Have you decided to downsize? Are you feeling overwhelmed with a deer in headlights dread and unsure where to start?
Almost two years ago I wrote an article about my personal experience with it. The article detailed how my family successfully downsized and thrived.
But two years later, I’ve realized there are many more things to consider in the process of downsizing. There are also challenges I didn’t expect to encounter when we moved from an 1800 square foot home to an 864 square foot home.
Here’s what I’ve learned in downsizing part 2 and how things are looking two years into this adventure:
1. Privacy Can be a Struggle
The biggest issue I’ve had with downsizing is the lack of privacy. When I say our home is 864 square feet, this is the square footage of the upstairs and main living area.
We do have a basement which is our kids’ area. That is where their bedrooms are, the playroom, as well as the basement pantry.
But it equates to approximately 400 square feet. Either way, it’s still a far cry from 1800 square feet. Which leads to a ton less privacy.
When my husband and I try to communicate it can be difficult because even in our bedroom, the kids can be in the kitchen (which is right outside of our bedroom) and hear every word.
My advice, if you’re able to build your own smaller home, think about your layout because this can be the difference a level of privacy and none at all.
If you’re like us and didn’t have the option to build, you must do with what you’ve got. In our case, we have set bedtimes for everyone in the house.
Therefore, at a particular time, everyone goes to their floor in the house. Our door will be closed, the basement door will remain cracked (this allows the cats to go back and forth throughout the night), and we all have our private time.
My husband and I can have some privacy and be able to communicate without the kids being right in the middle of our conversation.
Boundaries are important when you’re living in a smaller space.
2. It’s a Mindset
Most of my family was onboard when we downsized. They wanted more land which they knew must equate to a smaller home because I couldn’t keep up with a larger house and more land.
My younger kids were okay with getting rid of the items they didn’t use regularly. They’re at the age where Legos and video games are all they play with. Legos can be easily stored, a play table can be collapsible, and video games don’t take up much room.
But my oldest son started college, lived at home and had few expenses, worked more hours, and decided to become a shop-a-holic.
I kid you not; he has filled his smaller room with fishing gear to the point he’s hanging fishing rods from the ceiling.
When he ran out of room for his clothes hamper, I had to put my foot down. He has fit more belongings in his smaller room than he ever had in his larger room.
But the upside is this showed an issue he was developing with money management. He has to learn how to shop less and save more, and I have to learn to not look at his room when I’m in the basement cleaning up.
If he’s happy with all of his fishing gear, and a giant bed (he insists upon having) in his small room, who am I to complain?
Downsizing can undoubtedly teach you humility and how to pick your battles, and if you don't accept the downsizing mindset, you could end up hanging items from your ceiling.
3. Creativity is a Must
I’ve had to flex my creative muscles since we moved into our smaller home. We had little to no space to store food, we had no place to store our canned foods, I didn’t know where to keep my kitchen gadgets I needed but didn’t use regularly, and I wasn’t sure how a small bathroom would work for a large family.
Well, over the years, I thought outside of the box. We created a pantry in an awkward hallway in our basement. It works wonderfully for storing food and many kitchen gadgets I need but don’t use on a daily basis.
We turned an unused crawlspace into a root cellar to store our home canned goods, and we also figured out how to enlarge our small bathroom to where it could give us more room and allow us to move the laundry room out of the basement for more convenience.
Finally, I figured out how to use the walls to hang items I use as décor items when not in use. For instance, we raise and process our own meat.
Instead of having to store meat saws, I hang them in my kitchen on the walls as rustic décor. Creativity can make life in a smaller house much easier if you’re willing to get outside of the proverbial box to find solutions.
4. The Bathroom Must Function
As I mentioned, we had a tiny bathroom when we first moved into our home. Five people and only one tiny bathroom…this was a recipe for disaster.
But we developed a plan to improve this space with some home renovation ideas. Until we could get to the renovation, we had to figure out a way to make the bathroom function as is.
We decluttered every space, added shelves for plenty of storage, and used an organizer in the shower to keep everyone’s hygiene items easily stored and accessible when needed.
The biggest tip I’ve learned about the bathroom is to make sure it gets cleaned regularly. You’d be amazed how quickly a small bathroom can become dirty.
Therefore, make sure your bathroom space is clean, organized, and everyone can access what they need when they need it.
