Monday, May 6, 2013

Decisions, Decisions

As we've been planning for our move to California this August, we've been trying to narrow down where exactly we'd like to live.  Rather than live in base housing, we think we'd prefer to live in an actual town where we can really immerse ourselves in the culture there, perhaps helping it to feel more like "home"?  We also think it makes the most sense for us to buy a house (you know this gets me excited!), so we've been working with a realtor and trying to familiarize ourselves with what the different areas near the base have to offer.


{I will try to say the following in a tactful way, but please know these are simply my opinions.  To each his own!}

From what we can gather, the areas closest to the base, including Fairfield and Vacaville, CA don't have a whole lot of personality.  The houses tend to feel more "cookie cutter-ish" and there doesn't appear to be much in the way of local or independent stores and restaurants.  What they do have in the way of businesses, you most certainly need a car to access.  I say all of this because it pretty much highlights the exact opposite of the type of area Philip and I most enjoy.  We were also finding it difficult to come up with a preschool for our kids we were comfortable with, as well as a church that felt like a good fit for us.
Here's Holland performing "Row Row Row Your Boat" at her end of the year preschool program :)  (She's rowing with her hands in case you can't tell!)

My Wader-Tater is smiling in the back row.  Oh, we have loved this preschool!

We were beginning to grow rather discouraged until we found our way to Davis, CA.  I was so encouraged by my conversation with the pastor of what looks to be a great church out there, who also pointed me to a good preschool.  Davis is a relatively small college town (home of University of CA at Davis).  Apparently they're big on bicycles, have a reputation for good schools, and offer lots of great local restaurants.  Check, check, and check.  (If anyone has any firsthand knowledge of the Davis area, please share!)

downtown Davis, CA (source)

There's really only three potential negatives for us if we choose to live in Davis.

1.  It's 25 miles from the base, so we have the added time + money of the commute to consider.

2.  The houses are really expensive.

3.  The houses are really small (relative to other areas).

To give you an idea of what I'm talking about, our realtor sent us the FIVE houses that are currently for sale in Davis and cost less than 400K, and only one of them had more than 1500 square feet! Rather than reflect a need to just spend more on a home, this highlights what seems to be the norm in Davis--most of the homes there are just relatively small.

All of this really brings up the question of priorities--would we rather live in a community that doesn't excite us, but that's close to where Philip will work and would allow us to live in a larger home for less money OR is it worth it to live in a smaller house (that nearly maxes out our budget) with a commute but that lets us live in a community that really suits us with great schools?!

another pic of Davis (source)

I think this is a really tough question, but we are leaning towards the latter choice.

This has all gotten me thinking about how big of a house one really needs?  Am I simply an entitled American who has grown accustomed to thinking that anything less than 2,000 sq ft will feel a bit cramped?  (According to the site designboom, the average size of a new American home has grown by 50 percent since 1970, so our preferences for house size must be shaped at least in part by our culture, right?) Our house in Richmond was right around 1500 sq ft (not including the basement), but by the time we left Holland was only 20 months old and we were feeling the itch for more space.  The climate in Davis lends itself to lots of time spent outdoors, so I suppose your outdoor space can serve as an additional "room" in your house???

Didn't Lauren Liess of Pure Style Home do an amazing job creating a beautiful outdoor living room through the Home Depot patio challenge?!

When I first began to consider what it would be like to live in a smaller house, I immediately recalled a conversation a year or so ago with my good friend Christine and her husband Lanny.  Coincidentally, they had just moved back to VA from CA themselves and had grown interested in the movement behind "tiny houses."  Now, when I say tiny house, I am not talking about a 1300 square foot home.  We are talking a house that can be as small as 90 sq ft, while a "larger" tiny house can be up to a couple hundred square feet.  Before you go thinking this is just completely nuts, the concept is pretty inspiring.  Michael Janzen of the blog Tiny House Design says this:

"In a nutshell, tiny houses give you back freedom in the form of time, money, and peace of mind. Why? How? Simply because they cost less to own, clean, heat, cool, etc. The less money you spend on your home the less you have to earn or the more you keep in the bank. The less time you spend cleaning and maintaining your house the more time you have to for the things you like to do."

300 square foot tiny home

Now, just to state the obvious, the things I personally "like to do" very much correlate with my home, but I still appreciate the idea and think there is something to be said for pairing down and living intentionally with regards to the size of your house.  While I don't foresee us in a true "tiny house" if we move to Davis, we will almost certainly live in a house much smaller than what we are accustomed. 
What do y'all think about all of this?  Do you currently or have you previously lived in a house that is considered small by American standards?  I would particularly like to hear your thoughts if you have done this with children :)  


  1. We lived in a very small apartment with three small children. Our bed ended up in the living room at the end! I would say that if you can find a place where the small space is divided well, it doesn't feel that small. in other words, if it's useable space, and you are creative with it (which you are/will be), it will be great. (A small studio...not so much.) And I would DEFINITELY lean towards your latter option, described above. What about renting though? Do you have to buy? You might get something great that doesn't lock you in - would that make you feel better?

  2. We're 4 people in 1,200 sq ft and I think it's (generally) great. It's easy to clean a small house and it makes you give away things you don't need. It's all about having furniture that suits your house: Small Furniture for a Small House. (Yay! A reason to shop!) Once we got rid of our huge sofa and got an apartment-sized one from Crate and Barrel I really think it began to work well for us.

  3. I am ALL for a small house, provided you have access to the outdoors. I agree that small houses are easier to keep clean, much less expensive, and provide a sense of calm in (what I see) as an increasingly chaotic, entitled world. Even in my parents' house (which is about twice the size of our house), by about 10am I get antsy to get outside so I know regardless of how big the house is, outside time is crucial to our family's mental health.

    Good luck! I can't wait to read more about your decision : )

  4. Wow, I could write a book on this topic. Right now we live in 2700 sq feet of living space, 1/8 acre (but only a small portion of that is fenced back yard), 3 growing boys...and we're in a neighborhood that, though it is great, the boys are too young to have "free reign" outside the safety of our tiny fenced yard. "Larger home" has meant much greater expense if we were to do things (curtains, furnishings)...therefore, we have not done much. We have quickly outgrown pretty much everything about our home, and the square footage is not the issue. 1/3 of it is poorly used, as it is a third floor. We are in Crozet, so 20+ minutes from just about everything minus groceries. We chose our home because it fit most of our needs at the time, though now, we are desperately needing the yard space. I am convinced a smaller home with more usable outdoor space would make my job of mothering 3 boys easier (and more enjoyable than frantically trying to maintain order and keep tabs on where my kids have escaped to)...Super Nanny Joe Joe would be horrified. Our home still has that "newer" vibe, so DIY projects are more obvious as being out of place. I'll be interested to hear what you come up with!! (I could talk endlessly on this interest in design and homemaking has taken a backseat to the needs of my curious little boys, but I sure do enjoy reading your blogs!!