downsizing

What It’s Really Like to Downsize

It’s time for a report.  We’ve been in our smaller house for six months now.

Six months ago we moved from a 4200 square foot home (plus 1000 sq. feet of attic space) to a 2200 square foot home.  Our garage space and yard space were also cut in half.

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The move was pretty harry; we had to get our other house show ready which meant painting and repairing and staging and organizing and hauling out and cleaning and basically pretending like we had always taken good care of the house.

The house sold pretty quickly, and while we planned on moving up closer to my husband’s work, we experienced a major backlash from the kids.  They didn’t want to move up north, and they insisted that we move to our old house in Lindon.  (We were renting it out at the time.)  Adding to the challenge was that we really couldn’t find the right house up north.  I was feeling pretty tired so we just moved into our old house, hoping we could rally and find a better fit the next year.

And now we are here.  You would not believe how much stuff we sold, hauled off, gave away, posted on KSL, took to the dump, and just plain threw out before we finally got settled here.  We were still feeling pretty cramped, and I wondered whether we had made the right decision to move to such a small home.   Finally, I decided to just pretend that we would be here for the long haul, and I dug in for another aggressive haul off/sell off of our stuff.  It was tough because I had to get rid of some things that I really loved.

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Our new house (and old house)

But the fact of the matter is, I don’t miss any of it.  I don’t even think about it.  And I loving opening a kitchen cupboard and finding everything where it’s supposed to be.  (We label everything as we are all too ADHD to remember on our own.)

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I love this home.  I can’t believe I’m saying that, but truly, it’s been such a blessing for our family.  I’m not speaking for everyone when I say this—every family has different needs and different cleaning capabilities, but this is the right house for us.  Maybe not forever, but certainly for now.  Yes, it needs some repainting, and no, I don’t like our blue bathroom.  But then how much time do you really spend in the bathroom anyway?

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Our library. The next step is to cut our books in half. Again. Almost everything I read comes from the library or my Kindle.

It’s easier to find things, easier to put things away, easier to catch my boys sneaking on the computer, easier to grab my keys, easier to file our papers, easier to drag Ricky up to the piano, easier to clean the house, easier to find out who’s doing their homework, easier to find out who’s skipping out on their chores, and easier to get our kids dressed in the morning.  I’m not telling any of you with large houses that you shouldn’t have one because I loved our big house too.  But I know myself.  And I know that I do better in a smaller house.

Is it perfect? No. We are a little bit scrunched at our kitchen table, but the captain made a bench to replace two of our chairs. I don’t like sharing our laundry room with a bathroom, but that just means I get most of the laundry done in one day.

And the benefits have been so much greater.  I LOVE that I know where my children are all the time in the house.  I LOVE the split level concept—that I can look from my kitchen down to the family room and say, “What’s that you’re watching?”  I love that Ben immediately changes the channel.  I love that it’s so quick and easy to clean up and get things put away.  I love that I don’t feel so tied up in my house.   I love that I have had more time to write and read.

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I took this picture today. None of them knew I was taking it of them.

But the best part has been watching my children become closer.  They have to hang out together now.  There are no places for them to hide in the house.  Our family room has both a coffee table and a game table, and guess what the kids are doing all the time now?  Playing games!  It’s so nice to see them after school all gathered around the chess board.  (And believe me, we are not really a chess kind of family.)  It’s so nice to see Ben at the game table doing homework, even though he has a desk in his room.  It’s so nice to be able to break fights before they get grisley.

And then there’s all these unexpected perks.  Like finding Ricky playing monopoly by himself.  Or watching my boys start their own Lego blog where they create super funny music videos.  (It turns out that the best place to be out of mom’s reach is in their rooms where all they can do is read or play Legos.)  Check this one out.  I can’t believe they did it!

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Do you like our chess table?  The captain made it.  He also made the entertainment center.  The chess table is my favorite piece in our entire house.  It just sits on our coffee table making it easy for the kids to start a game.

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Eli is thinking hard. He is the self-proclaimed best player in our family. Anyone want to challenge him? The rest of us would appreciate it!

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Davy and Ricky playing a fairly complicated game. (Or maybe I just don’t remember the name of it.)

The captain and the children have already told me that we won’t ever move again.  Ever.  So it looks like we might be here longer than I thought. And that’s OK with me.  But when my knees get bad, I’m going to insist on a rambler.

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The Upside of Downsizing

While moving into a smaller home has been anything but easy, we are starting to see some great advantages.

1.  We’re left with our coolest stuff.

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I love walking into our rooms because there’s no more ugly furniture.  I was worried that our furniture might not fit into our house very well, but everything came together so well and our rooms look pretty dang awesome.  Give me a month, and I’ll give you a tour of the whole house.

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The captain made the chairs, the chess table, and the entertainment center.

