Author Topic: How to Be Minimalist/Mustachian in a "McMansion"  (Read 3466 times)

ReadySetMillionaire

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How to Be Minimalist/Mustachian in a "McMansion"
« on: October 21, 2020, 10:11:04 AM »
I know MMM is not a deity, but this always resonated with me:

Quote
Itís not the cheapest place to live, but to me itís the best value of living pleasure to the dollar I could create. A house to me is the home base of your spirit, and when youíre living a frugal and natural life, you spend a lot of time at home.  As a result, when I compare the sunk cost of my housing to that of other people, I come out behind.

But by having a comfortable house, you can be happy and entertained at home without having to go out. You can have friends over and maybe even feel less of a need for vacations Ė enjoying Staycations instead. All of us in my family feel more confident and productive in a good house, so on an income basis, it might even be paying for itself.

https://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2011/05/11/the-elephant-in-the-room-housing/

My wife and I generally agree with this view and bought what many on this forum would call a McMansion back in February for $285,000.  It is 3,100 square feet, extremely nice kitchen, just an overall beautiful house inside and out. I'm not here to debate the purchase because that will get us off subject.

What I do want to discuss -- can you still be a mustachian and a minimalist if you live in a big space?

***

We are "Mustachian" with basically everything else. We drive used Toyotas; we grocery shop at Aldi; we negotiate our insurance rates every year; we only have a TV subscription during fall (football!), we have a decent nest egg ($200k+) at 33; we are trying to be debt free and mostly CoastFIRE by age 40.

In terms of minimalism, despite such a big house, I still think we are minimalists.  The pictures of how our house *was* decorated are still available on Zillow, and the way we have it set up is night and day.

The foyer used to have several chairs and a stand with flowers; now it has nothing.

The large living room used to have two recliners, a sofa, and an entire other fancy seating area; now it is just a couch and two chairs.

The dining room had an enormous hutch and chairs in the corners; now it is just a dining table.

The bedroom also had a seating area; now it has none.

The office had multiple desks and filing cabinets; now there is my mom's beautiful oak desk, which she gave to us a house-warming gift, and nothing else.

In terms of stuff, the closets are not even close to full. Several cabinets are completely empty. There is room to grow.

I could go on.

***

Do any others live in similar homes and pursue minimalism? Anybody with any philosophical opinions?

Edit to Add Clarity -- how would you use this excess space creatively?  It is obviously inefficient to have completely empty spaces (although we actually love the empty foyer).  Any ideas for creative rooms that do not include hoarding a bunch of stuff?
« Last Edit: October 21, 2020, 04:02:57 PM by ReadySetMillionaire »

Paper Chaser

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Re: How to Be Minimalist/Mustachian in a "McMansion"
« Reply #1 on: October 21, 2020, 10:31:16 AM »
Can you still be mustachian and own expensive vehicles, boats, horses, etc? Can you still be mustachian if you take expensive vacations? Can you still be mustachian if you spend a bunch of money on lawn care or having house cleaning done?

Mustachianism is different for everybody. As far as I can tell, the overarching ethos of MMM is to question the ways that we're often programmed by social norms so we can each distill what is truly important to us and spend our time/money/energy thoughtfully to improve our lives. There is no "one size fits all" here. We've got homesteaders and urbanites. We've got high earners that focus on maximizing wages and lower earners that focus on cutting spending.

parkerk

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Re: How to Be Minimalist/Mustachian in a "McMansion"
« Reply #2 on: October 21, 2020, 10:44:45 AM »
I'd certainly say you can be minimalist in every respect other than the size of the home.  How many people live there?  A house that size may well be minimalist for a family with five kids and a set of in-laws living there, not so much for a couple.

As for the "mustachian" bit of it I'd say my main questions would revolve around the resources you're using to care for the parts of the home that you're not using regularly.  Heating that much square footage in a standalone house takes a lot more energy than an 800 square foot apartment, for example.  What do you do to offset that sort of thing?

I don't think there's inherently anything wrong with having extra square footage you're not using much as long as you're not hoarding it.  A 3100 square foot home in Ohio is probably not taking away usable living space from people who need it the same way a 3100 square foot home in NYC would.  That said, neighbourhoods with high density housing are also less resource-sucking than the big, spread-out burbs that McMansions tend to exist in, so there's an argument there too.  What do you do to minimize the effect of taking up that extra space?  Do you grow food in your yard, bike when you can, etc? 

bacchi

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Re: How to Be Minimalist/Mustachian in a "McMansion"
« Reply #3 on: October 21, 2020, 10:48:38 AM »
Yeah, I tend to think of minimalism as "stuff." (What's your garage look like, btw?)

I'd love to own a warehouse -- and may buy one yet -- but it'd a small living space and the rest would be open floor with 2 nets. Very minimalist.

researcher1

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Re: How to Be Minimalist/Mustachian in a "McMansion"
« Reply #4 on: October 21, 2020, 11:04:13 AM »
My wife and I bought what many on this forum would call a McMansion back in February for $285,000.  It is 3,100 square feet...

In terms of minimalism, despite such a big house, I still think we are minimalists. 
The foyer used to have several chairs and a stand with flowers; now it has nothing.
The bedroom also had a seating area; now it has none.
In terms of stuff, the closets are not even close to full. Several cabinets are completely empty.

Do any others live in similar homes and pursue minimalism? Anybody with any philosophical opinions?
MMM stated that he owns a "comfortable house" with "the best value of living pleasure to the dollar".
This does NOT mean maximizing the square footage of your home and having lots of completely unused space.

What is the point of buying a big 3,100 sq/ft home, then being proud that much of it is completely empty, unfurnished and unused?

If you were actually utilizing the space, then I think it would be OK, and you could potentially still consider yourself mustachian and minimalist.
But it sounds like an excessive waste for you, as you aren't even utilizing the space in your home.

Think of all the waste associated with having all of the unused square footage...
- Higher taxes
- Higher insurance
- Higher heating/cooling bills
- Higher maintenance costs

It is not unlike going out and buying a secondary vehicle, that just sits in the driveway rusting away, while you continually pay for registration/insurance/tags/ect.

Paper Chaser

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Re: How to Be Minimalist/Mustachian in a "McMansion"
« Reply #5 on: October 21, 2020, 11:25:10 AM »
I think a lot of the "clown house" arguments come from people that live in HCOLAs where a median house can be many times the median income for the area.
Median home price in CA is 9.9 times the median income
Median house price in CO is 5.5 times the median income
Median house price in OH is 2.75 times the median income

A 3k sqft house is a lot bigger than "median", so most people that are used to high housing prices tend to think that a big house represents massive waste, but the difference isn't as great in an area where housing prices are closer to median wages.

Laura33

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Re: How to Be Minimalist/Mustachian in a "McMansion"
« Reply #6 on: October 21, 2020, 11:36:43 AM »
There's a false equivalency between Mustachianism and minimalism.  You can certainly be both.  But you can also be an incredibly wasteful minimalist, or a very frugal maximalist. 

On the Mustachian front, your job would be to make the home as efficient as possible.  #1 is energy efficiency -- what's the insulation like?  Is it 2 x 4 or 2 x 6 construction?  Are the windows low-e, and does the home have good sealing to minimize heat loss?  What about solar or geothermal?  Presuming that you're stuck with whatever you bought, can you add things like thermal shades or better caulking to improve performance?  What about a natural landscape with minimal water demand?

