Empty Mansions

As I searched for a home after moving back to Louisiana,  I wanted something small. I am single. I have few possessions. I am not a heiress.*

My realtor scarcely heard a word that I said. She wanted me to buy as much square foot as possible. My requests for something smaller were ignored. I received streams of emails detailing big, empty houses in New Orleans.

I switched to another realtor. The younger lady I assigned the task of finding a house did just what I instructed. I am  now comfortably lodged in a small but perfectly adequate cottage sans garage, large porch, or soaring ceilings in a semi-rural, unincorporated part of St. Tammany Parish.  I found a local handyman to put a pine fence to contain the 100-pound package of teeth and fur that followed me.

I learned something after nearly a decade of living with the poor in Honduras. More is isn’t the answer. Now, being miserably without is not a blessing, either.

Yesterday, I read a post from the director the group that has taken over the management of my former ministry in Honduras. He included pictures of houses of some students. No mansions here, to be sure.

green house no bra

pink shirtThese are the houses of parents who genuinely need an extra meal or two every day for the children so that their small wages can go a bit further towards a new roof, an outhouse, or a cement floor. That’s what the ministry is striving to continue in 2015.

I thought about the empty mansions that I see in the US. Some sit empty and for sale, but others are inhabited by people who each enjoy thousands of square foot per person. Something is just not right about that.

*For further reading about a real heiress with empty mansions, I suggest the biography, Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of An American Fortune by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell, Jr.

10 thoughts on “Empty Mansions

  1. Thank you for including the pictures. My heart goes out to them.
    When we moved to SC, we had a realtor much like what you described; then we switched and found one that listened to us.


    1. My heart will always be with the poor of Honduras. These kids in the pics are known by me personally so I can’t help but feel for them. It’s good to know that the Father knows them personally, too. Thanks for dropping by.


  2. Indeed! I’ve long fantasized about living in a mansion, but my little house suits me just fine. It’s easier to take care of and cheaper to heat and cool. And that last bit also means it’s more energy-efficient and hence more planet-friendly. Maybe some day I’ll have a largeish apartment in DF, but that won’t need to be cooled, and will require very little heat too.


    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where there are lots of lovely Victorian mansions. Just none with me in them.


    1. There are lots of painted ladies that I can buy in New Orleans or nearby. But why? I won’t be long for this planet even if I live well past my 70 or 80 odd years that most Americans achieve. I did for a time have a large, rented place in Teguz, and yes, the heating/cooling was easy to manage.


  3. I read Empty Mansions and ended up liking Huguette Clark very much. I think she would have been a fascinating person to know. Simply cannot imagine that kind of money however. I’m with you – I’m coziest in small places, and I don’t want to pay to house things I don’t use, clean space I don’t need, nor heat it. Less IS more. And I find the less stuff I have to keep track of and care for the easier it is to pay attention to my blessings – which of course have nothing to do with stuff.


    1. Well! Someone else who read about Huguette. I liked her, too, but I did think she was naive and maybe, a bit foolish at times. Small places keep up disciplined about accumulating too many things, and that’s a good thing as you said in your comment.


  4. My house is relatively small compared to many of my friends’ houses. I like a small place. I don’t want, nor do I need, so much room. I’m glad you found your cottage, and I hope you are immensely happy there for a long while.


  5. I too am a small casa fan – designed with efficiency rather than gobs of square feet. I love to look at photos of labeled small houses (usually under 400 sq. feet) The reduction in space often accommodates really fine and costly touches, and of course they incorporate great ingenuity.


    1. I have a friend in Honduras who runs a house for at-risk adolescents. By nature of the work, the house is big. One of his hobbies is looking at mini-houses and plans for a future house for himself when he needs a get away from his work in Honduras. I must admit those houses are intriguing.


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