Trading Down to a Smaller Home

 

Jennifer lives in Texas, but she’s not convinced that everything in Texas needs to be bigger.  She and her husband downsized their possessions and their home.  Her family members were concerned and asked if she needed to borrow money!  Her parents took her out to eat more often. Even her friends wondered what was going on.

She felt like she had finally come to her senses.

Jennifer shares her story:

When my husband and I got married we were ‘TINK’s (two incomes, no kids) so of course, we bought the biggest, showiest two-story monstrosity that we could find in a semi-affluent area of the metroplex.  We really thought we had it made!

Five not-so-short years later, our first son was born as a 30-week preemie.  We spent 8 torturous weeks in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, and at that point our heads were finally screwed on straight! Immediately after we got into a “normal” life, we started looking for smaller houses, much smaller.

“People matter, not stuff, and your house is nothing more than a closet — just a big place to store all your stuff.”

We had finally seen the light.

We gave away, sold, donated, freecycled, and tossed over 70% of our possessions.  (You know the 80/20 rule – 80% of the time you only use 20% of your clothes, kitchen gadgets, etc, etc — well we got rid of the 80% we only used 20% of the time!)  

We found a house over 800 square feet smaller than our starter house, and we found that a good layout on a smaller house is better for everyone.

It’s a new way to think, but we are so blessed to have a comfortable home, more than enough stuff, and to have freed up a large portion of our income so we can turn our attention outward.

Our utility bills dropped more than 40%, our mortgage lowered by 35%, and though there’s no way to measure it, I’ll go out on a limb and estimate our happiness quotient went UP by at least 30%! 

You know what is most apparent to me about Jennifer’s story?  Her sense of “home” isn’t centered on the house.  It’s about the people in it.  I love that.
 
We’re about to enter a season when a lot of emphasis is on decorating the home and adding more. Let’s enjoy it, but not forget what truly matters to us, ok?
About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.

Comments

  1. We lived in Houston and had the same epiphany. We realized that we didn’t have the same American dream as everyone else. We moved from a 4 bedroom/2 bath house to a small one bedroom apartment. We continue to go through the apartment every couple of months to clear out our junk.

    Less time spent cleaning was worth it.

  2. I love this – my fiancee and I just moved into our first place. It took a LONG time for him to realize that bigger is not always better. He went from insisting that we have a single family home on a big piece of land, to being “okay” with a two level townhouse, to finally seeing just how nice a small, cozy place can be. We’re now happily settled in a two bedroom condo that is close to both of our offices and we couldn’t be happier. It’s not the building or all the up-grades that makes a house a home – it’s the people inside and the life you create there. I’m happier than ever and am not eager to move into something bigger!

  3. I bet Jennifer is happy now that she got rid of her monster house with the way the real estate market is.
    Too often in the past we have bought into the idea that more is better. Many times more is just.. well.. more.

    Dana @ Letters to Elijah’s last blog post..Great Posts of the Week

  4. I couldn’t agree with her, or you more :)

    Laura @ move to portugal’s last blog post..To Do list for October

  5. When we moved into our 700 sq ft apartment I thought I would feel like I was in a shoebox. But actually, I find myself sometimes thinking how “too” huge is our kitchen or how we don’t really need that extra bathroom or how our home office could be half its size and we’d still be happy with it. I think this no-spend month is making me want to get rid of all unnecessary stuff… including space!

  6. smallnotebook says:

    Lori, we live in a one bedroom apartment too, and we have to go through our stuff regularly. We started in an apartment though. I bet it was an experience changing from a large house to an apartment.

    Kate, we felt like your fiance, taking time to get used to the small home, instead of feeling like it was temporary. But we love it too now.

    Gracia, I’ve seen your kitchen and I think it’d be nice to have one that big with a window!

  7. thanks for making this point. I’ve had all that I’ve wanted in excess and have lived all over the world but I’m happiest now having what I love the most; my little one and our fun times together.

