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Column: My Little House With a Big Heart

Valley News - Shawn Braley

Valley News - Shawn Braley

I have the tiniest house on my street. Typically, that’s not a bragging point. But lately I’ve grown especially proud of my home. For one thing, it’s cheaper (and easier) to heat than bigger homes — a big plus this winter. For another, it packs a lot of heart.

A small home is all I can afford right now. Still, I can’t help thinking that I actually wouldn’t want a larger house. Driving around, I’m drawn to smaller, more detailed homes rather than pop-up McMansions on grand lots. Certainly, I wouldn’t mind a nicer car, a hot tub and a more winter-sturdy driveway. But I can’t imagine needing more floor space than I have now. More square footage would mean more cleaning, more heating and more places to store stuff I don’t need. (When I have room, I feel as though I need to fill it with stuff I never needed in the first place. Give me a cupboard, and I’ll fill it.)

Certainly, my house isn’t worthy of the pages of Décor magazine. However, I have seen many tiny homes that are so well decorated, and so immaculately restored, that they prove that good things come in small packages. My favorite friends’ homes are tiny cottages on the coast of Maine, small bungalows filled with hand-knitted blankets in the Adirondacks, and family-friendly cabins with worn-in furniture. I admire a small bathroom with well-tiled sink, rather than a lavish two-sink (his and hers) monstrous bathroom. (If you can’t learn to share a sink with your partner, how do you plan on sharing your life?) And while large, charming ol’ New England farmhouses with their many rooms and historic barns are exquisitely beautiful, I also appreciate the fact that those homes were built for larger extended families who lived and worked together.

Small houses allow for close proximity, which is actually something I find appealing. After all, if I had a bigger house, my loved ones would be farther away from me physically. My fiancé and I wouldn’t be forced to sit next to each other on the same couch in my small living room. My dog would be able to hide in places where I couldn’t keep an eye on her. My party guests would have more room to roam, meaning less opportunity to mingle.

The truth is, at my little house there is never a quiet moment, even when things are generally peaceful. Sounds reverberate through every room. You can hear the wood stove crackle, even when you’re in the bathroom. You can hear the sizzle of bacon, even when you’re in the bedroom. And singing in the shower? It is practically a concert for anyone who wants to listen.

Yes, I’m pretty comfortable in my small nook of the world, even if my kitchen and living room are technically the same room. If the kitchen smells like garlic, the whole house smells like garlic. If someone’s watching football, the whole house is watching football. It is a harmonizing existence, where a tiny house is a cohesive unit. Small houses force people to be in each other’s business, for better or for worse.

Don’t get me wrong, every once in a while, I long for a personal home theater, or a steam shower or even a separate room for a washer and a dryer. And I am awe-struck by the modern amenities and technology installed in some of the most expensive homes on the market. But I also appreciate having a reason to leave the home (going out to a movie, for example) and a reason to return home again. If I never had a reason to leave the comfort of my own house, I probably wouldn’t meet the folks with whom I want to share my home.

So, although my house is small, I’m happy living in a bite-sized footprint. Big love grows in small homes.

Rebecca Munsterer, a resident of Norwich, is the author of The Littler Rippers and other children’s books. She is senior associate director of admissions at Dartmouth College.