Friday, September 24, 2010

Downsizing, Organizing and Decluttering: It's All Relative

We downsized about five years ago, from a home we had lived in for over 15 years.  I considered it "home" and had lived there for longer than anywhere I had lived in my life.  It was part of me, and I actually worried at night that it was lonely without us.  I drove by it sometimes, hoping that a new family would buy it soon and was happy when they did.  I was saddened again when it went to foreclosure and there seemed to be no buyer, until it sold at auction.  It was a lovely home, I thought -- 2300 square feet of living space, three large bedrooms and three baths, an office, a large and open living and dining area, plus some very nice features including a darkroom, Jenn-Air built-in convection oven and grill tops for the range, central vacuum system, walk-in pantry, and built-in bookshelves in the living room and office.  But it was in a declining neighborhood and we were both working in a neighboring town and approaching retirement, so we decided that it would be wise to find a smaller, one-story, newer home that would require less maintenance and care. 

I love our new home and feel that downsizing was the best choice for us.  It is 1600 square feet, three bedrooms and two baths, so we have a guest room and an office.  We are now a mile away from our church, a couple of miles from our local mall and many additional stores, most restaurants, the hospital, our doctors, two universities, movies, little theater, and I-40, which puts us 40 miles to the city and 30 miles to the little town where my parents live.  Our master bedroom has room for a loveseat and television armoire, and many nights serves as our "family room" where the three of us (my hubby, our Shih Tzu and me) hang out and read or watch television.  Our master bathroom is almost as large as our bedroom and is the feature that sold us on the house.  We have a shower and tub, two lavatories with a large amount of counterspace, an enclosed toilet and it's still large enough for a chest of drawers with room to spare so we're not bumping into each other.

What was reduced in order to have the large master bath is obviously the living room.  That's not a problem most of the time, but it's a pretty small space when we have family gatherings.  In fact, the entire house is small when we have family gatherings.  We have six children in our blended family, as well as three spouses (that number fluctuates), and 12 grandchildren.  Add them all together, plus other family members who may come by, and we have the potential for a houseful.

What we do is accommodate and appreciate everyone's flexibility.  We find surfaces to eat and we visit in whatever room has room.  If family is spending the night, we have the guest room, the living room couch, and inflatable beds for the office and the living room.  We have fun and we don't get too uptight.

One thing I find myself doing anytime I'm in a hotel (if the room is large enough) is to try to imagine myself living there.  (This habit is not a reflection of the happiness of my marriage.)  I think "I could put a small kitchen there, and a living area there".  I also do that when I imagine trying to find a space for a large group of family members if they were stranded in our home.  This is when I face the possibility of people sleeping in the halls and the bathtubs.  It's not beyond possibility that fifteen or so of us could be sleeping in close quarters.  Last Christmas was a nightmare for travelers in Oklahoma; my stepson had to stay two nights that he hadn't planned because the roads were too icy to travel.  The timing gave us an almost empty house; it could (in the future) give us a house overflowing.

Our downsizing leaves me wishing (sometimes) for another guestroom, a larger living room, and a screened-in back porch.  For the most part, however, I'm happy with the decision we made and expect that the coming years will confirm the wisdom of our choice.

It follows naturally that downsizing probably makes decluttering and better organizing necessary and I have been working on that.  I have been cleaning out closets and drawers, purging, and finding that I will probably have room enough to finally unpack the boxes in the garage that have been driving my hubby up the wall.  I also think that I can continue my addiction to pretty dishes and serving pieces, holiday items and can find a home for my mother's silver tea service, which my sweet stepmother has designated to go to me.  I'm proud of my progress and have decided that hoarding, for most of us, is a relative term.  (I confess to watching the television programs about the psychological condition and have empathy for those who suffer from it, and their families.)  I invite any of my relatives or friends to tell me if they think I have a problem (but I warn them that comparisons may be made!).

I have found the "tiny house" movement fascinating and have enjoyed looking at photographs and floor plans of the homes.  Of course, it follows that I have tried to imagine myself living in one of these abodes, and I have decided that my 1600 square feet is quite spacious indeed.  I also read an article about downsizing in the September issue of Traditional Home.  The homeowners (a family of two) had felt the need to "scale back and simplify" and I thought that I could probably find some good ideas for our home.  Reading the article, I discovered that the "downscaled" home is 4,805 square feet, "not tiny, but certainly more manageable" than the 8,000 square feet of their previous home.

I guess it's all relative.

What are your "downsizing" experiences?



One Woman's Journey said...

Just a quick note. The downsizing caught my eye. I moved to the city and downscaled 2400 sq to be near children. Did not like living in the city and moved back to my homeplace. Built 1200 sq for just "me". I love it and posted pictures. Then a loft area of about 600 sq that is a bedroom, bath and sitting tv area for children and grandchildren or anyone that visits. I am surrounded by woods, have a deck and screen porch. So over the last 6 years moved 3 times and gave away half I had. Do not miss any of it. In fact still too much in this cozy cottage. Enough said.
Enjoy your new home!! said...

Firstly thank you for your really nice comments about my blog photos and of course for visiting. I was really interested in your post because we've always believed in 'simplicity' and although we could have lived in a large house we chose a small barn conversion. It was only just big enough for all three of us but now Son has gone it is just perfect and we love it. I sometimes think decluttering is a really good thing. It allows you to focus on the more important aspects of life. Love your 'Fall' photo too.

classycareergirl said...

My parents downsized after I went to college and it was amazing how much stuff at piled up. All I remember was that it was a LOT of work!!

Happy blogging! Stopping by from the Lady Bloggers Society!

AM said...

Go RVing! We're full time RVers now. 3500 sq ft house to a 36 foot 5th wheel. We do have a 10x15 storage room for stuff like quilts, photo albums and some special furniture. It's very liberating, and when (if) we finally do buy another house, we won't "need" nearly as much space as we used to. Enjoy your new abode.

Mommy Katie said...

I am a new follower and I would love a follow back!!

Sherry said...

Oh my! They downsized, in the article, to a 4,805 sq. ft. home? That is amazing. We have 5 family members and we have a 2,700 and something sq. ft. home. My husband just said the other day, he never wanted a bigger home than this. When the kids move out I often wonder if it will be too roomy. It is easier to repair and maintain a smaller home that is for sure. Thanks for stopping by.

Shelia said...

We haven't downsized yet but we have done the decluttering and organizing - that felt good!!
I have moved my mom into a retirement home. She's been there a year and has had a bit of trouble adjusting. She had to get rid of lots of things and blessed me with some of her antiques. She's okay now.
I know it would be easier to have a smaller home, but I love my 'stuff'! :)Thanks for popping in to see me.
Be a sweetie,
Shelia ;)


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