But then there's lifestyle efficiency.  You want appliances that you use daily, instead of countertops and cabinets full of things you use once a year.  One comfy chair is much more useful than four uncomfortable ones.  You want sufficient storage and ready access for kid toys, family games, and all those other activities you want to be able to do -- maybe even a dedicated craft or hobby space if there's something one of you enjoys.  You want storage for the lawnmower and bikes and sports gear, again in a way that makes it readily accessible.  You want long-lasting floors that you don't need to change every 5 years because of either dirt or fasion.  And of course you want a workbench in the garage or basement so you can do all those DIY projects to avoid outsourcing.  ;-)

Our house is bigger than we need, for sure, especially with one kid now off at college.  But I love it, and it's worth the money to me.  It is old and has the kind of character you don't see nowadays, and my DH is slowly re-doing all of the rooms (in the dining room, he has already done a cherry built-in and cherry coffered ceiling, and we will shortly have cherry trim -- the room just almost glows).  The house was a summer home and so has been a total energy hog in winter, so we have done insulation and windows and everything else we can think of to reduce usage (including buying into one of the state-sponsored "get your power from solar energy" plans to at least help offset our still-high power use).  We had to move the kitchen and rebuild it completely, but I now have a kitchen that I designed myself for exactly how I cook, with solid cabinets, dovetailed drawers, heavy-duty slides, and an indestructible countertop; it still works and looks great almost 15 years later, and I wouldn't change a thing.  And the best part is that we are in a first-ring suburb, where my kids can walk and bike wherever they need to go, and DH and I are both within 10 miles/15-20 minutes of our jobs -- he's so close that he was able to buy a plug-in hybrid and almost never use any gas, and now that I'm working at home the only time I drive is to get to my acupuncturist. 

I'd like to bullshit myself and justify it by saying that we could get a much bigger house for the same money if we went out another 15 minutes or so -- or a really huge house for a lot more money if we'd "upgraded" like many people we work with.  But the reality is that we could also have bought a smaller house for less money if we'd wanted to, and we need to own that decision.  I mean, failing to keep up with the Joneses, when the Joneses are buying 6500' mansions in the boonies, isn't exactly something to pat yourself on the back over, you know?  So, yeah, my house is a total splurge.  It also fits us completely, and I don't regret the extra money it has cost us.   

lutorm

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Re: How to Be Minimalist/Mustachian in a "McMansion"
« Reply #7 on: October 21, 2020, 11:40:12 AM »
But it sounds like an excessive waste for you, as you aren't even utilizing the space in your home.

Think of all the waste associated with having all of the unused square footage...
- Higher taxes
- Higher insurance
- Higher heating/cooling bills
- Higher maintenance costs

It is not unlike going out and buying a secondary vehicle, that just sits in the driveway rusting away, while you continually pay for registration/insurance/tags/ect.
This seems like a good way of thinking about it. It's actually even worse, because a big house needs a lot of cleaning so either you pay that cost in your time (unless cleaning houses is one of your favorite activities) or you hire people to do it in which case it'll definitely hit your monthly bills, too.

I'm slowly getting more and more minimalist when it comes to possessions, not so much because of costs but because it weighs on your mind. "The things you own end up owning you" is pretty true. All that house is going to either take effort to maintain or you'll carry the mental burden of knowing you're not taking care of it.

Malcat

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Re: How to Be Minimalist/Mustachian in a "McMansion"
« Reply #8 on: October 21, 2020, 12:09:16 PM »
What are you looking for with this question?

You're buying the house, you've decided that this is a worthwhile purchase for you and your family. Who cares what other people on a forum think about it???

When I went back to work, I hired someone to do all of our cooking and cleaning. I have personal reasons why I feel that's a completely reasonable financial decision. I truly couldn't give a flying fuck what anyone here thinks about it, either positively or negatively.

If you are certain about the suitability of your decision for your life, then why ask the question here?

This is not a criticism, I am genuinely asking, because I cannot wrap my mind around what you are aiming to get from this thread?

Reassurance that you're still a mustachian even if you buy a huge house that many here would consider excessive and wasteful?
Why?

I would really like to understand.

mozar

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Re: How to Be Minimalist/Mustachian in a "McMansion"
« Reply #9 on: October 21, 2020, 12:49:04 PM »
Quote
and an indestructible countertop

What is this material?

seattlecyclone

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Re: How to Be Minimalist/Mustachian in a "McMansion"
« Reply #10 on: October 21, 2020, 01:34:55 PM »
The foyer used to have several chairs and a stand with flowers; now it has nothing.

The large living room used to have two recliners, a sofa, and an entire other fancy seating area; now it is just a couch and two chairs.

The dining room had an enormous hutch and chairs in the corners; now it is just a dining table.

The bedroom also had a seating area; now it has none.

The office had multiple desks and filing cabinets; now there is my mom's beautiful oak desk, which she gave to us a house-warming gift, and nothing else.

In terms of stuff, the closets are not even close to full. Several cabinets are completely empty. There is room to grow.

Right, this raises several questions. Why have a foyer if you're not going to put anything in it? Why have a large living room if your furniture layout would work just fine in a smaller room? Why have a separate office if there's just a desk in it? Couldn't that desk just as easily be located in a bedroom that is used for sleeping at night and work during the day (perhaps using the "seating area" in your bedroom that is now empty space)? Why have huge amounts of storage space with nothing to put in it?

To me, a big part of Mustachianism is about making a conscious choice to be happy having less stuff than your neighbors, putting your resources toward those few things that will really get used and make you happy, while not spending financial or natural resources on things you would be happy without. What about all this empty house space makes you happier than if you had a house that was a better fit for your possessions, and is it worth it? Only you can answer those questions.

ReadySetMillionaire

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Re: How to Be Minimalist/Mustachian in a "McMansion"
« Reply #11 on: October 21, 2020, 03:09:12 PM »
What are you looking for with this question?

You're buying the house, you've decided that this is a worthwhile purchase for you and your family. Who cares what other people on a forum think about it???

When I went back to work, I hired someone to do all of our cooking and cleaning. I have personal reasons why I feel that's a completely reasonable financial decision. I truly couldn't give a flying fuck what anyone here thinks about it, either positively or negatively.

If you are certain about the suitability of your decision for your life, then why ask the question here?

This is not a criticism, I am genuinely asking, because I cannot wrap my mind around what you are aiming to get from this thread?

Reassurance that you're still a mustachian even if you buy a huge house that many here would consider excessive and wasteful?
Why?

I would really like to understand.

There seem to be quite a few posters on here who live in homes similar to mine yet don't discuss it openly.

I was mostly looking for their insight as to how they lead a conscientious financial life (1) even with the ability for lots of excuses to spend right at their fingertips (it's tempting to put *something* in certain spaces), but also, (2) design ideas.

ReadySetMillionaire

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Re: How to Be Minimalist/Mustachian in a "McMansion"
« Reply #12 on: October 21, 2020, 03:13:33 PM »
Right, this raises several questions. Why have a foyer if you're not going to put anything in it? Why have a large living room if your furniture layout would work just fine in a smaller room? Why have a separate office if there's just a desk in it? Couldn't that desk just as easily be located in a bedroom that is used for sleeping at night and work during the day (perhaps using the "seating area" in your bedroom that is now empty space)? Why have huge amounts of storage space with nothing to put in it?

To me, a big part of Mustachianism is about making a conscious choice to be happy having less stuff than your neighbors, putting your resources toward those few things that will really get used and make you happy, while not spending financial or natural resources on things you would be happy without. What about all this empty house space makes you happier than if you had a house that was a better fit for your possessions, and is it worth it? Only you can answer those questions.

