Why You Don’t Have to Downsize to Live Simply

by Merissa on March 13, 2017

in Making the Most

Why there is no need to downsize in order to live simply or minimalistically.

Why You Don't Have to Downsize to Live Simply

Every so once in a while when I find the time to read a blog or a book, I often find myself reading something about minimalism. I've talked about minimalism here on the blog before several times and while I don't really consider our family a total minimalistic family (can you say, books and craft supplies overload here?? 🙂 ) we still like to apply some of the principals of the lifestyle to our simple life.

One thing that I see recommended so much on minimalistic blogs and in books about minimalism is the pressure to downsize. To sell off everything that you can so that you can move into a smaller home so that you will be happy.

Downsizing? Yes, having lived in a camper for several years I have a pretty good idea of what that lifestyle is like. But I'm not here to talk about fulltime RV living today, I'm here to talk about downsizing and why I don't think it's necessary to live a simple lifestyle or even a minimalistic lifestyle.

The Infatuation with Downsizing

The idea behind downsizing is great. To own fewer items so that you have less clutter, less stress, and possibly even fewer bills. I think we would all agree that those 3 things are something that we could easily do without.

But unless you truly cannot afford the home that you are in or have an honest to goodness reason to move soon, why are we so obsessed with think that downsizing means we must trade our home for a different, smaller one? Many of us put a great deal of time and effort into fixing up and maintaining the homes we already have. Could it possibly be worth it to leave all of it behind because we think that something else might give us a better life? Funny how we are so quick to forget about the potential problems that a new house could have, no matter what the size, when we only have one motivation behind something. It reminds me of buying a new car. For some reason, we are so willing to sell the old one because it requires maintenance and fixing but we forget that a new car (maybe not immediately but in time) will require the exact same thing?

In some cases, you may need to move to a smaller home. Perhaps the bills are too much of a strain on your finances in your current location and it actually would make sense for your family to move. As long as you remember to factor in the costs of a realtor, of moving, and of all the emotional stress that a move will take on your family and it's ultimately still worth it, then perhaps honest-to-goodness downsizing is right for your family.

An Attitude Adjustment

My family could live in a smaller house. We've done it before, we could do it again. But at this point and time, it makes no sense for us to move just to get into a small square footage. We have wonderful neighbors, we have amazing land attached to our property, we have done a lot of improvements to the property already like starting fruit trees and fixing up the old house. To move and simply leave it all behind for the sake of a smaller footprint wouldn't be logical at the moment.

Maybe that's where you are at in your journey as well. You've put a lot of time and effort into your home or homestead and your family is doing well with it as is. Yes, you could live in a smaller space if you really tried, but is that what you truly want?

To me, downsizing doesn't have to mean moving. It can mean downsizing my clutter, downsizing my clothing, downsizing my household items, even downsizing my bills...without having to call a single realtor.

Let me remind you that if you have clutter in your current home, the problem is not with the size of the home. If you simply move to a smaller home I can promise you that the clutter will not simply disappear.

The problem lies with our attitude.

By believing that we must "downsize" we are creating a spirit of discontentment within ourselves. Even though what we want is not a bad thing, having discontentment in one area of our lives will spread to more areas until we are simply fully unsatisfied with our life, no matter where we live or what we own. If we are able to change the way that we look at things and our attitude about a situation, we can be much better off than we could by simply changing where we live.

An Alternative Way of Thinking

So once you've changed your attitude about the situation, what's next? You still want to downsize and that's perfectly fine. You can do it right where you are at!

If you haven't read my book, 31 Days to Simpler Living yet, I would highly recommend starting there. In each of the 31 days, I challenge you to "downsize" a certain area of your life. Whether it be physical clutter or mental clutter. If you are looking for a step by step approach to a minimalistic lifestyle, it's a great place to start.

Otherwise you can start by taking an overview of the space you have. Start by taking your time clearing out the clutter. It does not need to be all cleared out in one day. In fact, I highly recommend a period of 3 to 6 months to fully remove clutter. Take it one room at a time when you are able and then once you finish...do it again and again until you are happy with the items that you still have left.

minimalism

Do not feel the need to fill every single room in your home just because you have it. If there are rooms that you rarely or never go in, clean them out, move the need-to-keep items to another room, and block off the room so that you no longer have to heat or cool it.

