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The Not So Big Life: Making Room for What Really Matters

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  777 ratings  ·  149 reviews
Have you ever found yourself asking, “Is this all there is to life?” Or wondering if this bigger life you have created is actually a better life? And do you wonder how it all got so out of control?

In her groundbreaking bestseller The Not So Big House, architect Sarah Susanka showed us a new way to inhabit our houses by creating homes that were better–not bigger. Now, in Th
Hardcover, 281 pages
Published May 1st 2007 by Random House (NY) (first published 2007)
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3.59  · 
Rating details
 ·  777 ratings  ·  149 reviews

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May 11, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: organization
I really wanted to like this book. I'm a big fan of the Susanka architectural books and I hoped to find something accessible in the same way about life remodelling. Unfortunately, while there is some good stuff in the book, it's couched in language and a sense of privilege that left me uncomfortable and annoyed.

If you're a well-off upper-middle-class or wealthy reader, the book may help, but if you've ever rolled your eyes at the concept that you make your own reality (especially if you equate t
Oct 24, 2011 rated it liked it
What mixed bag! I thought I'd never get through it. Finally I just gave in & let the words wash by, whether I registered them or not. There a lot of good stuff in it, most excellent Rumi quotes - - & also just a lot of stuff.
Apr 13, 2012 rated it did not like it
Now I know why this book has been on the bookshelf for so long. I started it a couple times, got bored, and re-shelved the book. When I picked it up last week, I was determined to get through it. I really wanted to like the book. But I didn't. I forced myself to read the whole book looking for at least some part of it that I loved...or even liked...but that part never came.

I really like the concept/title "the not so big life." I strive to live my life this way...but I guess the definition of "no
Jan 20, 2010 rated it liked it
It's fine, but really there isn't much information here that you can't find in better self-help books. Her architecture metaphors are cute, but don't necessarily add to the message. I don't think the worksheets she has you do are all that helpful just because they don't:
- cause you take action
- provide any discussion when you're finished (other than your own)
Really, what is the point of spending 20 minutes filling out a worksheet on your preferences if there aren't follow up questions or an acti
Sep 12, 2013 rated it it was ok
In “The Not So Big Life,” Sarah Susanka tosses out hooks, but before the fish can bite she drowns them in more worms than there is water.

She seems like an interesting soul, but her best ideas are buried in a kind of rambling that feels as if I picked up her journals and not a concise final draft of a self-help book. She needs an evaporator to make a few precious drops of syrup out of her sugar water ideas.

Valuable reminders conceal themselves among the pages: to give self-reflection, meditatio
Oct 05, 2007 rated it did not like it
I think I've only read a very small handful of self help books in my life, and I have a bit of an aversion to their format. They start out telling you about the problem, then move on to an overview telling you how they will teach you how to overcome it (but not actually telling you anything yet, just that they WILL tell you). The next step always seems so flimsy, where they actually tell you the secret of life, the universe, and everything. Or whatever it was they promised you. Only it's usually ...more
Jan 15, 2014 rated it it was ok
I really enjoy her books like The Not-So-Big House about designing for living, but this is a pass. There's some good stuff about slowing down and doing what matters in life instead of just being busy. But that's buried in too much other content. Mostly, it's overly wordy and overly woo-woo on the life inventory stuff.
Jul 29, 2008 added it
Shelves: couldntfinish
reads more like a journal of how she "got" the meaning of life. It's been done before and by more experienced writers. Couldn't finish.
I picked this up from a little free library because the title looked familiar (I think I’d seen it recommended somewhere). I initially quite liked it – I agreed with the central idea of reducing overwhelm of all kinds to allow a clearer focus on what's truly meaningful, and I liked the broad definition of ‘clutter’ to include things like unhelpful underlying beliefs and habitual response patterns. As I got further into it I found it less compelling though, and I never quite got around to finishi ...more
Salina Christaria
Mar 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I listened to the audio book version shortly after resigning from an eleven year career due to severe job stress. It provided exactly what I needed at exactly the right time - a blueprint for remodeling my life from being a worker bee to into living a life that reflects my passions and my dreams. As I embark on the exciting adventure of aligning myself to my own unfolding, I can see that the author is right. All that is required is our presence. It is only when we choose to slow down and learn h ...more
Wendi Lau
Sep 21, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
This is a book about organizing your life. Who and what do you want and need in your life. Who and what do you not want. How you can make those decisions, see in new ways, and accept the flow of energies around you. More spiritual than I wanted but did most of the exercises in each chapter anyway. I guess I read the title too literally and was looking for home organization ideas.
Jan 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book. Really good message of 'do you really need a big house?' poses a question what really matters in your life. I typed up a year end ritual and spend several hours every year to reflect on the past, present, and future at the end of each year. The unique part is that the author is an architect, so no technical jargon in this book.
Feb 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This beautiful and deeply thoughtful book was exactly what I wanted to start my year. Susanka has a very zen approach to life's problems, such as: there are no problems, a kind of thinking that resonates more and more as I age. Highly recommend!
Jun 16, 2017 rated it it was ok
I loved her books on architecture. I only read this one for a book club. I wouldn't have read it otherwise.
Kate Gwyn
May 18, 2018 rated it liked it
It was okay. I couldn't get through the whole thing before I wanted a different book to read though.
Sharon Pisacreta
Oct 03, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Architect Sarah Susanka has spent her professional life designing beautiful residential spaces. During a time when McMansions were springing up in every subdivision, Susanka’s recommendation to “build better, not bigger” resonated with those looking for a more sustainable and harmonious home space. Her 1998 book 'The Not So Big House' introduced her architectural philosophy and quickly became a bestseller.