2.  We can find things easier now.

We used to have to keep things like shoes, books, and cleaning supplies in many different locations so that they were readily accessible in our large house.  The problem was that with everything spread out in so many places, we had to look in all those places before we could actually find what we needed.  Now our shoes go only in our bedroom, and because they’re close to our living areas, it’s not a big deal to go and get them.  We’ve also discovered the Ricky owns fourteen pairs of shoes when before we thought he only had one left flip flop.

3.  I love our new library!

Books were also a pain to find because they were scattered everywhere, but now we have them all in one room, stored in a gorgeous built-in bookcase that the captain made seven years ago.  It holds a lot of books, and every time I walk past it, I feel happy.

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4.  When I call my children, they answer.  Usually.

My kids know they have to answer me when I call them.   They can no longer use the excuse, “I didn’t hear you.”  I cannot tell you how nice this has been.

5.  Our kitchen cleans up fast.

The counters can be wiped in three minutes.  The floor takes five.  Unfortunately, I still have the same amount of dishes to clean up, but I did get rid of our salad spinner, which was a pain to wash and dry.  I was worried that I wouldn’t have enough storage space in my kitchen, but I have plenty.

6.  I know what the kids are watching on television.

A few days ago, I saw one of the boys watching something inappropriate, and I said, “What are you watching?”  He immediately changed the channel.

7.  I’ve learned that my kids watch a lot of television.  And they play on their iPods a lot.  They also love hanging out with the computer.

Yes, I knew all of this before, but now I know about it when it’s happening.  We’re slowly trying to change these habits.  Tennis, anyone?

8.  It’s easier to keep the house clean.

There are still parts of our house that need to be organized since our move, but the rooms we have unpacked are staying clean.  Everybody has a section they have to clean. Their areas are manageable.  It’s easier for me to go around and do inspections to make sure everyone completed their assignment.

I used to have a pretty bench at the end of our bed where I threw all of my clothes, but now we have no space for it, and I actually hang up my clothes now.

9.  I can break up fights before they escalate.

I’m right there at the first poke, and things don’t get out of control before I’m made aware of a problem.

10.   We have no mortgage.

You would not believe what kind of peace of mind this gives us.  When we hear about Malaysian airplanes being shot down and young people being kidnapped in the Middle East, yes, my stomach still turns, and yes, we pray for those families.  But in some way, the fact that we have our house paid off puts our minds more at rest.  Despite all the chaos in the world, our financial affairs are in order.

11. My six-year-old is now getting himself dressed in the morning.

Before it was such a hike to get to his room.  Now, I ask him to get dressed, and he actually makes it up the seven stars and down the short hallway.  It’s been amazing.  We’ve also started brushing their teeth more because the bathroom is so close now.

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Do you find it easier to live in a larger or smaller home?

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The Downside of Downsizing

Yesterday I talked about why we decided to downsize and while we felt good about our decision, it was really tough to actually do it.  We had to get rid of about half of our stuff.  Getting rid of that much stuff is harder than it sounds.

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The final showdown. We do plan on parking into our garage next week.

So much of this process was satisfying.  I enjoyed going through all of our clothing with the boys, giving away that which we no longer needed, and storing our off-season clothing in our under the bed boxes.  We stored our gift wrap, off-season clothing, sheets, winter gear (coats, boots, gloves), and Legos under the beds.  Not only do these under the bed boxes have great storage capacity, but they are accessible, making it easy to both pull things out and put things away.

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I also REALLY enjoyed purging the toys.  I had a little conversation with each toy I put in the give away bag:   “This is the last time I’m putting you away.  Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!”  In no way did my laugh sound like a witch’s cackle.

But there were parts of this process that were really hard.

Making decisions was really hard.  I’ve always been taught to not waste, but this principle of conservation was at constant odds with the principle of simplicity.  “Do we really need this?”  The answer was almost always, “No.”  I’ve never gotten attached to things, but there was a certain guilt involved with letting things go—that somehow we had just not come through for our fondue pot.  We used it how many times?  Twice?

And it’s not like I was a fairy godmother, like I could just snap my fingers and the object in question would just disappear.  If only.  So many items had to be listed on KSL, so many phone calls and texts had to be answered, so many trips had to be made to Deseret Industries (our thrift store), and then our garbage cans were always overflowing.  I finally called the city and had them bring in two extra garbage cans.  Imagine wheeling out six cans for the garbage truck!

My low point was hauling stuff over to the dump.  Have you ever done that?  It is DISGUSTING!  The silver lining to this is that what ever germaphobia I once had is now gone.  I was totally shocked that I did not get some garbage flu disease or something.

What has surprised me through this process was that after getting past the initial guilt, it was really easy for me to let things go.  I haven’t missed any of it.  Well, we did miss our fertilizer spreader so I just went back to Deseret Industries and bought it back for $6.

