In Defense of Downsizing: 4 Reasons a Smaller Home Might Just Be the Right Fit

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The term “downsizing” usually brings to mind baby boomers, moving from the sprawling suburbs to a chic downtown condo or a one-story ranch.

But I’d like to encourage you–no matter what stage of life you’re in–to consider downsizing NOW.

Why, you ask? Oh, do read on…

I live in a 1,500 square foot home with five people: me, my husband, and our three kids. Josh and I bought our cute 1930’s Cape Cod as a starter home back in 2006, imagining that we’d upgrade sooner rather than later.

Then 2007 hit and the real estate market went KABOOM. And we decided to stay for awhile.

Then 2009 hit and we had triplets. But they were very small so our little house was really no problem.

Then 2011 hit and I went back to work full-time and the only way we could afford child care for three toddlers was to hire a live-in nanny. (Seriously, this was cheaper than daycare. I did the math.)

And that’s about the time our house started to feel really, really small.

But I soon realized that the problem wasn’t the size of our house, it was the quantity of our stuff.

We started minimizing in 2012, slowly shedding our excess possessions, and soon realized that a 1,500 square foot home could easily accommodate two parents, a live-in nanny, and three kids, as long as we lived with just what we needed and loved.

We no longer need live-in help, so our home is back to just the five of us. But we still aren’t budging. And here are 4 reasons why:

Reason #1: Smaller Homes Are Cheaper

True dat. And I’m not just talking purchase price, although that is something to consider. My property taxes are lower, my utilities cost less because there is less space to light, heat, and air condition, and we don’t need purchase or replace furniture very often because we don’t have that many spaces that need furniture. And think of all the things I could I do with that extra money… Send my kids to college? Travel? Buy a llama named Greg? The possibilities are endless.

Reason #2: Smaller Homes Are Easier to Clean

I recently took a clue from my friend Karen (who has 7 kids, a full-time job, and runs a budding non-profit. Wow, just writing that makes me feel equal parts awe and exhaustion!) and started a Saturday whole-house cleaning routine. I ordained Saturday as the High Holy Day of Dusting and Scrubbing and set the family to it. I wrote out a list of everything that needed done, assigned jobs, set a timer, and cranked some tunes.

We’ve been at this for three months now, and amazingly, it has never taken us longer than an hour to clean the entire house. And I’m talking every toilet scrubbed, every floor vacuumed, swept, or mopped, and every surface dusted. I can only imagine how much longer this would take if we had a home two or three times our size. We’d probably have to hire a housekeeper, which would only provide further proof of Reason #1. 

(As a personal aside… I would consider myself derelict in my parental duty if I sent my children out into the world without the knowledge of how to scrub their own toilet. I certainly hope they all make their first billion before 30 and never have to worry about such mundane tasks, but in the event that they want to pursue their lifelong dream of being street artists, well then, toilet scrubbing skills just may come in handy.)

Reason #3: Smaller Homes Promote Family Togetherness:

Now depending on your family, may not consider this a bonus… 😉 But I like my family and I like being close to them, and I’d miss my kids if they had a separate wing of the house to escape to. Yes, they have bedrooms where they can get some privacy, but typically, all the living in our home takes place in one main room–the shared living/dining space. It’s the space you walk into as soon as you enter my home and it’s where 90% of the talking, listening, playing, squabbling, and laughing happens. In fact, right now my boys are playing video games on the couch, while I sit at the table and type. Later tonight we are having some friends over and this table will be used for a big group meal, and then turned into a board game station.

I think we lose something when our homes are so big that family members can cross paths like ships in the night. A little elbow rubbing on the couch makes for good family memories down the road and being able to keep a closer eye on our kids can prevent a whole host of problems during the teenage years… of the kind I don’t want to think about yet because my sweet babies are still just eight!  

Yes, there are times I long for a larger space. Mostly when we have people over. But honestly, how often do we host large groups? Maybe once or twice per year. It would be ridiculous for me to pay for, clean, and maintain a large house just for those few times.

And interestingly, I’ve noticed that when I’m invited to a large home for a party everyone congregates in one space anyway, usually the kitchen. So I wonder… what’s the point of all those extra rooms if they aren’t even used during a party?

Reason #4: Downsizing is Easier When You’re Younger

I’ve helped my fair share of baby boomers with the downsizing process and let me tell you… your 70-year-old self will thank you if you start this process now. The younger and more able-bodied you are, the easier the downsizing process. Downsizing is hard physical work. (Just ask my massage therapist, who gets lots of business from me when I’m in the middle of these projects!) Start now and your back will thank you later.

Also, downsizing is less emotional when you’re young. Some of my senior clients seem to view downsizing as the “final act.” This is certainly not true, but I could see how it could feel this way. The younger you are when you start downsizing, you realize that letting go of objects that don’t serve you is just a normal part of the process of living. Starting that practice now could save you from some difficult feelings later.

I hope this post gives you some food for thought when it comes to downsizing. Because whether you’re 18 or 80, the time to downsize is now.

PS If you’re ready to get started minimizing and downsizing for a less complicated life, get my free Minimalism Starter Guide today! 

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