Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Story Behind Our Decision To Downsize

It's been interesting to observe people's reaction to our downsizing decision. Some have gotten it while others are simply puzzled. Right before the sale sign was to hit the front yard I said to my husband, "I'm nervous, what if people don't get what we are doing?"


I know, you can't really care all that much about what people think. But here's what lead us to the decision. It started with a rough fall, there was a lot of uncertainly with work and for the first time in years we had to reassess our priorities and were reminded not to take good fortune for granted. It all worked itself out, but the experience had us stressed, prompting discussions about what is it that we really need, what's most important and is there possibly another way we want to approach how we have set up our lives and where our resources go. The defining moment was probably the day my husband and I took a long walk in the neighborhood to touch base on our thoughts. Returning home, opening the garage, he looked around at all the STUFF piled along the walls, unused, gathering dust, not providing any real purpose and shook his head, "Why am I working so hard to pay for all this, possessions we don't use, to store it? What's the point?"


Via here

We had already talked about the rooms in the house we rarely use, but in this moment I knew something had to change. "What do you want? I can let go of this. I love our house, I love many of our things, but they are not what is most important."


Easier said than done. For the next two months I mentally practiced "liquidating" the house and many of its contents. I went through the motion of imagining selling and moving out of the house and then selling many of our belongings; some pieces were easy to picture letting go of, others were more challenging. This process got me comfortable with the idea of downsizing and the reality that doing so would require letting go of about a third to a half of our belongings.

And now we are on the other side, in an apartment waiting for our much smaller and less expensive house to be completed. Some days I am really really excited about this next phase and the flexibility it will offer to our family, and others I feel less sure. What I'm less than thrilled with is some of the finishes and details - or lack thereof - in this next house. While I'm on board with our plan, I still really appreciate a pretty home! I wish the builder would just deliver the house to me empty so that I could finish it off to my liking rather than go through the hassle of tweaking what's put in. It just seems backyards. But we wanted to stay in our current neighborhood, which is quite popular, while having the numbers work to give us a shot at our goal of being debt free in five years. Not the scenario that provides the option of buying the best house... that's what we sold!

So, yes, there is going to be some "house hacking" going on. It's a good thing I'm resourceful and it'll be fun to share the projects and progress here!


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43 comments :

  1. We are considering the same type of move in the next year... you are inspiring me!

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  2. With your creativity and style....I am excited to see the process! (and debt free in 5 years....what a bonus!!!) Lisa

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  3. I cant wait to read all about it- I love that you are doing this to unload some of the stress and enjoy family rather than stuff!!

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  4. It sounds like a wise, decision and I bet will produce much fun and creativity for your family! wishing you the best.

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  5. aw janell - i wish you guys the best of luck. dont you worry one second about what others think, you do whats best for you and your family (and you are!). this is exciting - a new door opening! i cant wait for the process and seeing what comes of this :)

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  6. Janell, The experiences awaiting your family are so rich and exciting! Envious I am. A few years ago when looking at new homes I too became frustrated with the limited design options the builder in the area we were interested in offered; I couldn't even get them to use my fav brand of paint ... thinking about redo'ing everything in a new house swayed us against the move. I learned they were unwilling to upgrade outside their standard options due to their legal obligations under the HOW (homeowner's warranty) ... if they needed to return for repair / support they didn't want to deal with customized options. Don't know if its too late in the process for you, but if you could waive the builder obligations on the warranty of some of the finishing details - certainly not structure nor systems, perhaps you could get closer to what you'll ultimately end up doing in the house. Just sharing my crazy thought I filed in my mind for my own personal future use :)

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  7. Tough decision for sure! We are sort of doing the same thing.. not moving but reevaluating what we need/what we want, in an effort to simplify our lives. Looking forward to following your journey!

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  8. Sounds like you're on the right track, and you're so talented and handy, I'm sure what you'll add to it will make it into a VERY high class looking house!

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  9. We just made that downsizing move 8 years ago and I am still trying to squeeze the juice back in the grapefruit most of the time. Slowly but surely I am learning that even letting go of things is the total answer. Small rooms call for small furniture and that has been the challenge. I have been downsizing all the furniture too. Good luck, it will be fun to watch your journey.

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  10. It sounds like this is a really solid decision for your family and sometimes those are the hardest to make. You have so much talent. I know it must be frustrating to have to tweak but you can really make it your own. I'm excited to see you work your magic:)

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  11. We live in the Portland area and are in the middle of downsizing as well. The new, 1100 square foot house is being renovated and the 2200 square foot house will be listed in a month or so. We have two young daughters - 1 year and 4 years - and most people think we're crazy.

    We had a formal living, formal dining and a bonus room that never got used. With small children, we're always within ten feet of each other anyway (whether I like it or not.) Ha! Like you, we want to be completely debt free in five years and we also wanted a larger lot with a view , which is what we got. We're so excited. And nervous!

