Clean Slate Part 3: A Place of Our Own

(Photo: Cristiano
Betta
)

In my last two posts, I announced two big changes in my life: my return to the United States, and the arrival of a brand new minimalist (my little Plumblossom)!

Well, today it’s time for Big Surprise #3: my husband and I have bought a house.

When Plumblossom was born, we brought her home to our small, one bedroom, urban apartment. We had no immediate plans to move; after all, we reasoned, a tiny baby doesn’t take up much space. And on that count we were right: her crib fit into a cozy corner of our bedroom, and her wardrobe took up just a small sliver of my closet. I was ready to congratulate myself on smoothly inserting an infant into our tiny living arrangement.

What we realized: a tiny baby doesn’t take up much physical space. Auditory space, on the other hand, was a whole other matter! Our delicate flower has an impressive set of lungs, and no compunction about exercising them. Unfortunately, we were living in a high rise apartment building without soundproof walls. When she cried in the middle of the night, we always wondered if an eviction notice might be forthcoming (!).

Even before our little girl came along, my husband and I started contemplating a house purchase. For the past three years, we’ve been drifting: moving every few months between hotels, sublets, and various apartments. We really enjoyed this nomadic lifestyle…but the continual search for new digs eventually began to wear on us. We’d also grown tired of living with faulty appliances, maintenance men who popped in without notice, and all the other quirks of temporary accommodations.

But most of all, we wanted a little green space of our own. My husband and I have lived almost exclusively in urban areas since college, and always considered ourselves “city people.” But our time in England gave us a great love of the countryside, and made us yearn for some trees, some flowers, a small garden of herbs and vegetables. We wanted to be able to step outside to a quiet little oasis, to enjoy dining al fresco, and to someday watch our daughter toddle on the grass and pick wildflowers in the backyard.

We’d kept an eye on the local real estate market during my pregnancy, but never saw anything too compelling. The biggest challenge: finding a small house in our preferred area—close to my husband’s office, a charming downtown, and several beautiful parks. Such a lovely and convenient area means a high premium on land—so most of the housing stock is of the 3000+ square foot variety.

But one night at 3am, with Plumblossom in one hand and my laptop in the other, I struck gold while browsing the listings: a small, midcentury, 3 bedroom rancher on half an acre. It’s in an older neighborhood with wonderful character and mature trees—a little pocket of modesty in a rather posh area. We settled on in it thirty days later, and just recently moved in.

The house itself has an open floor plan, and lots of glass to the partially wooded backyard. We’ve already painted all the walls bright white, and love the light, airy effect. Right now, it’s a big empty space with a few pieces of furniture and a scattering of baby items. As you might guess, we have no interest in filling it up—plus, I think it’ll make a great open place for a toddler to play and run around. It also has a lovely deck, which is becoming our second living room as the days get warmer.

Although at 1700 square feet it’s considered a small house, it’s the largest space we’ve ever lived in. It may seem antithetical to the how-low-can-you-go, tiny living movement—but it’s the smallest we could find in the area (local ordinances ruled out building a tiny house), and I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m an empty space junkie. :)

I look forward to sharing our new space with you as we get settled. However, home improvement moves at a snail’s pace with a new baby on board. And with spring rains and warm weather coming, we’re focusing what little time and energy we have on getting the garden planted and backyard in order. However, I’m really excited about tackling the interior—and in time, look forward to exploring with you the joys and challenges of keeping things minimal in our “larger” space.

{If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider reading my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, or subscribing to my RSS feed.}

50 comments to Clean Slate Part 3: A Place of Our Own

  • Karen (Scotland)

    Lovely news and your home sounds lovely.
    While a house is obviously one of the largest “things” you can own (to keep, clean and maintain), it can be the “simple” option during certain stages of your life, that’s for sure.

    The reality is that someone has to take responsibility for the buildings that we all live in, whether it is ourself or a landlord. Although a house (or any property) comes with responsibilities which could be seen as a burden to a minimalist, it is also a privilege that allows you to truly keep your home minimal and simple without interference from anyone (depending on the conservation status of your neighbourhood and/or the annoyingness of neighbours!)