@Malcat -- This is also what I am getting at -- perhaps we are not using our space efficiently. Perhaps we are following the general trend of "this is what you do with this type of room" monolith and not thinking creatively.

Perhaps the office could be something else. Perhaps the huge living room could be something else too.

We have a ton of space and room to grow, and I like that opportunity.  Home is where I spend a majority of my time, and when I CoastFIRE, I fully intend to work from home.  People are different, and I personally require different spaces for different things. I'm the type of person who always went to the library to study when I was in college/law school.

So I'm just opening the floor for ideas, and also seeing how people with similar size homes use their space, while also idealing for minimalism.

Malcat

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Re: How to Be Minimalist/Mustachian in a "McMansion"
« Reply #13 on: October 21, 2020, 03:23:15 PM »
Cool.

But yeah, I did not at all get that aim from your original post, so I'm glad you cleared it up.

As for how to use a giant amount of space? Well, go nuts. I'm someone who converted a spare bedroom into a gym, another spare bedroom into an office/closet/sewing room, then I converted my dining room into a physio/rehab space because DH monopolized the basement gym and I found it too cold for stretching.

Make a meditation room, a model train room, a smash room, a dexter-style kill room if you're a secret serial killer, a room for hats, a dedicated Dungeons and Dragons game room, install a stripper pole, get a bunch of ferrets and full a room with tunnels and hammocks for them, or just leave a room empty for screaming into the void.

It's your space, you can do literally anything you want with it.

Definitely do not fall prey to filling your huge house with shit you don't actually care about. 

Laura33

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Re: How to Be Minimalist/Mustachian in a "McMansion"
« Reply #14 on: October 21, 2020, 07:34:17 PM »
Quote
and an indestructible countertop

What is this material?

Silestone, leathered finish.  Looks like limestone, but after 14 years looks like it was just installed yesterday.

Abe

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Re: How to Be Minimalist/Mustachian in a "McMansion"
« Reply #15 on: October 21, 2020, 08:51:57 PM »
Hi, we bought a big house. The neighborhood we wanted to live in only had big ones for sale, and I have lived in 1000sqft houses long enough to know I need space. To each their own.

Things we did to defray the cost:
- Not every room needs a bunch of stuff in it. Donít buy more furniture or random junk just because it will fit. Too many chairs encourages sitting, which is bad for you. In our house, one room is empty, which is fine.
- insulate! Iím certain you donít have enough unless the builder was targeting some energy efficiency certification. Our 4000 sqft house in Houston uses as much energy as an average 2000 sqft house in the area. This is mostly because the AC only turns on for a few minutes every few hours during the day.
- our living room is big, so we kept our furniture close together and left a big empty space for the kid to play with his toys and run around in. This is true in most of the rooms, and we like the open space without clutter.

ReadySetMillionaire

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Re: How to Be Minimalist/Mustachian in a "McMansion"
« Reply #16 on: October 22, 2020, 06:04:13 AM »
Hi, we bought a big house. The neighborhood we wanted to live in only had big ones for sale, and I have lived in 1000sqft houses long enough to know I need space. To each their own.

Things we did to defray the cost:
- Not every room needs a bunch of stuff in it. Donít buy more furniture or random junk just because it will fit. Too many chairs encourages sitting, which is bad for you. In our house, one room is empty, which is fine.
- insulate! Iím certain you donít have enough unless the builder was targeting some energy efficiency certification. Our 4000 sqft house in Houston uses as much energy as an average 2000 sqft house in the area. This is mostly because the AC only turns on for a few minutes every few hours during the day.
- our living room is big, so we kept our furniture close together and left a big empty space for the kid to play with his toys and run around in. This is true in most of the rooms, and we like the open space without clutter.

How much did it cost to insulate?

researcher1

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Re: How to Be Minimalist/Mustachian in a "McMansion"
« Reply #17 on: October 22, 2020, 06:09:30 AM »
perhaps we are not using our space efficiently. ...and not thinking creatively.
Perhaps the office could be something else. Perhaps the huge living room could be something else too.

So I'm just opening the floor for ideas, and also seeing how people with similar size homes use their space, while also idealing for minimalism.
You are not using your space efficiently, because you have too much of it!
Just accept that you bought too much house and will always have lots of wasted space.

There is no way to "think creatively" about filling all of these unused spaces "while also idealing for minimalism."
People only need so much space to live, and you have at least twice what you need, assuming a family of two.

Quote
We have a ton of space and room to grow, and I like that opportunity. 
What do you mean by this? 
Do you intend to have or adopt multiple kids?


« Last Edit: October 22, 2020, 06:11:18 AM by researcher1 »

Freedomin5

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Re: How to Be Minimalist/Mustachian in a "McMansion"
« Reply #18 on: October 22, 2020, 07:14:23 AM »
I grew up in a house that was almost 4000 square feet ó 6 bedrooms, 4 baths. It seemed comfortable to me but not overly big. In hindsight, I now know itís not normal to be able to comfortably fit 20+ people in your living room, but I was 13 at the time and didnít think much of it.

My parents used the space by renting out the basement (2 bedrooms, full 4-piece bath, huge rec room, and wet bar). They turned the living room and dining room into a home office. We used the eat-in kitchen and family room as our dining room and living room. We also had a cedar closet to store my momís fur coats...and the Christmas tree. Once the renters moved out, one basement bedroom became the study ó I used to tutor kids in that room; that was my part-time job. The other was my momís office. No one liked using the basement bathroom because it had spiders. We turned half of the rec room into a TV room and the other half into a library. We didnít much like the library side either because of spiders. For a few years we stored our friendsí furniture in the basement because they had downsized to a smaller house and didnít have room for their furniture.

My parents were FI by 50. We drove 10-year old Japanese cars and shopped at the cheap grocery store. They saw the house as an investment. Once they became empty nesters, they sold the house for double what they had purchased it for and downsized. I think it absolutely is possible to be Mustachian and have all the trappings of wealth.

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Re: How to Be Minimalist/Mustachian in a "McMansion"
« Reply #19 on: October 22, 2020, 07:40:22 AM »
If you buy a big house, you can just close the heating registers and doors to rooms you don't use.  It doesn't completely remove them from the heating envelope of the house, but should reduce your heating/cooling costs a fair bit.

Cranky

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Re: How to Be Minimalist/Mustachian in a "McMansion"
« Reply #20 on: October 22, 2020, 07:54:45 AM »
I am a homebody, which the past 7.5 months has utterly and uncontrovertibly confirmed. The thing that I most enjoy is a comfortable home filled with the people I love, plenty of cats, and comfortably stuff that pleases my eye. So I am absolutely on board with spending money on that stuff. I don't care about traveling or jewelry or cars or plenty of other stuff that other people may prioritize.

Minimalism has a couple of meanings. It can mean "buying less stuff for ethical reasons" or it can be an aesthetic style. Aesthetic minimalism can be quite expensive. As we looked at houses this year I realized once and for all that aesthetic minimalism is not attractive to me. I'd rather put a chair in the foyer so that I can take off my shoes, and a shoe cabinet, and a little table for keys and mail, and a nice rack to hang everyone's masks on, and maybe some plants.

But a large empty house can be comfortable in its own way. We had good friends with kids the same age as ours, and when he finished his residency and they moved for his first Real Job, they bought a big new house and didn't have anything but their old battered furniture, so it was pretty empty - and it was great. Their kids were tiny and ran around all the time and there was plenty of room and nothing to wreck. By the time the kids were older and not jumping on the coffee table, they could afford Nice Things.