It seemed a natural progression for Susanka to next explore how we live our lives in those
Chinarut Ruangchotvit
Nov 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Ryu
This is by far one of the best books i've read in quite some time - i liked it so much, I just had to savior every moment and was a bit sad when it ended! Sarah is well-known architect and her expertise chanelling the wisdom of architecture into creating a life by design is absolutely phenomenal. Not only did I develop an appreciation for architecture in ways I had not imagined, she is a "cultural translator" helping you take on a "renovation" of your own life. I loved the stories and anecdotes ...more
Mar 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I’ve thought a lot about writing a spiritual memoir: telling about my spiritual path and sharing insights. Now I don’t need to! This book is categorized as a how-to book, but the memoir aspect of it is what makes it so accessible. The principles she writes about are identical to the ones we work with in our yoga practice, so if you’re looking for a way to ‘make room for what really matters’ in your busy life, this book is wonderful.

I could write reams about my experience reading this book, and t
Feb 14, 2010 rated it really liked it
The Not So Big Life makes my list of top 10 self-help books. Susanka develops an extended architectural metaphor for remodeling your life. Her advice is simple but not easy: slow down, do one thing at a time, be present in your own life by asking yourself "What is now?" every fifteen minutes. I need these reminders because there is constant pressure in my life to get more done in a day, multi-task, and keep a running to do list in my head instead of enjoying the task I'm actually doing. She teac ...more
Sep 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people seeking to improve their quality of life
I love Sarah Susanka's home design books, but I was a little surprised to learn she had also written a book that fell into the spiritual journey/self-help arena (or "conduct of life," as it's cataloged in my library). I was feeling the need for some inspiration, so I checked it out last fall when I was home sick for a while.

Susanka applies principles of great home design to create guidelines on how to live one's life, and what she has to say fits in well with other books like The Four Agreements
May 08, 2007 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: ack. nobody.
okay. If you know me, you know that it is RARE that I cant finish a book, once Ive started reading it. This one was so painful, I had to stop reading at chapter two.

Uh, kind of a no brainer, but architects do not make good self-help pseudo-psychologist gurus.

I am totally a member of the susanka architectural cult... Ive completely bought into the environmental psychology of placemaking and the importance of structuring your home properly to maximize the quality of domestic life.