    Enjoy your wee home and the garden!
    Karen
    (Scotland)

    • Karen (Scotland)

      And I really have to work out the square feet of my own house so I can get a visual in my head when Americans talk of house sizes! We tend to talk of number of rooms here in Scotland so I struggle to grasp the square feet measurement. Also, I can visualise up to 6 feet tall (people) but after that, my head turns metric…
      :-)
      Karen
      (Scotland)

      • Nicola

        Just did a quick calculation of the sq footage of our three bedroom house (in England) and reckon that it is just over 1000ft (plus a small garden front and back). Now I have a visual of what Americans are talking about when it comes to house sizes :)

  • This is indeed another piece of exciting and spelendiferous news. You sound even more content if that’s possible :)

  • Congratulations on all of your good news. It sounds like a wonderful home for all three of you :)

  • Magpie

    Sounds like this is an exciting time for you. I am looking forward to hearing how you keep things to a minimum in your new house. Houses and gardens come with ‘essentials’. Try as I might I try to keep things to a minimum but we still tend to own and need a lot of ‘stuff’. Enjoy your new home.

  • AussieGirl

    Congratulations on the purchase of your home! :)

    I am a minimalist at heart but I do think NOT going as tiny as possible is a good move, especially when children are involved. 1700 sq ft is a reasonable size for three people. We made the mistake of going too small (900 sq ft for six people and one pet)! I am trying to make it work but believe me, it’s not been an easy feat.

    Your home sounds absolutely lovely. I am so happy for you Francine. :D Your blog and book are my favourite when it comes to the topic of minimalism and I am thrilled to be able to share in your exciting journey!

  • Kathy

    Congrats on your new house!! I look forward to hearing about and seeing photos of how you keep it minimal, especially with a baby. A large open space sounds lovely, especially as our family of 5 (plus one home business) lives in 1200 sq ft and open space is hard to come by. It’s not that the house is too small, it’s just got a cramped floor plan.

  • That’s wonderful! I also want to stay put now that we have a child, so that she can grow her roots in peace!
    We are looking for a small house too, I’d prefer under 1000 sf for the three of us if we can find one. We have been living in a 600 sf apartment but have to move -not because it’s too small though. I think 1700 sf is quite big.. but I guess by American standards it’s not that much.

  • Lovely news, enjoy your new home. In my opinion the biggest downside of renting is not being able to paint so enjoy those lovely fresh walls!

  • Congratulations on your little miminalist! And on returning to more permanent housing.
    Will be keeping tuned to see how everything evolves.
    ;)

  • Sarah

    1700 square feet must feel positively massive to you right now! I look forward to owning a home again someday in order to have a garden and more privacy, too. Enjoy!

  • this is wonderful news! Congratulations on all of it!

  • Gloria

    Look forward to seeing what you do with a “normal” house. The nomadic lifestyle sounds fun and adventurous to me as well, but with two kiddos under 5 and having moved 10 times in 9 years (a big motivator of our minimalist lifestyle!) I am more than ready to be in your shoes!

  • Sarah

    Congrats on your new home and new challenge! We recently learned that we’re expecting our first, and I’m fretting about changing my minimalist lifestyle. I’m very, very curious to learn how you’ve handled the “stuff” that comes with a baby! I’m already finding myself battling baby gear!

  • I love how you’re navigating this new season …

    A light, bright, airy home suits us all, doesn’t it …

    Thanks for sharing this leg of the journey with us!

  • Congrats on the new house! I love the sound of light and airy open rooms. No need to try to fill it up with furniture and “stuff” just b/c that’s what’s expected. I know you know that and can’t wait to hear more about your settling in process!

  • Kim

    Welcome Home! A little bit of land is a necessary in my book. I love our place, land more than home, and plant as many green things as I can each year. We’re slowly turning an old corn field into a woodsy place. Our children, now both adults, loved having the space to just be.

