Skip to Main Content (Press Enter) Toggle side nav

Sarah Susanka


About the Author

Sarah Susanka is a bestselling author, architect, and cultural visionary. Her “build better, not bigger” approach to residential architecture has been embraced across the United States, 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, she has been named a “Fast 50” innovator by Fast Company, a “top newsmaker” by Newsweek, and an “innovator in American culture” by U.S. News & World Report. Susanka is a member of the College of Fellows of the American Institute of Architects and a senior fellow of the Design Futures Council. She lives in North Carolina.

Sign me up for news about Sarah Susanka and more from Penguin Random House

Books by Sarah Susanka

Author Essay

Dear Friends,

The Not So Big Life: Making Room for What Really Matters is now in stores and there is so much excitement as I bring this new volume into the marketplace. There are so many things I want to tell you about it, so much that I feel passionate about, but where to start? Start anywhere, my intuition tells me. So let’s begin with a couple of questions:

How do you live the life you really want?
And how do you find the time for the things you are passionate about?

The answers to these questions may surprise you. It’s not in fact something you do with your schedule. It is, rather, something you do with yourself. You have to learn to listen to your inner longings and to observe yourself carefully–much as you would a child in your care–to find the patterns of behavior that might have been useful once, but are now impeding the flow of your life. A Not So Big Life is one in which you make friends with your inner self and learn to see through the outer appearances of your life to the true meaningfulness that lies beneath the surface.

When, ten years ago, I began writing my first book, The Not So Big House, it was because I’d made a commitment to pursue something I really loved–writing– despite the fact that it seemed impossible to do in my way-too-busy life. As I lay in bed one night after an extremely hectic but typical day for me, I had suddenly realized that, as a successful architect, there was absolutely no way (so far as I knew then) that I would ever find the time to write. I never had a moment to come up for air. There was simply no time to follow my heart. No time to write.

But then I began to suspect something. I started to notice that my personality–the collection of all the learned behavior patterns of a life time–was carefully constructing my world to be always too busy, no matter what I did. That was the day that I also realized I could do something that all that conditioning would never allow me to do if I lived by its dictates. And so I made a commitment to follow my heart, right in the middle of my too busy life. I scheduled in meetings with myself during which, I determined, I would simply write instead of meet.

That’s how my life as an author began, and through that one simple act, everything else shifted with it to support my commitment to myself. It was an amazing and thrilling discovery. Since that time I’ve learned a lot more about living in a Not So Big way. In the ensuing decade I’ve come to see that almost everyone is dissatisfied with their life and wishing it were different in some way. We assume that there is little we can do about the situation unless we leave everything behind and move to a mountain top somewhere where no one will bother us. But that isn’t in fact how real change happens. In order to change the way you experience your life, you must change yourself. It is your perception of how things are that is the problem, and not the things themselves.

After a decade of self-exploration, working along the way with a number of teachers in the art of living more consciously and practicing new ways of engaging everyday life, I decided a couple of years ago that it was time to write down what I had learned. Life doesn’t have to be so unmanageable, so frustrating, or so painful. It doesn’t have to be filled with unlived longings either. There is a way to live a life that is deeply fulfilling, vital, and meaningful without having to throw the baby out with the bath water. By making small and often apparently insignificant changes in the way you engage the activities of each day, you’ll discover that the life you are longing for is right in front of you, patiently waiting to be lived.

The Not So Big Life is a book that’s full of suggestions and exercises that will help you to look at things differently by simply getting to know yourself better. Because it is such an interactive book, I’ve put together a website, , that is filled with tools and support materials to help you:

·There’s a blog in which I will respond to issues and questions that are posed by readers, as well as expand upon various themes introduced in the book.

·There’s a special page of support materials for each chapter to help you get the most out of the book, along with links to materials supplied by readers who have engaged the chapter and have found or produced something worth sharing, and a community forum where you can discuss your experiences and insights about the chapter with others

·And there’s a section specifically for book clubs to support your collective engagement with The Not So Big Life.

I hope this brief introduction has piqued your interest. I believe that, in just the same way that a decade ago I asserted there was a better way to inhabit our houses, there is a better way to inhabit our lives. It’s not difficult to accomplish. It simply requires that we start getting to know ourselves better, and in so doing to make room for what really matters. I hope you’ll join me in trying out the Not So Big approach to life for yourself.

Sarah Susanka

Be the first to know!
We’ll send you the latest updates from Sarah Susanka
We’ll send you the latest updates from Sarah Susanka
By clicking SIGN UP, I acknowledge that I have read and agree to Penguin Random House’s Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.
Something awesome is on its way.
Back to Top