    TabbyinTexas’s last blog post..6 Oct 08

  8. I love the part about freeing up their income to look outward. Though I do have to say that since we have lived in 500 sq. ft, 1000 sq. ft and 1200 sq. ft before moving to the 4 bedroom house, that the LAYOUT of the 4 bedroom house and the extra space for the kids to run off the energy made my happiness quotient go way up. I think layout is key, and if you have multiple kids, a bit of space makes life more fun. We can spend countless hours just running around the house playing games that we couldn’t play before we had the space.

    Andrea’s last blog post..Take the Survey!

  9. Last year, my husband and I started looking for our first house together. The more we looked, the more we realized that a. we don’t need much space, and b. we didn’t want to own something that was only for us, it seemed a selfish way to spend money. So, we decided to buy a two-family home! We live on the bottom floor and rent the top floor at a discounted price to friends who are in the process of saving for their first home. We’ve really enjoyed being able to share space (the porches) with them, and we all take responsibility for the outdoor chores. By sharing things like tools, the washer and dryer, and not-necessary kitchen items, we were also both able to get rid of excess stuff! I am all for simplifying, way to go Jennifer!

  10. My housing story is a bit different. I inherited my home, which was a run down old thing. My husband and I spruced up the “apartment” side of the duplex, which we rent out, then got to work on our side. The only walk-in closet became a half-bath. The never-used dining room is now a family room that gets used every day (we like our eat-in kitchen for all our meals). My next project is cleaning out an attic stuffed with everyone’s castoffs. That will become a bedroom. The clutter will be given away, freecycled or trashed. I plan to keep only family photos.

  11. Laura, what a great idea.

    We currently live in a 1500 sq ft house. We rent a room out to a college student. One room is used for an office for my husband’s
    business which is much better than renting space somewhere. Our son shares our bathroom so our roommate can have one to herself. When my son started sharing our bathroom it is definitely got cozy and I like it.

    Along with many other Americans, we are in danger of going into foreclosure. At that point we may have to move to a much smaller place which will give us a chance to get creative.

    Monica’s last blog post..The Art of Patience

  12. a lovely story and very true me thinks!
    I have been trying to de clutter our house recently too. Why is it when you move you bring all the stuff you never used from the last place? If only my hubbie wasn’t such a hoarder!
    I am doing it gradually and he doesn’t seem to notie that way…

    Bev’s last blog post..christmas stocking

  13. Slackerjo says:

    This is driving me crazy. How big was the old house and how big is the new house? I live in a 550 sq foot apt so 700 is like a mansion to me.

  14. My husband and I have thought about downsizing to save money. The funny thing is – we can’t. In my area, a smaller home is actually more expensive than our house. We did buy our home “at the right time” yet there is something wrong when you can’t afford to downsize!

  15. Reminds me of that country song out last decade about the warmth of running into each other in the narrow hallways of a “starter” house.

    We live in a medium-sized house, and I always say I wouldn’t have the time and energy to keep up with anything bigger. The way it is, we can move the other level if one is dirty, while we’re entertaining.

  16. It’s amazing that small living is the new trendy – it’s about time! When my husband and I bought our house (our first) we were prodded by our family and the bank (natch) to buy a bigger place. But we didn’t _need_ a bigger place and gave up on trying to convince the others that we knew what we were doing.

    Condo Blues’s last blog post..Save Travel Time and Money with a Zero Waste Road Trip

  17. Hubby and I lived in a duplex (800 s.f.) when we were married (2 bedroom). Shortly after the birth of our daughter we decided we should buy a home (I had a mentality that you couldn’t raise a family in a duplex – shame on me). We bought a home (1500 s.f.) from a couple that we knew. A great deal. 9 years later we moved to a larger home (2200 sf). With the larger space we got a larger mortgage but also a great neighborhood which is worth a lot. We’ve been here 6 years and there have been times we wish we had our old house back. We had more storage, a lower monthly payment but we would also have had a kitchen the size of a postage stamp. The kitchen could have been renovated/expanded but then we probably would have done more than just the kitchen so we’d probably be spending the same amount we are now. I’m convinced that our move was a God thing; our neighbor is now hubby’s boss. A career opportunity that probably would not have happened otherwise and hubby absolutely loves what he does.

