I’ve been reading minimalist blogs for a while, and it seems to have been a very trendy topic for young singles or young marrieds. I often found myself rolling my eyes and muttering but wait until you have kids.
Well, now I’m being challenged by a new discovery: blogs written by families, with children (sometimes lots of children), and their stories of simplifying and downsizing (sometimes really downsizing). Finding out a family of four can thrive in a one-bedroom apartment is a bit of a shock to the system. All my blathering on about decluttering loses something when I face the fact that we still have a stinkin’ big house. I’ve wondered often in the past if the size of our home made those who knew me gag: what a hypocrite! what kind of simple living is she talking about?
[Full disclosure: our home is, according to 2010 numbers (all I’m finding at this point), a totally American average 2300 square feet, with its finished basement. I think it’s huge, but the homes 2 1/2 times the size of ours to our immediate east tend to put a different perspective on things.]
I’ve thought a lot lately about our home, about moving, about really downsizing and what that would look like. Some things I’m mulling over:
First of all, there’s the very basic cost analysis. The work we would need to do to sell this house, for what we would get for the house, to then buy (nope, not renting, sorry–there’s another reason I’ll never be a “true” minimalist) another house….the math doesn’t add up. And I’m selfish: even though I like the idea of downsizing, I tend to look at home prices and say “but our house is so much nicer for the price!” Paying more for less house (a very real possibility in our location, especially with what we have left on the mortgage) doesn’t really appeal to me. Paying less for less house seems to mean copious amounts of renovation…. defeating the purpose of paying less in the first place.
Secondly, I’m incredibly blessed to have the space we have, and am reminded of it each and every time we go on vacation. Any time we stay in a hotel, I spend 95% of my time there in high-stress mode, constantly reminding the kids to be quiet: there are people next door; there are people downstairs; there are people sleeping…. I turn into monster-mommy, trying to clamp a lid on my little ones normal noise level. The same thing happens at home, too, on Saturday mornings: shhh… Daddy’s still sleeping. But wait: at home, on those Saturday mornings, I get to say go to the basement; you can be as loud as you want down there. Stress level: zero. That, for me, is a wonderful blessing.
Also: we host. A lot. Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, birthdays….our families rotate hosting duties, and we have people over, often. Having that space to spread out after a holiday meal is wonderful. Even on Saturdays, if my family comes over, we spread out: my dad might be reading in the relative quiet of the front room, my mom and sister and I chat in the kitchen while my son plays with Legos at the kitchen table, my daughter “does gymnastics” in the living room, and baby cousin bounces in her seat in the living room/kitchen doorway. We have room to host, in a comfortable way. And if all the people get to be too much for someone, they can hide upstairs or in the basement when needed.
Which brings me to my last point; my most important point. We are currently planning to adopt from the foster care system. Having that space–that ability to be away from someone–is something that I want to hold on to at all costs. When and if we have more siblings in this house, I want to be able to have the kids separate when necessary: Sweet boy, head to the basement for awhile; you need some time alone. I know that there will probably be shared bedrooms in our future, which makes having extra space all that more precious. I think of our front room our “away room,” an idea from The Not So Big House, and I joke that the big blue chair in the corner is the “alone chair,” where you go when you want to be alone. So far I’m the only one in this house that uses it (haha), but I think that idea is going to be important when we start meshing who-knows-how-many new personalities into this home.
I know, absolutely, that my intentions of not moving don’t really matter. We’ve “moved for the last time” three times now, and I fully recognize that my plans are not always God’s plans. A job loss, a fire, a tornado….all sorts of things could happen to force my hand. And I’ll take that as it comes. But right now, I’m going to focus on simplifying and decluttering, and continue being content and incredibly grateful……but not downsizing.