We bought a house in Virginia. Well, technically, it's a townhouse.

By current standards, it isn't big. In fact, compared to some houses going up in our neighborhood, it's puny. But it has three bedrooms, 31/2 baths, a partially finished basement where the kids can play and a big, bright kitchen. The tiny living room has a fireplace. It should be plenty for our family of four.

I love the neighborhood. It has ramblers and colonials and row upon row of brick-and-siding townhouses. But some of the old houses are being torn down to make way for McMansions. The trees on those lots are coming down, too -- no room left for them.

I wonder how the people building these new houses can really need so much space, and I feel a bit smug. I'm using my share of the world's resources more wisely, after all. I'm planting trees while they are cutting them down. I use less electricity and less water than they do. My townhouse community fits more people into a smaller area -- meaning less traffic and a shorter commute for many because we've chosen not to spread out.

Recently, I was invited to a party at one of the mansions. Nice family. The house had a four-car garage and a gaudy, oversized living room. "Why would they want to live here?" I wondered, as I sipped my drink and made small talk. I admit I felt a twinge of envy when I saw the outdoor kitchen on the covered deck. The deck alone was the size of my first floor.

Well, it wasn't a twinge of envy, exactly -- more of a spasm. But I got over it. Mostly. The thing is, I really believe that as a community, we need to make do with less. We don't need to heat massive living rooms with cathedral ceilings in the winter. We don't need to dig granite from the earth to make our kitchens fancier. Most of us don't need his-and-hers walk-in closets, home offices or designer appliances.

The bigger the house, the bigger the waste. We waste our time maintaining the house and grounds. We waste our money on upkeep and updates. We waste precious natural resources on cooling and heating. We permanently alter the landscape around us, usually for the worse. And in most cases, we keep filling our space with more stuff.

Who needs that? Not me. But what I wouldn't give for a mudroom. . . .

-- Donna Scaramastra Gorman