Monday, August 8, 2016

Loving Living Small

When you think about your dream home, most adults would likely say that they'd like to live in a large house, with a big yard, a garage, lots of bedrooms, a big kitchen, and why not throw in a swimming pool and a nice car too. This is the American dream, and especially the NRI's dream. 

For any Indian who has moved abroad, the biggest moment is buying a big house to show off to their desi relatives, proving to them that they have done well in America. Sadly, the house is usually in the middle of nowhere, and the majority of the bedrooms sit empty year-round, because...well, everyone else is in India.

One of my favorite TV shows is called House Hunters, because I'm basically a big snoop and I like to see inside people's houses - around the world and in the U.S. Whenever we watch an American episode, the Americans are always complaining of not enough space and storage. Like they need at least 5 bedrooms. For two people. And the husband always needs a big garage. For what? I don't get it. And the kicker...the house is usually priced under $500,000!

Earlier this Summer, my parents sold their house and moved to a new 3000 square foot rental home. Then, they went on vacation for two months, so we house-sat and took care of our family dog. The new rental is a beautiful two storey character home with 4 bedrooms, 3 storage rooms, 2 living rooms, and a swimming pool. The garden is HUGE and it was bigger than most dog parks in Vancouver. In such an urban city, it is so rare to find a house with some green space, which was lovely. 

(The garden)

I thought it would be such a treat to stay in a bigger house for a few months to have more space, especially since my in-law's were coming and they could have their own bedroom. At first, we loved it. Maya is very active, so it was great to have a nice garden that she could run around in and play soccer (her new obsession). But then, we started to hate it...

It's weird, isn't it? That's the American dream - to live in a bigger space, everyone with their own rooms, lots of SPACE....that's what we're all supposed to strive for, right? But after a while, I just couldn't stand it anymore. The house was just too massive. I was exhausted getting from one room to another, and going up and down the stairs. It was like a black hole - people would disappear and you'd actually have to search the house to find out where everyone was. The space was too overwhelming. The garden seemed terrifying at night, as if anyone could be watching us from behind the bushes. I just didn't feel comfortable. I yearned to be back at my small apartment.

I thought it was just me, but surprisingly everyone else felt the same way. Husband-ji started to complain that the commute was too long to get to work, and he was tired from driving so much. My in-law's started to complain that the house was too isolated from everything. Maya kept asking me when we were going back to our "old place".

A month into my in-law's stay, my parents returned and we were all relieved to move back to our apartment. Our apartment is 1000 square feet and has two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and an office. It is not a big place, but we love it. We live in a very busy area, on a main road, with 10 excellent restaurants and a major grocery store within a 1 block radius. Our workplace is a 7 minute walk from our apartment. We live a few blocks from the beach. There are three beautiful children's parks near us, and a movie theater too. My in-law's do not have their own bedroom, so they sleep on the floor. They are much happier here living in a busy area - it's as close to India as they could get. Even at our family home in India, everyone seems to be more content sleeping on the floor. My father-in-law is out and about all day, exploring, going to the library and community centers, and picking up groceries. My mother-in-law doesn't go out too much but she does love to sit at the window like a typical desi granny and spy on people! Most of the time, we spend the day in the living room all together, peacefully co-existing and interacting. The only time we really go into our bedrooms is at night, to sleep. I actually feel like our master bedroom is too big, and it could be smaller because we are hardly ever in there. When we want some outdoor time, we either go to the beach or the parks, and there's always lots of kids for Maya to play with. It has more of a community-feel. Less like you're stranded in the middle of nowhere, like The Shining.

(My father-in-law working on the dining table; my mother-in-law watching TV)

I love living in a smaller space. You know where everything is, you have less, but you spend more time together as a family. I know I should want some huge house, but I don't. At least for right now, I wouldn't trade it for anything.



  1. I don't like too large houses because there is a lot of cleaning and maintenance involved but even though I am a minimalist, I do not like tiny houses because I have a huge need for my own space. So my ideal would be somewhere in between with a nice large airy and bright kitchen cum dining area.

  2. Another thing with big spaces is that you have to clean more and pay more in terms of utilities! Every time I start wishing for one of those huge homes with up to date shiny appliances and large yards, I start thinking of the work we would have to put in to maintain such a home and that usually works :-).


  3. I agree with you! Our little house is 80m2 and it's just enough. And easy peasy to clean!

  4. I was one of those Americans with a 3,000 sq ft house on 2 acres with a swimming pool and 3 car garage. AND I was a single woman living in all that largesse too! It just got to be too big of a chore cleaning everything & taking care of the garden & pool too (even though I had a gardener, pool man, and maid once a week). I felt like I needed a riding vacuum cleaner! I did love all the storage for my vast antique & vintage clothing collection though. The good thing about it though - it sold almost instantly for twice what I paid for it to a Desi Family who wanted to show off!

  5. Not just these big houses but even the typical american house with a garage, green space in front and a backyard, seem overwhelming to the Indians. Big drawing room, large open air kitchen and ofcourse separate bedrooms for children and adults. This seems to be typical houses shown on in TV serials and the family is small. What exactly do these american do with this space? Only a super rich in India would have that kind of house. Here, in Delhi people are killing each over parking space, and they have separate garages for cars in each house. Much of it is due to lack of planning. India never planned for the deluge of cars on roads.

    Years ago, I read about the population density of Australia compared to India, the first thing that came to my mind that these guys are lucky but they must be very lonely. Imagine no houses in the close vicinity. I don't know how safe it is in western countries, in India you would surely not survive. You would probably require armed guards.

    I would always prefer a crowded polluted city to wilderness.

  6. I agree--I much prefer smaller! There's nothing wrong with it Alexandra. You don't need to want a big house: that's ridiculous! Says who?!


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