    Oh, I hope our house sells fast like yours did!! And I hope you take us along with you through your downsizing journey. I miss reading your home improvement/ design posts :-)

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  12. Thank you for sharing Janell. Your husband's words upon arriving home and taking in the garage really resonated with me. I have been very blessed to be able to stay home and raise our girls, and continue to do so now that they are on their own/in college. I have really started to take a long hard look at what we have in our current home, and what we truly NEED. And, I am more cautious about what I bring into our home. It is not about the things, but sharing life with the ones we love. And, now that the girls are not here often...it goes by all too quickly to be worried about stuff.

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  13. Thanks for everyone's comments and Sarah, how wonderful! Would love a view, if we didn't feel so at home in this particular neighborhood we'd have more options, but can't imagine home base being elsewhere for now. Good luck with construction and your sale!

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  14. We are talking about the same thing. We are in a house over 6000s/f and it is just the 2 of us. We have 3 extra bedrooms and wait for it 6 bathrooms.
    I look around and think why do I have so much "crap"? I hate having it but have a hard time getting rid of it, always asking myself, maybe you might need it and then you will have to go buy it, but really if I haven't needed it yet what makes me think I ever will.
    Also after a winter like this past one, we asked ourselves, why live in this part of the country if we don't have to?
    So not only will we downsize but relocate and why not.

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  15. Congratulations!!!! I think that a lot of people are downsizing and it is a smart move. I can't wait to see your new home. Come on...Tell the truth. You are downsizing so you can create a new warm, welcoming home, aren't you? ;)

    Seriously though. Do you mind sharing any particular things you did for a "fast sell"? Or was it your neighborhood?

    Thanks!

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  16. Too funny Michelle, you are not the first to "accuse" me of that! :) As for a fast sale, probably a lot to do with the neighborhood and the fact that the large homes with large yards are a real rarity and don't come on the market often. But other than that, I did completely de-cluttered, cleaned up a storm so that it shined, caught up on all the little repair work (millwork dings, paint touch ups) and spruced up the landscaping - all so that it read like a new home. Anyone can do that and I think it does make a big difference!

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  17. My husband and I are buying our first home a little later in life (39 and 45 after he retired from the military) and while we love the bigger homes, we have started out with the thinking of what you are doing now. The glam and wow factor of a big beautiful home is nice but like you said...is it worth the stress? Bravo to you and your husband for taking this step and I look forward to seeing you put a spin on a "builder basic" home that hopefully I can steal some ideas from!

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  18. I am currently 'staging' my million dollar home to sell. It means no debt, weddings and college paid for, and memories made while we travel as a family and lay down each night with a heart full of peace. I can't wait! Our next house will be simple, lovely and just enough.

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  19. It's good to re-evaluate goals routinely and adjust when we stray too far from them (and goals change). Have you seen housetweaking.com? Similar assessment, similar downsizing to allow the blogger to leave an unrewarding profession and focus on what she loves. We're about to put our house on the market and hope for quick sale and cross-country move to Oregon and downsizing. Like you, I have lists of what I can let go without a blink, but some possessions will be harder to relinquish. It's a process. I'm relying on our recently redefined family goals to help see "stuff" as far secondary to the freedom that comes with voluntarily having--and paying for--less. Good luck to you!

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  20. I think it sounds like you on on a very refreshing path. We are having some defective carpet replaced over here, and just cleaning things out and getting rid of the excess feels good. There are so many things that are just here in the house - taking up space - it's almost like you stop really seeing what is there - what is on the shelves in the closet. I really like your decision. It sounds peaceful.

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  21. Janelle, I am sending my thoughts with the utmost respect. My first thought is that Im disappointed that you feel the need to explain your decisions to downsize. The beauty of getting older is the freedom of not giving a holy hoot what anyone thinks. You owe no one an explanation of your family's decisions. I am, however, new to the world of blogging and sharing every aspect of one's life. Maybe its a cathartic or helpful to have your followers assure you of your decisions but please embrace the freedom of not caring what others may think about your very personal family decisions. With respect to your new home, I would like to offer a more worldly perspective. With the majority of the earths population never having the opportunity to have a roof over they're head and another majority living with several generations in one house in all of 500 square feet and let's not forget the millions in our own country who lost they're homes to the motgage crisis and recession who would love to call any space their own again; builders details and lack of thereof just seems so insignificant. You mentioned that you guys want more of whats important. I can assure you, not having builder upgrades is not important in this life! Having your family together, healthy and owning your own home is pretty much winning life's lottery! I say all of these things as a working Designer! I totally get the details your are worried about. However, I have seen both sides of the fence in this life and its just not important! All the best!

