Is it Time to Downsize?

Dodie and I moved farther away from civilization in May and have no regrets. We love it!

Before Dodie and I married in December 2019, we talked often about ridding ourselves of “things” and living a more simple life. The pandemic hit and changed everything. It was lemonade made out of lemons time.

After a 40 year career as a RN nurse in Phoenix, Dodie is now retired and back home in Texas living her lifelong dream in the Hill Country.

My home northwest of Boerne, Texas for years was where I raised my four children. It was a large home with five bedrooms, two kitchens, two living rooms, three and a half bathrooms and three fireplaces on a 1,865 foot hill overlooking a spectacular hill country.

After a divorce 14 years ago, I found myself living in an apartment for the first time since college days. It was a small efficiency, a few floors above the historic Majestic Theater in downtown San Antonio.

The beautiful River Walk was my backyard, with dining, entertainment and shopping just steps away. The adjustment was easy and benefits many.

I lived above the theater in downtown.

Years later, I retired back to the Boerne area and lived in the wonderful Fair Oaks Ranch until May of this year. Several of my friends there mentioned over the years they had a desire to downsize after they became empty nesters. Some did and indicated relief with less burdens.

We moved about an hour from San Antonio and an hour further northwest of Boerne. Our home and yard is small. We’re surrounded by the tranquility of stunning picture postcard views of rolling and rugged hills, wildlife and a winding pristine river just a short walk away.

If we want, we can even kayak to my high school friend Randy Potts’ property and he can drive us back home a mile and a half away.

It was hardly news that downsizing our home could save money, but we didn’t realize we would cut all expenses in half!

We rent a small and simple house that my son Brady calls a cabin. In addition to no mortgage or tax burdens we spend far less on utilities and maintenance. Plus, our dog, Mr. Beefy is ecstatic. We’re happy!

But living in a smaller house wasn’t just a smart financial decision, it has
also improved our quality of life.

Here are some ways that living in a small house has made my our lives better:

1. We Have Less to Clean

A large home is time consuming and can be quite the burden. It’s refreshing to feel like we’re not slaves to our home with housekeeping and maintenance burdens.

It’s all simple. Today I even did something I haven’t done since I was 12 years old. Using clothes pins to hang our pillowcases and sheets on the line brought back childhood memories with my mother.

2. We Can Improve Our Health

If we have less to clean, we are more likely to do the kind of dust-eliminating deep cleaning that only happens in larger houses if you employ an army of maids. Less dust (and pet hair and dander) means cleaner air and fewer allergic reactions.

In addition, our small house really encourages us to get outside more often. Why stay inside a small space on a beautiful summer day when we could go for a walk?

Dodie and I have noticed that with each passing mile away from cities, our relaxation factor goes up. We have far less tension driving on highways, especially those under constant construction.

3. We Become Less Focused on Stuff

Just as a goldfish will grow to fill the size of a bowl it lives in, a regular family’s need for stuff will grow to fit the space it has to fill.

Living in a large house meant more rooms to furnish and decorate. But it’s more than that. In our little “cabin,” it’s easy to browse in stores without buying because we don’t have room for new stuff.

Small living changes how we view making new purchases. In a large house, there’s always room for more, so you might as well indulge.

4. We Have More Free Time

Along with buying less stuff because we have no room for it, we also avoid the time costs of maintaining all that stuff, as well as the time cost of keeping a larger home clean and in good repair.

Living in a small house means that the needs for our home take a smaller bite out of your free time, allowing us to pursue the things in life that we are really passionate about. In fact, we spent most of June and July roadtripping the country and checking off our bucketlist.

5. We Have More Family Time

One of the selling points for big houses is that everyone gets to have their own space. And while I would never want to give up my me-time, I don’t think I need an enormous separate room to have it.

Families in very large houses don’t have to spend time together, because each person has a space to retreat to. When everyone is all thrown together into a small living area, that allows for more fun family time.

6. We Optimize Our Space

People will often want a big house for reasons that seem perfectly logical: they need space for overnight guests, or a large dining room for the annual Christmas party, or a restaurant-sized kitchen for when the whole family comes for Grandma’s birthday dinner.

But these kinds of reasons ignore how families actually use their space on a day-to-day basis. We found we’re much happier using all of our available space the 360 days of the year we don’t have overnight guests, parties, or dinner for 8, rather than having unused space for the majority of the year.

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

7. We Can More Easily Afford the In-Demand Neighborhoods

While every real estate market is different, I found that when I lived in the suburbs of the city years ago, we could generally count on small houses being more affordable than their big-blueprinted neighbors. It can often translate into living in a great neighborhood with good schools.

9. We’re Reducing Our Environmental Footprint

Small houses consume less energy and use fewer materials in the building process.

But in addition to these environmental benefits, small houses are also generally built in more walkable areas, which means we don’t have to jump in the car just to get a loaf of bread. And since buying a small house will often mean buying an older home, it will be preserving the environment by not building new—which is the ultimate in recycling.

The Bottom Line

Downsizing isn’t just for empty-nesters or those who bought more house than they can afford. If you live in a big house, think about how downsizing to a small one could improve your life, your relationships, and your bottom line.

Downsizing your home may be a way to save both money and time. Consider these 5 questions:

  1. Do you want more free time? Downsizing can free up time spent on home upkeep and give you more time to pursue other things you enjoy, such as hobbies, traveling or family bonding.
  2. Do you want to cut expenses? A smaller place may help trim costs, such as mortgage and insurance payments and utilities. But remember to consider the costs associated with selling a home, including realtor fees, closing costs and moving expenses.
  3. Does your home meet your needs? You may look for a home with living spaces on one floor, a smaller yard, or a closer proximity to city life. While you may be able to adapt your current home, moving to a smaller home may be more convenient.
  4. Do you want to improve cash flow? Selling your home may give you extra cash to put toward retirement savings or free up a portion of your monthly expenses. Downsizing from a $250,000 home to a $150,000 home could save about $6,250 a year.
  5. Do you need room to host? The right-size home for your family may depend on if you anticipate adult children or other relatives moving in with you or frequently hosting visitors.

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