What we want v what we need ~ A guest post by an anonymous reader

This post is about what we want as a home against what we need. Recently I bought a house. I already lived in this house before I bought as a tenant. When the house came on the market I had first option so I buy it. A few years ago (5 or 6) I would never had bought this house, because I always had this sure feeling that, when I buy a house, it would be something twice as big as this one. My house is about 100 square meters – 3 nice bedrooms, a living room, a laundry room, 2 bathrooms, kitchen and my home office – and the total land space we have is about 250 square meters. I thought I wanted a bigger house because I was completely sure would need it.

Then came the question ~ need it for what? To store my stuff, that’s what I would need it for. Then I started to declutter. I did a lot of decluttering. I had kids. More decluttering. And suddenly I was not really sure I would need all that space I dreamed of. Then something weird, really weird happened to me a year ago. I was walking along a quiet street, thinking about decluttering, and Colleen’s blog and all that stuff I let go and how good I felt. Then I saw this lovely little house ~ must have been 50 square meters at most ~ and I looked at it very pleased and thought ~ “What a lovely little house, I would like to have a small house like this and not have so MUCH STUFF”.

That was when I appreciated that I did not have to live in a huge house to be happy. That the house I currently lived in as a tenant had an excellent location and a nice enough size. It hit me, finally, that I didn’t need more space, but less stuff. In January 2012 I decided to start decluttering more because I would look for smaller houses to buy, cheaper and better located than the mammoths I previously coveted. And to my bafflement, in February 2012, my house, the one I started to like so much, the one I was currently living in came on the market. The questions I askedhad to be answered were:

  • How does a 20 square meter backyard versus a 50 square meter backyard makes you happier or makes a home better?
  • I have in my house three bedrooms and two bathrooms. They are enough for my family and it is quite comfortable. Do I need more?

…by April I was its proud and happy owner.

Unlike the the lyrics of a song I like “Rockstar” by Nickelback , I don’t need “…a bathroom I can play baseball in.” somebody will have to clean that monstrous bathroom. I used to think I did. I used to think that the bigger the house, the more stuff I had, the better I would feel. I wanted rooms for guests, storage space for my things, to keep all the furniture I had and to buy more. I don’t think like that anymore.
I am not the only one who had those thoughts. I’ve met people that are never happy with their homes and are on the rollercoaster of “the more the merrier” or so they think. Yet they have a big house but they are never happy. They don’t have enough storage space/rooms/bathrooms backyard and so on. They keep building /enlarging /remodelling their current home all the while they are always considering upsizing. It is never enough. As soon as a building/enlarging/remodelling is over, they are thinking about a new one, because they need more space.
I discovered that the less space I have, the less I have to clean. There are a few improvements I want to make, some remodeling to make the kitchen better and a nicer living room, maybe change way the house in divided, but not to enlarge the house, never that.

It is funny, but the first thing I did do, as soon as I signed the contract, was start decluttering. There’s years of holding back stuff because I would have to give it back to the owner. Yes, the “lovely” former owner left her stuff  here. And happily I now freeing up space. Things that were kept “in case of moving” are gone. Things that originally belonged to the house, but are useless now, are gone. And I also decided I have too much storage space in the house, so I am thinking of decluttering wardrobes and other such storage units. Make them smaller, with less stuff, so I can manage things better.

A big yard isn’t necessary. If a person wants to spend time playing with their children they will regardless. A park near your house or a public soccer field is a great place to play if there isn’t enough room for all activities in a little backyard.

If you want to have a nice house you don’t have to have a huge house to impress anyone. Because nobody cares. Or as they say, people who care about the size of your house don’t matter, and people who matter, don’t really care.

So what I want most to say is that I learned a valuable lesson at 365 lessthings….

I have to be, not to have. I don’t have to own stuff to be. I don’t have to have the biggest house in the family to be. To be I just have to value feelings instead of stuff. I have stuff to make my life easier, I don’t have stuff to worship it.

Thanks for the wonderful lessons you have shared.

Today’s Mini Mission

Declutter something made from fibre.

Today’s Declutter Item

This item fits in with todays mini mission being that it is an oil painting on canvas. We went a little crazy on “Back Art” at one point but now that we are minimising some of the not so great ones have to go.

Oil Painting on Canvas

Eco Tip for the Day

 Try growing plants from seeds or clippings rather than buying seedling in plastic pots at the nursery.

“In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.” Brother David Steindl-Rast

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow

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About Colleen Madsen

Colleen is the founder of 365 Less Things and lives in Newcastle, Australia.


  1. Wow! What a great post, and it oddly dovetails with yesterday’s post about my future neighbors and the monstrous home they are building.

  2. Anonymous, Excellent, excellent, excellent post! You are so very blessed and fortunate to have realized what truly matters. You obviously will never be a slave to your home or possessions. You’ve figured it out. You’re a very wise person. Its taken me years and years to get to this point and I’m still working on the small house bit. This post really does go hand in hand with Cindys post yesterday. I could totally do what you have done now. Great story! One of my favorites.

