Grit Blogs > Adventures in Rural Living

Downsize Is Not Such a Scary Word

Marie James head shotMany years ago our young family took a trip to Disneyland. We had the free use of a motor home that would sleep our family comfortably, so we decided to drive.

We packed up the motor home with basic cooking equipment and groceries, bedding and enough clothes for the trip. Each of us brought along some things for entertainment, from books to cassette tapes (remember those?) to toys and games. I even stashed my sewing machine in the shower so I could finish up some clothes I’d been making for the kids.

 suburban house 

As we drove away from home, I looked back at our two-story house. I thought to myself, we have everything we need right here in this little motor home. Why in the world do we have such a big house and so much stuff?

Of course, when we returned from our vacation we went right on living in our big house full of stuff. But that kind of thing has repeated itself over and over in our life. We moved overseas, taking very little—but we accumulated a houseful of stuff again. Five years later we returned to the U.S. with very little and … yep, we accumulated another houseful.

Several years ago, when we lived in a suburban neighborhood, Jim and I realized that we spent 80% of our time at home in just a few rooms. The other space was used just occasionally. We slept in our bedroom and used our master bathroom. We cooked in the kitchen and ate in the adjoining dining area. Though we sat in the living room once in a while, we really lived in the family room. I admit we did have an “everything room” that stored a lot of stuff but was really not used much.

That’s when we started re-evaluating our plans to build a large house on our acreage. Not only do we not need the space most of the time, but maintaining a large home is not very high on our list of favorite things to do.

 framing house 

So we decided to build a small home within our utility barn and live in it for a while, building the larger house later. Our new home takes up one long side of the barn. It’s cute and cozy and just right for the two of us. We built a little home office in the “barn” side. We’ve lived this way for over a year—through two winters—and so far it hasn’t seemed too small! It even looks promising for a permanent situation.

Less of a house to clean and maintain gives us more time for our other projects. We never have to search more than a minute to find each other in the house. And no matter what room we're in, everything else seems to be just steps away. 

Downsizing so drastically really forced us to weed through our belongings. We decided we’d keep things that were meaningful, useful, or otherwise important. Now when we look around our little home, every piece of furniture, every picture on the wall, and every decorative item has a connection to our family or our experiences.

Would we like a bigger house? Sometimes. We can’t squeeze big groups or crowds in our living room. We don’t have an extra bedroom for family and friends to sleep in. The kitchen table always seems to have something on it. Once in a while there’s even a line for the single bathroom.

But so far we’ve tweaked things to be pretty comfortable. We have plenty of storage space in the adjoining barn for off-season clothes and things we need to access occasionally. We could build an outdoor studio cabin if we needed more space. For six months of the year we can have oodles of people sitting in our outdoor "living room," dining at our patio tables, and sleeping in trailers and tents.

Stay tuned ... we may just never build that larger house. 

 small log cabin

Marie and her husband, Jim, are developing a farm in the Pacific Northwest with their adult children and grandchildren. At The Homesteader Kitchen Marie and her daughter review kitchen equipment and talk about preparing and preserving delicious food. Along with other family members, Marie shares glimpses of country life at Rural Living Today and teaches practical skills at The Homesteader School