Place in each room, only what you really want to have in it. If you have a big entryway with a bunch of odd looking uncomfortable furniture that you never use, it's only there for decor, remove it! Only you get to decide what needs to be in your home, no designer or real estate agent should be telling you what each room is for and what you should put in it. If you have a room that is "supposed" to be a dining room but what you really need is a study/homeschool room, convert it! We recently took our smaller family room and put a homeschool room in it because we simply don't need a family room and a living room. Plus the kids are THRILLED with the change!

If you are unhappy with a portion of your home, we've truly found this to be the best approach. To either stop usign a room completely until we really need it, or to refresh the purpose of a room to something we really find useful.

Will This Solve The Problem?

Maybe.

Like I said above. Perhaps you do honestly need a home with smaller square footage. Nothing wrong with that. But before making that big decision, can you first ask yourself if the discontentment with your home is based off of your own needs? Or is it based off of your idea of what minimalism should look like?

Can you take care of the clutter in the house you already have?

Yes.

Can you take care of the stress that you have?

It depends on the cause of the stress, but if it's caused by discontentment, then yes.

Can you downsize bills in your current home?

Most likely, yes. By closing off rooms you aren't using and only filling your home with things you truly want/need, you can make a leap of progress towards downsizing bills and by just being creative.

 

I have my own days of discontentment. I look around at a room and think, goodness this would be so much easier to clean the floor if it was half the size! (Who hasn't had that thought?) But then I try and remind myself to stop looking at the glass half empty and change gears so that I'm looking at it half full. I have so much more to be thankful for than I have to be discontent about.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic, please leave a comment!

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7:14 am

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Julie March 13, 2017 at 9:06 am

I quite literally can not function in clutter. EVery 3 months I go through every closet, drawer, cabinet, dresser, etc and eliminate excess. Because I do it regularly, it only takes a day. I am always amazed at how much junk is accumulated in that short amount of time. We also use “the rule of five” – meaning everyone has no more than 5 of anything (shirts, pants, etc). It keeps the laundry monster tamed. I have been accused of being bi-polar because of my minimalist ways. I don’t think that’s the case, I just prefer not to clutter my house, mind, and life with stuff.

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2 Melanie Bishop March 24, 2017 at 3:27 am

I taught my children that if you can’t think of something nice to say then think again. I hate when on blogs people insult the blogger. And I truly don’t want to hurt someone’s feeling.
That being said I still must say that Bi-Polar is a serious mental illness. It is not a joke. You can read about it on the net before you diagnose someone even as a joke.

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3 Susan Jones March 14, 2017 at 6:14 pm

Loved reading this! I have often thought we might need to downsize just because we are getting older. We really have no reason to move. We love our home and our lake view! This article gave me comfort! I am trying to get rid of “stuff”. Think I’ll stay put! Love your book!!!!

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4 Jennifer March 16, 2017 at 6:58 am

This was a great article! I have been thinking along the same lines and just decluttering everything I can. It helps to read that I don’t have to move to achieve a decluttered, comfortable and cozy home!! Right now, I have a super small sewing/craft/computer room. Sure I would love to have a bigger one, but I am trying hard to make it work!! Thanks! Great article:)

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5 Dave March 17, 2017 at 9:49 am

Great article! Don’t feel alone in the book overload department. I love my books!! One thing I’ve started doing with those is checking a new book out of the library first to see if its one that I want to add to my library, before actually purchasing it. Yes, sometimes I have to wait longer to read it, but it does help keep them to a more manageable level. I go through the house every spring & fall decluttering. Things I rarely or no longer use, I donate to one of the three shelter thrift stores in my area.

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6 Allana Shumka March 17, 2017 at 10:18 am

That is wonderful that you and your family have found simplicity and happiness in the home you’re in. It sounds like a wonderful set up for you. I understand you’ve built up the property with fruit trees and other custom things and that you’ve put your roots down and enjoy great relationships with neighbours. Indeed, what more could you ask for. Isn’t that what life is supposed to be about?
Modern Minimalist living to me is not about downsizing to an exact number of possessions or even moving to a tiny home. It is about living intentionally, streamlining and loving the things that you have to make life run a little smoother. I think where the problem lies is with consumerism and the inherent greed of society that dictates to us that we must want to live in an enormously oversized home as a symbol of wealth and success. These homes are beasts to heat, often baron of any personal style and even poorly made in many circumstances. Somehow we are supposed to keep these homes as a status symbol, filling them up with stuff as if to declare that we have “made it” in life where in many cases it seems to be the absolute opposite; the homes are draining them financially, costing the environment and even making them feel empty inside because all those expensive possessions alone do not buy happiness. Instead they create a disconnect and a void which is akin to manic depression.
True happiness is not a size or even a number. That is wonderful to hear that you have found contentment and what is right for your family. Beautiful.

