More on Stuff and Simplicity

Based on a couple of comments regarding “stuff” last week, I wanted to follow up my list of the Top Ten Reasons to Live in a Small Home.

Jessica was pretty passionate, feeling I had lied about the ease of cleaning a small home. She commented she lives in 600 square foot house and finds that she is cleaning all of the time. “It is so much harder to stay orga­nized in a small house. The big­ger the house, the more room to orga­nize and store your stuff,” she wrote.

Kathleen also wrote, “What I’ve dis­cov­ered in mov­ing from a smaller house to a larger one is this: it is eas­ier to keep things tidy in the larger house. There is a place for every­thing and I don’t mean the wan­ton accu­mu­la­tion of junk, but just the reg­u­lar amount of cloth­ing and linens and tow­els, keep­sakes and etc., within rea­son­able limits.”

My mother also said the same thing after up sizing from about 1,000 square feet to 2,500 or so square feet.

I agreed with her until we completed our own downsizing. I agreed with her because, well, I was much like her, I had too much stuff for the size of home we had.

My mother was a packrat. She had stuff literally filling almost every available inch of space on the floors, the walls and every closet in The Little Green Bungalow. It was a nightmare to clean.

When she upsized, she finally had a home that matched the amount of furniture and décor she possessed, but she found herself in the same situation, overflowing with stuff, each time she downsized after selling The Big Brick Tudor.

I, too, had too much stuff, from my first apartment to our duplexes and when we purchased our house. If there was an empty space, I filled it with more furniture and stuff.

I had, by extension become my mother with regards to stuff. I didn’t know a). The ability to let go of sentimental items, nor did I b). Know the difference between what we “need” and what we “want.”

Two things changed my life with regards to how I view stuff: 1). I went through the process of having to clean out my mother’s last home. Even after we went through it together and held a sale, Dale and I still had more than a moving truckload to store, move here and process after she died. I didn’t want anyone to have to go through with our stuff. 2). When we downsized, we had to learn to let go and keep only the things we love and need.

I do know that on Monday, it took me 1 hour to dust, sweep, mop and scrub the bathroom. If I had done a full out cleaning, washing windows, blinds and ceiling fans, it would have taken me 2 hours.

Yes, I probably do organize more than I did in a larger house. I know I didn’t spend time as I did yesterday getting off mailing lists, organizing the medicine cabinet or even the pantry (Sadly, I found spices from when we moved into our house 17 years before that were still in the pantry when we were packing to move).

But I don’t view that organizing as a bad thing. Really, who wants 17-year-old spices hanging around their pantry, linens they never use or 8 sets of towels and washcloths for 2 people taking up space in the closet?

I’m no way suggesting that Jessica or Kathleen are packrats, but it’s possible they had too much stuff for the size of house/storage they had. I know there must be some explanation as to our different experiences (and it could have to do with the number of people in their homes, their storage space, etc.)

I’ve learned that moving to a small house isn’t just about downsizing, it is a full lifestyle adjustment and it’s not for everyone. Thankfully, we’ve been able to adjust. We’re not consumerists, we don’t buy into the advertising myth that we have to change styles of clothing or interior design with each season or even every year (and if we do buy something, we practice the one in/one out rule).

We chose a timeless cabin decor that will not become dated and thankfully, Carhartt is what is considered fashionable in rural Arkansas.

We’ve learned to let go of sentimental things; a photograph can bring back the same memories as the actual thing. As a result, we’ve achieved the simplicity of living we desired by determining the square footage we had to work with, the available storage and balancing those things (A place for everything and everything in its’ place).

I would love to hear from others who have downsized as to your experience with regards to the time it takes you to clean and organize and how you have achieved a simpler life (or not). 

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65 Responses

  1. Heather says:

    I really struggle with what size home I want. I think our current home is 1400 square feet. We have a barn and a garage. We moved here from a 1000sq ft apartment. I love the space and land that we have. I love having room for gatherings of people. I have a large family with 7 siblings with wifes, husbands and children. I don’t want to give up having the space to enjoy family.

    I love having space to sew and craft but that doesn’t meant that I want a room full of craft supplies. I just want the space to spread out and work on a project without constantly having to pack it all up to use the same space for other activities. The same with cooking, I love having space for family to gather and cook together in the kitchen but that doesn’t mean I need drawers full of kitchen gadgets that never see the light of day.