When people have to move items around to get to what they want, you’re asking for chaos and frustration to ensue.
5. The Kitchen Must Function
As important as it is for the bathroom to function, it’s even more important for the kitchen to operate well. Which is why I had to learn how to make a small kitchen work.
Making sure you have usable counter space, awkward cabinets are eliminated, organization is a top priority, and making sure you have adequate sink space are all essential ways to make your kitchen work for you.
If you can’t get in your kitchen, cook a meal, and access everything you need without becoming irritated, you know your kitchen isn’t working well.
Be sure to use your walls to store items or add shelves to be able to access items you use regularly. In my kitchen, I have shelves hanging on the walls which hold all baking items I use on a regular basis.
It allows me to keep items close by, but I use pretty canisters to allow the items to serve as simple décor in my kitchen.
Look at your kitchen and ask yourself if it’s functioning. If it isn’t, begin chipping away at the struggles until you’ve found a solution for each one.
6. Routines Are a Necessity
When you live in small quarters, you must have a routine. My daily routine consists of me waking up two hours earlier than my kids.
I can have quiet time, drink coffee, make my bed, and any other basic tasks before I have kids shuffling around under my feet.
I make sure I get my shower out of the way before they’re up and finish getting ready (such as fixing my hair or make-up) in my bedroom to avoid holding up the bathroom.
My kids take showers at night to avoid traffic jams in the bathroom in the mornings. Everyone knows what their chores are around the house, and they’re chores are done as soon as everyone gets dressed because clutter makes life in a small home miserable.
Therefore, the dishes and trash are addressed first thing every day. Make sure you get a routine down to stop traffic jams and clutter from building up in your home.
7. It Cost Money to Downsize
Buying a smaller house isn’t neccesarily as cost effective as one would believe. Getting a smaller home fixed to where it functions appropriately will cost money.
You’ll still have utilities to cover unless you go off-grid, but you’ll have to pay for those expenses upfront.
There are expenses which will naturally occur when you downsize. This may be shocking to some because it’s natural to consider downsizing as a less expensive way of life.
It should cost less money over time, but up front, there will be costs, and you should be prepared for them when taking this journey.
8. You Must Have a ‘Space'
I mentioned how privacy could be a hassle when living in a smaller space, but it’s essential to have a place you can go when you need time for yourself.
Therefore, you must find or create a space for yourself. In my case, when I need some time to decompress, I have a couple of areas.
On pretty days, I either head to our field and spend time with my goats to relax, or I go to our covered back porch and take in the view of the mountain in our backyard.
On cold or rainy days, I pour a cup of coffee and head to the couch in our living room. I ask the children to go to the basement, and I breathe deeply.
Making sure you have a place to go and gather your thoughts is important when you live in close quarters with other people.
9. Cleanliness is a Must
I’ve touched on the idea of decluttering areas to make them function better, but cleanliness is paramount when downsizing.
First, it’s easier to spread germs to one another in small spaces. Therefore, keeping the area clean helps lower the risk of the spread of germs and illness.
Second, when an area becomes dirty, it can make your whole house feel dirty because of how small it is.
Lastly, keep your home clean to keep the dream of downsizing alive. If your space doesn’t feel welcoming or homey, you’ll likely come to feel disappointed in the whole idea.
Cleanliness is one of the most important aspects of downsizing your home.
10. Embrace the Outdoors
Claustrophobia can be real at times when you live in a small home, especially over the winter months. Therefore, you must learn to embrace the outdoors.
We are a homeschool family. Every day when we finish school, I get myself and the kids outdoors to take a walk before lunch.
This walk gets us out of the house, makes us active, and helps us take in the fresh air. The outdoors is the way to add square footage on days when you feel as though the walls are closing in on you.
Even if you aren’t an outdoor person, find something you love outdoors and go for it. I love to garden. My husband added a greenhouse to our property to give me a space to go garden outside of the house even when the weather doesn’t permit for items to grow.
Get creative and find ways to draw yourself outdoors.
I’ve learned many vital lessons when it comes to successfully living in a smaller home. There are challenges, but there are also simple solutions.
Embracing a downsized life can clear your life of unnecessary clutter and also help you to get outdoors and lead a healthier lifestyle.
Take all of this into consideration when choosing to downsize your life, but instead of growing discouraged of the challenges, find solutions.
Once you find ways to beat the struggles, embrace your new life.