I don't think big houses are inherently more comfortable than small houses, but if you have a large family and lots of activities, it's good to have room to spread out.

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Re: How to Be Minimalist/Mustachian in a "McMansion"
« Reply #21 on: October 22, 2020, 07:56:43 AM »
My wife and I are empty-nesters living in a 2200 sq ft, 4 bedroom house. We keep one bedroom for guests, one for and office and one is dedicated to my wife's hobby and of course, we sleep in one.  Our garage has an extra room on the back that I use as a shop where I make and repurpose furniture. My wife also teaches a class one day a week on line so she has her computer and green-screen set up in the office. We don't worry too much about how much it costs for heating and cooling and maintenance on such a large house.  We have solar panels on the roof for electricity and we live in very mild climate so heating is not a big expense. I do almost all of the home maintenance myself so it costs very little.

Abe

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Re: How to Be Minimalist/Mustachian in a "McMansion"
« Reply #22 on: October 24, 2020, 09:46:32 PM »
Hi, we bought a big house. The neighborhood we wanted to live in only had big ones for sale, and I have lived in 1000sqft houses long enough to know I need space. To each their own.

Things we did to defray the cost:
- Not every room needs a bunch of stuff in it. Donít buy more furniture or random junk just because it will fit. Too many chairs encourages sitting, which is bad for you. In our house, one room is empty, which is fine.
- insulate! Iím certain you donít have enough unless the builder was targeting some energy efficiency certification. Our 4000 sqft house in Houston uses as much energy as an average 2000 sqft house in the area. This is mostly because the AC only turns on for a few minutes every few hours during the day.
- our living room is big, so we kept our furniture close together and left a big empty space for the kid to play with his toys and run around in. This is true in most of the rooms, and we like the open space without clutter.

How much did it cost to insulate?

Unclear as ours had been well-insulated at construction. Check out nereo's journal on home improvement for energy efficiency for a wealth of information. However, if you have an attic and the insulation depth is <12 inches, I would consider adding more (few hundred to few thousand) as that's the most important (and luckily, cost effective) area to improve. Also seal up any gaps around windows and doors with Great Stuff ($5 a can) or similar foam. 

Regarding design - I think well-made built-in cabinets can be both aesthetically interesting, keep everything clean-looking and convenient. Those were a major selling point for our house (in addition to all the space).

TrMama

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Re: How to Be Minimalist/Mustachian in a "McMansion"
« Reply #23 on: October 24, 2020, 11:51:38 PM »

There seem to be quite a few posters on here who live in homes similar to mine yet don't discuss it openly.

I was mostly looking for their insight as to how they lead a conscientious financial life (1) even with the ability for lots of excuses to spend right at their fingertips (it's tempting to put *something* in certain spaces), but also, (2) design ideas.

We have a 3000 sq ft house. About 1000sq ft of that is a 2 bedroom suite that used to be inhabited by MIL. She'll be moving to a nursing home and since I'm now working from home and DH will retire next week we've decided we don't want to rent out the suite for now. Instead it'll get a minor reno and we'll sprawl luxuriously. One of the basement bedrooms will become my home office, the other will be DH's gaming den and the suite living room will become a family rec room. The suite kitchen and bathroom will be completely superfluous. The bathroom will likely acquire many spiders from disuse like a poster's childhood home upthread.

At this point in our lives I'm fine with this "inefficiency" I've learned over the past 7 months of extra family togetherness that having extra space can really help with family harmony, especially marital harmony.

As for design, look into scandi style decorating. It's both minimalist and functional and having lots of empty space is part of the esthetic. I'm planning on doing our basement in a scandi style.

MilesTeg

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Re: How to Be Minimalist/Mustachian in a "McMansion"
« Reply #24 on: October 25, 2020, 12:15:10 AM »
I know MMM is not a deity, but this always resonated with me:

Quote
Itís not the cheapest place to live, but to me itís the best value of living pleasure to the dollar I could create. A house to me is the home base of your spirit, and when youíre living a frugal and natural life, you spend a lot of time at home.  As a result, when I compare the sunk cost of my housing to that of other people, I come out behind.

But by having a comfortable house, you can be happy and entertained at home without having to go out. You can have friends over and maybe even feel less of a need for vacations Ė enjoying Staycations instead. All of us in my family feel more confident and productive in a good house, so on an income basis, it might even be paying for itself.

https://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2011/05/11/the-elephant-in-the-room-housing/

My wife and I generally agree with this view and bought what many on this forum would call a McMansion back in February for $285,000.  It is 3,100 square feet, extremely nice kitchen, just an overall beautiful house inside and out. I'm not here to debate the purchase because that will get us off subject.

What I do want to discuss -- can you still be a mustachian and a minimalist if you live in a big space?

***

We are "Mustachian" with basically everything else. We drive used Toyotas; we grocery shop at Aldi; we negotiate our insurance rates every year; we only have a TV subscription during fall (football!), we have a decent nest egg ($200k+) at 33; we are trying to be debt free and mostly CoastFIRE by age 40.

In terms of minimalism, despite such a big house, I still think we are minimalists.  The pictures of how our house *was* decorated are still available on Zillow, and the way we have it set up is night and day.

The foyer used to have several chairs and a stand with flowers; now it has nothing.

The large living room used to have two recliners, a sofa, and an entire other fancy seating area; now it is just a couch and two chairs.

The dining room had an enormous hutch and chairs in the corners; now it is just a dining table.

The bedroom also had a seating area; now it has none.

The office had multiple desks and filing cabinets; now there is my mom's beautiful oak desk, which she gave to us a house-warming gift, and nothing else.

In terms of stuff, the closets are not even close to full. Several cabinets are completely empty. There is room to grow.

I could go on.

***

Do any others live in similar homes and pursue minimalism? Anybody with any philosophical opinions?

Edit to Add Clarity -- how would you use this excess space creatively?  It is obviously inefficient to have completely empty spaces (although we actually love the empty foyer).  Any ideas for creative rooms that do not include hoarding a bunch of stuff?

Where we live, our 2200 sqft home is way too big for just us, but is cheaper than renting a 1000sqft shitty apartment with outdoor parking and none of the conveniences of your own home. That includes all costs, even HVAC because our home was built extremely green. The only cheap places to rent are out in the boonies or in sketchy at best parts of town.

But even if such a situation doesn't present itself to you, you don't have to seek approval for spending your money how you want to.

Queen Frugal

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Re: How to Be Minimalist/Mustachian in a "McMansion"
« Reply #25 on: October 25, 2020, 07:39:09 AM »
10 years ago, I lived in a 5000 sq ft McMansion. I was married and there were 5 kids so some of the space was used but a lot of it wasn't. When the marriage ended I became very minimalistic. I sold all my stuff and eventually ended up in a 500 sq ft studio to save money and lead a better life. Last summer I bought a 720 sq ft house. It's plenty big for my daughter and I. People still comment there isn't much in it but most of the stuff that is in it is very nice.

To me, minimalism is about getting rid of the things that weigh you down so you can have more of the things that lift you up. I found a big house did not lift me up. But, whose to say that it won't lift you up? I don't think anyone on this thread can answer that for you.

I think Mustachianism is about saving enough to reach your FIRE goal - as you define it! It sounds like you are in good shape on that front.