    I think it is important to find a balance between space and stuff in the space. I try to keep in mind that everything that I NEED would fit in a tiny house. Therefore, I do have a lot of empty storage space in this home. Other people think my home looks empty and I am fine with that.

    • Kerri says:

      I completely agree, Heather. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with not having clutter. It sounds like you’ve found that balance.

  2. Alisa Bowman says:

    I do think this is true–less stuff = less clutter. When we moved to a slightly larger house, I got a basement. It’s nice to have storage space–but basically it merely allows me to relax a bit on getting things to goodwill.

  3. I also live in a very small house and regularly (like every couple of months) go through stuff that’s accumulated and that I don’t really need. It seems that over the year as I’ve moved from one house or apartment to the next, I’ve dumped a ton of stuff. As a result, I’m less inclined to hold onto things.

    • Kerri says:

      I think the more you move, the more you are inclined to get rid of the clutter because you’re reminded each time how much stuff you have. I applaud you for going through your stuff so often. I need to do it more.

  4. Merr says:

    I’ve mentioned before that we live in a smallish home (big compared to your little house!…at about 1300 sq ft). We’ve lived here for almost 18 years and I can’t say I’ve ever pined for anything too much bigger. As I get older I less and less feel like bigger is better. Not that there is anything wrong with bigger, but I am content.

    • Kerri says:

      1,300 sq. ft. is small compared to today’s standard of homes, Merr. Every week when I clean, I’m reminded even more of why I love our small house! 😉 I’m sure as I get even older, that feeling will only intensify.

  5. These are all such great ideas. Since downsizing, I feel like it’s tougher to stay organized because you’ve got to take out everything you’ve packed up in order to make it neat again and there’s just not enough room to do that. Recently I found a box of clothes I meant to open once the winter hit–they were all for my 8 y-o. Well, the box got crammed behind some others and by the time I discovered it, when I was re-organizing, the clothes were too small! I donated them, but still I could have avoided buying her some new things if I’d had a little easier access. I’m working on getting better organized, but in some ways–not all–I think it’s a bit easier when you have some breathing room.

    • Kerri says:

      As discussed in the other post, maybe it is the amount of stuff you have. Downsizing to a smaller house is really a complex move that involves purging – a lot. I realize this is more difficult with children, especially ones your daughter’s age that is growing rapidly.

  6. We go through our house at least once a year and get rid of oodles of stuff. I think we’re getting close to bare minimum required, but it’s a process. I do wonder, though, that if having a smaller space might make people clean more or in more detail … because it’s harder to avoid the need to do it.

    • kerri says:

      Excellent point, Roxanne. Good for you going through your house once a year! We don’t even do that, but we will be going through in the New Year, for sure.

  7. Jane Boursaw says:

    Still working on the simpler life here… I’m making some changes, though, and have high hopes going into 2012.

  8. Alexandra says:

    I love these posts of yours on downsizing. I recently visited two friends. One has too much stuff, so much she never cleans and so my dust allergies started acting up during the visit. The other was removing stuff accumulated by her mom, after her mom had passed away. I returned home determined to get rid of some of my own stuff, and to do so immediately. Don’t want my kids to have to deal with my junk. That in itself is an argument against stuff, as you point out. What I am short on is time. It takes time to go through stuff and decide what to give away.

    Also, I find that having a bed-and-breakfast is helpful with reducing the stuff we own. Why? There are three B&B rooms, places we cannot store “stuff.” That joins your theory, too, on smaller spaces. Okay, so now, project for the day: reduce the clutter in my office. Why is that always so hard??

    • Kerri says:

      Time is my problem too, Alexandra. We still have to go through the other storage building and I have to figure out how to sell some of my mother’s antiques. The problem being is that it has to be the right kind of weather and when that happens, we either have other plans or something comes up. Sigh. Good luck with yours. I need to go through The Belle Writer’s Studio as well.

