A little over one year ago, I was interviewed by CBS SmartPlanet on the topic of living with less. The time was exciting for minimalism. Tammy Strobel’s story was in the New York Times, MSNBC, and the Today Show. Everett Bogue was featured on the CBS Nightly News. Courtney Carver’s Project 333 was about to hit the AP. Dave Bruno’s 100-Thing Challenge was in final edits. Each of us were cheering for one another. And I was excited to play a small part in the promotion of the counter-cultural lifestyle.
At the time of my interview, we were visiting family in Nebraska. I can remember sitting on their back porch in the humid August morning answering Christina Hernandez’s questions about living with less. At one point she asked, “What has been the toughest place for you to apply minimalism?” And as good interviews typically do, it pressed me to further define minimalism in my life. My answer went like this:
[There are] two things I want to take the next step on minimally speaking. We bought our house five years ago and embraced this minimalist lifestyle two years ago. I want to live in a smaller home and haven’t been able to take that step yet. I don’t think it’s a sentimental attachment. It’s just a logistical issue of selling and buying and moving. We still have two cars. As part of that suburban mindset, my wife takes the kids to school and runs them around all day. I work on the other side of town. How do we logistically go down to one car? Those aren’t sentimental attachments, but they are steps I want to take.
It was the first time I had verbally articulated those two desires. It was no small coincidence that the two biggest investments in my life (both financially and strategically speaking) were the two that had become the most difficult. They were going to require the most emotional energy to complete. After all, it’s one thing to clean out your garage – it’s something completely different to reduce the number of vehicles in your garage and/or change garages completely.
But subtly, over the past four months, we have accomplished both goals in our lives.
We have been living with one car for the past three months. And we just put our signatures on the purchase of a new, smaller home this past weekend. We moved in on Saturday.
As I have mentioned previously, our family recently moved from Vermont to Arizona and with it, came the process of selling an old home and buying a new one. The housing markets are markably different between the two regions and we could have easily embraced a massive upgrade because of the move. But even in a world where large homes are often considered the greatest symbols of worldly success, we never considered buying a larger home… instead, we looked forward to purchasing a smaller one.
This excitement was based on a number of reasons rarely considered in today’s market (or mentioned by realtors). A smaller home means…
- Less burdensome mortgage payments.
- Less maintenance.
- Less furniture/decorations/housewares to purchase.
- Less cleaning time.
- Less environmental impact.
- Less opportunity to accumulate.
- Less financial risk.
We still had a number of criteria that we searched for in our new home. Smaller was not the only goal – it still had to function in a way that fits our young family and promotes our values. Our final list of nonnegotiables consisted of 3 bedrooms, dining room/family room sufficient for entertaining, space for housing overnight guests, pleasant outdoors, quality school district, lovely neighborhood, and high craftsmanship. Needless to stay, we were overjoyed to find one that fit our criteria exactly.
Ultimately, through the process, we reduced our home size from over 2,200 sq. feet to less than 1,700 sq. feet (and 4-levels to 1-level). But more importantly, we reduced our mortgage payments by almost 50%, we selected quality over quantity (always a wise decision), we removed anxiety inherent in burdensome monthly payments, and we have fallen in love with every square inch of our new home.
And minimalism made it all possible. Once again, we have found more joy in living with less than we had in living with more.
Now, how we do get this message back into the mainstream media?