Tom and I have been married for over 9 years and I never would have dreamed of the journey we would take together. When we met we both had high hopes for life and “moving up in the world.” One day all our dreams came true and we landed in a house in the neighborhood we always dreamed we’d be a part of. We had the house, we had the location and we slowly started to fall apart.
Before we moved into “the big house” we had been living contently in a nice sized townhouse. Tom complained of no yard work (yeah, seriously) and I dreamed of having more room for a studio. At the time I was doing photography out of our small basement and I loved the idea of having a big home for clients to come to. Somehow I felt it would make me feel more official.
We saw so many houses and started to lose hope. We slowly let our price range climb higher and higher. As we found more and more wrong with the houses we looked at, it got so much easier to feel that strong desire for more. Then we found it. A 3,400 square foot home in our “dream neighborhood” equipped with 4 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, a loft, a formal living and dining room, a play room for the kids, tons of storage and a yard that backed up to a creek.
Before we moved in I would go peek in the windows. Don’t worry, it was a foreclosed home. I wasn’t teetering on “peeping Tom” status.
Before we even signed the papers Tom looked at our monthly payment and wanted to back out. He couldn’t justify spending so much money on a house. To me the beautiful windows in every single room totally made up for it. Oh, that and the double master walk-in closet. My shoes needed space after all. I had a ton of them after joining on on-line shoe club.
So we moved in. Quickly I began to realize just how tough it can be to fill up so much space. I started to plan on the different things we could do with all the space. After all, we didn’t have nearly enough furniture to fill these rooms or all the walls. Painting; what could I start painting? How do you paint an entry way with 30 foot tall ceilings when you have a husband who won’t even climb onto the garage?
I started panicking over the though of just how much money it would take to accomplish all the things I wanted in the house. On top of all the decor and furniture, there were so many updates we wanted to do to the house itself. Wood flooring, updated bathroom fixtures, a fence a deck, a new front door. The list just seemed to keep piling up.
I stayed super busy with my photography and having the studio space I was able to start buying more furniture, props and backdrops. Photography is a booming business with tons of competition and you have to keep up. Soon our large storage room was filling up with stools, chairs, lighting, blankets, pillows, chalkboards…
Tom complained daily about the house. I would just roll my eyes. He is a complainer by nature. He complained when I painted the kitchen in our townhouse, he complained when we took a trip to Mexico, our car, our gym, the dog. What I came to realize was after a while he liked the color of the kitchen, he started planning our second all-inclusive vacation and he and the dog now had this little bond that made me sick. I had learned that he just takes a while to adjust. Some days he loved the house and he was happy to tell everyone where we lived. It was definitely a status thing.
As more people came to see the house, we were always giving tours and the tours felt like they went on forever. I started getting tired half way through. Each tour felt as if it was excessively long and felt almost snobby.
A year went by, 2 years and Tom didn’t adjust. He kept complaining. Our marriage suffered. We spent a year barely communicating.
I started feeling suffocated by the stuff piling up in our storage. None of the decorating I wanted to do seemed important any more. I started reading self growth books and began realizing how much importance I had been placing on the material things in my life. So I started downsizing. I went through my closet and got rid of my clothes, I quit my shoe membership and we stopped buying the kids toys. Not all together, we’re not monsters, but we limited it to $50 and 2 gifts per child for Christmas. That included (*SPOILER ALERT*) Santa gifts and stocking stuffers. If we could do less than $50, great. We usually did.
I was tossing things left and right as if the very idea that these things existed had been holding my back my whole life.
Tom and I started communicating. I listened to the concerns he had had for the last (almost) 3 years. As a wife, I cared more and respected his opinion. Financially we were doing ok, although we were still throwing money away on irrelevant things. But how much better could we do if we lived with less? Way less. How much more could we do with our lives. We started dreaming about where we could go instead of what we could have. I dreamed of less mess. Less rooms for my kids to trash. I counted once; there were exactly 11 rooms that had toys in them by the end of every day. No. Just, no.
I was burnt out on the accumulation photography required and I wanted Tom to have the flexibility to do things with his life that he truly wanted without the obligation of the mortgage of a big home. So, we listed our house. We listed it for 3 months. Took a break for Christmas and then listed it again. In March 2016 we accepted an offer and prepared to move.
There were so many things to get rid of. We had exactly 5 couches in our house. Yeah, definitely didn’t need all those. We cleared out props, chairs, couches, anything that was excess. We didn’t get rid of anything we would need because we weren’t going to buy any new furniture.
We found a house, still in our same city, like we had hoped. The finished square footage was exactly 2,000 square feet less than our “big house.” Yes, there was an unfinished basement and I wanted most of that space to stay available for the kids to ride their bikes in the winter. Yes, if you live in Minnesota an unfinished basement is a solid way to stay active year round. No, you can’t just play outside in winter. Unless you want your face to melt/freeze off. Seriously.
It has been a little over a year since we downsized to our super cute, significantly less, home. However, it didn’t take a year for me to start noticing a change. Our oldest daughter, Destiny, came out of her “cave” in the basement. In the “big house” (I just realized that’s also what they call prison…how perfectly fitting) we barely ever saw her. Probably because of my major attitude change. I found myself with more energy and less complaining. My guess is because there was less to clean! Our marriage felt restored.
We have gotten wiser with our finances. I never knew getting strict with spending would allow for so much freedom. We still continue to downsize, and part of me wouldn’t mind doing it again. We have talked about finishing the basement and truthfully, I feel no need. I’m content with my 1,300 square feet. But, we’ll see. The biggest tell tale sign happened just today for me. I started scrolling through my photos trying to find pictures we have taken inside our new home and what I found instead was photo after photo of us outside the home. I see us living. We have tried new things, gone new places. Spent quality time together as a family. Our money has started being invested in one another instead of a “big house.”
I am forever thankful for the lessons I have learned. Growth doesn’t always mean getting bigger or better. Sometimes it means being happy with where you are and content with what you have. Feeling the need to fill a “big house” helped me realize how much of my life was spent on the never-ending desire to accumulate. If you live a life wanting just a little bit more, you may get it and chances are you’ll move onto the next thing you want. This leads to a life with a lot of temporary satisfaction.
Start giving gratitude today. Be thankful for what you presently have and you will start finding more and more that you begin to realize you lose that want for more and are content with all the greatness in less.