Downsizing: Do You Dare?

An excerpt from 'You Can Buy Happiness (And It’s Cheap)'
7 ways to decide whether you should switch to a smaller space

A few years ago, my husband Logan and I decided to move into a smaller home. It might seem counter-intuitive, but downsizing can often be a smart choice, freeing you to live your life without clutter or a mortgage that stretches your budget to extremes.

Believe it or not, Logan was the one who brought up the idea of downsizing. At the time, I was working in the investment management industry and was extremely unhappy. I wanted to go back to school and start a new career in the social service sector, but we were stuck and couldn’t figure out why. We felt stuck because we didn’t have enough time or money to follow our passions. 

Logan said, “Why don’t we try moving into a one bedroom apartment to save money? Then we can use the money saved towards whatever we want, like education for a new career or a house in the future?”

With my hands on my hips and a snarky look on my face, I replied: “We can’t fit into a one bedroom, we have too much stuff!”

But after giving it some thought, I finally agreed that downsizing was the right path for us. If you're struggling with a similar dilemma, consider the questions below:

1. Communicate. Talk about all the costs and benefits of downsizing together and make your intentions known so there is no room for assumptions. In my experience, communication is key to any successful relationship. While you’re talking make a pro/con list together and ask each other a lot of “why” questions, like: 

  • Why do you need to keep a particular item?
  • Why not try something new?
  • Why are you feeling so freaked out by this idea?

2. Read inspiring books. While I was trying to decide whether or not downsizing was the right option I read a number of life changing books, including The Culture of Make Believe and Your Money or Your Life. Reading these books convinced me that downsizing was the best action to take.

3. Talk about the financial benefits of downsizing your abode and what you can do with the money you save. Crunch the numbers with your partner to find out how much money you can save by living in a smaller place with less stuff. With greater savings comes freedom and flexibility to make choices.

4. Remember, you can always move. While change is scary, it’s always good to experiment to try new things. And if you don’t like your new living situation, you can always move.

5. Compromise. If you don’t want to sell your house or commit to a new lease, try treating your current place like a smaller home. For example, I didn’t believe we could fit into a small one-bedroom apartment. So we did a test run by clearing out all the stuff in the guest bedroom and locking the door. Basically, we treated our two-bedroom apartment as a one-bedroom apartment for a few months. By taking that step, I was convinced we could start going smaller and smaller.

6. Start small. Remember you don’t have to declutter your whole house over night. Set manageable goals based on your life circumstance. When I started to simplify my life, I felt like I was in a competition. I kept looking at what other people were doing, in both blogs and books, and I tried to model those folks. There is nothing wrong with modeling and I learned a lot of valuable tips through reading and research. However, I finally realized that I had to start small, with one shelf at a time.

7. Take action! Now it’s time to take action. Keep talking to your partner about the benefits of downsizing and start the decluttering process.

No matter how small your accomplishments are, start celebrating them. Take a deep breath and admire the simplicity of your clutter-free home. Living in a small space with less stuff is one path to creating space and a very lovely life.
 

 
You Can Buy Happiness bookTammy Strobel is a writer, simple-living advocate, coffee addict, and tiny-house enthusiast. She created her blog, RowdyKittens.com, to share her story of embracing simplicity. Since then, her story has been featured in the New York Times, The Today Show, USA Today, CNN, MSNBC and in a variety of other media outlets.
 
Based on the book You Can Buy Happiness (And It’s Cheap). Copyright 2012 by Tammy Strobel. Reprinted with permission of New World Library, Novato, Calif. 
 
 
 

 

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