Oh No, We’re Shrinking!


The American Dream seems to have escalated into a race to amass as much square footage of housing as possible. It has been interesting for us to reverse that trend lately in the years when our peers are typically moving to larger homes as their families grow.

Our house in Portland was not spectacularly large. It was built in 1929 and was about 1,600 SF above grade with a 700 SF basement that we turned into an industrial-looking art/TV/office space. We also had a small one-car garage that was filled with gardening crap. When we sold the house in the summer of 2007, we had a humongous moving sale.

The rule: if it couldn’t be stored in our 1,800 SF rental condo then we couldn’t keep it. We did a lot of paring down.

When we moved out of the 1,800 SF unit in Portland, prior to our departure for Argentina, we secured a storage space in the US and tried to keep only those things that we couldn’t live without. (It shall be interesting to see how we feel about said stuff upon our return.)

In Argentina, we moved through several larger living spaces until we finally downsized to a 1,000 SF apartment, where we are living now, in a location we love. Observations:

  • In general, since we have less space, we can’t accumulate and store as many things. On a positive note, we’ve learned to make due with fewer possessions — minimal kitchen implements, a lot fewer clothes, not as many shoes, a paltry assortment of toys and games…
  • As a family, we can clean this apartment (I don’t mean straighten, I’m talking mopping, bathtub scrubbing, sheet changing, etc.) in about two hours. Couldn’t say that about the house.
  • No yard work, which is both a blessing and a curse.
  • Noise can be a bit of an issue. The kids have really had to work on acknowledging that they need to be quiet and respectful if someone is napping or on the telephone.
  • There aren’t a lot of places to escape if people (as in other family members) are driving you crazy.
  • The girls share a room and get along most of the time. Zoe still lobbies to have her own space when we get back to the States though. In general, I think the older child wants autonomy, but the younger sibling is happy to share.
  • I would rather have space taken from bedrooms and bathrooms and put into the living/dining/kitchen. A well designed bathroom layout, even if small, beats an empty cavernous bathroom that seems the norm in the US now. Truly, it has been enormously pleasing to spend time in spaces that are thoughtfully laid out to function, even in very tight confines. A huge contrast to a lot of condos I’ve seen in the US.

We now feel that we could live quite happily with a lot less square footage when we return to the States. It will be interesting to look at housing through our downsized lens!

(Pictured above is the dining room from what now seems a behemoth of a house that we sold in 2007.)

3 Responses to “Oh No, We’re Shrinking!”

  1. Dennis

    While I agree that a cavernous bathroom is a waste of space, I haven’t seen that well-designed bathroom here yet, especially with the added bidet that is ‘required’. And with a youngster, a little more space to maneuver comes in awfully handy when two adults are needed to wrestle her into submission 😉

  2. Michele

    Hmmm, I’m happy our “wrestling into submission” days are over. Now we just yell at each other, but they’re pretty autonomous, for the most part!

  3. Buenos Aires Expats - Online Community of Expatriates and guide to living in Buenos Aires, Argentina

    […] clumsy and crude” that “they could not be accepted by most people.” … Wednesday, 10 June Oh No, We’re Shrinking![micheleandtom.com] The American Dream seems to have escalated into a race to amass as much square […]

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