de(tales): 816 square feet

de(tales): 816 square feet

de(tales) 816 square feet

Jane and I met in an online writers group, deepened our friendship on Twitter and met in person at Faith and Culture in March. She's such a refreshing, interesting and encouraging voice for me and I'm thankful for the way our lives have intersected. You may also remember that she hosted a series (to which she asked me to contribute a piece) about Blowing Up Evangelical Baggage (of which I am a fan in general). 

I know you'll enjoy her quirky, delightful de(tale). 

  de(tales) 816 square feet

My cool architect brother-in-law would call our home a ‘two flat’ - we call it a really small upstairs. When we first moved in, people would often ask how we could live in such a small space. “Wow, good for you,” they would say.  Or a friend would allude to “what’s next?” because this could never be a long term housing solution for four people.  It played on my insecurity of raising a family in a small (and poorly laid out), rented, half-a-house. I knew it would be a while before we could afford anything bigger to rent, let alone buy, especially because the average price of a barely livable home in Vancouver is nearing 1 million dollars.

I confess, at first, I didn’t know how long we could be here but flipping our bedroom door to open into the hallway helped. When your bed takes up most of your room it is much easier to clean.  I tell myself that a second bathroom would just involve more scrubbing and this helps most of the time.

When kids come over to play sometimes they ask where the TV is but what they usually notice are the bunkbeds. “No way! You have bunkbeds!” (I’m thinking, kid, you have your own room and your own iPad but bunkbeds are pretty special?). The kids circle up on the 3x4 Hotwheels rug and play like they are in a mansion of toys.


I just measured our house with a tape measure: 34ft x 24ft. That 816 sq ft includes a decent size outdoor porch and a space-wasting indoor staircase that leads to nothing but a place to store a bike. It doesn’t include a guest room or a not-so-gross kitchen floor (the two things I long for when I’m feeling discontent).

But, as small as it is, the 816 sq ft includes more than we ever realized.

The 816 sq ft includes the lovely women who live in a similar size area below us. These women with whom we share a huge yard to grow garlic, raspberries, blueberries, and dozen of veggies. It includes Jen, who consistently babysits our kids, sometimes with 20 minutes notice, in exchange for a steady supply of dinners and endless (and I mean endless!) conversations with our children. She also motivates me to weed the garden and she mows the lawn.

The 816 sq ft includes the ten different households I could walk to for an egg or a cup of sugar.  I pass these homes every time I walk down our wobbling steps and on to the street because I can’t get anywhere without seeing someone I know. It also includes my lovely neighbour Lisa who I can text on Saturday afternoons and say “Get your kids and meet me outside, I’m going insane!”

The 816 sq ft includes an incredible radius of all of our needs including a park, small urban lake with a beach for swimming (some would disagree with the safety of swimming there, but we are alive and well!).

In about six minutes we can get to Ben’s school, Sam’s daycare, our church, the grocery store, the best playground, an ice skating rink (why don’t we ever go ice skating?), baseball practice, restaurants, “the beer store! (as my 3 year old pointed out while on a bus during a daycare field trip), coffee shops and access to the bus or train to anywhere in the city. Before we had kids, my husband and I made it all the way to Montana without getting in a car or on a plane!

The 816 sq ft also includes the parade. No, not the kind with blown up Santa’s or fancy cars with waving quasi-celebrities. It’s a parade of backpacks, bikes, strollers, scooters, and neighbours heading to our local school around 8:45am most days. It is easy to get my extroverted children out the door because “Mom, we can’t miss the parade!”

The parade is smaller on Sundays when we walk to church, but we accidentally pick up friends like Trixie, who lives downstairs, or our pastors and their boys who live across the street.

Perhaps one day we will have a bit more elbow room (and a better kitchen floor) but for now we are trying be thankful for our lovely neighbourhood and the fact we can give a house tour in one quick spin.


Jane haltonJane Halton is a certified coach, writer and speaker. She describes her coaching work as pastoral care meets your to-do list (or blowing up evangelical baggage). Using coaching, an MDiv, wit and thought provoking questions she not only helps people figure out what really matters to them but also what they are going to do about it. You can connect with her here:, Twitter or Facebook.

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