Sarah Susanka's Not So Big Minizine

February 2008
Issue: 1
A Different Kind of Newsletter

Sarah SusankaThis is a Not So Big newsletter with a difference.  It contains content about both Not So Big House and Not So Big Life subjects, and it is an experimental preview of things to come.  I call it a "minizine" (as opposed to its larger and more familiar counterpart, the magazine), and as you'll see, it is longer than a newsletter, and more informal than a magazine.  But like a magazine, it is intended to be referred to periodically, rather than glanced at once and discarded. 


You can use the "In This Issue" menu at right to navigate your way around, and you'll be able to view all the previous issues by going to:


the Sarah's Column page on, and

the Books and Articles page on 


One of the reasons I'm doing this, as you'll see from one of the links to the Community Bulletin Board in the Website features article below, is that I have been asked many times of late if I ever plan to create a Not So Big magazine.  Although I like the idea, I find the medium of a printed magazine to be limited in this fast-paced culture, and judging by the fact that more than a few magazines these days are struggling, I suspect that I'm not alone in feeling this.  I'm looking for a better format, one that acknowledges the way we absorb information today, and one that responds to the needs of the moment, morphing as interests change, and allowing almost instant access to the connections and references it contains. 


But in order to know what content you are interested in, I need your help. At the end of the minizine you'll see that I'm asking for feedback about how this new format works for you.  By reviewing your comments from each issue I'm hoping to be able to gather information about what I might include in future Not So Big Minizine issues.  If you are willing to help me understand what you'd like to read about, I believe we can collectively make this into a medium that is both informative and useful -- and an excellent tool for spreading Not So Big sensibilities.  Click on the Feedback link to the right to go directly to that section.

The Promised 2nd Bonus Chapter
Those of you who received and read through the last Not So Big Life newsletter will know that a link to a bonus chapter was included.  It was one of two chapters that were edited out of the final Not So Big Life manuscript in order to keep it, well, not so BIG.  In that newsletter I also promised to provide access to the 2nd omitted chapter sometime in the coming month, and so I figured that if I was going to fulfill that promise I'd better get on with it.  At right, you'll see that there's another present present.  I've also supplied a link to the first bonus chapter, in case you didn't receive the previous newsletter.


I heard a lot of very positive feedback about the first bonus chapter, called "It's About Time," which looks at how different personality types perceive and utilize time, and what we're missing about the whole notion of time.  At the end of the chapter I present an entirely different way of looking at what time might be.


The second bonus chapter, called "Why Time Drives Us Nuts," is also about time, and it takes a good hard look at all the devices in our lives these days that are intended to help us manage our time, but which in many cases actually become massive time "hogs"-- things like BlackBerrys, MP3 players, computers, and televisions.  All our various screens hold tremendous allure, and yet are they really doing what we think they're doing?  Is this what we really want?  And if not, then what? 


Whether you've read The Not So Big Life or not, you'll likely get something of value out of this chapter, and it may just give you some ideas for how to find time that you didn't know was there amidst the daily onslaught.
The Weaving of House and Life Design 


Not So Big: The First Step in SustainabilityWhen I wrote a blog entry back in September of last year about the process of decluttering my house (all the boxes of stuff I'd saved over the years), and the parallels I was finding with the decluttering of my life (all the old habits and beliefs that are no longer useful), the post apparently resonated with a lot of readers.  Many responded with insights and discoveries arrived at through their own decluttering efforts.  Click here to read this blog and responses.


Then I began to notice that whenever I speak in public about The Not So Big Life, the follow-up questions from audience members indicate that they find the house/life parallels particularly useful in fully appreciating what the new book has to offer. 


Just as we can declutter our homes, for example, by removing unwanted stuff, and just as we can remove some walls that are obstructing the view to other living areas, we can do the same things in our lives, which are usually filled to the brim with just as much clutter and just as many obstructions.  What is interesting to me about all this is that when I first wrote The Not So Big Life I didn't use any of the architectural metaphors.  It was only after a half dozen of my most valued friends and editors told me they thought it would be a stronger book if I added some architecture back into it that I finally succumbed and took a look at how I could draw a parallel between the two.