Now for the upside of downsizing.  

Oh!  and today’s the 24th of July!  Want to know what we’re doing today?  

Do you feel you have too much stuff?  What makes it hard to let it go?

Why We Decided to Downsize and Second Thoughts

As I mentioned in the last post, one factor that helped us decided to downsize was that we could pay off our house.

We had been using the captain’s bonuses to pay down our smaller home which we had been renting out for the past seven years.  (We had chosen to pay down our small house first since it was far less daunting than paying off the mortgage on our larger home.)

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It’s so hard to move when you become emotionally attached to your home. We had so many great family memories–especially in our backyard.

Because we had been steadily paying down our smaller home, we realized that if we sold our large home, we could use the cash to completely pay off our smaller home and still have some cash leftover for emergencies.

It was a no-brainer right?

But we still had some real concerns.  We were moving to be closer to work, yet we were just moving ten minutes up the street.  What would our friends think?

And what would the people think in our new/old neighborhood?  “Yeah, so we left you guys seven years ago, but then we decided we’d pop back in for a while—-or maybe forever.  We’re not sure yet.”

And then there was the fact that the smaller home was a split level, which was not exactly compatible with my ADHD brain, a brain which also has a lot of split levels.  And wouldn’t we be just too crowded?  Would the kids be fighting all the time?  Could we fit around our dinner table?  Would we ever host again?

And what about the captain’s work?   Weren’t we trying to increase his quality of life?  We would be moving a little closer to his work, but he would still have a half hour commute.  There was potential here.  The captain loved to bike and the bike trail near our house went fifteen miles closer to his work and ended at a Front Runner station.  Could there be some kind of mixed biking/commuter train combination that might just work?

And then there were days where I just didn’t want to move at all.  We loved our neighborhood, our friends, our children’s friends, and the thought of leaving them behind was just too sad.

We still didn’t know what we were going to do a week before we had to move.  Our renter was moving out in a few days, and we were tempted to say, “Could you not move out until we have this thing totally figured out?”  We looked at houses the Monday before the movers were coming.  We found one closer to the captain’s work (about a fifteen minute commute), got all excited about it, only to discover that there weren’t very many teenagers in the neighborhood.  The HOA fees were kind of a drag too, and there were no trees.

The captain advised me that it might be a little late to be looking, and we should just move forward with our plan to move in to our smaller house and pay it off.  So we did.  That’s in the end was what helped us finally decide.  We were out of time.

We’ve found both an upside and a downside to downsizing.

What do you think are the most important factors in choosing where to live?

Why We Decided to Downsize

We are not at the stage of our lives where people typically downsize. Our kids have not left the nest. We don’t have time for golf.  We’re not looking to move to Arizona anytime soon.

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Our old home. Wasn’t it beautiful? Sigh.

But here we are, moving from a 4000+ square foot home with a five car garage to a 2200 square foot home with a two car garage. And we have five kids. They are loud. They are sloppy. They are known to get into frequent fracas with each other.

And yet we still made the decision to downsize.

How did this happen?

It happened accidentally when our family was biking past our old home that we still owned and my oldest son said, “Why can’t we move into our old house?”

Well of course we couldn’t move into our old house. It wasn’t close enough to the captain’s work (although closer than the house we were living in).  It was small.  It was a split level which was just so 80’s.

We already had a plan.  We would be moving to a home close to the captain’s work.  We would be buying a rambler where the captain and I would live on the main floor, and the children would live in the basement.

But then our son started whining as we were trying to enjoy our bike ride. “We should move into our old house.”

“I don’t know, honey. It’s not that much closer to your dad’s work.”

“Please? Can’t we? Please,” he begged.

“But you would be living in such close quarters with Davy.  Think about that.”

“I don’t care. I really really really want to move into our old house.”

“Why do you want to move there?”

“Because I could still hang out with my Provo friends sometimes, and we would live close to Nana.”   In fact, his new high school would be right across the street from his Nana’s house.  (My son loves his Nana since he frequently feels that he has been cheated in the mother department. I mean what mother makes her son do chores and read for a half hour every day in the summer?)

Still, maybe our son was on to something.

We toyed with the idea. Our old house was the small house in a great neighborhood.  It was close to the elementary, junior high, and high school which would mean less driving.  The house was not even a block away from a seventeen mile bike trail and was also in walking distance to both a track and tennis courts.  Several of my aunts and cousins lived in the area.  We love the tennis coach of the prospective high school.  There were several children who studied music seriously in the neighborhood which would encourage the musician in our own.

I could maybe keep the house cleaner.  Our lawn wouldn’t take so long to mow.  We could keep better track of the kids.  Getting Ricky dressed would be so much easier.

But most important of all, we could pay off the house.  See more about this on Why We Decided to Downsize Part II.

Have you ever downsized?  What was hard about it?  Would you do it again?