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Mindful : June 2016
If you have a very tiny landing space at the top of the stairs before you go into a bedroom, the house feels cramped. Adding extra square footage at the top of the stairs might seem like a waste, but it’s not. It gives you the opportunity to transition before you move into the bedrooms. It’s paradoxical, and a lot of what I talk about is paradoxical, because it’s not useful in our nor- mal way of thinking. And yet, psychologically, it’s incredibly important. In your opinion, what are the most significant benefits of going smaller? On a sustainability level, a smaller house uses fewer resources and is easier to heat and cool. Furthermore, I think that making your home beautiful is a very big step in making it sustain- able. When people love the place they live, they look after it. On a design level, when something is beautiful and tailored to the right scale, your everyday life is enhanced tremendously. I think that happens for two reasons. One: what you end up with is beautiful and reminds you why you’re alive. It reflects you back to yourself in a way that brings joy and peace into your life. Two: in the process of creating, there’s a sense of something more, like when you paint or write a poem. Our lives are enhanced by living in something in which we have had creative expression. How can those of us without the cash to build a new house implement the Not So Big philosophy? After one talk I gave, the event bartender came up to me and said, “your comments gave me hundreds of ideas for how to make my trailer better.” She said she wanted to put a lighted painting at the end of a walkway—which gives the same feeling as having a window—and cre- Sam Littlefair Wallace is a features writer and the assistant editor of LionsRoar.com. He wrote The Joy of Living Small, a feature in the June 2015 issue of Mindful. Follow Sam on Twitter: @smlfw. ate ceiling height changes by hanging a billow of drape from the ceiling. “I can do these little things,” she said. “And it’ll make it mine.” I call these “not so big moves”—little things you can do that make a big difference. In many ways, these low-budget changes can generate a much more creative response than designing a brand new house. It’s like when you write a poem in a particular form, you’ve got to be creative to work within that form. I think that’s why remod- eling can be quite fun. What do you think is the impact of Not So Big on society at large? The impact is bigger than I originally thought it would be. And these ideas became important questions during the recession. Now, I’m seeing how deeply the roots of Not So Big have affected the culture as a whole. Ideas that were brand- new in the late ‘90s are now common sense. In the beginning, I was asking, “Do you really need a formal living room and a formal dining room?” Now, it’s standard to not build those rooms unless you need them. After The Not So Big House came out in ‘98, I can’t count how many reporters asked me, “ Why would anybody want to downsize?” Like, “ What planet are you from?” [laughs] Fundamentally, I want people to see that they can have a very big life by focusing on meaning- fulness. That’s what you remember when you’re on your deathbed. It doesn’t matter how many cars you’ve had or how big your house was. If you’ve lived a meaningful life, that’s what matters. ● When something is beautiful and tailored to the right scale, your everyday life is enhanced tremendously. It reminds you why you’re alive. PHOTOGRAPH©PLAINPICTURE/HEROIMAGES 42 mindful June 2016 home