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Monday, July 10, 2006

Livin' large is easier when your house is really small


The Bargain Queen was given this superb bunch of flowers, and it got her thinking about the good side of living in a tiny apartment. The flowers look enormous in our compact dining room/study, which gives the whole place a giant lift. We feel like we're living pretty large with our home full of flowers and it's only taken a single magnificent bunch to do it!

In a 'luxury' house, it doesn't work like that. The Bargain Queen's own place is tiny, but she's been lucky enough to stay in a few big, expensive houses. Not quite movie-star mansions, but places with amazing views, expensive interiors, swimming pools, tennis courts, many bathrooms, rarely used formal wings and individual rooms that are bigger than our apartment. The first few times she was invited to lovely houses, she felt honoured and a little awkward. Then she slowly learnt how much is involved in running a huge house and developed a great deal of respect for those who can manage it (even if that's all they do).

Setting up a large house involves weeks of full-time shopping, which sounds like a lot of fun but rapidly turns into hard work. The Bargain Queen's seen a few big houses with empty rooms because the owners have neither the time nor inclination to furnish them, even if they know what to put in them. It makes perfect sense when you consider that having three separate dining rooms demands a mountain of crockery, dozens of glasses, at least three sets of flatware and accessories, three sideboards to store it all plus three tables and 18 or more chairs. Even if you have some of it already, it's still a big job to organise.

Then there's the matter of household maintenance, because the bigger your home is, the more there is to go wrong. At one friend's place, someone different comes every day to tend things: the cleaner, the pool guys, the security alarm people, the gardener and the builders who are always fixing something. Just coordinating the whole tribe is a part-time job, and there are still other unexpectedly large tasks that have to be done. For example, have you ever considered how much work is involved in keeping five bathrooms stocked with clean towels and toilet paper? The Bargain Queen hadn't either, until she walked around a friend's house for over ten minutes, going from bathroom to bathroom looking for loo paper!

On top of all that, renovating a small house is a breeze compared to a bigger house. We're stressing a little about replacing our kitchen and bathroom, polishing three rooms of floorboards and installing built-in closets in one bedroom... but imagine if we had eight bedrooms, four bathrooms and two kitchens to contend with!

When you understand how much work is involved in maintaining a big house, you realise why a 'luxury' house often doesn't feel very luxurious to its owners. No matter how much you love a place, working hard to keep it nice all the time becomes tiring - and if you neglect any of the basics, luxuries can't compensate the difficulties of living in an unkempt house. So in a roundabout way, living in a small place that requires little maintenance is a great luxury... especially if you have Mr Bargain Queen to do it all for you ;)

Best of all, little luxuries can be fully appreciated in a small house. Those flowers that feel so decadent in our house are scaled a little small for a grand foyer - and without $100+ of flowers, that foyer will probably look a bit empty, so they're more an obligation than a luxury. Plus, the more rooms you have, the more flowers you'd have to buy to get that divine lily fragrance in every room, while we get it in most of the house from one bunch of flowers!

So, sure, we'd love to live in an enormous luxury house one day. But in the meantime (or if it just never happens), a few small luxuries make our tiny apartment feel like a great place to be. Fresh flowers, nice sheets, good wine... heaven!

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