How Downsizing is Healthy for You, Your Family, and the Planet
It was a day like any other day. I woke up, threw on some workout clothes, made coffee, saw the husband off to work, fed the child and dropped the child off at school, and prepared to head out for my daily jog.
Then, Ding Ding Ding went the reminder app on my smart phone.
I had completely forgotten that a friend and her husband were coming into town and would be staying with us for the night. Don’t get me wrong, I love these two people, but I knew that I could not welcome them into my home in its current state, with yesterday’s dishes in the sink, toys scattered throughout, unmade beds with dirty sheets, and bathrooms that hadn’t been cleaned in far too long. At these depressing realizations, I cringed, my eyes started twitching, curses filled the air in my vehicle, and I reluctantly headed home for a full day of resentful tidying up.
Let’s start with facts. There are three of us; myself, my husband, and our young son. Tell me how it makes sense that a family of this size needs a nearly three-thousand square foot home, four bedrooms, three bathrooms, a three-car garage, and lots of crap that just sits around and collects dust.
Later that day, after five hours of mopping floors that were seldom stepped upon, vacuuming carpets in rooms we entered maybe once a month, scrubbing showers that had never been used, and dusting every damn item we had that served absolutely ZERO purpose, I called my husband and said that we were putting our home on the market.
I don’t really know what was going through our heads when we bought that home two years prior. Pre-child, we had never cared. If we had a roof over our heads, and a few cool photos, we were happy. Then came baby, and hormones, and pressures of society, including urging from every person we came into contact with “that we really should upgrade.” So, boom… an unnecessarily-large home was the result.
Fast forward to now, four months after we said adios to that monstrosity. We have a home half the size, we have become regulars at our local donation center, I can clean this joint in a matter of two hours, our bills have been cut in half, and we have never been a happier, more fulfilled family unit.
Let me be very clear, our journey is our journey. While we made the choice to downsize our lives, it might not be appealing to everyone. I’m not here to tell you that we are better for making this choice, or that we are right, and you are wrong. What I do wish to communicate, however, is that reprogramming your brains to go against what societal norms tell you to do might be the most beneficial road to finding your own unique happiness. We live in a world that consistently tells us bigger equals better, successful and happy.
We are living proof that is not necessarily the case.
Aside from our personal journey to living a simpler life, let’s look at some very positive aspects of why downsizing, regardless of age, income or lifestyle can be beneficial to both your family and to the world.
Let’s start with the obvious. Less house equals less maintenance; less yard work, less cleaning, less crap to fix, less, less, less! If you abhor cleaning and upkeep like I do, this is a reason in and of itself to simplify.
Speaking of less everything, how about having less of a carbon footprint on the Earth. The smaller the home, the less energy you will expend. Consuming fewer precious resources such as natural gas, water, coal and oil can have positive, lasting effects on our planet.
If you are budget conscious, downsizing may be the answer to all your money problems. It’s basic real estate math; smaller homes tend to be less expensive in all aspects. Since homes are priced by square foot, smaller homes tend to be priced lower than their larger comparable counterparts. Plus, your bills will most likely go down since you are using less energy to heat and cool your home. Perhaps its time to take that life-changing vacation you’ve been dreaming of?
If you have Netflix, I’m sure you’ve heard of Marie Kondo. She is an organization expert who hosts a show called “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” where she travels all over the US to help Americans declutter their lives. In support of Kondo, an article featured on the ABC News website states, “Recent scientific research backs up Kondo’s method, and shows that having too many things in your home may not only make it difficult to find your keys, but significantly impact how you feel.” When you downsize your life, decluttering comes with the territory. Too much stuff (aka clutter) has been known to increase stress, decrease focus and productivity, and can lead to unhealthy eating habits.
In conclusion, you need to do what is best for you and yours. You may be living a lavish life in your dream mansion surrounded by all your pretty things, because you worked hard to get there and that is what makes you happy, and that is a-okay!
But what I’m asking you to do is to take a breath, take a step back, and really think on this. Are you there because it is what you want, or because it is what society told you that you should want? Do those items you cannot live without spark joy, or are they simply there to fill space? Do you feel happy or stressed most of the time? Do you have the time and money to do all the things you want to do in life, or are you struggling because you are house poor?
Owning a home can be such an amazing investment, and I encourage everyone to own real estate at some point in their lives, but I also encourage people to own only what they need and what brings them true joy. Imagine what a healthier and happier place this world could be!