Living in a small home: expectations, impression management, and compensatory practices



Preece J, McKee K, Flint J & Robinson D (2021) Living in a small home: expectations, impression management, and compensatory practices. Housing Studies.

Housing choices are commonly perceived as active and exercised at a fixed point. But individuals continually negotiate these trade-offs through the unfolding of their everyday life, particularly when choices result in forms of living outside normative housing expectations. This article considers trade-offs around house size made by residents of smaller homes in three UK cities – London, Sheffield, and Edinburgh – drawing on in-depth interviews with 27 individuals. The article focuses on the space of expectation adjustment in a period of extended crisis in housing systems, fostering the ‘cruel optimism’ (Berlant, 2011) of persistent and collectively maintained attachments to outcomes which are increasingly unrealisable. First, individuals downgraded their own expectations of living space. Second, in negotiating wider societal expectations, individuals engaged in impression management to prevent stigmatisation. The research thus advances longstanding debates on housing and stigma. Finally, individuals constructed alternative narratives of small home living which centred on forms of adjustment through compensatory practices of minimalism and creativity.

home; covid-19; housing policy; small space; space standards

Output Status: Forthcoming/Available Online

Housing Studies

StatusIn Press
FundersESRC Economic and Social Research Council
Publication date online11/10/2021
Date accepted by journal29/09/2021

People (1)


Dr Kim McKee

Dr Kim McKee

Senior Lecturer, Housing Studies

Projects (1)