Alignment, Ease, Energy & Flow: downsizing

It’s been a year since Hans and I moved from the hotel where we lived for six months into our current apartment. All in all, we went from a house of 1400 square feet to a hotel room of 300 to our current abode of 733.

What a journey it’s been.

At the one-year mark, here are 10 reflections on downsizing our living space.

  1. Things need to be joyful to earn their keep in a small space.
    With less space, we’ve gotten good at asking, Does this spark joy? If the answer is yes, the item stays. If no, into the donation bag it goes. I used to think function was reason enough to keep something. These days, I’ve raised the bar to joy.
  2. Having an energizing view is more important than size.
    Watching the city wake up and the hustle and bustle begin energizes me. More so than having an extra room or two. I’ve happily traded square footage for a panoramic view that makes me feel part of the world while still being cozy at home.
  3. It takes half as much time to clean.
    Less square footage and less stuff means less time spent cleaning. Which really means more time for what matters. I’m convinced I’ll never look back over my life and wish I had cleaned more.
  4. Less stuff means less to organize, store and insure.
    Less stuff doesn’t just mean less time spent cleaning. It has also meant less to organize, store, insure—and otherwise keep track of. I used to find it energy draining to update our household inventory every year for insurance purposes. Going room by room and logging all our belongings, I was always struck by the realization if everything were gone tomorrow, I wouldn’t replace most of it. But there it was: Taking up space and being insured.
  5. Being car-free is different than being car-less.
    We happily sold our car when we moved. We’ve chosen not to have a car since we live in a walkable city with access to public transportation (and the occasional Zip car). Being car-free also means being free of a car payment, repair bills, auto insurance, registration, and fuel costs. Framing our decision as a choice makes living without a car a desirable tradeoff rather than a sacrifice.
  6. A feeling of home is never dependent on square footage.
    Our apartment felt like home from the moment we took a nap on the bedroom floor before the movers arrived with our furniture. I think home is an intention: A decision to embrace your living space with love and make it a cozy refuge from the world. We did that the minute we put the key in the door and shouted to ourselves, Welcome home!
  7. Having no car means no garage, which really means no excuse to store stuff.
    In our former house, we had a garage. For the car. And for countless totes and bins containing countless crap. Now we have no garage, which means no extra storage. Going through bin after bin, piece by piece was an opportunity to make decisions about what we would carry into our future. Most of it didn’t make the cut and it turns out the garage was just an excuse for not being intentional about our belongings.
  8. Going paperless was key to making it possible.
    When we first discussed the idea of downsizing, I knew the biggest sticking point could be me. I never met a piece of paper I didn’t save and file, which meant I had multiple office-sized filing cabinets filled to the brim. At the rate I was going, we would need a bigger home, not a smaller living space! So I knew going paperless would be key. I imagine every voluntary downsizing has one of these potential sticking points. I’m thrilled to report life now is paperless. Everything that needs to be saved gets scanned and tossed. Sensitive documents get shredded. There’s not a filing cabinet in sight.
  9. Getting more than we gave up.
    I don’t know if downsizing is right for anyone else. But I do know it was exactly the right thing at the right time for us. Looking from the outside in, you might say we gave up a lot. We lost 700 square feet. We have one bathroom instead of three. Belongings have been donated, sold, scrapped. We live 45 minutes from the Motor City and don’t have a car. In my mind, though, there’s been no sacrifice. We gave up space and stuff for quality of life and convenience. We’ve gotten far more than we gave up.
  10. Less space means more togetherness.
    If you think about it, Hans and I each had 700 square feet of space in our former home. Now we share about that much. Happily, all that togetherness has been a good thing. In our 14th year, there’s no one I would rather spend time with. And because we’re not spending time on cleaning, snow shoveling and upkeep, there’s more time to enjoy time together!

Questions to ask about your living space

Halving your square footage may not be on your radar, but ask yourself these five questions to live more intentionally:

  • Do all your belongings spark joy?
  • If you had less to clean and organize, what would you do with the newfound time?
  • If you were starting with a clean slate, what stuff would you add back in to your life?
  • What one thing could you do today to make your home feel more like your ideal home?
  • What would you need to give up to get more of the life you really want?