It often takes a knock on the head by the cosmic 2 x 4 to get my attention, and when those knocks do come, I will often resist at first, thinking I know better.  I didn't think I needed to be architectural to talk about life design.  But as it turns out, the architectural metaphors that are now woven throughout are the very reason this new book about life design is hitting home for so many.


I'm learning, slowly but surely, that by weaving these two messages about house design and life design together, the result is something more than the sum of its parts, and everyone wins.  More and more people are grasping the notion that our houses are reflections of ourselves.  And more and more people are seeing that the events of our lives can help reflect us back to us so that we can grow into ever more of the potential we are born with, the potential to be fully alive, and fully participating in every moment of every day.


If you'd like to read more, you can see some of my favorite commentaries on the websites and from the blogosphere at large by going to the Reader's Comments page on the Not So Big Life site.

Sarah to Speak About Time at TED 

TED - Ideas Worth SpreadingSome of you will be familiar with the TED Conference that happens each year in Monterey, California. In recent years it has become quite a phenomenon.  It was started in 1984 as a way of bringing together people from the worlds of Technology, Entertainment, and Design (thus TED), and has become THE place to listen to and meet the most fascinating thinkers in the world. You can watch some of these amazing mini-presentations (none longer than 20 minutes!) by going to and checking out some of these "ideas worth spreading".


Last year I received a call from a very excited Taunton Press editor, Steve Culpepper, who was at the 2007 TED Conference, and he told me in no uncertain terms, "Susanka-you need to BE here!  I've never met so many amazing human beings in my life."  Shortly thereafter several people on my staff told me the same thing, so I decided to pay attention.  I applied for membership, was accepted, and waited to see what happened next.


Over the course of the following months, as the emails and links to more wonderful presentations arrived in my inbox, I began to wish I were speaking at the 2008 conference that I was now scheduled to attend in February.  And then, just a few weeks ago, the opportunity arose.  Chris Anderson, the curator of TED, announced that he was looking for a few even shorter presentations (12 minutes long) to begin each day's conference proceedings -- something he calls "TED University."  He described what he was seeking:  "Your talk could be funny or gripping, quirky or practical, a vision of the future, an amazing 'idea worth spreading,' or just a great story."


I did indeed have an idea I believed was worth spreading.  I named it "Experiencing the 4th Dimension" and I'm glad to report it was one of the topics selected for an airing at the conference.  The idea is actually described in the first bonus chapter from The Not So Big Life, called "It's About Time."  It has to do with a different way of understanding what the dimension we call Time really is.  Rather than spoil it here, I'm going to wait until after the conference to reveal more of what I'll be saying in my mini-class, and with any luck, one of those short podcasts that TED has become so famous for will make the event available to you as well.  Stay tuned.  There's more to come on this one in a future Not So Big Minizine.
Here are a few of my favorite TED short videos:
A New Edition of The Not So Big House 

The Not So Big House original editionIn September of this year, The Not So Big House will be re-released in a brand new 10th anniversary edition with a new cover, a new introduction and an additional chapter.  The new chapter will feature a number of not so big houses that came about because their owners had read the original version of the book, and had been moved to create homes for themselves using the "better, not bigger" philosophy.  I finished writing the first draft of the new chapter yesterday, and am quite excited about it.  The three houses featured show just how far we've come over the past decade.  Since the release is still eight months away, it's not available yet for pre-order, but I will let you know through this newsletter as soon as it is posted.


At the same time, all the books in the series will receive a new look, their covers updated and made more clearly into the series that they are.  Along with this, there will be one subtitle change that has me quite thrilled.  Home By Design, which heretofore has not appeared to be a part of the series due to the absence of "Not So Big" in its title, will now be called:  Home By Design: The Language of the Not So Big House.  Since the book is in reality one of the most important in the series, providing a visual dictionary of all the not so big principles and terminology, it is obviously time to correct this omission. 


It is amusing to remember that when Home By Design was published in 2004, the belief was that "not so big" would soon be out of date, and I was advised to move on and leave those three little words behind.  But the universe had other plans.  Today not so big continues to increase in visibility both as a valuable and recognizable brand, and as a memorable phrase to describe an ever present issue these days.  Whether we're discussing serving sizes at a restaurant, the scale of our living room furniture, or the quality of our lives, not so big describes the desires of a substantial segment of the population who don't want overstuffed or oversized anything. 