Is a big house with wasted space Mustachian? By itself, maybe not. I have a gas guzzling SUV so I can pull a camper. That's not Mustachian either. However, it lifts me up in a way that a big house never could.




norajean

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Re: How to Be Minimalist/Mustachian in a "McMansion"
« Reply #26 on: October 25, 2020, 09:25:49 AM »
Home is important. Buy the house you want and live in it. Just be sure to do your maths first to understand the capex and opex. Only you can say if it fits your needs or is wasteful.

We like generous spaces with high ceilings etc and are minimalist as well. We also like land and buffers between neighbors. That is our preference. We donít shop excessively and keep the thermostat setting reasonable.

SimpleCycle

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Re: How to Be Minimalist/Mustachian in a "McMansion"
« Reply #27 on: October 26, 2020, 01:09:50 PM »
We own a historic house in a city - so a different situation, but I think I get what you are getting at.  When you spend more on housing, you tend to be surrounded by people who are either better off financially or leveraged to the hilt.  You live in a "nice" place and there is pressure to decorate and keep your house looking straight out of House Beautiful.  At least for us, we also have some self-consciousness about our house being a more overt display of wealth than we are comfortable with.  This leads to mixed feelings and being unsure how to pull off "normal person living in a nice house" as a style of decorating, and more importantly as a style of living.

I think in terms of "can buying an expensive and/or large house be a Mustachian choice" the answer is somewhere between "maybe" and "probably not".  Expensive and large houses cost more in taxes, more to heat and cool, more to maintain, more to decorate, more time to clean, and expose you to tons of opportunities for lifestyle creep that you might not be exposed to in other contexts.  But it can also be a choice in line with your values and a way of spending money that gives you great pleasure.  That is in line with the general philosophy of Mustachianism, even if it would not be the choice of MMM himself.

I think in terms of "buying a nice house is important to me and how can I both have this preference and keep on track with FI plans and avoiding hedonic adaptation", you have a lot of options.  Here are a few:
-Clarify your goals and values: WHY is having the house important to you.  For us it was important to us to raise our children in a diverse urban environment, to have sufficient outdoor space for them to play, and to live in a place with a strong sense of community.  We lived for five years on a main drag in a condo with no outdoor space, so we were very clear on what we wanted.  The other big why is WHY mustachianism/FIRE is important to you.  What goals are you trying to achieve by being frugal and saving a lot of money?  Do you want to retire early?  Support one parent staying at home with children?  Just have the security of being FI?  Where to your mustachian goals fit relative to your housing preferences?  Getting super clear on your goals and values lets everything else follow from that.
-Make decisions about how you'll live, and consider them "settled" with confidence - we're a one compact car family.  That's a settled decision, and it would take something major to happen to revisit that decision.  So when people are like "oh how can you LIVE without an SUV" we just say "this works for us" and leave it at that.  We make a few "outside the norm" choices for our neighborhood that are visible - we send out kids to our zoned public school, we don't have a lawn service, our landscaping is primarily wildflowers, and a few others that come up as the subject of conversation.  Having the confidence to say "yep, we love our public school" or "yard work is so relaxing" rather than feeling like we have to defend our choice goes a long way.
-Figure out your style, beyond "minimalism" - this actually helped us quite a bit - we call our style "boho zen minimalism" and it helps us understand how to decorate/edit/select objects to bring into our life.  "We don't decorate" isn't really a style, and having things be visually pleasing is one of the great joys of any living space.  Having a "sense of style" helps you make decisions about how to arrange and display things in a way that makes your house feel like a home.  Get some books out of the library - I like "Styled" by Emily Henderson and "How to Make a House a Home" by Ariel Kaye for general design advice and then there should be books about your specific style (even minimalism!).  Furnishing and decorating a larger home takes time and some money, but it doesn't need to be a huge money sink.  Facebook Marketplace and Buy Nothing are your friend.
-Make sure you track all the costs associated with your house to make sure the money you are spending truly aligns with your values.  Owning a house is much more expensive than the sticker price - from regular scheduled maintenance and big repairs to shelling out $100 for Halloween candy because you live on the popular trick or treating street, keep track of it all.  Is it worth it?

honeybbq

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Re: How to Be Minimalist/Mustachian in a "McMansion"
« Reply #28 on: October 27, 2020, 11:22:20 AM »
I'll tell you- I used to think our house was too big. Now with Covid and home schooling.... I am appreciating having space and a yard where I can get away... quiet places to work, etc.

Radagast

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Re: How to Be Minimalist/Mustachian in a "McMansion"
« Reply #29 on: October 27, 2020, 10:57:38 PM »
As a person who recently bought a 2900+SF home for currently two people, I have a few thoughts.

First think what can you do to turn that space into an asset? Ours has a built in quasi-separate inlaw suite we will rent out as soon as I finish drywalling the new W/D hookups. Even if inlaws do eventually live there, we will always have the option to kick them out and rent it, or to live there ourselves and rent the house if need be. Have plans in advance just in case.

Be sure to make space for all the mustachian things like a garden and organized workshop, tools bought used as needed. In fact sometimes it seems to me like being mustachian requires extra space just for all the frugal activities.

Do not feel under any obligation at all to fill any empty space. Ours is still mostly empty.

Become a climate refugee in your own home. Such a large house will naturally have big temperature differences in different rooms at different times of day and different seasons. Don't even try to keep it evenly heated, or just close off parts permanently. You should allow a 30F temperature difference between the coldest part in the winter and warmest part in summer. Every house has its own unique solar, wind, and general thermal characteristics. Open and close doors and windows, strategically place things that give off heat such as routers, and generally move around to keep in the sweet temperature range with minimal energy waste. Spend your time where the climate is ideal.

researcher1

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Re: How to Be Minimalist/Mustachian in a "McMansion"
« Reply #30 on: October 28, 2020, 06:15:48 AM »
As a person who recently bought a 2900+SF home for currently two people

Do not feel under any obligation at all to fill any empty space. Ours is still mostly empty.

Become a climate refugee in your own home. Such a large house will naturally have big temperature differences in different rooms at different times of day and different seasons. Don't even try to keep it evenly heated, or just close off parts permanently. Spend your time where the climate is ideal.
I don't understand the purpose of buying such a big house, only to have it sit "mostly empty" and to feel like a "refugee in your own home."

Why not buy a smaller house that you actually use and don't feel the need to "just close off parts permanently"?

vand

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Re: How to Be Minimalist/Mustachian in a "McMansion"
« Reply #31 on: October 28, 2020, 07:04:11 AM »
Interesting question posed in the OP.  I definitely think it's possible to be minimalist whilst still splashing out more on your house.

We are about to move into a bigger home ourselves and it's definitely right at the top end of what is probably sensible. But we have our spending well under control in every other area, and we don't spend much on other things that I would consider luxuries like holidays and eating out that many other people, even Mustachians do. 

So, sure, it's going to add a few years onto our journey to FI, but we're still happy with our savings rate and have considered the need to balance our current wants with future needs.   


Villanelle

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Re: How to Be Minimalist/Mustachian in a "McMansion"
« Reply #32 on: October 28, 2020, 11:25:34 AM »
To me, having a house because there is "room to grow", as a neblous concept without specific goals (as opposed to "... because we are in the process of adopting 4 siblings,") is like owning a truck so that you have room to haul things.  While not having a lifestyle where you actually haul things, nor having specific plans to shift to a lifestyle where you haul things. 

It's almost a hoarding mentality.  You want the space just because it's reassuring to have it in case you ever need it.  Even though all signs seem to point to you never needing it.