  9. mat says:

    I’ve designed houses for…oh…about 20 years now; since I was a kid. As a teenager, I taught myself how to layout a building by copying the old mail-order houses from the 20s and 30s–which themselves were often very humble bungalows (still my favorite style of house). And in the last 3 or 4 years, I’ve focused only on the stuff I can build with my hands, for my family–the simple and small stuff. 1,000 square feet or less, usually WAY less. And the storage in a space like that is imminently important.
    When you’re talking no basement and a sleeping loft attic, there is NO place to hide the heater or the washer or the mops or the coats unless you draw it in. On the mini and micro levels, you size and place windows based upon what will (or will not be) placed under them or next to them. You need to mentally furnish the house as you design it to make sure it’s got the kind of space, efficiency, and flexibility you want. Need an office space? There’s no basement to carve from. Need laundry? Well how compact can you get a suitably-sized washer/dryer? Can you get away with mounting the point-of-use water heater over the toilet? In a vanity? Is there a vanity to hide it in?
    I think that over the years, the combination of cheap materials relative to expensive labor, along with lazy architecture, and a nation of consumerism has given birth to houses that look good on paper or in a magazine but are functionally bankrupt and gaudy. Who–who needs an 18′ x 35′ master bedroom? I’ve been in one. It was impressively large, with lots of large, expensive furniture…but zero worth. It’s a bedroom. You sleep, you dress, you…ahem, and maybe watch TV afterwards. You’re not hosting a cocktail party to showcase the 8,000 pairs of shoes you keep in the 10′ x 18′ closet.
    Okay, rant over. So…smart, purposeful storage good, random, lazy storage design bad. I think that’s what I was trying to say.

    • Kerri says:

      Well, at least your rant was entertaining AND had a message, unlike so many of mine. 🙂 Thanks again for your insight, Mat. I agree, I’ve been in a 4,000 sq. ft. home with an insanely large master bedroom. I think two of our homes could have fit in it. I don’t get it.

    • Vida says:

      Utterly agree with you, Mat. I have had some experience designing small living spaces too and I enjoy the challenge of fitting everything in so that it works, like a Tetris. The part about mentally furnishing the house as one designs is true. In our current house our sofa is built in with storage (and sealed so that no dust balls can accumulate under), ditto our bed. Our washer (no dryer) is located under the stairs to the attic loft, in an enclosed storage area (where I have my vacuum cleaner and mop!). Our fridge goes under the highest part of the stairs. Our firewood goes directly onto the floor under our wall hung wood stove, in summer it is just an open space.

      If we did not plan all this and prepare the electrical outlets, water and sewerage points, all this would have been impossible. Instead our present small house is very functional, with great cross ventilation and natural lighting.

      Funny what you said about master bedrooms and their uses. When I had to design very tiny living spaces in Madrid (less than 400 sq. ft) often the bedroom would be a sleeping alcove, designed for comfort but occupying a very small space. I always gave priority to the main living areas where most time is spent and tried to make these spaces and efficient and flexible as possible. I’ll repeat myself here, storage is KEY.

      Was nice to hear your comments about small house design.

  10. CG says:

    Stuff is a huge issue in any space as well as being organized. I count organizing as cleaning, I thought everyone did. Home layout and available storage(closets, shelves, cabinets) are big factors as well.
    The biggest factor though I think is how many hours your home is in use and by how many people.
    My family of 5 lives in an 800 sq ft rancher. We bought this place right before we were married and have lived here 11 years. We have a 9yo, 7yo and 1yo. I’m a homemaker and I homeschool the kids so 4 of us are at home almost 24/7.
    We did very well with this space until the kids were school aged. I was able to get the house tidy and company clean in a couple of hours. We’re fairly minimalist so keeping baby/toddler toys and baby clothes tidy was a breeze. They played outside a lot too and that helped. As they got older though, they started to compete more with us for table space for school, projects and playspace. They need quiet spaces now for working and privacy. Their toys and hobbies are more complex and need more organization. Their larger clothes are bulkier. The baby needs separate dedicated space for her things because of the age and safety differences. They have their share of tv, computer and game time which leaves dad and mom needing a quiet space. I’m constantly keeping the kids out of “my” stuff because I have no choice but to keep my hobbies in common areas. Our bedroom is used as an additional living room because the size of our dedicated living spaces often feels chaotic to me with three kids doing three different things simultaneously in them. The lack of privacy for mom and dad is sometimes frustrating but the tradeoff is a bit more peace and quiet during the day and the ability for the kids to have one more place to go to get away from a sibling for a few minutes. This is just a small example of our family’s needs that are growing as fast as they are.
    I absolutely spend more time cleaning this small house than I would somewhere larger because of the need to clear common spaces for multiple purposes multiple times a day. That would be mostly eliminated if the kids each had a desk of their own, a closet of their own, and mommy had a room of her own for her crafting and exercising. As it is now, we spend 10 minutes every day cleaning up the toys in the living room so I can exercise. Taking out and cleaning up my projects in progress and my tools is also time consuming.
    Having too much stuff isn’t always the issue. Once you’ve solved the issue of having “just enough” per person as far as stuff goes, you have to find out how many functions your house needs to provide and how many people will be using those and for how long. Some overlap is ok because that encourages sharing but lots of overlap will cause a lot of extra organizing and cleaning and frustration. Another big consideration is noise and privacy and those needs vary by personality type.
    Having dedicated spaces for functions you actually use can run into significant square footage for some people. A 1800 square foot home truly is very small for some people because they spend so much of their time “living” there.
    A couple that works outside the home and has outdoor hobbies would probably have no problem keeping a 300 square foot house clean in minutes a day.
    A family of 4 in 600 feet that has parents at work and kids in school all day likewise may also have an easy time keeping their space clean in a couple of hours over the weekend.
    But a couple working at home may find 300 square feet to be extremely restrictive and hard to maintain especially if their work is something in crafting or handiwork. Add some kids into the mix and, even with more square footage, you have real issues.
    We were just about to turn a section of our unusable and inaccessible attic into a sleeping loft for our oldest when DH got a job offer in another state. When we move we will be looking for a bit more space(like 1200 square feet) so that there is more privacy for each of us when we need it, especially separate bedrooms by genders, a dedicated quiet room for school and relaxing, and more closet space.
    I’m 100% sure that the extra space will allow me to clean in less than 4 hours as opposed to the 9 it now takes to clean 800 square feet. Yes, that’s right, 9 hours. I timed myself a couple of weeks ago as I cleaned throughout the week. And that’s just keeping up, not really company clean.

