The Downsizing Chronicles: Almost There

It’s been three months since we moved to our little house, and I’m thrilled to say that we can now get one car in the two-car garage with room to spare. This was no mean trick, as the garage was literally filled to the brim with stuff (rows of stuff stacked as tall as I am) not very long ago. We’ve gone through everything, only letting into the house what we really need or want. That’s been hard, because we liked all of our stuff!

We took some ribbing from family and friends about how much stuff we had, but the fact is that I never had time to completely go through things over the years because I was too busy homeschooling my kids, and I certainly can’t regret that. Also, we kept things that would be needed for our long-held dream of living on acreage, a dream that was apparently not in God’s will, and it wasn’t until we bought this tiny house in town that we knew we could give those things up.

We took countless boxes to Goodwill. We’ve given a lot of toys and homeschooling items to friends with young children. We’ve sold a lot of things on Craig’s List. And there are a few more things that need to go, but we’re working on that.

The hardest items to give up were the books. We love books. And though we do have a Kindle with plenty of books on it, the fact is that there’s nothing like holding a much-loved book in your hands. But there just wasn’t room for all the books we loved.

I’ve sold and given away many books in the past, but there were some I could never let go of, including those I used for my kids when I first designed Life Prep for them. I’m going to be giving those away on this blog soon, because I can’t use them with my youngest.

There is an upside to all of this. As much as I miss the things we gave up, it’s very freeing to live small. The housework doesn’t take nearly as long as it did when we had five bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms. The utility bills for this house are lower than the last house (90 years old with 38 windows!) and the small closets here forced us to get rid of a lot of our clothes (which weren’t getting much use anyways because we don’t have jobs and nobody dresses up at church these days.)

So I’m not complaining. And the fact that they’re predicting snow tonight and we won’t have to clean off the car tomorrow because it now fits in the garage makes me extra glad we worked so hard to get rid of all our stuff after the move  🙂

The Downsizing Chronicles: Where is Home?

We lived in a lovely, large house for many years. But when we took vacations at a small Door County condo, we were always surprised at how quickly we got used to being there and having it feel like home. Even so, we were always happy to get back to our house and would echo Dorothy in saying, “There’s no place like home!”

Since we had to sell our longtime home four years ago, we’ve lived in three more houses: two rentals and now the little house we just bought. And one of the interesting things we’ve learned on this journey is that each place felt like home rather quickly. Considering we moved out of state, this really surprised me, because each time we had to get used to a new town, new library and stores, new church, etc.

But what I finally realized is that home is wherever our family is gathered together. I recall a Christmas soon after we left Illinois. Four of us were living in Door County, our eldest was in Chicago and our son and daughter-in-law were in Missouri. Rather than have them trek up north, we rented a hotel suite in Illinois so all of us could gather there for Christmas. Never before had we exchanged Christmas gifts in a hotel! Yet it felt like home because all of us were there together.

Many people are being forced to move in this economy. Some are downsizing like we’ve had to do. In fact, someone very close to me has gone from owning two lovely homes and a tract of land in an island paradise to living in a tiny rental townhouse. It’s a painful process, no doubt about it. But once you discover that being together is the most important thing, you can get past your material losses and realize that the real gift is being with those you love.

Back in the 80s, when country decorating was all the rage, there were lots of folksy wall plaques emblazoned with geese or quilt blocks along with the saying “Home is Where the Heart Is.” Now those plaques look kind of dated and cheesy, but the saying is true: if you’re surrounded by your family, you’re home, no matter where you are.

The Downsizing Chronicles: I Keep Finding Things I Forgot I Had…..

….Like a few more booklets, which I’ll continue to give away free while they last. And then there are some of the books from the reading list of Life Prep for Homeschooled Teenagers. I don’t need them anymore because my kids are grown, and I hate to give them up because they’re great books, but I just don’t have room for them in our new little home. So stay tuned; I’ll be giving them away soon!

The Downsizing Chronicles: Redecorating

A friend visited our new home today and had a lot of suggestions for how we could update it. I appreciate her input but I probably won’t take most of it to heart.

One of the things I decided over the course of our past four years as renters is that I spent far too much time thinking about making changes to our previous homes and then, eventually, making those changes. Yes, it’s fun, but it sure is time-consuming, and I just don’t want to spend that kind of time on a house anymore. I’ve decided I will appreciate the house as it is, and not spend too much time obsessing over changes. Yes, there will be changes, I’m sure, but I’m just not willing to put a lot of time into thinking, planning and executing them.

I didn’t make this decision on purpose. I think it’s a byproduct of living in a rental house after 25 years as a homeowner and enjoying the freedom of looking at ugly carpeting and thinking, “If this was my house, I’d replace that carpet, but since it’s not, I don’t care,” and then going on to do whatever it is I wanted to do for fun because I finally had the time. There’s a certain freedom in renting that I really enjoyed, and I guess subconsciously I’m trying to retain some of that freedom even though we just became homeowners again.

Another thought: we completely remodeled our first house, and bought our second house new and then completely decorated it. Maybe I just got burned out on all that decorating and now I don’t care as much? Who knows? What I do know is that I appreciate our latest house despite its dated wallpaper borders and various-shades-of-80s-beige walls, and that is very liberating.

How about you? Are you at this stage yet? Or would you agree with my friend that the box light fixture in the kitchen should be replaced with can lighting, and the basement walls should be painted a color other than white?  🙂

The Downsizing Chronicles: Living Small

The first time our daughter drove past the home we just bought, she said, “It’s so small!” I responded, “That’s what you’re going to hear me say every month when I open the electric bill.”  🙂

That was one of our goals. We spent so much money over the years heating and cooling our homes, and we were sick of it. Money is much tighter now than it used to be (at least for us), so who wants to give so much to the utility companies? Not us.

There are other advantages to having a small home. There are fewer rooms to clean. The property taxes are lower than most. (Heck, the price of the home was lower than most.) And living small forced us to give up a lot of furniture, so we kept only our favorite pieces and are enjoying them more.

That said, it’s a bit cozier around here than in our previous homes. Sometimes we bump into each other in the kitchen or the hall. We’re all sharing the same shower (not at the same time, of course!) And since I’m a cook-from-scratch person most of the time, the kitchen cabinets are packed tight with pans, small appliances and other must-have-to-make-dinner items.

It’s only been a month, but so far we like it. And on the days I get frustrated with the lack of space, I figure I’ll just pull out the electric bills and re-examine them. That should help!