That said, it's something we all do to some degree, I think.  People keep clothes in smaller sizes.  They own and store a suit even though they haven't needed to wear it in the last decade.  The major difference is that the cost of owning that suit is far, far less than the cost of owning (and heating/cooling/cleaning) 3 extra rooms and 700 extra square feet. 

if you living room only has a couch, then surely a smaller living room with just a couch would work equally well, no?  It might be less aesthetically pleasing, I suppose.

But *to me*--and I know this is the subject of much debate--mustachianism is primarily about being thoughtful with one's spending.  if you are doing that, then to me, you can still be a mustachian if you allow yourself a few splurges but are generally still frugal and throughtful 

ChpBstrd

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Re: How to Be Minimalist/Mustachian in a "McMansion"
« Reply #33 on: October 28, 2020, 11:33:48 AM »
I tried something like this with a 2600 sf house. I insulated the hell out of it, bought a $20k ultra-efficiency HVAC, locked in a low (3.65% at the time) 30y mortgage, and furnished it largely from yard sales, hand-me-downs, and discount stores just to keep the echos down, lol. I didn't necessarily want/need all that space and wished the house was smaller/cheaper, but I figured I could keep costs reasonable by investing in energy efficiency and not doing the typical $10k run through a new furnishing and decor store.

I was only partly right. Property taxes went up. We still ended up buying things like extra couches for the extra living rooms and several gallons of expensive paint. Expensive insurance was unavoidable. And the costs to heat/cool a cavernous space that size could only be reduced to a certain extent without getting into radically expensive things like a geothermal heat pump, solar panels, foil backed metal roofing, or an encapsulated conditioned crawlspace. And many of these energy features would raise our property taxes and insurance! My attempts to set the thermostat at 78 in the summer and 67 in the winter only led to mold breakouts and discomfort.

There were rooms I didn't walk into during a typical week. We had to watch the 3 toilets and flush them periodically so they wouldn't grow algae, and occasionally run water down all the drains so P-traps didn't dry up. My spouse started talking about hiring a housekeeper because dust kept accumulating everywhere and there were all these bathrooms to clean, etc. This was all waste staring me in the face.

I did the math, and realized that we could move to a house half this size, pay the costs of moving, and still reduce our overall cost of living and time to FIRE by a year or two. Because we were serious about FIRE, we made the move, despite loving most aspects of our old house. After much searching, we found a 3/2 1300sf house we love similarly, but with a completely different financial footprint. Taxes, insurance, and utilities were cut in half. Also, we switched to a 15 year mortgage instead of 30, and owe less on the house now than we owed on the big house when we sold it.

TL;DR - there is not much a minimalist can do about many of the factors that make a big house so expensive.

*As it turns out, our earnings and savings rate decreased in 2020 so the decision cut off more than 2 years from our time to fire. The decision made us more financially resilient and less leveraged on real estate appreciation / depreciation.


trollwithamustache

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Re: How to Be Minimalist/Mustachian in a "McMansion"
« Reply #34 on: October 28, 2020, 01:50:07 PM »
Does location affect this?

There are parts of the country were winter weather prevents lots of outdoor actives/keeps you somewhat home bound for a big chunk of the year. My wife recently stated if we moved to Arizona, a pool was a hard requirement.   

But we live in California where you can pretty much go outside to do whatever you want all year round.


TheFrenchCat

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Re: How to Be Minimalist/Mustachian in a "McMansion"
« Reply #35 on: October 28, 2020, 02:40:40 PM »
I tried something like this with a 2600 sf house. I insulated the hell out of it, bought a $20k ultra-efficiency HVAC, locked in a low (3.65% at the time) 30y mortgage, and furnished it largely from yard sales, hand-me-downs, and discount stores just to keep the echos down, lol. I didn't necessarily want/need all that space and wished the house was smaller/cheaper, but I figured I could keep costs reasonable by investing in energy efficiency and not doing the typical $10k run through a new furnishing and decor store.

I was only partly right. Property taxes went up. We still ended up buying things like extra couches for the extra living rooms and several gallons of expensive paint. Expensive insurance was unavoidable. And the costs to heat/cool a cavernous space that size could only be reduced to a certain extent without getting into radically expensive things like a geothermal heat pump, solar panels, foil backed metal roofing, or an encapsulated conditioned crawlspace. And many of these energy features would raise our property taxes and insurance! My attempts to set the thermostat at 78 in the summer and 67 in the winter only led to mold breakouts and discomfort.

There were rooms I didn't walk into during a typical week. We had to watch the 3 toilets and flush them periodically so they wouldn't grow algae, and occasionally run water down all the drains so P-traps didn't dry up. My spouse started talking about hiring a housekeeper because dust kept accumulating everywhere and there were all these bathrooms to clean, etc. This was all waste staring me in the face.

I did the math, and realized that we could move to a house half this size, pay the costs of moving, and still reduce our overall cost of living and time to FIRE by a year or two. Because we were serious about FIRE, we made the move, despite loving most aspects of our old house. After much searching, we found a 3/2 1300sf house we love similarly, but with a completely different financial footprint. Taxes, insurance, and utilities were cut in half. Also, we switched to a 15 year mortgage instead of 30, and owe less on the house now than we owed on the big house when we sold it.

TL;DR - there is not much a minimalist can do about many of the factors that make a big house so expensive.

*As it turns out, our earnings and savings rate decreased in 2020 so the decision cut off more than 2 years from our time to fire. The decision made us more financially resilient and less leveraged on real estate appreciation / depreciation.
This was really helpful to hear about your experience with a larger house, thanks.  We're in the process of deciding what we want to build, and we're thinking between 1,000-2,000 sq ft for three people.  I found a plan I like at just under 2,000 sq ft, but I hate keeping up on top of cleaning.  So maybe we'll stick closer to the 1,000 sq ft side of our range.  Though I'll definitely do more cleaning in order to have a bathtub and at least a second half-bath.  Right now we only have one bathroom with just a shower and it's getting old. 

Malcat

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Re: How to Be Minimalist/Mustachian in a "McMansion"
« Reply #36 on: October 28, 2020, 02:43:02 PM »
Does location affect this?

There are parts of the country were winter weather prevents lots of outdoor actives/keeps you somewhat home bound for a big chunk of the year. My wife recently stated if we moved to Arizona, a pool was a hard requirement.   

But we live in California where you can pretty much go outside to do whatever you want all year round.

I live in Canada and my home is a 1 bedroom apartment, and life wasn't much different from just over a year ago when I lived in a 3 bedroom townhouse.

I'm willing to state though that I don't have kids, so I do understand the value of being able to order them to go play on another floor when you can't order them to play outside.
At least, this seems like a thing that might be important to parents, I have no idea.

Imma

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Re: How to Be Minimalist/Mustachian in a "McMansion"
« Reply #37 on: October 28, 2020, 03:11:58 PM »
Does location affect this?

There are parts of the country were winter weather prevents lots of outdoor actives/keeps you somewhat home bound for a big chunk of the year. My wife recently stated if we moved to Arizona, a pool was a hard requirement.   

But we live in California where you can pretty much go outside to do whatever you want all year round.

I live in Canada and my home is a 1 bedroom apartment, and life wasn't much different from just over a year ago when I lived in a 3 bedroom townhouse.

I'm willing to state though that I don't have kids, so I do understand the value of being able to order them to go play on another floor when you can't order them to play outside.
At least, this seems like a thing that might be important to parents, I have no idea.

