Downsizing, is it for you?

By: Mariana Byrd

As someone who just moved from a 2800 square foot house to a 1700 square foot house, I can attest that downsizing was the right move for us; however it may not be for everyone.

Before I tell you what I learned about downsizing, I will tell you a little bit about us and why we did it.  First, we are not your traditional “downsizer”.  We are not retired, our children are not grown, nor did we pay less for our smaller house versus our larger house.

We are a young couple in our 30’s with 2 children (ages 5 and 3).  Up until our last house we had always lived in smaller houses, mostly due to the fact that one of us was always a student and we couldn’t afford anything larger.  Needless to say, we always made it work, had room for the occasional guest, and it always felt cozy.

The pending birth of our second daughter and the fact that both of us had “real” jobs, prompted us to expand and buy the biggest house we could afford.  Similar to going to the grocery store on an empty stomach!  After the initial excitement of more space wore off, we quickly regretted the purchase.  Not because of the mortgage payments (we did buy within our comfort range), but because in actuality we didn’t like maintaining such a large house.  Here are the things we did not consider when buying our large house:

  1. Buying lots of furniture and accessories was not our idea of fun, nor where we wanted to spend our money.
  2. Cleaning takes (at least) 10 times longer and, it turns out, is not how we wanted to spend our weekends.  Go figure!
  3. Several rooms remained unused, yet had to pay to heat, cool, and spend time to clean them.

I do have to say that, in the beginning, we did enjoy our large house.  We had ample room to roam around, the kids had their own room plus a bonus room, we had a guest bedroom, and we had a garage (a nice luxury we never had before).  As time went on, we realized that the large rooms were good for making large messes and closing the doors (to hide them), but not a comfy place to enjoy family time.  Therefore we started making plans to downsize…which is the hard part.

As a Realtor I see houses everyday.  Unfortunately, what I have found out is that you cannot judge a house by it’s square footage.  The main criteria you have to look at is a home’s floor plan and how adequate it is for your current and future lifestyle.

We had very specific needs/wants in regards to location, rooms, etc., so it took us several years but we did finally find the right home for our lifestyle and needs.  Luckily, we had already began to get rid of the clutter in our home.  And, by clutter, I mean clothing, toys, and anything else that we did not use on a regular basis and just stored in our house because we had the space.

De-cluttering helped us tremendously in feeling more relaxed in our house but this was just the beginning.  As you read in last weeks blog, staging is a very critical element in selling a home.  Therefore, before putting our house on the market, we had a very wonderful stager help us move furniture, add accessories, and remove even more items  from our house.

The house sold within 13 days and we were thrilled.  Our house looked bare in comparison to even few months prior so packing, although time consuming, was not as difficult as it would have been had we not already de-cluttered or put some items in storage.

It was another 2 months before we closed on our houses and just last week we moved into our new house.  We already feel more at ease in our new, smaller house and the whole family loves the fact that we can each enjoy different activities in separate areas of the house, yet still feel close and intimate.

But here was the hard part: unpacking.

We have realized that we probably “really” need only need half of our belongings.  When we were about half way done unpacking, we thought we had everything we needed (which we did), but we still had many more boxes to unpack.  And, as we’ve been unpacking those boxes, we have decided that most of the items will be sold or given away.  This does not even include the many boxes we have in storage.  As always happens with storage, we can’t remember what is in there except for one item (a winter duvet cover).

Downsizing has taught us that:

  1. We are willing to pay more for a smaller house because of the many lifestyle benefits.
  2. We can do without a garage.
  3. We love smaller, more intimate spaces.
  4. Built-in storage is critical in making smaller spaces work.
  5. We can live, and actually thrive, without so many possessions.
  6. And last, but by far the best, our family enjoys more quality time together in a smaller space.

Downsizing is not a term that only has to be used for empty nesters or retirees.  For us, it was definitely a lifestyle choice.  A choice that we gladly made.

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