That said, I foun
May 23, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: simplicity
I took notes, since I'm trying to minimize the amount of books on my bookshelf. I don't want the amount of books to be overwhelming. I did not enjoy the book as much as I thought I should. I did not enjoy it that much because there were a staggering amount of metaphorical commentary on architectural themes, vocabulary, and concepts. I did not understand the architectural ideas in order to apply it to our personal lives. My poor mind could not compute it very well, and I feel I am relatively inte ...more
Jul 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Sarah Susanka uses the metaphor of remodeling your house to remodeling your life. She's a famous architect who has written many books about remodeling. The lessons she has learned about life and space and a well lived life are encorporated into the book as well as many personal stories. There are so many things in this book that resonate with me. So many brilliant concepts. The book is so rich for finding the real meaning in life. In doing some of the exercises she asks you to do I found myself ...more
Mar 13, 2014 rated it it was ok
This is the second in architect Sarah Susanka’s “Not So Big” series, following “The Not So Big House.” In this outing, Susanka discusses making room in your life for what really matters. She shows us how to declutter our lives much as she decluttered our homes in her last book.

The “small” shifts in our daily lives sound small, but implementing them is, of course, problematic. However, the changes do make sense, and if they work for you, you will have the time to do the things you say you want t
Feb 15, 2015 rated it liked it
I truly enjoyed this book, though it was heady!! I LOVE The Not so Big House. While I expected this book to deal more with the idea of living a simpler life, I have to say I did get quite a bit out of it.

As one who is fairly "traditional" in my faith (at least my faith language) I had to translate a few things Susanka said into language I understood, but in many cases she was spot on and agreed with other LIFE books I have read recently.

This isn't a "sit and read it in a week" book. Nor is it a
Being generous with 3 stars...

The book started off well but she really started losing me toward the middle (or earlier, hard to tell with the audiobook). The practical ideas of stepping back from situations is great and so useful. The new-agey philosophy...a little, no a lot much.

I'm not sure where the author gets her credibility. She's an architect, but apart from the beginning, I didn't find that expertise at all relevant to what she was saying. This is basically a memoir of her journey to eq
Jun 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
Not just another self-help book, this one is written by an architect who uses designing and building a house as a metaphor for making a beautiful and satisfying life.
Lots of good advice about how to get clear on what is really important and how to get rid of the rest, leaving plenty of open space for good things to come into your life.
She advises keeping an 'owner's manual' for your life, writing down what works for you, your passions, ideas, favorite inspirational quotations, and dreams.
The No
Apr 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
After reading her Not So Big House series, prompted by a home re-design with a new family addition, I was struck by Sarah's life philosophies. My husband I have always believed that we should use the space we have more effectively and avoid at all cost the desire to move into a McMansion just because we have acquired more "stuff." I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area where land is expensive, and homes are mostly small. If everyone there can live happily and properly, then so can we, even if t ...more
Heather Koshiol
Aug 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book is one of my favorite change-your-perspective books. Without sounding new-agey, Susanka discusses topics like meditation, manifestation and detachment. I could really relate to her real-life examples and her architectural descriptions. Reading this book and doing the exercises helped me think differently about how I spend my time and energy as I go through my days. (I do agree with another reviewer who mentions a lack of discussion following exercises. Susanka's book starts out with a ...more
Nov 21, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Much like any self-help book, the key is to change one's own attitude. Susanka uses an interesting metaphor of a house remodeling (she is an architect) and she provides a step by step template which could be helpful. Very "Buddhist" -- her main ideas involve creating a "watcher" to recognize and think about reactive life patterns and incorporating daily meditation. Repetitiveness and overgeneralizations were sometimes annoying, but the acknowledgment of the difficulty and resistance to change he ...more
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Goodreads Librari...: Fix book cover image and add book to books I've written 6 173 Aug 17, 2012 12:42PM  
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Sarah Susanka is a bestselling author, architect, and cultural visionary. Her "build better, not bigger" approach to residential architecture has been embraced across the country, and her "Not So Big" philosophy has sparked an international dialogue, evolving beyond our houses and into how we inhabit our lives. In addition to sharing her insights with Oprah Winfrey and Charlie Rose, Susanka has be ...more
“The trick is realize that the shit that falls on you is fertilizer. -Ron Mangravite” 4 likes
“I was asleep at the wheel while barreling down the road of life on cruise control, believing all the while that I was going somewhere important.” 0 likes
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