We moved from a small apartment on one floor to a two-floor (still small) townhouse a couple of years ago and I've never been happier with that choice than during the pandemic. We're both at home most of the time now and I'm so glad we're not within eyesight and earshot of eachother all the time. We also don't want to wear headphones all the time. We both have our own spaces where we can listen to music, make a phone call etc without disturbing the other.

We don't have kids, but my friend working from home while homeschooling 3 kids in a small apartment is going completely crazy. Even if the kids are on a break in their (shared) bedroom while she's in a work meeting the kids have to play really quietly to make sure they don't disturb the meeting.

Radagast

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Re: How to Be Minimalist/Mustachian in a "McMansion"
« Reply #38 on: October 28, 2020, 09:32:21 PM »
As a person who recently bought a 2900+SF home for currently two people

Do not feel under any obligation at all to fill any empty space. Ours is still mostly empty.

Become a climate refugee in your own home. Such a large house will naturally have big temperature differences in different rooms at different times of day and different seasons. Don't even try to keep it evenly heated, or just close off parts permanently. Spend your time where the climate is ideal.
I don't understand the purpose of buying such a big house, only to have it sit "mostly empty" and to feel like a "refugee in your own home."

Why not buy a smaller house that you actually use and don't feel the need to "just close off parts permanently"?
I said act like not feel like ;). Actually I would recommend doing that for any home with two or more rooms, if one is naturally warmer why not take advantage?

Speaking for myself, short answer: the huge new house is cheaper!

Long answer: In our house market competition at the bottom-to-average prices is intense. People are desperate to leave their crappy apartments but don't have the finances to afford much of the short supply. As mustachians we have the savings to comfortably rise just above that level. Accounting for all reasonably imaginable expenses and PITIH, our house is about $2,500/mo. A house half the size of similar quality would be about $2,000/mo, cheapest available would be $1,500/mo. We can rent the inlaw suite for $1,000. Net $500 cheaper than the average home, and similar to the low end. Even if we couldn't rent out the suite, I am a value shopper more than a price shopper. If there was no suite we would have gone a little smaller, but getting 100% more house for 25% more all-in cost isn't bad, and we plan to have 1-3 kids in the next few years.

TrMama

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Re: How to Be Minimalist/Mustachian in a "McMansion"
« Reply #39 on: October 29, 2020, 11:21:09 AM »
As a person who recently bought a 2900+SF home for currently two people

Do not feel under any obligation at all to fill any empty space. Ours is still mostly empty.

Become a climate refugee in your own home. Such a large house will naturally have big temperature differences in different rooms at different times of day and different seasons. Don't even try to keep it evenly heated, or just close off parts permanently. Spend your time where the climate is ideal.
I don't understand the purpose of buying such a big house, only to have it sit "mostly empty" and to feel like a "refugee in your own home."

Why not buy a smaller house that you actually use and don't feel the need to "just close off parts permanently"?
I said act like not feel like ;). Actually I would recommend doing that for any home with two or more rooms, if one is naturally warmer why not take advantage?

Speaking for myself, short answer: the huge new house is cheaper!

Long answer: In our house market competition at the bottom-to-average prices is intense. People are desperate to leave their crappy apartments but don't have the finances to afford much of the short supply. As mustachians we have the savings to comfortably rise just above that level. Accounting for all reasonably imaginable expenses and PITIH, our house is about $2,500/mo. A house half the size of similar quality would be about $2,000/mo, cheapest available would be $1,500/mo. We can rent the inlaw suite for $1,000. Net $500 cheaper than the average home, and similar to the low end. Even if we couldn't rent out the suite, I am a value shopper more than a price shopper. If there was no suite we would have gone a little smaller, but getting 100% more house for 25% more all-in cost isn't bad, and we plan to have 1-3 kids in the next few years.

We have a very similar house. Until very recently the suite housed an extra person and we didn't use the space for ourselves at all. That person is moving elsewhere, so for now while we have teens at home and I'm working from home we'll take over the extra space for ourselves. In a few years the teens will move out and I may have to go back to the office. At that point we'll probably rent it out and it'll add to our income stream. When I, or DH, get really old and can't manage the stairs to the main part of the house, we'll move down there and rent out the upstairs. The current McMansion status of the house is temporary, but the cost of moving in this part of the world is pretty significant. So we'll just adapt the house to our needs as necessary.

I also plan to be a "climate refugee" in my own house ;-) In the summer our bedroom gets stupidly hot, but the basement suite stays nice and cool. For a few weeks every summer there's also so much smoke we can't open the windows. The house doesn't have AC and really only needs if for about a month each year. Makes more sense to just sleep downstairs during those weeks.

spartana

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Re: How to Be Minimalist/Mustachian in a "McMansion"
« Reply #40 on: October 29, 2020, 01:31:50 PM »
You don't need a mcmansions to be a minimalist! I have a small house (1000 sf) and 2 of the 3 bedrooms are completely empty as is one bathroom and the garage (if I had a car I would park it in there and still have room for my bikes and few sports/hobby stuff in one corner). Most of my cabinets are empty of stuff as well and I use a small (3 ft x 4 ft) closet for all my clothes. The big back yard is fairly empty too besides a couple of chairs. I look like a "normal" human with regular furniture and stuff but if you start opening doors and closets and cabinets you'll see I'm not. I really hate stuff! I often used the excess space for an occasional roommate. Earned a bit of money and didn't have to pay for a pet sitter if I wanted to travel.

ETA: selling place and if it wasn't for SO I'd downsize. I could see getting a big even huge house if it was the ONLY way I could live in an area I wanted to live in. It would still be mostly empty though. Otherwise I'd rather save time and money not having to take care of a behemoth that I only used a tiny fraction of. Plus the environmental footprint to build, maintain, heat and cool a big house that isn't even needed is a mega no-no in my book.

To me, who bought the house as a single childless person with a bunch of dogs, I didn't need the house space but wanted the big fenced in yard. That was hard to find when looking for a smaller space lime a condo. In some areas it is hard to find a big yard without the big house attached.
« Last Edit: October 29, 2020, 01:47:45 PM by spartana »

ChpBstrd

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Re: How to Be Minimalist/Mustachian in a "McMansion"
« Reply #41 on: October 29, 2020, 04:48:14 PM »
I tried something like this with a 2600 sf house. I insulated the hell out of it, bought a $20k ultra-efficiency HVAC, locked in a low (3.65% at the time) 30y mortgage, and furnished it largely from yard sales, hand-me-downs, and discount stores just to keep the echos down, lol. I didn't necessarily want/need all that space and wished the house was smaller/cheaper, but I figured I could keep costs reasonable by investing in energy efficiency and not doing the typical $10k run through a new furnishing and decor store.

I was only partly right. Property taxes went up. We still ended up buying things like extra couches for the extra living rooms and several gallons of expensive paint. Expensive insurance was unavoidable. And the costs to heat/cool a cavernous space that size could only be reduced to a certain extent without getting into radically expensive things like a geothermal heat pump, solar panels, foil backed metal roofing, or an encapsulated conditioned crawlspace. And many of these energy features would raise our property taxes and insurance! My attempts to set the thermostat at 78 in the summer and 67 in the winter only led to mold breakouts and discomfort.

There were rooms I didn't walk into during a typical week. We had to watch the 3 toilets and flush them periodically so they wouldn't grow algae, and occasionally run water down all the drains so P-traps didn't dry up. My spouse started talking about hiring a housekeeper because dust kept accumulating everywhere and there were all these bathrooms to clean, etc. This was all waste staring me in the face.

