Two years ago we moved into a whole new house. A house with 2,000 less finished square feet than our previous house. Our plan was for a new beginning, a fresh start and a more simpler way of living. We never could have imagined the big time changes that were about to take place in our home and in our lives. In the midst of this massive minimalist movement, a lot of people are asking themselves, “Is it worth it?” “Will I regret it?” These are thoughts I can’t even pretend like I had. I craved a downsized life, but, was it worth it? Do I regret it? Let’s talk downsized and how our family of 5 is doing after 2 years.
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*Feel free to skip ahead if you’ve already heard the shpeel…*
We moved into “the big house” from a townhouse just a mile away.
Living in that neighborhood had always been a dream of ours. It felt like, if we made it there, we had made it in life.
My photography business was doing well and I was looking for more studio space. Tom was ready to start taking care of his own lawn instead of paying an association to do it for him.
After searching for months for a house, and having our townhouse sell in 4 days, we were in a panic to find somewhere to live and fast. It seemed like nothing was quite what we wanted. Nothing in our price range that is. Naturally, we kept bumping up our range just a hair to see if we were missing out on anything.
This constant bump caused Tom a lot of anxiety. We were approved for more, but really wanted to stick with less. Our realtor and I tried to ease his mind and tell him it would all work out financially.
It did. But something else went wrong.
Photography was thriving, I had clients lining up and business stayed pretty steady. As it grew so did the demand for props, backdrops and equipment. Thankfully, we had a conveniently large storage room where I was able to keep everything. But, something started happening. Every time I walked into that room, I felt claustrophobic. This constant nagging that I needed more drove me crazy; I felt suffocated.
On top of that, there was still so much space to fill in the house itself. I was already putting so much energy into raising my kids, making all meals from scratch, running my own business, and cleaning and tending to the yard work, that the last thing I wanted to do was spend more time shopping, decorating and trying to fill the spaces.
So began my minimalist journey.
Besides feeling like I would never be able to decorate our house enough to make it feel look a home, it also didn’t feel like a home. On top of that, our marriage was struggling. Tom hated putting so much money each month into a mortgage. Besides the mortgage, the house itself needed even MORE money just to maintain. The updates, yard work, and repairs seemed never ending. He felt trapped in a life (and money) sucking vortex. It caused him to stop helping around the house (something he always helped with.) He harbored resentment toward me.
The day before we moved in, he wanted to back out. Although I told him I supported him, I couldn’t help but cry. The idea of having no home scared me and the house-hunting process had already been so stressful. So, he signed the papers. Against his better judgement.
It truly felt that even though we had a big, beautiful brick front home, everything was crumbling around us.
I would love to grant anyone besides Wayne Dyer full credit for my life transforming thoughts, but I just can’t. As I spent months cooped up in our big house, I spent most of my time reading books written by the late Wayne Dyer. Books about life and its true meaning and how the things we own or the titles we carry don’t really matter at all.
So what did matter? Family. Husband. Our marriage. –They mattered.
Finally I got up the nerve and told Tom I thought it was time to bail on the house. As a natural worrier, he didn’t believe this was possible since we hadn’t been in the house that long. I told him I really believed we needed to let go of any financial setbacks and do what was right for our marriage, family and future.
We started selling off our things, clearing out the studio and planning a fresh start. A smaller fresh start. See how to get paid cash for your things.
We took our house off the market, after 3 and half months of cleaning and staging and not cooking (some people don’t like the smells apparently.) We took our house of the market so we could enjoy Christmas together as a family. Christmas day is my favorite. The kids trash the house with wrapping paper, we spend the whole day in our pajamas and just totally unwind. The last thing I wanted to do was clean the entire house top to bottom and immediately clear away any signs of Christmas in order to please potential buyers.
It’s a good thing we made this move. Eleven days in to the new year our son developed a very rare autoimmune disease called ADEM. After being sent home 3 times from the doctors and Children’s Hospital, I was caring for my son by myself. He slept 22 hours out of the day, his arms and legs stiffened. The only eating he did was through straws. He stopped speaking and fell when he would attempt the use the bathroom. Eventually, he began wetting the bed. That’s when the doctors seemed to take notice that this wasn’t a small illness that could be cured through antibiotics.
After 2 weeks of home care and 1 week in the hospital, we returned home with a new found faith and perspective on life as we started to work back toward normal life. Sure it wasn’t convenient, but now, more than ever we were ready to be done with this house, the money it cost, and all the stuff in it. It just no longer held value or meaning.
The house finally sold after another month on the market.
After it sold, we aggressively began our house hunt. This was hard because our city is a highly sought after place to live, but we knew we wanted to maintain our same school district. Houses were flying off the market left and right. In fact, the first offer we put in was actually on our current neighbor’s house. It was in a 5 way bidding war after only one day on the market! The funny thing is, as we walked in to see the house, we glanced over at the house next door (where we now live) and made a comment saying we wished the neighbors were selling! –Guess they must have heard our plea!