    • Kerri says:

      CG, I completely understand your situation. Until I was 2, my family, which included my parents, grandmother and 3 siblings, all lived in a 3 bedroom house in less than 1,000 sq ft. I’ve never counted picking up clutter as part of my cleaning time, I guess because it is something I would have to do no matter where we lived and how big of a house. I agree, though, that the time it takes to pick up the house and keep it organized does depend on how many people (or animals) that live there and the amount of responsibility everyone has for their own stuff. I know if I didn’t have dogs or a husband, it would take me even less time to clean each week. But I also believe it does depend on the amount of stuff you have and the storage you have for it. We all know that houses built in decades past, for example, (which would include most small homes as homes built since 1970 have been on the increase size-wise) weren’t built with today’s consumers in mind (and being a ‘minimalist is also subjective as to some, this means less than 30 items per person and to others, it means less than 100). Which means those houses weren’t built with adequate storage space. Even if just one of our daughters still lived with us, there is no way we could live in 480 sq. ft., so it is all relative, really. Congratulations on your husband’s new job and your search for a more suitable home for your family!

      • CG says:

        Yes, being a minimalist is rather subjective I guess, as is what we all consider to be cleaning. For instance, I count picking up as part of my cleaning but not task related picking up. I’ll explain, cooking dinner and the clean-up? That’s not cleaning. Scrubbing the sink and stove, that is. Picking up the legos after playing? Not cleaning. Getting all the legos out of the couch cushions back into their appropriate containers is cleaning. There are always, ALWAYS toys from various sets found in the and under the couch, on and under the table and beds even when we clean up as we go. I have a toddler. 😀 It takes a lot of my cleaning time getting those back with their sets.
        I probably do it this way because cleaning up as I go or immediately after is linked with the task to me.
        Organizing in general takes a lot of my cleaning time. I’m always filling bags to donate. I honestly think the stuff breeds since I’ve kept a count all year of things brought into the house. We’re at just over 1000. I’ve sold, donated and trashed over 3000 items this year and I’m still going. Those aren’t vague numbers, I have a record with the items coming in and out named line by line right down to kitchen scrub brushes and hand-me-down jeans. It’s been a very interesting experiment!
        Thanks for the good wishes. We’re excited and nervous about the move after being here so long. Luckily we already have two interested parties in our small house so I don’t think selling will be a problem. People are coming around to the idea of having “enough”!

        • Hope Henry says:

          CG, Consider a “tiny house” workshop for your hobbies…it would only have to be big enough for your workspace and enough verticle shelf space to contain your tools, materials, etc. You could keep the kids out of your “stuff” this way…even with a toddler, you could have a space for his/her “hobbies,” crayolas, books, fingerpaints. You could create together and you would be helping encourage a budding artist.

