable dinghy that C got for Christmas out on the water more often.
And as for me, I feel at home, like this is the place I’m supposed to be. We meant well with our experiment in Very Small House living, and I realize that many people live comfortably in houses that small or smaller but it definitely wasn’t for me. Now, in my less small house I feel like I’m where I’m meant to be.