We used to have the best yard in the neighborhood. At our old house, our rare double lot may not have been large by exurb standards, but it was darn near sprawling in our little first-ring suburb.
It was great for the dog, with plenty of space to play fetch. It was great for the kids, with lots of room for baseball and a play set and a trampoline.
And then we moved, to a larger house, but a smaller lot, our backyard just a fraction (One-fourth, one-fifth? Maybe less?) of the old one.
When old friends come to visit our new place, they take one look in the backyard and say, “Wow—it’s tiny!” Hasn’t it been tough to go from your old yard to this tiny space?
Well, no. It’s been glorious. There are drawbacks, sure (namely, our play set now lives at my parents’ house). But overall, we adore our tiny backyard. The apparent limitations of this small space have shown us the upside to restraint.
It’s the best room in the house. Here’s why:
We’re not yard(work) people.
We love being outdoors, but Will and I both hate mowing and despise yard work—so much so that I talked about finding a condo. (Gasp!) Our huge lot at the old house came with a huge amount of yard work. Small yard, small work load.
When a real estate listing says a house is “charming,” they really mean it’s falling down. I don’t mean it like that; I mean it in the best sense. When we had a giant backyard, there was no place to sit without feeling exposed to the neighborhood. Our tiny backyard is snug, walled, and has clearly defined spaces. Because of all the patterns at play, it feels more like a room than a yard.
Your space shapes your behavior.
Without even thinking about it, I started taking my coffee out to the patio in the morning—in my pajamas. I would never have done that at the old house: we just didn’t have the privacy.
We’re also not having problems with the kids leaving their toys all over the yard anymore. In the small space, it’s easy to see when things have been left lying about, and a toy in the tiny plot of grass looks like clutter. The kids are picking up after themselves with (almost) no prompting. It feels like a miracle, but it’s not: it’s just the space.
Somebody else did the work.
The landscaping is all there, and it’s lovely: we just have to maintain it. It turns out I don’t mind maintaining my tiny triangle of yard, pulling out weeds or watering flowers. It’s meditative—but only because even a serious weeding only takes 5 minutes.
I struggle with decision paralysis. We could have done almost anything in our old backyard, which completely overwhelmed me. There aren’t as many options in a small space, so there aren’t that many decisions to make. For me, that’s a good thing.
Of course, this is about more than a backyard. Have you had a similar experience with finding freedom in limitations? I’d love to hear about it in comments.