A couple of years ago, when I first started this site, my family had just started downsizing. We were living in Maryland and decided to leave our 3 bedroom townhouse and move into a small 2 bedroom apartment. We made this decision after realizing that we were surrounded by clutter, and that we were paying for square footage we never or rarely used. We spent weeks purging before the move – lots of stuff went to Goodwill and in the end we fit comfortably into our new apartment.
When it came time to relocate to Texas for a new job, we knew we wanted to buy, in order to avoid dealing with breed restrictions against our dog in another rental situation. We spent a long weekend exploring our new city and put an offer on our house. Four bedrooms, two and a half baths, almost 2400 square feet. After we moved, we joked about needing the furniture we had purged previously in order to fill the house.
Well, its been two years and we have come full circle. We realized in the last couple of weeks that we fell into the same trap. We bought the lie that more space and more house is better. We had made such progress when we downsized in order to make a 2 bedroom work for us, and then we moved and bought a house that was twice the size. And we find ourselves in the same place as when we were in our townhouse in Maryland. We have rooms that aren’t being used regularly and clutter filling the extra space. Even with two additional kids, we just don’t need all this space!
We’ve been having some great discussions lately regarding our realization. Here are some of the things we’ve determined:
We don’t need single-purpose rooms.
We were so excited to have the extra rooms when we first moved. Master bedroom, Kyri’s bedroom, classroom and office. But Kyri’s room was underutilized, since she prefers to sleep with me. The babies sleep with me too (we room share), so the master bedroom has really become the family bedroom. We recently turned her bedroom into the playroom, thinking it would see more use, but honestly we spend most of our time in the living/dining room so it didn’t really seen much use in that incarnation either. We love having our classroom, and we used it regularly in the fall, but with two babies now, it has become much easier to school at the dining room table. And now that Kyri is becoming more independent, this works better because I can get some kitchen tasks completed as she works at the table. And while our office sees some use, honestly we work at the dining room table on laptops more often since we can all be together this way. So there are three rooms that are used very little, but that we are paying for.
Extra space invites clutter and mess.
Extra space gives us room to put more stuff. Stuff we don’t need. Stuff that we don’t use. It is too easy for us to put something aside and lose track of it, because it is in a room we don’t use or tucked in a corner somewhere. Keeping up with the extra space, in terms of cleaning and upkeep, is a nightmare. I spend much of the day downstairs juggling three kids, school, dogs, and kitchen stuff. I just don’t get upstairs during the day so little upkeep gets done. I find myself struggling to keep up with four bedrooms and three baths – I focus on the rooms we use regularly. In the past, we have discussed getting a housekeeper, maybe once a month or every two weeks, to help keep up with the cleaning, but it seems foolish to not only pay for rooms that don’t get used or rarely get used, but to then pay for someone to come in and clean those rooms.
Things are meant to be used, not stored.
We have things that we don’t use. Things that we haven’t used in years. Things that we hesitate to rehome because of perceived value or nostalgia, or who knows why. For example, we have a large collection of dive equipment, most of which we obtained shortly after we stopped diving regularly. We haven’t gone diving since before I was pregnant with Kyri, and we keep moving all of our gear from home to home, with the expectation that someday our lifestyle and schedules will give us a chance to use it. Just this week we decided to sell most of the gear and keep our basic stuff – fins, mask and snorkel. Anything else can be rented onsite when we finally have time and opportunity to dive again, and we don’t have a garage full of gear that isn’t being used. We are looking at the rest of our possessions through a new lens now. We have decided to let go of a lot of possessions that we don’t use anymore but that someone else can.
So how do we start the downsizing process?
There are really two areas of downsizing we are considering – possessions and space.
Space is something we have been talking about seriously but that I won’t get into yet. We are still in the early stages of our plans with regards to that, so it would be premature to comment. We are pretty excited about the direction we are moving though!
Possessions are something we can begin to tackle immediately. We are taking a “room-by-room” approach. We are tackling one room at a time, going through everything and determining what stays and is being used regularly, what stays but could be packed away for a time and put into storage if needed, and what can go.
Downsizing is quite liberating. It goes against what our culture tries to instill in us – we need more stuff! We are at the beginning of this downsizing process but already we can feel a weight being lifted. I’ll update on our progress periodically.