Our New Smaller Space
I got married when I was 19 and then basically spent the next 20+ years trying to work my way up to my dream house. We moved through 13 different places, including a handful of apartments, a few townhomes, and four single-family homes. My thoughts were always in the direction of "bigger and better".
I poured over house plans for decades. Literally.
We eventually ended up in a home that I loved enough to feel like I could really be happy there for a while. It was a beautiful brand new home with amazing views and a blank slate ready for me to design how I wanted it. The ceilings were huge. The floors were beautiful. The kitchen was all white (my favorite). I loved the great room. The unfinished basement was just waiting for us to customize it for all the fun and happy gatherings we were planning.
And then my son got sick.
Like, so sick that the traditional doctors couldn't help him and we ended up having to spend a small fortune on medical bills to get him help from doctors that would look outside the box. (Most insurance companies don't cover those types of things, so most of it was out-of-pocket.) This happens to be a familiar story in our family, which is something for another post.
Anyway, after going through some serious trauma with that, we decided we needed to downsize.
The mortgage, the yardwork, and the housework were all too suffocating for me.
I needed room to breathe.
I needed to simplify in every possible way.
I had to let go.
I had to say goodbye to the dream.
And it was really hard at first. I cried a lot.
But, eventually I was able to work through the sadness and accept our new reality.
We found a townhouse that was a block away from my daughter's high school and set out to create a space that felt like us.
We've been here for 8 months now and I can honestly say that I am so happy we made the change. I didn't realize it at the time, but the house was taking up so much of my time, energy, and brain space and when we walked away from it, everything just lightened up. In a massive way.
I'm not saying this type of move is for everyone, but it was definitely a good move for us.
I'm also not saying there aren't some cons to this whole thing. There are. But the pros FAR outweigh the cons for us.
Here's an example of a few of them. I'll start with the cons -
WE DON'T HAVE MUCH OF A VIEW
I had an amazing view in my last house, so this may be the saddest part for me. But do you know what? If I want to see the view, I can get in my car and drive up the hillside (which takes a total of 3 minutes) and sit on the park bench that overlooks my valley. It's beautiful and free. I read once (I can't remember which book it was) that you don't have to actually own something to enjoy it. This is the perfect example. By the way, I do have an amazing view from my bedroom window when I lay in my bed. It's all about perspective.
WE CAN'T CUSTOMIZE THE FINISHES
We are renting our townhouse so I can't make changes to the basic bones of the space. In a perfect world, I'd like to have hardwood floors throughout the entire space, better blinds, different ceiling fans, and painted walls, but it's ok. I'm learning to focus on the things that I do like. One of the things that this journey has taught me is that happiness is much more about mindset than getting everything you want. This doesn't mean that I don't care about changing things for the better, it just means that I try not to obsess about the things I can't change at the moment.
OUR NEIGHBORS ARE SUPER CLOSE
I am putting this as a con, but to be honest, this has not been a problem for us in this complex. This particular place has a double-wall design that keeps noise out, which has definitely made it way better.
OUR DOG DOESN'T HAVE A YARD
I'm also putting this in the con list, but honestly don't feel that bad about it. Not having a yard has actually forced us to get into better habits of walking him, which has been SO GOOD for my family. It also means that the poop gets picked up right away and we don't have to dodge all the messes we forgot to pick up when we did have a yard.
WE HAVE LESS SPACE
This one may seem like an obvious con - and it has been a slight con on a few occasions (like Thanksgiving), but for the most part, I think I would consider this a PRO most of the time. When we need more space for something, we just get creative. There are so many ways to work around a problem and this has forced us to use our ingenuity more than a house ever did.
And now to the pros -
WE HAVE LESS SPACE
Even though I listed this as a con, like I said, it's actually more of PRO for me. Less space to take care of means less work in general. It also means less actual space that we have to furnish, which means less shopping for things just because we need to fill the space. Less space is also so much easier for me to design and decorate. The scale is so much more manageable for me.
WE DON'T HAVE TO DO YARDWORK
This is huge for me. I mean huge. I get that some people like to do yardwork, but that's not me. I do love to put together a nice patio with potted plants and a cute table set, but that's it. If I'm craving a bigger grassy area, I can easily head over to the park and enjoy it for as long as I want and then go home to my easy-to-maintain strip of rocks and bushes on my porch. I don't miss the yardwork one bit.
WE DON'T HAVE TO REMOVE THE SNOW
This is also huge for me. We live in a place that has pretty intense winters and I can't tell you how high my hatred is for snow removal. Enough said.
WE HAVE SO MUCH MORE TIME
I don't think we realize how much time it takes to run a house. There's the repairs, the changing of the lightbulbs, the dusting, the vacuuming, the changing of the filters, the endless organizing and maintaining of everything, the buying of bushes, the returning of newly-purchased-now-dead bushes. You get the idea. It's a lot. And when you no longer have to do those things on a large scale (I obviously still have to do some of those things on a smaller scale), you end up with so much more time. Saturdays feel like a dream to me now. My husband I and wake up Saturday mornings and look at each other and just smile, knowing that we can do whatever we want with our day. It's magical to us.
WE HAVE MORE MONEY
This has been so nice for us. Not only do we not have to pay for big repairs and maintenance, but we were able to cut our monthly payment down by almost half, which has given us so much more wiggle room for not only medical expenses, but also to be able to help others who are in need and then even have a little left over for a few new throw pillows as well. ;)
WE HAVE LEARNED TO LET GO OF WHAT OTHER PEOPLE THINK
This may sound silly, but it has truly been one of the coolest things about downsizing. When you do something that is a little outside-the-norm, you are forced to evaluate what really matters in life. This toughens you up a bit. And that's a good thing, in my opinion. You realize that you no longer fit into the box that other people have constructed, so why worry anymore? This is easier said than done (I have to work hard to rewire my brain) but it's definitely worth the effort. The result is more inner peace and confidence. And who doesn't want more of that?
WE HAVE LEARNED TO BE MORE CONTENT
I used to think that if I resigned myself to being content then it meant that I wasn't growing. It seemed boring to me. I have since learned that this is not the case. Downsizing has taught me how to be happy with what I have, while still growing, learning, creating, and changing in more gentle and mindful ways. I find that I can still be a forward-thinking person without giving up the peace that comes from being happy with what is in front of me right now.
There are a few more PROS for me in regards to where we live right now, but they have more to do with the fact that it's a rental. Things like not having to do any of the repairs and also not being tied down. My husband and I have figured out that we like the freedom that comes from being able to easily make a change in location if we want to.
Having said all this, I want to point out that I do realize that living in a townhouse isn't for everyone and maybe not even feasible. And I'm not trying to judge people who make other choices. We all have to do what's best for ourselves and the people we love. I just think it's helpful for us to challenge our thinking enough to actually sit down and consider what it is that we really want in life. Take away all the societal "shoulds" and see what remains. We all know that we can't have everything. Every decision comes with a handful of both pros and cons and sometimes the things we thought we wanted aren't really what we want at all when we consider everything that's involved.
I also want to point out that this process has been a long journey for us and we are still learning and evolving. When you read it in a blog post, it seems so simple and quick. But the truth is, is that getting to this point took us years of blood, sweat, tears, and self-reflection. I went through a long season of being sad about it. I had to allow myself to grieve the loss of that former dream. We also had to do a lot of hard work. The process isn't easy, but it has been worth it to us.
Downsizing has taught me that the things that really make me happy, like love, connection, and creativity, are still available to me, but at a much lower cost.
Looking back, I think we could have gotten to this point a lot sooner if there were more people who were willing to share the joy they have found in making the choice to downsize.
Luckily, I think this is changing.