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7 keziamara March 17, 2017 at 10:36 am

Boy did this hit home. I don’t need to downsize, only to clean and declutter some more. What a burden off!

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8 Jody March 17, 2017 at 10:40 am

Great post! I totally agree, our house is big but it’s paid for and our gardens and orchard are established, corrals, barns and pastures all set up well…moving just to have a smaller house would make no sense! I remember your posts about that cute little house you fixed up, did you move again? (I hadn’t visited the blog for awhile, I have to get caught up!) We’ve done a lot of moving too! Also, your new “Farmstead Happenings” series is a fun idea! Have a beautiful weekend!

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9 Merissa March 17, 2017 at 12:13 pm

We did move again. We loved the house we had and how we’d fixed it up but we needed to be closer to my oldest son’s doctors. Driving once or more a week to a town that was a very long way away was so taxing on us. We found an amazing piece of property with a few acres in a wonderful little town and we just love it here!

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10 amy March 17, 2017 at 10:48 am

Melissa,
Thank you for being so bold to write this post. We are obsessed right now as a culture with downsizing, and you’ve dug layers deeper to really what’s at the heart of it. It’s more about what we’re really longing for in our homes, and how we can pursue that with some simple choices.

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11 LISA March 17, 2017 at 11:12 am

I have found that the smaller the space, the more obvious (and inconvenient) the clutter. Being a visual person, if I can’t see it, I forget it. I have one table that has my ‘needs attention’ and ‘in process’ piles. The last place I lived I didn’t have the room for that table and those piles were everywhere and had to be moved to use the space they were sitting on. It is never fun to have to move stuff to get to stuff you use all the time.

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12 Bobbi March 17, 2017 at 11:52 am

I’m soon closing on a much bigger home than what I have owned for over 11 years. We are a family a 5 (often times more through foster care) and our little 1100 sq ft house was at times suffocating to me. I attempt to keep things fairly simple but 5 people have 5 peoples worth of stuff no matter how much you down size. Even though I’m excited for my new house and I truely believe it was a direct blessing from God, I have been struggling with exactly what you are talking about. I feel like I’ve felt almost ashamed for expanding rather than staying small. Like how can I claim to live simply if I’m doing it at 2800 sq ft? How can I claim I like to keep things minimal? Yes, we all fit in our small home. Yes, at times I had even more than my 3 children living there and we managed. We managed but goodness my sanity did not. Small homes force you to be together. That’s a positive and a negative. Small homes all but eliminate any space for someone to take some time on their own. Noise is always close by. And while some think it’s easier to clean a small house I felt I never stopped cleaning because we were always in the same space. The same goes with how quick things wear out and need replaced or repaired. Thank you for this article. It was well timed for me. I need to remember we have specific reasons for expanding instead of living small (and it’s not just my sanity or wanting to do something other that mop floors). I need to remember that this new home is a blessing and be thankful for it and not reject it. That I can still live simply in it as I did in my small house. Thanks again!

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13 PAMELA HAND March 17, 2017 at 11:56 am

I liked this article. Thank you so much. Yes, I tend toward lots of books and a modest amount of sewing/crafts. I have gotten rid of all home-school books, gradually, as I was homeschooling. Glad that is done! I am heading into marketing and writing on my computer and getting to know a daughter in law.
We have had 1060 square feet for 20 years. We have had 500 sq. ft., before that for 9 years. Sons are 19 and 24. I was wondering if we would move to smaller quarters when then move out, or not.
We, mostly myself, have learned to de-clutter often. I have found that if I let life get too busy, over too long a period of time, the clutter starts to build again. Busyness was related to getting stuck in a large ministry, that was not explained to me ahead of time. At any rate, I have learned the power of no, and making sure of what I am getting into!
This happened to me with a very complex Women’s Fellowship I was President. They were desperate for a new President. It had officers, and began 40 years ago, after a quilting circle decided it should exist. Two years after I took over, with God’s guidance, along with two officers agreeing, it is much pared down to just three women deciding on the next women’s activity four to five times a year.

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14 Ma March 17, 2017 at 12:08 pm

Thanks for a great article filled with common sense. Having lived for many years in New York City where space is at a premium, I have also been there, done that, and have no desire to return to life in cramped quarters.