          • CG says:

            Having a really organized space to do my projects would be so wonderful. Right now I’m using an old 30X40″ kitchen table in the corner of our eat in kitchen. I picked up a free cedar trunk to use for fabric storage and a seat. More fabric is in totes under the table. All my sewing supplies are in boxes on the table with my machines since there is no room for shelving there. I get to look out of a window while I work but there’s no storage. My kids love to do their craft and school projects there so I need to clear the boxes off of the table often.
            I love involving the kids in my projects because sewing and crafting are valuable skills. I don’t like it when I discover that my 7 yo has been using my sewing scissors for cutting up boxes or unraveling rolls of thread so she can use the spools for a project. Having everything so accessible leads the kids to believe that is available for their use. Which it is, only supervised. 😉
            But you’re right, in my dream space I’d have an entire 10′ wall of linear closet with sliding doors to house all my creative supplies but that is really excessive. I should really make a detailed “tiny” storage plan for this stuff. The more things I have, the more time I spend moving them around instead of actually crafting with them.
            Does anyone have some “tiny” hobby spaces I could look at for inspiration?

          • Kerri says:

            My mother always had a dedicated space for her sewing, even if it was just a corner in the small house with all of those people. I knew from a very small age to NOT touch her sewing scissors! 🙂 I’m lucky enough to have a free-standing office, away from the house. I don’t have any examples of small hobby areas, but I’m thinking Kent might over at the Tiny House Blog

  11. Al says:

    I’m having such a hard time here reading all these posts about how liberating it was to get rid of their extra clutter and useless posessions.

    I’m trying to do that right now. But I’m a “I want what I want and I want it now” kind of a person. I’m going crazy waiting for the final result!

    I would be more than happy just to throw out these items to have the space free now and to have that clutter gone from my mind, to feel that stress gone. My husband on the other hand can’t do that. He has to find a home for everything if it can not sell on Kijiji. Although I do understand where he’s coming from, it’s just hard for me to exercise patience lol.

  12. Paula says:

    I own 10 cabins and rent 9 of them. They are all under 400 sq. ft. My husband and I live in 390 sq. ft. and this comes after living in 6000 sq. ft. We have finally fallen in love with it and this will be our 5th winter in our cabin. Yes it gets messed up, we have 2 large dogs and 2 cats, but the cats like to live in the loft and we make room for the dogs. In the summer we live outside. Our office is across the driveway, and the washer and dryers are there. We plan to do a tiny house subdivision on 4 acres we have and sell the houses with small garage, large deck, view of a small lake in Ruidoso, NM. Check out our website and then check out Ruidoso’s web site and give me some feedback….I would like to hear from all of you tiny house lovers and haters.

  13. Vida says:

    Hi Kerri,

    I’ve been following your posts with interest and of course you know that I am a proponent of small house living and I love small house design. I’ve found through the various small houses that we’ve lived in (all my adult life really) that the key to small houses is storage, storage, storage. As you know, we have storage designed, built and incorporated in the most unexpected corners of our house which is about 600 sq.ft. I hate clutter, so do not accumulate objects all over the house. I also dislike house work, so our house is designed to get that over with as quickly as possible (living with 4 dogs)! Everyone who has visited our place cannot believe that it is only 600 sq.ft. We probably have less “stuff” than most people, even so I do not feel that we have needed to edit mercilessly. I have enough bed linen to accommodate our summer visitors which can number 6 at a time and enough dishes and cutlery for dinner parties in summer with 16 people….

    I can’t say what my experience is to downsize as the biggest house that I have lived in had 750 sq.ft. If you live in a European capital city the costs of a larger apartment are prohibitive. I do know that my house as is takes me an hour to clean daily (because of our 4 dogs) at the most. Don’t think I can or want to give up more of my life for this, there’s too much other fun stuff to do! Our lives are sweet’n’simple (I’m sure you understand this).

    I have to say that I am very unsentimental about “stuff”. We’ve had so many major changes of addresses in our lives (involving changing countries) that each involved such ruthless shedding of material objects that we’ve learnt the true meaning of “home is where the heart is”. I’ve had to sell a 2000 book collection to move on but in exchange I found a stone cottage in an olive grove by the sea… which I dreamed about when I had those books.

    Point being that we need to find the balance that you gave mentioned and when the scales are tipped in favour of “stuff” vs. quality of life, it’s time to evaluate.