I did the math, and realized that we could move to a house half this size, pay the costs of moving, and still reduce our overall cost of living and time to FIRE by a year or two. Because we were serious about FIRE, we made the move, despite loving most aspects of our old house. After much searching, we found a 3/2 1300sf house we love similarly, but with a completely different financial footprint. Taxes, insurance, and utilities were cut in half. Also, we switched to a 15 year mortgage instead of 30, and owe less on the house now than we owed on the big house when we sold it.

TL;DR - there is not much a minimalist can do about many of the factors that make a big house so expensive.

*As it turns out, our earnings and savings rate decreased in 2020 so the decision cut off more than 2 years from our time to fire. The decision made us more financially resilient and less leveraged on real estate appreciation / depreciation.
This was really helpful to hear about your experience with a larger house, thanks.  We're in the process of deciding what we want to build, and we're thinking between 1,000-2,000 sq ft for three people.  I found a plan I like at just under 2,000 sq ft, but I hate keeping up on top of cleaning.  So maybe we'll stick closer to the 1,000 sq ft side of our range.  Though I'll definitely do more cleaning in order to have a bathtub and at least a second half-bath.  Right now we only have one bathroom with just a shower and it's getting old.

Consider having separate ďroomsĒ for the toilet and tub, and then put the sink outside both, motel style. This arrangement allows one person to take a shower while another uses the toilet, while yet another brushes their teeth. Thus one bathroom serves 3 at a time with privacy. For even more functionality, put a 2nd toilet next to the tub. Then 2 people can go potty at the same time, while a third can use the sink, but the added square footage and plumbing are much less than a 2nd bathroom.

The reason developers donít do this is because theyíd have to advertise it as a 1BA, and those sell for less!

ixtap

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Re: How to Be Minimalist/Mustachian in a "McMansion"
« Reply #42 on: October 29, 2020, 05:52:26 PM »
For any home, think about how *you* use space. In my condo, I used the largest room for my office/guest room because all I need in a bedroom is a bed, a side table for my glasses and a closet (I use hanging sweater storage for underwear and socks).

In our current condo, we use the jr. suite ourselves and rent out the master suite for a number of reasons, but a big one is the master suite has a WC, which I hate. There shouldn't be a door between the toilet and the sink. However, if you have enough rooms, such a master suite might make a resort style guest room, to really pamper your visitors, while being closed off most of the time.

A big part of being mustachian is being willing to set your own rules. Use your space by what makes sense to you, not by what the floorplan says. Maybe the "living room" gets the best light and has the best views and would make a great yoga studio, while the "formal dining room" has less natural light, allowing for good viewing of your electronic devices or better mood lighting. Sometimes, the "office" is in a quiet corner, making it the ideal bedroom, once you figure out storage...

uniwelder

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Re: How to Be Minimalist/Mustachian in a "McMansion"
« Reply #43 on: October 29, 2020, 06:09:23 PM »
...the master suite has a WC, which I hate. There shouldn't be a door between the toilet and the sink.

I laughed when reading this.  I never thought I'd hear of someone that detests having their own private bathroom, but apparently its a thing, if only on the MMM forums.

As far as the door between the toilet/shower and sink, I thought it was weird the first time I saw that arrangement, but after experiencing it, wow, it makes so much sense in a communal area of the house.  Additionally, when the exhaust fan is running, you only end up with steam or stench in a small space that is easily closed off and exhausted.

TheFrenchCat

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Re: How to Be Minimalist/Mustachian in a "McMansion"
« Reply #44 on: October 29, 2020, 06:25:06 PM »
I tried something like this with a 2600 sf house. I insulated the hell out of it, bought a $20k ultra-efficiency HVAC, locked in a low (3.65% at the time) 30y mortgage, and furnished it largely from yard sales, hand-me-downs, and discount stores just to keep the echos down, lol. I didn't necessarily want/need all that space and wished the house was smaller/cheaper, but I figured I could keep costs reasonable by investing in energy efficiency and not doing the typical $10k run through a new furnishing and decor store.

I was only partly right. Property taxes went up. We still ended up buying things like extra couches for the extra living rooms and several gallons of expensive paint. Expensive insurance was unavoidable. And the costs to heat/cool a cavernous space that size could only be reduced to a certain extent without getting into radically expensive things like a geothermal heat pump, solar panels, foil backed metal roofing, or an encapsulated conditioned crawlspace. And many of these energy features would raise our property taxes and insurance! My attempts to set the thermostat at 78 in the summer and 67 in the winter only led to mold breakouts and discomfort.

There were rooms I didn't walk into during a typical week. We had to watch the 3 toilets and flush them periodically so they wouldn't grow algae, and occasionally run water down all the drains so P-traps didn't dry up. My spouse started talking about hiring a housekeeper because dust kept accumulating everywhere and there were all these bathrooms to clean, etc. This was all waste staring me in the face.

I did the math, and realized that we could move to a house half this size, pay the costs of moving, and still reduce our overall cost of living and time to FIRE by a year or two. Because we were serious about FIRE, we made the move, despite loving most aspects of our old house. After much searching, we found a 3/2 1300sf house we love similarly, but with a completely different financial footprint. Taxes, insurance, and utilities were cut in half. Also, we switched to a 15 year mortgage instead of 30, and owe less on the house now than we owed on the big house when we sold it.

TL;DR - there is not much a minimalist can do about many of the factors that make a big house so expensive.

*As it turns out, our earnings and savings rate decreased in 2020 so the decision cut off more than 2 years from our time to fire. The decision made us more financially resilient and less leveraged on real estate appreciation / depreciation.
This was really helpful to hear about your experience with a larger house, thanks.  We're in the process of deciding what we want to build, and we're thinking between 1,000-2,000 sq ft for three people.  I found a plan I like at just under 2,000 sq ft, but I hate keeping up on top of cleaning.  So maybe we'll stick closer to the 1,000 sq ft side of our range.  Though I'll definitely do more cleaning in order to have a bathtub and at least a second half-bath.  Right now we only have one bathroom with just a shower and it's getting old.

Consider having separate ďroomsĒ for the toilet and tub, and then put the sink outside both, motel style. This arrangement allows one person to take a shower while another uses the toilet, while yet another brushes their teeth. Thus one bathroom serves 3 at a time with privacy. For even more functionality, put a 2nd toilet next to the tub. Then 2 people can go potty at the same time, while a third can use the sink, but the added square footage and plumbing are much less than a 2nd bathroom.

The reason developers donít do this is because theyíd have to advertise it as a 1BA, and those sell for less!
That sounds pretty great!  If it were up to me with no consideration of resale value, I'd just put in a second toilet in on e bathroom and be done with it. 

ixtap

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Re: How to Be Minimalist/Mustachian in a "McMansion"
« Reply #45 on: October 29, 2020, 06:50:26 PM »
...the master suite has a WC, which I hate. There shouldn't be a door between the toilet and the sink.

I laughed when reading this.  I never thought I'd hear of someone that detests having their own private bathroom, but apparently its a thing, if only on the MMM forums.

As far as the door between the toilet/shower and sink, I thought it was weird the first time I saw that arrangement, but after experiencing it, wow, it makes so much sense in a communal area of the house.  Additionally, when the exhaust fan is running, you only end up with steam or stench in a small space that is easily closed off and exhausted.

One word: menorrhagia. I will spare you the details, but it is directly correlated to my preference for small bathrooms.