  • We have about 1200 sq. ft. for 4 people and it seems about right. Going tiny with growing children would be maddening. I also think it’s great for children to have a bit of green to grow up on – we live in an urban area where no one has a yard and it means a lot more house time (another reason for not going too small!). Congratulations on the house, and I’m looking forward to reading about minimalist adventures being a homeowner and parent!

  • Kari

    Can’t wait to hear all about it, with plenty of pictures too, please. A home, yard, and family are the challenges most of us face in our quest for minimalism so I can’t wait to hear all about your struggles and, I hope, triumphs.

  • Ashley

    How lovely everything sounds, Francine! Can’t wait to read about your minimalist adventures with a baby and house. Congratulations on all the great news!

  • The Tiny Homestead

    congrats on all your exciting news. Like someone above, I too will be curious to hear how you deal with all the things that come with homeownership.

  • Congratulations on your new home!
    We too made the move from apartment living to a house with a nice sized backyard due to a little addition to the family. She’s a toddler now and we spend so much time wandering around the backyard. She’s fascinated by the lady bugs eating the pumpkin leaves and likes to peek into the guinea pig hutch to say hello to her little friends. I think of myself less as a minimalist and more of a simple living enthusiast these days. Mind you, I still try to limit our possessions and keep the place clutter free but home ownership comes with a certain amount of extraneous stuff. Have you started to notice that yet and, if so, what is your perspective on the minimalist toolshed and home maintenance kit?

  • Just found your lovely site and am really enjoying reading it!

    Congrats on your little Mini-a-list! I have a hard time viewng 1700 sq feet as small, I grew up in a 900 sq foot home in a family of 6 and only had a 1600 sq foot apartment for a family of 5 once and it was HUGE to me! Sounds like a really nice home !

  • Laura

    Kids LOVE big empty spaces with room to run, play and create. Bravo to you for resisting the urge to fill it up with stuff!

  • Kurkela

    Welcome to how the other part lives :) I have always wondered if being a minimalist is somehow similar to being a vegetarian – it is all right and easy when you are alone, but, as soon as there are other people on the scene – and, yes, this includes our nearest and dearest – there is a line how far can we go. Is it right to make the whole family go vegetarian (or minimalist :) just because you are, or is it still right to let them decide themselves what and how to be – and this refers to our children as well – and especially to them. I have 3 children – two hoarders and one absolute minimalist, even more than me. Same family, same parents, absolutely different way of living. What I mean to say is that being minimalist while living in a family… well…
    The 100 Thing Challenge guy has said that minimalism is his, not his wife’s choice, and he has had some difficulties to keep that in mind.
    A theme for a post maybe – how do we live together – a minimalist and a hoarder, a vegetarian and a real carnivore, a Christian and a Buddhist – and how far we are ready to admit the other’s right to live differently.
    All that said – congratulations, Francine. A house – that’s a grown-up and a serious thing :) Just don’t get too serious, we all look forward to your wonderful posts. See how many loving words your last three posts have gathered. Keep to be an inspiration for us all.

  • Nicole

    Congratulations on all your wonderful news. A new baby girl is such joy! I have two girls, with one weighing 2 pounds at birth I know what you mean about delicate!
    I hope you manage to get lots more sleep as your baby grows :)
    I look forward to your posts on storing the dress ups, playdoh, craft materials, lego, pretend animals, tea sets, dolls furniture, cute teddies, jigsaws, blocks ETC ETC!!!
    It’s great to have you back :)

  • Amber

    Cool! Having our own home is very important to us, even though it comes with it’s share of work!
    We see our home ownership as a minimalist “level up”, actually, because to have the space and NOT fill it up takes more minimalist spunk than not having that space option!
    We find peace in each piece of wall and floor we clear out for good.
    We love NOT decorating!
    Have fun displaying who you are in MORE s p a c e .

  • Gil

    Francine, congrats on all of your new changes in your life. I wish you and your husband much happiness in parenthood.

  • Marie

    We have 5 children. 7 adults live in under 2,100 square feet. We are on our journey to minimilism. With the exception of breeding toys, we are doing good! Congrats on the babe. I will be fascinated to see how she changes your minimilist perspective! Glad to see you back.