    • Hi Jennifer L! Actually I am not all that wise. I just realized what a hole I was putting myself in by having a bigger house. Colleen has said this over and over again here in this blog, that the more we have, the more we have to keep and maintain. A house is a very expensive thing to keep as I have discovered in ten years. And I got to a point in my life where I do want my homely conforts, but I will not be a slave to a big house which takes me two days to clean and leaves me exhausted. I want a place to live and enjoy and I realized that the bigger certainly is not the better.

  3. I can relate well to this post. It was a complete turn around for me when I realised that smaller homes were the way to go. The homes I have lived in during my married life got bigger over the years and while I was living in most of them I was coveting the larger homes other people had. When I moved into my current home, although still bigger than some of my first ones, I came to the conclusion that I didn’t need all that space to maintain or contain stuff I don’t need. I wish I had had this attitude from the beginning. Live and learn though, live and learn.
    Someone once said to me after visiting this house ~ “I found your house claustrophobic.” After some thought I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t the feel of the house but the fact that it was lacking that prestigious image that this person preferred to be associated with. It seem my ego was also smaller. 😉

    • People have told me that my house was too simple. That I should have a decent guest room, and so on. My house is an average house and I am happy with average. But some people want others to come into their house and say “ooohhhss” and “aaaahhhss” at the grandiosity of it all. I just want people to sit, have a cup of coffee and have a nice chat. My home has to be clean and confortable, so my friends feel good being here. It is not for show, it is for living. Your “friend” probably needs a 5.700 square foot house to accommodate his ego… 😀 😀 😀

      • You aren’t far from the truth there about my friend. He has a lot of other nice qualities though so I will take the good with the bad. I am sure he does the same for me. I am just glad I am happy with less.

  4. Great post! When we were building our house, we were horrified at the small size of one of the ‘bedrooms’ which we had designated as a 2nd TV room (so that hubs can watch footy and I don’t have to ;)) – we thought we would NEVER fit anything in it! Now it is the cosiest of rooms in winter and the room we use more than the lounge room. And we fit in all that we need in there. We also have a smaller room for the guest room which fits a bed and 2 side tables. Again fits all that we need (we rarely have guests anyway so why go the trouble and expense of a larger room???). The living area and our bedroom have plenty of space, I have a large walk in pantry that I love and we have no mortgage because we built what we could afford. Gotta be happy with that!

  5. “I didn’t need more space, but less stuff.” I love this line. Great post.

  6. I really enjoyed this post. I think we’re all a bit fascinated with the idea of downsizing houses.

  7. Fantastic post, and why I clash with so many people who are still on the ‘bigger is better’ and ‘I need more storage space’ bandwagon! Great work. And colleen – “back art” – you make it seem so funny :p

    • Hi Snosie, the art is all about the backs that is why I call it “Back Art”. We must have had about a dozen pieces at on stage. We have decluttering several and only kept the ones we really like. My kids used to call it butt porn or something similar to that.

  8. Great post anonymous! I joke about how we did not put the big extension on to accommodate three growing children like so many of our friends . They now have empty homes as the kids have moved out. Our house is small but full of people.

    • Hi Wendy F – I think I commented to Deb J the other day that I have worked out that if we hadn’t of had the recession ie price values etc and factoring in land tax, insurances and maintenance we would have been in the exactly same position to have just rented a bigger house over the last 5 years while our kids are teens. Mind you I don’t know how long our eldest will remain at home but for young families whose kids are getting bigger and they wanting a bit more room, I’d recommend renting out their smaller house and renting a bigger home until the economy picks up.

    • Wendy F (again) I know people who carried out extensive extensions and renovations to their home which were finished just in time for their eldest to leave home to go to university and then their 2nd to leave 12 months later and their last child leaves early next year.

      However their location is the right on the beachfront, so I can appreciate they don’t want to give up those views.

    • You were smart Wendy F. My parents didn’t start buying bigger homes until most of us had left. Make of that what you will. 😕

  9. I really enjoyed this article, but I kinda love that painting. I did the same thing with nude art a while back. I just kept buying piece after piece of it. I will need to declutter the collection at some point, but I’m not there yet.

    • Hi Min and welcome to 365 Less Things. We started out looking for one nice piece for out bedroom and got carried away. Then out bedroom shrunk when we moved and the new room was overcrowded with them. Unlike you I am definitely there. Good luck on your declutter journey, you will get there when you are good and ready.

  10. This is a really good post. It brings to mind my friend, S. They have a 4 bedroom 2 1/2 bath home with an office, living room, family room, dining room, and large laundry room. For 2 people. It is a prestige thing for the husband. I went over today to help her start cleaning out one of the bedrooms. It was stuffed to the gills with sacks and boxes of books, scrapbook supplies, card supplies and junk she needs to get rid of. I think we got about half of it brought out into a sifting area. Once we have everything out and the room clean only the scrapbook supplies are going back in. The rest will either be given to Goodwill, sold or trashed. Wore me out and I will be back over there on Friday to have another go. The rest of the house and the 2 1/2 car garage all need the same thing done. It will take months.

