The Saturday morning conversation between my husband Mark and I has been the same. “Well, how are you doing? Can you believe we did this? And, are you okay?”
The weekend has become the check-in point for our family. The morning of the week where we wake up, look around and confirm, once again, that we did it. We sold our home of 20 years, moved from 2,400 square feet to 1,100 and — we shed more than half of our belongings and mortgage.
Why did we do this? We were lucky. There was no job loss due to COVID-19. We loved our downtown historical home (in an eastern suburb) that was within walking distance to the library, sledding hill, coffee shop and restaurants. However, like many, the time at home over the last year made us think, not just about today, but about our future. Being homebound for longer periods of time, we realized how much more we wanted to see and do. We took stock of what was really important to us. We also started to realize how much of our home we really used. As we moved through many days shifting from our dining room to living room, we began to wonder why we had all that other space. Then, we started to talk about what we really wanted: the ability to travel more, the opportunity to work differently if or when we want, and the chance to pursue our hobbies more.
The outcomes we wanted were clear. The path to get there was a little fuzzy. After much discussion, we began to see the answer and in early 2021, we bought a new home half the size of our beloved old one. Making this transition allowed us to commit to debt-free living, plan some short and longer term goals such as more travel, hopefully earlier retirement, etc.
Are you curious or would like to consider right-sizing your family’s life, too?
Consider the following five points:
Find your comfort.
For both for living (what do you want and what do you need) and your finances (what can you afford). The first step is to do an analysis of your current income versus expenses. What are needs versus wants? Be honest. Though you may think you “need” a $5 latte every day, you can make a cup of coffee at home for next to nothing. Does your income cover your current expenses and support you in working towards your future goals (think one to 10 years, and beyond)? Remember, it is okay to not keep up with “The Joneses” (to show that one is as good as other people by getting what they have and doing what they do).
Does size matter?
What do you really need in your life? How much space to do you really use? What is important? What is not? Why?
Know when to say no and when to let go. Factors in making decisions may include your current situation as well as the the economic climate, planning and communicating your short term and long term goals, defining what matters most to you (in our lives, it became about a commitment to debt-free living, a focus on early retirement goals, going to Iceland vs. fixing an aging HVAC). Make a plan. Move forward slowly. Baby steps. Make lists. Ask questions and explore all options. Even when we let go of our beloved home, we walked away knowing that our new home did not need to be a permanent solution, but could be a temporary transition if the new, smaller home, did not meet our needs.
Communicate your transition to others as needed and if you feel comfortable.
Remember, if you don’t really want their advice, don’t ask for it. With any big changes, be prepared for emotions to
run high. Breathe and be kind.
Move forward as a family
Especially with kids, focus on the positive (even when emotions are running high and you may have your doubts). Help set up their new space, be sure to hang on to items that are beloved (though we downsized to more than half of what we had, no one had to let go of something they “loved”). Remember to take time to celebrate bold new moves towards your future dreams.
Jeannie Fleming-Gifford has a master’s degree in family and consumer sciences with a specialization in child development and is the executive director at Fairmount Center for the Arts. Her passions include outdoor adventures, raising autism service dogs and writing. She recently published her first children’s book called “SymFUNNY.”