My household has become rather cramped of late with family living in a small(ish) home, and so my wife and I started floating ideas around on how to better manage our home. Our own family was growing, and we felt cramped in the house.
The first thought we had was to expand, and to expand radically. I immediately pulled out my lab notebook and started drawing the house (more or less to scale), and adding on a radical extension that would almost double the square footage of our home. I then took the plans to a good friend of ours that was also a general contractor, and got the crushing news: not only would we have trouble getting a permit to build the monstrosity, but we would be looking at a cost that would be equal to what we still owed on our mortgage. Defeated, he told me to think through it again, and get other opinions.
So I started thinking what my requirements were, and what I wanted out of my home. First and foremost I want more garden space, at least for a couple of peach trees and a cherry tree. Currently I don't have that, and I love both peaches and cherries. I would also like to grow a number of other food products in the yard while still having a safe place for my boys to play. I also need more space for my parents to live, as their health is starting to suffer.
For those of you who are not familiar with the layout of my home, I have a 1,000 square foot home, with another 900 square feet in 90% finished basement. I then have a 320 square foot covered back porch, which is attached to a 729 square foot garage (which was most likely built without a permit). The garage collects clutter like mad because it's easier to throw junk into the garage than throw it out, and once it's out of sight, it's out of mind, right?
As it stands now, the garage is not up to city code, and as such the city will not let me make any more improvements to the property. So what does this mean? It means I need to tear down my garage full of clutter before I can even enclose the porch, or any other structure for more living space. This doesn't really bother me, though it will force me to get rid of some clutter, and make those decisions.
My wife and I also started talking about the house itself. Both of us realized that we will never move, and so we want to make the house as livable as possible. With a few alterations, we could be remodel the home as is, and make it more simple. Install radiant heating for the floors, and hardwood or tile instead of carpeting. Both are easier to clean (particularly when trying to potty-train an autistic child), and you can make it really cozy with area rugs. Add solar power to that, and no more need for a gas bill. If it gets too cold, we have a fireplace and a wood stove that heats the house quite efficiently.
Also, if we remove clutter from the rooms, the rooms will seem more open. There are a lot of figurines, odds and ends, and bits of furniture that are just not needed in the home. This will be a wrench for me, because I like to collect junk - you never know when you may need it later. But it's time I started to think about whether or not I will actually need it. Currently I don't, and I don't see a foreseeable future when I would. So, I need to just suck it up and throw out all the useless junk that I don't need.
Anyway, both my wife and I came to the conclusion that we could save a lot of money and time by just making a few changes in how we see the space we need vs. the space we would like. We don't need a massive home, with 20 feet by 20 feet bedrooms, we just need to utilize our current space better.
And for my parents, I could build a simple little guest cottage for them in place of the garage, and a small workshop garage right next to it, and still have more garden space. it all comes down to living simply, and managing the space more efficiently.