    Nancy’s last blog post..After the Storm

  18. Thanks for sharing this. I live in a small house, and I sometimes find myself envious of those who own big, beautiful homes. But you’re right — it’s just a storage space, and the people who live in my home matter so much more than anything else. We live within our means, don’t fear foreclosure, and always have a drink ready for our guests. And while I’d love to have a garage or a walk-in closet someday, I’ll remain thankful for all that surrounds me inside my humble abode.

    Elizabeth’s last blog post..Unplugged for a day or two

  19. My husband and I recently bought and renovated a 1060 square foot 1945 bungalow (that’s including the 2 additions – one we did, and one the previous owner did). We’ve got us, a child, an 80 pound lab, 3 cats, a fish and 2 home offices. A lot of our friends wonder until they see it. It’s been a struggle mostly for stuff we need for work but we’re figuring it out little by little. I love having the smaller space for all of the reasons you mention.
    I’m a professional organizer so that helps, but mostly it’s the coziness factor and the usage of every bit. It helps our daughter, too, in that she really recognizes that everything has a place and why. We’ve had houses as big as 3500 s/f but now we’re back where we like it. Good post.

  20. I love having a small home. We have space to get away from the family, but most of the time we are together. IMO family togetherness is a good thing.

    There are so many costs around living in a larger home: more heat, more AC, more lights, more furniture, more decorations. And the time.. more time needed for housekeeping and landscaping and cleaning junk out of closets!

  21. smallnotebook:
    How do you manage your 1-bedroom space in terms of your daughter? Where does she sleep and where do you and your husband sleep? Where do you keep her play area so that your house isn’t overrun with toys and baby stuff? I’d love to hear how you make the space work for your family.

  22. smallnotebook says:

    Kristina, there’s a future post coming soon about that. We were able to make a space that’s just hers, and I’ll share more about how we manage her toys and things.

  23. How clever. I’m looking forward to reading about that! I love creativity in action!

    Monica’s last blog post..The Art of Patience

  24. i’d love to see how you manage the one bedroom. My little ones toy box used to be a 12″x12″ tub. Now it’s a 13′x13′ room! She keeps a mental inventory of everything and nothing is ignored so I can’t purge, except when we move.

    TabbyinTexas’s last blog post..7 Oct 08

  25. I was tipped off to your blog today and just LOVE it. Thank you so much for this inspiring and lovely post!

    xo
    Rebekka

  26. Love this! We did the same thing. We bought a huge house, but always felt like the house was not us. Traded it for a smaller one and we are all so very comfortable… it’s home! Plus, we got to get rid of all of our junk!

  27. I’d love to hear how you manage the space with a daughter! Currently my son is living in the living room, and it’s very cramped (he’s only 2 months old). I’m not sure how I’m going to fit a sofa (or chair) bed in here for guests. My husband has taken over our second bedroom as his office (there isn’t any room in our teeny bedroom for even a desk), which is frustrating. He insists he MUST have his own office at home. Thus, I am left with the living room and dining room for tv/baby/etc.

    I love Jennifer’s story, though. I keep wishing we’d gotten rid of more stuff before we moved across the country! I still have a pile of boxes in the dining room…2 months after I moved here. What’s weird is that my husband insisted I keep all of my craft supplies… even though I kept trying to get rid of them!

    thursday’s last blog post..Yesterday’s Mail…

  28. smallnotebook says:

    If you’d like to see how we made a room for our daughter, I wrote about it here: Small Space Solutions: Organizing Kids’ Toys and Books.
    For us, the key was to limit furniture to only the crib and a small cabinet, and then use wall space for storing toys and books.

    Thursday, maybe an air mattress would be a good solution for guests.

  29. Didn’t read all of the comments, but just want to say that there is a limit to smallness that one family can stand. I agree that it’s probaby much smaller than most people will admit but I live in a VERY small house and there are times that, despite the extra cleaning it would take, I sincerely wish we could have a nursery. Our bedroom is barely big enough for us and now to fit a crib into it is a challenge.

  30. we live out in the country, on 9 acres, but most of the people we know live in subdivisions – it’s so interesting to be doing something different than most around us who couldn’t think of not living “in town”. I love it when people are willing to live what’s “right for them” and not keep up with the Joneses!

    jodi @ bpr’s last blog post..WFMW – Is Christmas sneaking up on you?