The longer I live in my house (25 years so far), the smaller it gets. In my case, clutter is the problem–and moving will not solve that. I appreciate your helpful posts and others’ comments too.

Stay warm!

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15 Lindsey Mozgai March 17, 2017 at 12:50 pm

I love this fresh perspective! A lot of people are hopping on the downsizing train, but it’s about so much more than just moving into a smaller home. I loved reading this article.

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16 Tracy March 17, 2017 at 1:10 pm

Good article. The message to use the rooms in your house in whatever way they work best for your family really resonated with me. I was first introduced to this concept many years ago when I read the book, The Not So Big House. I thought I wanted a formal dining room. Truth is: we aren’t formal dining room people. It would be a room going to waste to maybe, at best, be used a few times a year. But more likely never would be used. Why?

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17 Marie Christopher March 17, 2017 at 1:15 pm

I am 73 years old, living in a four bedroom, four bathroom house with my 76 year old husband. We had discussed “cutting back” for the sake of our children when we die, but I talked us out of that. We would have been very unhappy giving up our treasures at this point in our life – we have spent our lifetimes collecting them – just for the sake of saving our children and grandchildren a little effort in disposing of our treasures when the time comes. We are more content now that we have made the decision to keep and enjoy our “stuff” as long as we can.

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18 Lou Ann Myers March 17, 2017 at 2:50 pm

I loved this article and have read your book. We moved out of necessity in 2013 and while we were looking for a house where we were moving to we cleaned out a lot of “stuff.” We thought we would downsize, going from 1500 square feet to 1100. It’s only the two of us in our later 50’s. We looked at a lot of homes and the one we ended up with has 2000 sq. ft. of finished living space, with half of the basement unfinished for storage on almost 1/2 an acre. I’m glad I cleaned out a lot of unnecessary “stuff” and we haven’t felt the need to replace any of it 🙂 Our home is comfy, homey, inviting and freeing. Best of all the Lord knew just what we needed. This is the home of my dreams and I intend to live here as long as the Lord allows.

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19 Sheri Hunter March 17, 2017 at 4:14 pm

I am so encouraged by your article! Discontentment can be such a poison in our lives! Seems like everyone wants to say, “you need to _______ ” or “you should ________”. Goal setting really helps me pair things down. I have to always remind myself what the end goal is and if my actions are taking me to the goal or derailing it. Homeschooling is the same way. I can put a lot of pressure on myself to overachieve, but miss the whole point of why we are doing this. Keeping my eyes on my side of the fence and towards what God has called our family to be and to do will keep us working towards what will bring us true peace and joy! I so look forward to your emails. God bless you!

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20 Gary M Moore March 17, 2017 at 4:59 pm

Yes I agree don’t need to always down size we just got our new home on our land it’s a modular home but we will retire in it in 15 years waited for the simple reason less maintenance I hope will be paid off in 15 years if things goes as planned and keep doing what you do

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21 JanelleS March 19, 2017 at 10:32 am

In 2015, my husband and I embarked on purging the excess clutter from our home. We counted ever item for an entire year…it was over 16k items! Last year we went through and continued to declutter and now I feel like we are finally getting our house where we want it. It’s not perfect and I still need to tackle a few last holdouts but it is so much better than what it was. My kids are happier, I am happier. We blogged our journey on YouTube and when I go back and look at what our house used to we, it’s shocking. Thanksfor the post! -Janelle from Parsnips and Parsimony

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22 Kim March 19, 2017 at 6:38 pm

I really enjoyed reading this because it gave me encouragement and hope that I can remove some of the clutter in my home, mind and my life! You have a great writing style that is informative and entertaining at the same time. I really enjoy your blog, keep up the great work!!!

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23 Sarah March 21, 2017 at 8:43 am

Thank you for this! I have always struggled with clutter and have recently become intrigued with the idea of minimalism and trying to live more simply. We have been looking to buy a house and I find I’m struggling with wanting a larger home than our current one because we have 3 growing children. But then it seems a popular idea with minimalism along with “tiny house” fad of the last several years to say we should aim for a home as small as we can manage. Your article reassures me that we will be able to live simply regardless of the size of house we choose.

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24 Jenn Marie March 22, 2017 at 12:09 am

Great post! This provides some much needed balance to the minimalism conversation. (I’m a sort-of minimalist- I’ve gotten rid of a ton of things but books are family 🙂 and we are living with family at the moment so any place of our own besides an RV will mean “up sizing” for us).

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