For about four years, Dianne and I had been considering downsizing from our single-family home to a smaller townhouse. We felt that living in a smaller footprint would limit the need for remodeling as well as give us less room to accumulate more stuff. We imagined that we would be living a simpler life. Since downsizing, we have discovered some additional downsizing benefit that we had not expected.
As we considered downsizing, our entire focus in the decision-making process seemed to be around the negative. We were worried about the reduction of our living space and the close proximity to our new neighbors. We wondered if we would have enough room for all of our stuff. The loss of a two-car garage was also a consideration—who wants to scrape ice off the windshield all winter long?
Even in light of these considerations, we decided to take a leap of faith and made the decision to downsize. And boy are we glad we did!
Downsizing benefit #1: Our neighbors are closer and more open to conversation
I had a real concern about living close to neighbors. I wondered if it would feel like we were living in an apartment complex, since so many townhomes are rented. We have been homeowners for years and had grown accustomed to single-family home and neighborhood living.
I had several conversations with Jeremy at Go Curry Cracker about renting, owning and the transitory nature of apartment and townhouse living. These particular comments are from a thread in July 2015:
I guess to clarify, what I meant to say about the “temporary nature of tenants” is: if you are around a high percentage of people renting, perhaps in apartment complexes, I imagine that there is more turnover of those tenants.
If you compare that to a single-family neighborhood where most people own, there should be less transition of people moving. As a neighbor in an area where people own their homes, you would be more likely to get to know your neighbors and form long-term relationships.
However, this whole reflecting on renting has really got me thinking about doing the same.
Ahh, I see what you are saying. That can be a good thing. I can see that going both ways.
Back yards have fences, people work long hours and have long commutes, then at night all you see are TVs glowing in the windows. Houses are further apart and people just drive into the garage and disappear.
In our recent Seattle apartment experiences, we were friends with the building manager, talked with our neighbors almost every day as we were coming and going, made impromptu plans for dinner or hiking, etc…
I can see there being some difference maybe with children, but it seems kids have full schedules these days as well; school, soccer practice, music lessons, mandarin class, so they too just disappear into the garage and never come out
I’m not biased (or jaded) at all though 😉
Jeremy had some real words of wisdom with this comment: “Houses are further apart and people just drive into the garage and disappear.”
It has been amazing how true Jeremy’s words have turned out to be. While we were working on the remodeling of our new condo—even before we moved in—we met nearly every neighbor on our block. We went to the HOA Christmas party and everyone treated us like long lost friends. The openness of our new neighbors to meet us has been amazing, and some have even volunteered to help. Nearly every time I am outside of our new place and run into someone, we stop to talk. We have experienced more of a sense of community in the few short weeks living here than we did over the past four years living in our single-family home!
After four years of living in a cul-de-sac, we had formed one friendship, with the neighbors across the street. Everyone else would only wave when driving or walking by our home.
Downsizing benefit #2: We are enjoying less upkeep with the smaller space
When you have a smaller space, by default there is less to clean. The drywall, painting, and flooring work we have done make our new place easy to maintain. There is no carpet in this home, except for a couple of area rugs. The entire place is simple (and quick) to clean.
We thought we had streamlined our possessions before we moved. We were wrong. Our laundry room and storage nook were filled to their capacity. Ok, I admit it—they were actually over capacity. We have continued giving away to Goodwill, recycling, or simply throwing away items we thought we needed for that elusive “someday.”
It is liberating to eliminate excess stuff and enjoy clean, uncluttered space. Each time I get rid of something we no longer need, it seems to clear my mind of another distraction.
Downsizing benefit #3: Our meals are enjoyed only at our dining-room table
In the past, we generally ate all breakfast and lunch in our kitchen area. We had gotten into a routine of eating dinner while watching TV. Our conversations about our days were conducted in two- to three-minute segments during commercial breaks, or when we put a movie on pause. We found that we ate more and the food we ate was not as healthy as we’d like.
Now, sitting at the table eating a meal brings us into the present moment to enjoy our food and each other.
Downsizing benefit #4: Our living room has a Zen-like feel and we watch less TV
Our new living room is small compared to the one in our previous home. We decided early on that we would not put a TV in this room and instead moved it to the second bedroom/office. Our living room is now a place to read, talk or simply meditate. It has a nice feel without the clutter of electronics from the TV and sound system.
Another benefit: we have discovered that, by moving the TV into a less central room, we are watching far less TV than we did in the past.
Downsizing benefit #5: Our new neighborhood is walkable
The home we lived in before was about a half-mile or so from the main road and in a very hilly area. To go anywhere nearby for simple errands was like walking up and down the streets of San Francisco. However, SF is better for walking since at least there are sidewalks. There were no sidewalks in our old neighborhood. No streetlights, either.
Our new home has excellent walk-ability to many close businesses and attractions. My dentist, barber, and eye doctor are less than 500 yards away. We are close to several trails, a Whole Foods market, a bank, two coffee shops, and many restaurants.
Downsizing benefit #6: We have less money tied up in our home
Now we experience more peace of mind, knowing that if anything were to happen with one or both of our jobs, we would be just fine. As I described in a recent post, in this phase of our lives we are choosing to continue working in order to build savings for our bucket list, as opposed to working to survive.
We have both noticed a difference in how we relate to our jobs. Being debt free removes the pressure of feeling enslaved by our employers. We are now living from a “stealth wealth” perspective and all that matters is that we know the reasons we chose to downsize.
We are happy we made the downsizing move
I’ve shared six downsizing benefits that we have experienced in only three weeks. We expect to uncover other hidden benefits as we settle into our new home.
We have continued the remodeling projects that we started in December. As I type, we are having two new sliding glass doors installed to replace drafty 32-year-old versions. We expect to see some improvements in our comfort and energy savings as a result of these low-E energy-efficient upgrades.
There have been some trade-offs in space and storage with our relocation. I believe that, when we consider those items along with the benefits we have gained in a smaller, comfortable, and remodeled home, the benefits outweigh the negatives.
We plan to share another update on our experience downsizing. Watch for it this summer, once we complete the kitchen and bathroom remodels. This should be an interesting
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