When we saw the listing for our now home, we jumped on it! It was in our area, perfect price range, and was a one level home which was exactly what we were hoping to land. One day on the market and they accepted our offer! I can’t tell you how thankful I am that we didn’t win the bidding war for our neighbor’s house. While it is a beautiful home, this one is exactly what we need.
This time around we wanted to make sure things were different. We weren’t about to fall into the same traps we fell into with our last home. So we made a set of ground rules.:
So where are we at now? You know what got us here, but how are we doing after all these changes?
The amount of space we have is absolutely perfect. Not once have we ever felt cramped or confined. If things ever started to feel cluttered, it just meant it was time for another decluttering session.
We do have some things stored in our un-finished basement, but all of our living is done upstairs in 1,300 square feet. Our main living area is open, sunny and welcoming. It couldn’t be more perfect. We made sure everything was painted the way we wanted it before we moved in and we purchased 2 new lighting fixtures. Otherwise, no major changes have been made the house since we first moved in.
As I look around my main living space I see antique frames that were once my grandma’s, her prisms hang in our windows and cast rainbows all over the walls. Our children’s artwork hangs in stylish frames. A giant glass jar filled with prayers that were prayed for our son during his illness sits on our refinished dresser just below our TV.
The stools around our kitchen island were something I saved for (about $200.) All of our other funds were put toward our debt, and doctor bills. You can see our $6,000 in 6 month debt payoff story to learn more about exactly what we did.
We do need a new table now. Funny thing is we need a bigger one. Tom is working days now (he has always worked evenings and nights) which means we don’t have enough room for him at our kitchen table! Still, most nights we either pop in a movie and eat in the living room or just pull up an extra chair to the table. Life is (or I should say can be) simple like that.
Before a new table would have been an immediate need in our eyes. We had to have a table! Now, we view it as “one of those things we’ll get around to.”
The second we stepped foot into this house, it seemed we began living with more intention that we previously had. Not only did we not rack up credit card debt with new purchases as soon as we moved in, we actually barely purchased anything in order to pay off our debt! The only thing I wish we had done differently was take our Financial Peace University course beforehand. I had heard about the Debt Snowball method that we used to pay off our debt. We did so many things wrong that I wish we had known all the information before getting started.
Slowly, but surely we are getting better and better with our finances which would be a lot easier if I had maintained my photography business for longer. However, the blog is quickly helping to take the place of my previous income. You can read all about how that works, How to Turn a Blog Into Extra Income. It’s hard not to look back and wish I had been smarter with my money when I was making a ton of it. But, you can’t change the past..or so they tell me.
I can’t even begin to explain how healthy of a marriage we currently have. It’s been that way for 2 years. Two years ago I listened to my husband and I put his needs before everything else. We made drastic changes because of it and only good things have happened since.
We have even started working together on our finances. Something we didn’t do previously. This has helped us get on the same page more than ever and forced us to work as a team on every level. There is no stress over finances (even though we are living on less money than before and I’m making less.) I should say, we have more money than we used to because we make wiser spending decisions now. We spend less and it feels awesome.
As I had said in my previous blog post on this topic, How Downsizing Changed Our Family, in our big house our oldest daughter was barely seen. Sure, she hit her teen years, but since we’ve downsized, we’ve learned there was a lot more going on. Depression and anxiety are no joke and I can’t help but think our previous home took away from us noticing in two major ways.
Just like any situation in life, there are a few downfalls. The only one I can really say anything about is that we miss our old neighbors. We have great neighbors where we are, and are so thankful for that, however, we still miss our old ones. Often times we still get together, rely on one another for help, and all around try to maintain a relationship. Yeah, it would be a lot easier if we were still living side by side, but, the benefits strongly outweigh the losses.
I am so thankful my family and I made this leap. So thankful we downsized. It’s crazy how in life when you downsize the things that don’t matter as much, you get an amplified amount of the things that do.It's crazy how in life when you downsize the things that don't matter as much, you get an amplified amount of the things that do. #downsizing #minimalismClick To Tweet
It would be easy to look back with anger at the silly choices we made back then, but without them I wouldn’t be living the life I am today. I believe that harsh reality check made me appreciate the more important things in life. It lead me toward minimalism and letting go of material items. Our mistakes lead us to financial peace and a stronger family.
If you have been having that nagging feeling that minimalism or downsizing is right for you, there are a few pointers to get you started. My first recommendation would be to read, Plan a Big Downsize Without Moving. This post will give tons of tips and ideas on how to start downsizing without actually making the big leap into moving! It’s a good way to test the waters and see if the simpler life is for you.
Renee is the blogger behind The Fun Sized Life. After downsizing with her family, she also took the time to get serious about he finances. Now she is sharing the wealth with all of her readers.