Choosing a Small Home for Economic and Environmental Reasons

Do green homes always come with solar panels? In fact, the six thousand square foot eco-homes of the rich and famous aren’t as earth-friendly as cozy abodes with smaller footprints.

smaller, greener homeWe didn’t just buy our thousand square foot home with a small apartment attached in the back for environmental reasons.  In truth, it was the only thing we could afford and we loved the location.

By the way, the incredibly cool picture in this post is not our home.  Ours is a grey, low-ceiling three bedroom unit that’s just about as simple as it could possibly be.  Still, regardless of its design, I now often ponder just how green it is to live in a smaller home—and the benefits go beyond the environment.

  • Financial freedom:  Our smaller home comes with a very manageable mortgage payment that is less than many apartments rent in our area.  Plus we rent out the attached mother-in-law unit for more than half of that modest mortgage payment.  I have never in all my years (including college) paid so little for housing.
  • Less stuff: Again, this has financial and environmental impacts.  We can’t buy more because there’s simply no place to put extra stuff.
  • More family unity: Sounds cheesy, but it’s true.  We spend most of our time close to each other out of necessity.  There might be a time when my kids get older that they long for a bit of separation, but for now, it works.

We may have to remodel this little place to extend our years here, but I hope we can stay as long as possible—partially because I cannot imagine trying to move with kids!

Are you making a smaller space work for your family?  Have you taken other steps to make your home more energy efficient or economical?  We’d love to hear from you!


  1. We just bought/moved in to a smaller home (2 bed/2 bath and around 1200 sq ft). We are a family of four. Our realtor kept steering us towards 3 bd/2 bth homes, but the neighborhoods were awful, no walkability to anything, and the homes were huge.

    I found the listing for our new home. It is in an affluent neighborhood, we can walk everywhere (library, grocery stores, park, pediatrician, insurance agent, coffee, etc…), except preschool, which I drive to two days a week, and the house is on a cul de sac. We LOVE it. Our mortgage payment is lower than our rent would be in an apt. and our utilities are about the same as if we lived in a 1000 sq ft apt..

  2. cool photo! we live in a small home, too, for the same reasons.

  3. We’ve purposefully stayed in a small house for many of the same reasons. We also did it because we didn’t want to get used to something bigger, then downsize when we moved overseas. Now that we have made the move, I’m very glad we did it. It would have been very painful to go from a big place to our current trailer. When we get back to the States in three years, we will probably search for something a tad larger, but I’m more interested in a good yard than a big house.

  4. We live in 2br/1bath 660 square ft condo (3 unit building) with a family of four (kids are ages 3 and 5 months) and it felt like a palace after our 1br 400 sq foot apartment where we were until our daughter was about 10 months. We gave up space in order to live in a walking neighborhood near public transit, and figured that if our kids ended up being different genders, we’d move after 8-10 years when sharing a room became impractical. We love small living for all the reasons you list. We particularly love that we can clean our entire house top to bottom in about an hour if both of us are working on it.

    Well, it turns out our second is a boy, and we were starting to dread the prospect of saving/finding a home and moving, even though it’s years away, mostly because we’ve fallen so desperately in love with our neighborhood (and our neighbors). Well, that, combined with a sobering tour of prices for bigger homes in our neighborhood.

    Now we’re thinking of living small long term, taking inspiration from the tiny house people (none of whom seem to have kids). If we put money into what we have now, to make it truly efficient and really what we want, carving out three small bedrooms where we currently have two, we might be able to make it work long term. The financial freedom that would come from staying here would be absolutely huge, combined with staying in our neighborhood. Living small long term is sounding nicer to us right now than trading “up.”

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