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    1. It is nice to get older and not have to explain yourself! It is refreshing to see others recognize how much we have compared to the rest of the world - people can't believe that I'm perfectly content with one bathroom with five kids still at home! That being said, the way I read it, she isn't wanting builder's upgrades she would prefer the house being somewhat UN-finished, so she may do it herself, the way she likes, as she has time and money, without having to undo what the builders did do.

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  22. Kudos to you! We are raising our 3 kiddos in a townhouse in Seattle and love it. I'm sure that our sons will hit a baseball through a window within the next couple of years, but we appreciate the location and resonate with the simplicity of urban living.

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  23. i've been feeling this for a while now. We have way too many things as a family and as a society as whole. We could all definitely use a downsize. This is fantastic. You're house was beautiful and i'm sure your new house will be too! Good luck!

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  24. Your words struck a chord with me - "Returning home, opening the garage, he looked around at all the STUFF piled along the walls, unused, gathering dust, not providing any real purpose and shook his head, "Why am I working so hard to pay for all this, possessions we don't use, to store it? What's the point?" I have that same garage. I thought the clutter bothered me, but it was more than that... you presented that to me. Thank you. Big changes coming this weekend.

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  25. Dayum....I was secretly hoping for a romantic move overseas for your young family! Anywhere you land will be fab. It is WHO infuses it, not how.

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  26. Linda, we haven't given up on that dream for a year, and this move to a smaller home is part of making that happen - something we can rent out or at least cost a lot less to maintain in our absence!

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  27. Debt free in five years?! That would be amazing!!!!!! Good luck with the transition. Can't wait to see the touches you put on your new home and glad you see the value in life beyond stuff.

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  28. We downsized this past year and moved to our fave city-San Diego. LOVE it here.

    We're renting for a bit-and it's all good. I miss my dishwasher, but hey. I have tomatoes setting fruit in MAY!

    We went from 1800' in TX to 1600' in OR and now 1000' here in sunny SoCal. I miss NOTHING ( except the d/w, lol).

    If you don't read this blog yet, you should check it out-

    http://www.becomingminimalist.com/becoming-minimalist-start-here/

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  29. I so admire you and your husband for living counter culturally to be debt free! Thank you for sharing your story! I, too, have made this hard decision recently, creating a plan to be debt free in 4 years. It means a lot of living differently, and even not reading all the interior design blogs I do because they lead me to discontentment and eventually to spending money outside of our ultimate goal. So I"m and refreshed and inspired by you and your path and hope you share all your hacks because I miss all your design DIY posts that you used to post all the time.

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  30. Janelle, you may like the author Jen Hatmaker, who wrote the book "7", which talks about the seven excesses of life (food, clothing, possessions, etc). She is currently filming an HGTV show right now in which her family downsizes to a farmhouse and embraces a simpler life.

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  31. Good for you for doing what you feel is best for your family and disregarding what other people might think. You'll be the one laughing in 5 years with no debt while the judgemental ones will still be swallowed by all their expensive stuff.

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  32. I hope you will be sharing all of your new house projects on your blog! I miss your projects. They were always so awesome!!

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  34. I think you are brave and bold and smart and insightful! Best wishes on your new journey in life.

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  35. Five years from now when you are debt-free you will be even HAPPIER that you made the decision! Such freedom and security once you achieve it. Congratulations on being able to look at what really matters, as it is not easy to do this day and age. So inspired!

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  36. You rock and you owe no one but yourselves a reason for the change. Its your life and your choice!

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  37. Bravo! That's an amazing choice to make, and there are those (me included) who will envy that more than your lovely home!! (Meant to be a compliment ;-)

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  38. Congratulations! We are doing the same thing...in exactly one month. Our new house is less than half the size of our current one (and by the way, we have 11 and 13 year old boys). I alternate bewteen complete excitement and a "what the hell have we done" mentality. Selling a lot of our "stuff" has been hugely liberating, but I imagine the new life we're going to live will be even moreso. I look forward to reading about your experiences too.

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  39. Can't believe how timely this post is in my life.Thanks- think I'm just going to stick with my little house and live financially free.

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  40. My feelings exactly! My husband and I are going through the same organizing and choices. Just listed our home and purchasing a loft in city. Look forward to sharing with you our experiences.

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  41. My feelings exactly! My husband and I are going through the same organizing and choices. Just listed our home and purchasing a loft in city. Look forward to sharing with you our experiences.

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  42. You just made my day with this post.

    We have been having the same talk in our home.

    We have a lot of sqt however the set up of it is wasted, we dont even use half of it.

    Ive been saying for the last year we should down size and get something thats one level and half the size, everyone said we where crazy we worked too hard on this house.

    it just makes sense, why are we working so hard to pay for things we dont need or really use.

    We just need to pull the plug now, thanks for being honest and real!

    Heather

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