Happiness and House Size: Why The Grass May Not Be Greener

I read an article today asking if people living in tiny houses are actually as happy as they like to portray themselves.

Go ahead and read the article here: Are People Actually Happy in Tiny Houses?

I get it. Even I watch the Tiny House shows on TV and wonder how these people felt a year later, if they made it that far. (A lot of them don't.)

Tiny House living is challenging, especially if you haven't quite adopted the mindset of living with less that is required to be successful with a dramatic downsize. It's not just a home-size change: it's a complete lifestyle overhaul.

Anyone who implies that making such a drastic about face is easy or simple or quick is just wrong. It's none of those things.

It's actually really hard.

Related Post: Living in a Small Home with Kids: 10 Reasons It Might Not Be Right for You

Here's the thing, though. We have lived in our small space for nearly a decade now, and I really don't think we're any more or less happy than anyone else because of the size of our house.

Every house size comes with a downside.

  • I have a friend who really wishes she could stay home with her kids because being a stay-at-home mom has always been a dream of hers. But she has to work to pay the bills because they couldn't afford to live otherwise, and I admire her for doing what she knows is best for her family, especially when it's hard. (They live in a very old home that is not huge, but it isn't tiny, and it requires quite a bit of expensive and time-consuming maintenance due to its age.)
  • I have another family friend who built a big house that she didn't like that she rarely saw because she and her husband were too busy working to spend much time at home. They have since moved.
  • Another couple built a huge custom home that ended up being foreclosed. They moved to a small rural town and bought a much smaller home. They are hoping to move again soon to be closer to family. I haven't heard any complaints about the size of their current house.
  • I know someone else who loves her tiny home because it means that she can work part time and still pay the bills and take care of her disabled husband. The extra stress of trying to afford a bigger home wouldn't make her happy even though having more space to navigate a walker would be helpful.

Would any of these people be happier in a smaller home or a bigger one? That's a question that's impossible to answer because no one knows whether the grass really is greener on the other side of the fence until they've actually climbed over the fence and let their toes sink into the dirt on the other side a little bit. There's no way to know that a bigger house/smaller house/more money/more free time would really make you happy unless you had tried every lifestyle and chosen the one you like best. Every way of living has its downsides, and everyone looks happy on social media whether they really are happy or not.

I sometimes wish that we had a bigger house because living in a small space can be stressful, especially with kids. I looked at real estate listings a few weeks ago, though, and my appreciation for my tiny house increased quite a bit again. It's easy to say that you wish your house was bigger, but bigger houses don't just grow on trees any more than money does. Everything comes with a cost. And judging whether a bigger house would make you happy without counting that cost is foolhardy and doesn't give you a complete picture of what will actually make you happy. Most of us wish for more of something, but that doesn't mean having it would result in more happiness.

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Even though I'm not always thrilled with my tiny house, I know I wouldn't be happier making the sacrifices it would take to afford a bigger home. The benefits of being able to stay home with my kids and spend more time together as a family make it the option that affords us the most contentment possible from the choices that we have.

But then I've never lived in a big house as an adult for more than a few months, so maybe there is some unknown quantity of happiness that I am not aware of as a tiny-house dweller.

I doubt it, though. I really do.

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