  • Marie

    I meant 7 people! The toy playing children are far from adult status! LOL!

  • Cynthia

    Boy, did I miss the boat! I’ve read every Monday while you were gone and somehow missed your last 3 articles!! Welcome Home, congrats on little Plumblossom and I haven’t read article #3 yet. I can’t believe either time flew or your articles slipped by. Either way, it’s nice to have the “family” all together again. Noticed the comments are high in numbers since you came back!

  • Cynthia

    Okay. Read #3. How ironic. You just moved into a house, bringing in baby #1, and having lived in rentals up to then. I’m on the opposite end of the spectrum. Lived in a 1800 sq ft house for 15 years, child #3 is going to graduate in 2 years and I’m looking to go to rentals. Your moving in as I’m moving out. Well, as a fellow minimalist I’m going to guess you will do very well realizing 99% of the stuff sold for babies are unnecessary. I’m also guessing that it’s the yard that makes your home wonderful in the end. I’ve always felt my house wasn’t as important as the 2 beautiful acres I have and the beautiful “show” outside during the changing of seasons that is important to share with kids. I am so happy for you and hope your future is very blessed with your home and family.

  • Amira Elserafy

    Hello!
    This is a fan of minimalism and your blog from Egypt!

    Your blog is one of my favorites. I love your realistic down-to- earth approach to minimalism. I’m happy to hear that you’ve fitted a baby and a new house into your minimalist life :)
    Wishing you a wonderful life with your loved ones ;)

  • Congratulations! We, too, bought our first house when our baby was a few months old. It was 1,500 square feet. Over the years, before I became a minimalist, we purchased three additional homes, each much larger than the last. And you know, now in a house with 4,444 square feet, I miss our little tiny place. Now we’re looking to downsize…the smaller the better, I say.

  • How exciting. I hope we will get to see some pictures of your home as time goes on.

  • Hilde

    Congratulations! But what never ceases to amaze me are the sizes of U.S. houses. A small house with 1700 ft! We have 1500 ft, which seems much too big now our kids have moved out. And this is considered a good size, I don´t think I know anyone with a house of more than 2000 ft, except for the owner of a company with more than 2500 employees.

  • To me? 1700 square feet is huge! All that lovely air to surround what you really love and need…primarily running space for your toddler! Congratulations! (And here I thought you took time off from blogging to write another book! I guess this is another chapter, though, isn’t it?)

  • Ah, yes, the shared walls. A bit of privacy is nice while you’re establishing routines with a newborn. Really lowers the stress level.

    I’ve found that our Jelly Bean takes up less space now, at age 4 1/2, than she did as a newborn (and she slept in our bed then!).

  • Nola

    I ve been a long time silent reader..enjoyed your missminimalist blog so much. After reading your 3 big surprises,cant resist to comment..i wonder if someday soon you are not that minimalist anymore..i meant with the homecoming,baby and now bought a house.. i wonder what other ‘not minimalist’ surprises? My point is i think what you will write in the next post (after this 3 big surprises) will determine for some readers( me,ofcourse) to still keep reading this blog or not…

  • Jess

    Oh goodness Nola, what do think the fourth suprise will be? That she has bought 30 new pieces of furniture? I don’t see why Miss Minimalist can’t continue her beliefs with a house, baby, and moving back to her country of origin. It’s called change. Perhaps what you are really upset about is that she has had a child, and like some other commenters don’t like reading any bloggers who have children (What a narrow world view!). If that is the case then yes, I agree, you should stop reading this blog, I don’t think Plumblossom is going anywhere soon :)

  • Zoebird

    congratulations!

    it’s amazing how our little ones redefine our lives. we are the same, but we are also changed. what worked before, doesn’t work now. and, i find that i’ve discovered newer, richer, more authentic expressions for myself.

    when DS was born, we decided to sell everything and follow our dream. that brought us to New Zealand, running our own business, and generally being very happy. it was such a beautiful push into what we needed for ourselves.