    • Deb J – I wish I was there! I know it sounds weird but I’d love to sink my teeth into something like that!
      Is S coping with it all?
      Is she ok with the idea of sending things off to Goodwill? Or is she just happy to let you do your magic?

      Books – is she ok about letting them go?

      • Moni, S is coping well. She is the one who has said that the stuff is going out the door one way or another. I was really pleased when she said that today. It was also her idea to get rid of the books. I’m so proud of her. She has a long way to go but she seems to be ready.

        • Deb J – I’m very glad for you and for S. Books can be a very hard thing for book lovers to give up but it sounds like she is just over it. I’m very happy. What is your master plan for getting rid of that quanity of books?
          For me I donated the bulk to our local Lionesses Club as they do an annual charity book sale, I liked the idea of them indirectly benefiting the community and I knew I’d cave if I had to wait for them to sell on trademe.
          And craft stuff? What’s your master plan for that? I have actively avoided scrapbooking as I just knew I’d get addicted but everyone I know who is into it seems to have tonnes and tonnes of scrapbooking stuff.

          • Moni, S wants money for the books so we will be listing them on CraigsList. Right now she is putting them in these huge tubs. She is putting them in by series and years. She has them listed so that she can offer them in clumps of series/years. I don’t think she will get much for them but every little bit helps. She insists on keeping all the craft stuff. But then she is a fanatical scrapbooker and does the Creative Memories method–scrapping each year. I’m hoping that by organizing it all better she will get more done. She is WAY behind in her calculations.

    • You are a good friend Deb J. I hope your friend appreciates you.

  11. I know from experience that the bigger house that you have, the more tempted you are to fill it up. So instead of having an empty room, you fill up rooms that are not even used, like those formal living rooms that no one uses except for maybe once a year, if that. When one starts to accumulate useless clutter, that clutter starts to have control over you and it consumes you, just like keeping up with a huge house. Having too much house and too much clutter is just plain exhausting, physically and emotionally. So if you can get by with a smaller place and if it fulfills your needs, then you won’t have as much space to fill up. In turn, you will appreciate every item you do have and will only buy what you need.

  12. Congratulations on figuring that out “just in time”!

  13. Anonymous, this is a wonderful post 🙂

    I especially liked when you said “I have stuff to make my life easier, I don’t have stuff to worship it.” This one short sentence really puts everything I’m feeling into words. This is what I’m aiming for. Thank you!

  14. I saw the end of a programme here in the England where I live about people who have extended their houses rather than buy larger ones.

    One house now has 5 bedrooms and 7 bathrooms! The woman said that she liked bathrooms… She said she was having relatives coming over from Australia to stay and wanted them to feel they were not in the way…

    • Hi Diana and welcome to 365 Less Things. Thank you for your comment.
      I can’t even imagine why anyone would want to have 7 bathrooms to clean never mind building them in the first place. That is just insane. I wander who long those relatives from Australia were staying to warrant building bathrooms for them. Clearly she has no consideration for the environment what so ever.

  15. Some neighbors decided to sell their house so upgraded the kitchen and bath, repainted the inside and add a lovely porch. The house sold quickly. The new owners promptly tore the entire thing down and are rebuilding a McMansion. What a waste of money! The renovated place was lovely. The new owners are empty nesters. Must have money for a house keeper because they will need it as they are in their late 60’s. Recently, a real estate office did a test with a family they asked to stay in a 20 room house that was on the market. The house had a family room, game room, large kitchen, office, and multiple bedrooms. The house was HUGE! At the end of a month, the kids had bunked down in the kitchen/family room area (said the bedrooms were too far away) and the entire family of 5 pretty much lived in the kitchen/family room and the downstairs part of the house. They just proved a point. Families want to be together – not roaming around in a monster sized house with no interaction. My house seems big now that it is just the two of us and we have 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, living and dining room, kitchen, family room in the basement and a guest bedroom. It is almost more than I can keep up and I can see that before long we will close off the upstairs rooms and just use the 1st floor with guest room as our main house. The best part of this house is that it has been paid off for about 8 years so we will stay here until “the end of time” as my husband says. Decluttering is getting it clear so I can keep it clean.

    • Hi Maggie,
      I was thinking just the other day that if we vacated the upstairs of our house on a trial basis it would be a good indicator or how we would like living in a small two bedroom apartment. The only thing upstairs is our bedroom and office/craft area (meant to be a parents retreat) area.Downstairs is about the size we have been thinking is all we need. I would have to do some serious decluttering if that were to happen which indicates that there is still a lot to do.

      I can understand that family you mentioned moving into the nucleus of the house. I can only imagine what it would have been like having to clean a home with 20 rooms, yikes!!!

  16. Yes, we need to do some serious decluttering if we plan to move to the first floor too and what on earth will happen to my sewing room. I may have to convert a small portion of my dining room to a sewing space and hide it with a screen. Oh well, I think there are miles to go and lots to toss before this is will happen but need to do some preliminary planning since we are not getting younger and the stairs will become daunting. Perhaps I can get one of those riding chairs. LOL!