The phrase is increasingly understood to be a crucial first step in sustainable design, whatever the item being discussed.  And although we seldom recognize it, beauty of form and character--the primary subject of Home By Design -- is as close to a guarantee of a building's longevity as you can get.  When something is lovely to look at and a delight to live in, every occupant for the foreseeable future is likely to look after it and care for it with the same attention and nurturance that the object or building in question extends to them.

Some Website Features Worth Noting

Sarah Susanka at University of DenverI gave a presentation at the University of Denver in January that was filmed and streamed live to viewers around the country. It will give you a sense of what I mean when I say that Not So Big is the first step in sustainable living.  You can view it by clicking here. (54 minutes long)


Over the past month we've also revamped the Reflections from the Blogosphere section on the Not So Big Life website.  It is amazing as an author to be able to watch as readers apply what they've learned to the issues they are facing in their lives.  You can see all the blogs we've found by clicking on the link above.  Below are some of my favorite reflections:


v      For work/life balance - NSBL - blog from Rosetta Thurman "Perspectives From the Pipeline", blog entry entitled I'm Not Your Superwoman: Creating a Not So Big Life & Saving the World at the Same Time


v      A NSBL/NSBH crossover blog from Krista, who attended my recent University of Denver lecture - "Krista: Body of One", entry entitled Modest, Meaningful Impressions


v      Friends reading NSBH and NSBL together - blog from Jill Althouse-Wood called "Mortal Mom", entry entitled Soup's on - Come on in


v      NSBH-oriented by G. Spadafori whose community is focused on "The Year of Living Greenly" - blog entry called Little House, big house, just right house



NSBH/Community/Sustainability oriented - "WorldChanging - Change Your Thinking", blog entry called My Other Car is a Bright Green City


There are also some interesting streams of conversation going on on both the Not So Big House and Not So Big Life community pages. 


Here are some of my favorites from the Community Bulletin Board on the Not So Big House website:


v    An interesting discussion about a commonly expressed desire for a Not So Big magazine.


v     A post that shows photos of a version of the Prairie Ingenuity house from The Not So Big House pp. 138 - 146 can be seen here.  This is one of the home plans available from Healthy Home Plans by the way.  (If you have images of your own Not So Big house or remodel, feel free to post it on the forum.  We'd love to see what you've done).


v     A letter describing how someone "built a McMansion by accident".  It is a great post about what not to do when building a house.


On the Not So Big Life Community Forum, there are also a number of hot topics:


v     For those who really want to dig into the intricacies of their personality structures and to begin to see through the conditioned patterns that have always limited them, there's a wonderful conversation going on under the topic of Mechanisms.  If you are interested in reading this string, I recommend starting with my blog post entitled The Underlying Programming of Our Personalities and then moving on to the Chapter 4 Forum.  What excites me about this conversation is that people are really beginning to engage the material presented in the book, and are finding ways to engage life differently by seeing through their own hidden beliefs.


v On the lighter side, there's some interesting conversation related  to decluttering, as mentioned earlier in this newsletter.  For many people this is a great way to start thinking about living in a more sustainable way.

Book Endorsements 

One of the benefits of being an author is that from time to time I am asked to endorse the upcoming books of other authors.  Of late there have been many, and several of these books will be of interest to many of my readers, so I'm passing along their names, along with what I've said about them.  All these books are now available in bookstores and on line:


Get Your House RightGet Your House Right: Architectural Elements to Use and Avoid

by Marianne Cusato and Ben Pentreath


Architect Marianne Cusato has written an important and much needed book both for homeowners who want a beautiful and well proportioned house, and for the professionals who help them to realize that dream.  Over the past century, we've lost touch with the tried and true understandings related to the proportioning of building parts one to another and to the greater whole.  Cusato advises us to "Use this book to learn the language; then use what you have learned to break all the rules and have fun."  But if we break the rules before we've learned them, as happens so often today, all we create are misshapen mistakes.  It's time to remember what we've forgotten.  This book will help us individually and collectively to get it right.
-Sarah Susanka

