Last year, I bought a 3-room HDB flat. My friends and family from the States were all shocked. They all asked the same question, “Why didn’t buy something bigger/better?” As with so many things in modern society, the question of why you should or should not purchase something often boils down to affordability. That’s why shows like Suze Orman’s exist β€” to tell potential buyers whether they can afford something or not. The problem is that this completely misses the larger picture.

My own mum (a former illegal immigrant single mum, who once supported a family of 4) has always bought the largest home she could afford. My brother (also living in the States) currently owns (through a mortgage) a home that is 10x(!!!) the size of my HDB flat. In fact, just his garage alone, which houses his 5 cars, can fit my entire flat and still leave room for his recreational toys.

So to them and to many others, my decision to buy a small home just didn’t make sense. After all, I could have easily afforded a landed property.

But here’s why I absolutely love my small home. I have no mortgage, and yet I still have plenty in the bank. I don’t have to clean much. It doesn’t take hours to find things.

And above everything else, the larger picture is this:

I am truly satisfied with my home. These days, actual and true satisfaction isn’t even on anyone’s mind. My family and friends did not ask, “Do you like the home?” or even “Are you happy living in it?” Instead, they were completely sold into the “bigger is better” way of thinking.

Today, it’s more important to “appear” or “behave” satisfied or happy (in front of others) rather than to achieve true satisfaction or happiness. Furthermore, we often adopt the criteria for satisfaction and happiness from others, failing to examine whether it really makes sense for us, our values, or the environment.

This social programming can be summed up nicely by Douglas Rushkoff in the following quote:

“If they [the masses] believe that true satisfaction was just one more paycheck, and one more purchase, away….[it] keeps us on the edge of a true climax of customer satisfaction…always one step away”

Some people might say that buying bigger (especially for property) means a greater investment return. But is that really the case? I have always owned the smallest homes on the block (in the States) and from my experience, they tend to do the best. In a boom market, their percent gains are usually higher than the larger homes. More importantly, in a bust cycle, they retain more value. This is because there is a minimum floor to how low housing prices can go in a given market.

But besides the investment returns, a home is a place where you live and raise your family. So while investment returns are important, let’s not forget the main purpose of your home β€” for living, enjoyment, safety and happiness.

So the next time you consider purchasing something, ask yourself if your purchase will give you true satisfaction.

2 Comments on Flat Size: Why Bigger & Better is Not For Me (and Likely Not for You Either)

  1. There is another good reason for living in a small apartment, especially when the homeowners are getting on with age. Beyond 65 years old, nobody wants to do household cleaning of a large area, or risk a fall in climbing. Having a small apartment with the right necessaries is sufficient to live comfortably in retirement.

    There is a Chinese proverb ιΊ»ι›€θ™½ε°οΌŒδΊ”θ„ι½ε…¨ (Though a sparrow is small, its organs are complete) – in my own words, you don’t need a big home to feel complete.

    Nevertheless, such thoughts tend to appear only in someone who is matured. Whether one will action to downgrade from a big apartment to a small one is another question, as people like to define their ‘success’ by comparing the type and size of apartment they own.

    Spring, you are quite exceptional in your thinking and reasoning, keep it up!

    • Thanks, Kevin, for your kind words of encouragement. And I really like the Chinese proverb you shared. I had never heard it before; thanks for teaching it to me!

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