  • Kellie

    I live on an island and 1700 square feet is considered HUGE by our standards. I am amazed that three of you will consider this your new home. We have many families who live in much smaller spaces here – and remember, more space equals more clutter. It will start slow, build up with all the baby needed items but soon you just may realize that buying a home was just the first step away from minimalist living. I hope not!

  • Kellie

    I agree with Nola when she asked if readers will be turned off by your sudden changes – new home in the states and a baby. It just takes small steps, one after another to move away from your beliefs. I am becoming turned off from the blog myself as seeing that you had to buy such a large home for the baby means that you are starting a new journey and your minimalist days may be coming to an end.

  • big al

    I think I can kind of relate to your situation. As someone with a rewarding but low-paying job and a husband with an average to low paying job, I had accepted the fact that we would always live in a modest apartment or rent a small house if we were lucky. I was totally ok with this and had accepted this as our future. I felt it encouraged a minimalist and simple life. However my parents made me a very generous offer that has helped us to buy a home. A beautiful 1900 square foot house in a modest but lovely neighborhood. When we first started the home search process I felt like I was betraying my vision of living simply, modestly, and being ok with what we have instead of wanted more material things. I actually struggled with the idea of living in suburbia. But now that it is said and done I realize how foolish it would be to not accept the help of my parents. We have the privilege of living in a lovely home while making our tiny income, we don’t have the pressure of saving for a home or a huge mortgage. It is a gift, and I see now that we can maintain our minimalist and not-too-materialistic values and still enjoy our new home. Change is good and inevitable. I know that when we have a child we will be even more grateful to have a house and yard of our own. Good luck to you and congratulations.

  • Kat

    Nola,
    I think the beauty of minimalism is that it lets you ride the waves of life with peace and flexibility. Francine and her husband were able to set their priorities (proximity to work, outside space, etc.) and waited until they found a home that met the most needs and wants on that list. The size of the house was just one factor among many, and they had to choose. The size of your space being minimalist is arbitrary, with some people enjoying a larger empty space rather than a tiny space with no doors to close on crying babies.

    Minimalism has a goal of peace and contentment, does it not? A tiny home far from work and with no yard would definitely look more minimalist, but I think what I appreciate about this blog is that Francine doesn’t aspire to minimalism for its own sake. Her choices help her meet broader dreams and goals for her life, from what Ive understood her to say.
    So unless Francine had a blank piece of property and chose to build a McMansion, I don’t think you can say she is turning away from minimalism. :) Don’t quit reading yet.

  • Hazel

    Congratulations on little Plumblossom and a new home! It is lovely to hear the results of your “sabbatical” :)

    If anything, I think this will just make me love your blog more, because it will be so helpful to hear your take on motherhood, home-ownership and so on as a minimalist.

    Personally, I find it quite a challenge and an definitely an ongoing process, but then I was never really a minimalist at heart, despite a few phases in the past. Plus, like many mothers, I work full-time and have other commitments, including graduate school – hardly “minimalist” in terms of managing my time.

    I can’t wait to hear more of this new chapter in your minimalist journey.

  • Congratulations!! And welcome to my world!! Living a minimalist life with children is the real challenge : ) I think that those of us who manage to live a simple life when there are children involved are the accomplished minimalists! And it’s an ongoing challenge that never ends-especially with family who will now find every opportunity to fill your space with stuff bought for the kids!! (they can’t help it…grandchildren are hard to resist buying for!)

    Enjoy your beautiful new home (sounds lovely)! You’ve made some awesome choices for your growing family!!

  • Michelle

    I’m so excited to hear more about this. We have a 1700 sq ft townhouse and one child (so far).

  • Jasi

    Congratulations. And the best thing about owning a home as a minimalist is that it’s always big regardless of size. All of the ladies in my community would comment on how huge my model was. It really wasn’t, it was just mostly empty. We installed recessed lighting so our living room was occupied by only a tv and large sofa. We also installed closet systems so our bedroom was simply a bed. I wasn’t sucked into design catalogs wasting my money on something made from scraps but sold for 10 times profit and cleaning was a complete breeze. Also, my daughter learned to ride a tricycle at a very early age.. indoors. =P
    Have a wonderful adventure!

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