Get SatisfiedGet Satisfied: How Twenty People Like You Found the Satisfaction of Enough

edited by Carol Holst


Get Satisfied is a wonderful antidote to our over-stuffed and over-rushed world.  Through the powerful stories of 20 people who were at one point in their lives just as over-taxed and over-extended as the rest of us, we are given insight after insight into what really makes life satisfying and complete.  Sometimes that understanding has come through a tumultuous and unexpected life experience, sometimes through conscious choice, but always with the end result that life has changed markedly and delightfully.  It may not be a simpler life, though sometimes it is, but it is certainly a life in which the delight of being fully alive permeates every day and every breath.  This is the promise of the book you have in your hands, and the promise of what it feels like when you know, unequivocally, that you have enough.
--Sarah Susanka
by David Wann


This powerful and important book provides an alternative to the "pursuit of happiness-by-consumption" vision of reality.  David Wann draws our attention to something that many people today are sensing but can't find a cure for.  We're so preoccupied with the quntities of life that we've lost touch with the qualities--the things that really matter.  When we look at what's actually happening in our lives we realize that all our acquiring and rushing around are making us less satisfied, not more.  So what's the solution?  That's what you need this book for.  It's infectiously optimistic; it's full of wisdom for real living; and it will help you find a kind of wealth that's woven right within the fabric of everyday life.  

--Sarah Susanka

Sustainable Residential InteriorsSustainable Residential Interiors

by Debbie Hindman


This is a book that many in the design community have been waiting for - a volume that clearly and succinctly lays out the strategies and tools at our disposal for creating interiors that will serve not only our clients' needs, but also those of the planet.  Best of all, it's an inspiration to read, allowing each of us to see our way to becoming a part of the design solution needed for a sustainable future.  If you are a designer, you need this book!

 - Sarah Susanka

Women in GreenWomen in Green: Voices of Sustainable Design

by Kira Gould and Lance Hosey


As you read through this amazing book, a realization dawns.  The medicine needed for true sustainability, true balance, turns out to be our own passion for what we love to do, combined with our longing to be home.  This book is a stunning achievement, and every designer, architect, and lover of life should read it soon.

 - Sarah Susanka


Happiness is an Inside JobHappiness Is An Inside Job: Practicing For A Joyful Life

by Sylvia Boorstein


With wonderful stories from her own life and with memorable phrases to keep in mind through difficult times, insight meditation teacher Sylvia Boorstein, a self-proclaimed fretter and worrier by nature, demonstrates that all of us have the ability to become aware of our thought patterns, habits, and tendencies without being held hostage by them.  She gently but firmly points out that it is our own contentiousness that stands in the way of personal happiness. By sharing with readers her own challenges and shortcomings, as well as the tools she uses to see through them, we clearly see the potential for a calmer, more mindful, and happier life.  This is a truly delightful book filled with simple wisdom for the journey.

- Sarah Susanka

Blessed UnrestBlessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being, and Why No One Saw it Coming

By Paul Hawken


Paul Hawken has an extraordinary ability to perceive the underlying order in chaos, and his latest work is his most profound illustration of this.  Blessed Unrest reveals that buried within the thousands of apparently disparate social and environmental organizations of our day, an enormously important phenomenon is occurring.  He allows us to see it for the first time the fabric of a movement of human and planetary evolution-- the Earth's own immune system hard at work.  You will put down this book with a sense of awe, as well as optimism, realizing that although natural systems seem to be in a state of decay, the cure is arising from within, and we are it.  This book is a stunning accomplishment that should be read by everyone.

--Sarah Susanka


The Very Small HomeThe Very Small Home: Japanese Ideas for Living Well in Limited Space

By Azby Brown


Azby Brown has done it again.  I loved his first book, Small Spaces, and this one goes further yet in helping to demystify the art of the small house.  The book is a must for anyone wanting to understand how to do more with less when it comes to home design.  These tiny and exquisitely designed contemporary Japanese homes have so many lessons to teach readers around the world about how to make their homes both functional and beautiful, whatever the size.  And as for the quality of the houses illustrated, they're extraordinary.  I, for one, couldn't put the book down, and I suspect it will have the same effect on a great many readers.

--Sarah Susanka
The Inward Garden

The Inward Garden is one of the most important books ever written on residential landscape design, and my own personal favorite.  The book is a treasure trove of inspiration, allowing readers to discover the rich reservoir of imagery within their own memories of wonderful places, both known and imagined.  Julie Moir Messervy shows us how to make our own piece of earth, however small, into a place with the power to inspire and feed us constantly.

