Sunday, March 27, 2011

Operation Muffin Top

As many of you are aware, when we first started the "new house" journey, we were looking at up-sizing from our 1,600 square foot American Foursquare to a 2,000+ square foot bungalow.

The "Old" House

In this new house Sissy and Eowyn would each have their own bedroom and the two and a half bathrooms would allow plenty of privacy for all. Not to mention the extra bedroom and basement space for guests and arts/crafts. We were going to be living in high (modest) style - a room for every person and then some. We were going to be bigger and better.

But as we got further into the rationing project we realized that expanding into the bigger house was actually quite contrary to the spirit of the project. Helloooo - wasn't a big part of that project to learn to live with just enough - and not too much? Did we actually need the additional space, or did we just want it? And did we really want the extra rooms, or had society tried to convince us that we did? Just like they've tried to convince me that I want a mega-grande latte espresso every morning...(Ha! Take that society! I make my own fair-trade cup of coffee in mah house!)

"I'd like to trade these vegetable juice ration coupons for a mega-grande-latte-mocha with whip cream and an extra shot, please."

A few weeks of soul searching led us to the resolution that what we wanted was extra space. But rather than extra rooms (that would need to be heated and cleaned and furnished and...), we wanted extra outside space - to expand our gardens, add chickens to the list of household critters (and food supply), and provide a haven for the girls to play and discover nature like no city dwelling could. And, we decided, we were willing to sacrifice house size to accomplish this dream.

We would downsize.

This, my friends, is basically unheard of among our peers. Society tells us that downsizing is for retirees with empty nests, not for young, active families.

It was challenging to find the right small house/modest sized land/appropriate price combination. Most options on the market were either fixer uppers (in that scary, end-of-"The Blair Witch Project" kind of way), way too small and/or ridiculously expensive. Eventually, we found the right match (960 square feet, solid construction, 2.58 acres), and it's into this house that we moved last week.

The "New" House

Moving is always a process in patience, and for this move we had to start planning months in advance. We knew that we would be downsizing from 1620 square feet of living space (plus a full basement and walk-up attic) to 960 square feet of living space (full basement and no attic). The smaller house was efficiently designed with decent-sized closets and storage, but with an overall smaller footprint and no attic things were going to get tight, fast.

The house has only two bedrooms, so we knew the girls would be sharing the (modest) master bedroom while we took over the (very, umm..efficient) second bedroom. We knew that not all of our current furniture would fit in the new house, at least not in conventional ways. If we tried to shove all our current furnishings into the new house it'd be busting as the seems. Our house would have a muffin top.

Now, I'm not a big fan of the muffin top phenomenon. I have nothing against larger folks (indeed, I am one), but the practice of squeezing into too tight and too low pants is painful, and the jiggly extra spilling forth from the top is less than attractive. Same with the house - cramming too much furniture into too small of a space just wasn't going to be reasonable. Hence, I have no muffin top, and my house will not have one, either.

In order to make sense of it all and proceed with Operation Muffin Top we broke out the graph paper.


I went through the old house and got rough measurements of all the big furniture, then converted it to a scale of one square on the graph paper representing six inches. We then arranged, and rearranged, the furniture in the paper rooms, sketched out to scale.

And then walked away and came back a week later and arranged things again.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Ultimately, these were some of the realizations we came to:
  • The good-sized kitchen and bathroom would be our "comfort" rooms - with dimensions very similar to what we were used to there would be very few issues with space and storage.
  • Getting the full upright piano to fit in the living would take some creativity.
  • There was no way our expansive dresser would fit in our would have to go in the basement while we used a smaller, old hand-me-down from when Sissy was a baby.
  • The dining table would have to loose a leaf to fit comfortably in the dining room.
  • The girls' pet rats would not be able to use a spare bedroom for their location, so arrangements would have to be made to move them into the girls' room.
  • Since there is no spare room, we would upgrade from our 12 year old sofa and purchase a new hide-a-bed model for when guests stay over.
  • The workshop space in the detached garage would become TMOTH's man-craft cave (with space for the throwing wheel, kiln and such).
  • A portion of the basement would be converted to a rough-and-ready recreation room with the old t.v., old sofa and treadmill. Plus, a desk or two for crafting.
Of course, Operation Muffin Top hit full swing during the actual move last week. We're still trying to figure out a few key pieces - every once in a while I come across a box, scratch my head and ask "Where the heck will that go?" But we're getting there.

And come late spring we will have one heck of a garage sale.

--Rational Mama

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