--Sarah Susanka


Your Green HomeYour Green Home: A Guide to Planning a Healthy, Environmentally Friendly New Home

by Alex Wilson


I'm often asked by homeowners if there is a single, definitive guide I would recommend for building a house that's truly earth-friendly.  Well, floks:  this is it.  This is the book we've all been waiting for, from Alex Wilson, the best author I know for delivering unbiased, practical and up-to-the-minute information on all things Green.  it's a must-read for anyone wanting a new home that's good for themselves AND the planet.

--Sarah Susanka


Other Books of Note


House LustHouse Lust: America's Obsession with Our Homes

by Daniel McGinn

Contains a four page interview that Dan McGinn conducted with Sarah while on a walk-through of a "starter castle"
Sarah contributed a number of photos of her previously unpublished work, which are discussed in this beautiful and informative book.
Request for Your Feedback 

So now that you've had a chance to look through this Not So Big Minizine that bridges both house and life subject-matter, I'd like to know your thoughts.  Here are some questions I'd like your feedback on:

  • Does this kind of format, with topics on both house and life included in one newsletter work for you?
  • Does the length of the articles work for you? 
  • How do you read it?  Do you peruse and skim, do you print it out to read later, do you look at the headlines, click on the links, read from beginning to end (I know -- in my dreams!), etc?
  • Are there any particular topics you'd be interested in hearing about that weren't covered here?
  • Do you have any other ideas or suggestions for me that would make this a more valuable resource for you?

Sarah Susanka at homeI realize this kind of feedback is a lot to ask, and I know that it takes time, but if you have a few minutes to respond it would be greatly appreciated.  Please send your feedback to


Warm regards,



In This Issue
The Promised 2nd Bonus Chapter
The Weaving of House and Life Design
Sarah at TED
A New Edition of The Not So Big House
Website Features Worth Noting
Sarah's Book Endorsements
Sign up for Quote of the Week
Home Professionals Directory
The Not So Big Life in Paperback!
Available Not So Big Books and DVD
Sarah's Websites
Share the News
2nd Bonus Chapter:  Why Time Drives Us Nuts

Discover the Present by clicking here

Artwork by Sybil Shane Studio
Below you'll find links to 2 bonus chapters.  The first is called "It's About Time," and was included in last month's newsletter.  The second is the new bonus chapter, and is called "Why Time Drives Us Nuts." 
Click on the links below to read the chapters.
1st Bonus Chapter:
Quote of the Week
Shell artwork 

Although we normally associate the word "home" with a place that's built out of bricks and mortar or studs and siding, in fact home is much more than that.  It is a feeling and a way of being in one's life rather than any specific place.

--From The Not So Big Life, chapter 2

Every week, there's a new quote from The Not So Big Life posted at the top right hand corner of the Not So Big Life website home page.  If you'd like to receive some Not So Big Life inspiration on a regular basis, be sure to add the quote of the week to your RSS feeds.


The Not So Big House Home Professionals Directory

The Not So Big House Home Professionals Directory

Sarah provides a searchable directory of home professionals who embrace the philosophy of designing and building Not So Big. If you are a homeowner looking for a professional to help you design, build or remodel your home, you can search to find a firm or individual to assist you.

Be sure to read all of the helpful information on the directory page before beginning your search.
If you are a professional involved in home design and improvement, you can register to be listed in the directory.
The Not So Big Life:
Making Room
for What Really Matters
now in paperback!

The Not So Big Life in paperback
Available for order through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and your local independent bookstore through BookSense.
Visit the Order the Book page on the website for more information.


Sarah Susanka's Books, Audio Books and DVDs 


The Not So Big House: Home By Design DVD
To view all of Sarah's books, audio books, and DVDs, go to the Books and Articles page on or Order the Book on 
Sarah's Websites

The Not So Big House website
The Not So Big House site is full of useful information for people wanting to know how to build a house that favors quality over quantity. 
The Not So Big Life website
The Not So Big Life site is what Sarah describes as the second half of the book, providing a community through which to engage your own Not So Big life.
Sarah Susanka website
The portal to all of Sarah's websites, also has some great resources for architects.
Share the News



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