    • Kerri says:

      Thanks for your input Vida. My Australian sister, who lived with us for a year when I was in high school, has lived all over the world. I used to wonder how she could give up her “stuff” each time she changed continents. But you’re right, she has had the experience now of having lived in various countries, a life more rich than if she had stayed in one place and accumulated a bunch of stuff. You also make a good point about design of a house and cleaning. I, too, designed, with the help of my aunt, a house I knew I could clean quickly. It was a lake home to begin with and the last thing I wanted to do on vacations and weekends, was spend it cleaning. We also designed our home with the dogs in mind. We have no carpeting, which I personally believe is the worst environmental problem in most homes. Our laminated floors can be once overed with a wet mop. I have little dusting to do and few surfaces (even with wood burning stove that creates dust) and my windows are all accessible to clean without ladders. The design is open, allowing for quick once overs with a dry mop to get the dust and hair. Easy!

  14. Sheryl says:

    I think you can look at this as the same way this saying goes: “If you need something done, give it to a busy person.” A smaller space almost demands efficiency and organization. At least, that’s what I’m hoping to find when we sell our house and downsize! I’m already hyperventilating, thinking about all the “stuff” I will have to leave behind…

  15. Linn says:

    I love what you’ve said, here. I have pined for a 600 sq foot home for 15 years of living in a 3500 sq ft home (and having to furnish it!), and an 1800 sq ft home. I’m finally designing that dream home. It will be 620-ish sq ft, with 72 sq ft of that dedicated, organized storage (about 300 cubic feet). This is the pantry, linen closet, clothes, coat/boot closet, cleaning supplies, kitchen wares/appliances, and the few board games for the kiddies and photos I plan to keep. There will be a loft for those visiting kids (nieces and nephews), a private bedroom on the main floor, and a single bathroom. I’ll build a small garage for my workshop, with a loft for added guests – although the home will comfortable accommodate a number of guests overnight. It is my fantasy. I’m no longer physically able, even, to maintain space and storage of junk. It has consumed too much of my life for too long, and what little physical capability I have left will be dedicated to much better pursuits. It’s been a real adventure of personal exploration, this past year, designing this home. It’s an opportunity to understand how I really use space, what I truly do need, what I don’t, what I want, and if it’s worth it. I am feeling liberated, even before I’ve got it built! I’m not a consumerist, and although I’ve designed the home to accommodate an occasional family gathering, entertaining, for me, is a couple of friends. Even my furniture needs will be almost non-existent, and I plan to make the few pieces I’ll have. It feels like I’ll finally be released from the house and let out into the world. I think your writing, here, sums up what I’ve known, in my heart, for a long time. Thank You. 🙂

    • Kerri says:

      Thank YOU, Linn, for your comments and sharing your dream with us! We’ll be eagerly awaiting the post that says you’ve completed and moved into your small home!

  16. Tina Comroe says:

    Every single time I have downsized. Which means losing my home and moving in with a friend..and tossing out useless flotsam and jetsam that every pack rat seems to gather, it seams that my family would think that I needed more and go through their belongings for more things to give to me. It finally stopped when it came down to big black garbage bags of nasty polyester fabric scraps that my step mother had been saving for her quilting in a garage and thought that I might somehow want for one of my quilt projects..they dug them out of the garage and dumped these 5 big bags of garbage on my roommates porch and I was forced to go through them…well…that went over like the proverbial lead balloon.
    I was then forced to politely tell my whole family “No, really…I am happy without all the extra stuff. Please feel free to donate all of your hoarded treasures somewhere else.” I am currently living in a house with a good friend, my things are happily, neatly stored in tubs in her basement; I can get to the things I need and put them back when done. No need for me to spread out all over, and I am still finding things that I don’t really need and donating them every day. Oh look, another thing to give away…
    Simple living is happy living!

    • Kerri says:

      Stay tuned, Tina. My post on Thursday will be how to tell your friends and relatives that you don’t need more stuff! 🙂

  17. Olivia says:

    For most of our married life DH, kids and I – plus various pets – have lived in homes that are smaller by comparison than most. Now that the kids are grown and all have their own homes, we actually have more space and a lot less stuff, simply because most of the kids’ stuff is gone. (There always seems to be something they want to leave at our house, *sigh*.)

    I would be happy to downsize even further if hoarder DH could part with a lot of his stuff – the only thing that sometimes gives me pause is the fact that we live in a northern climate and are confined indoors for much of the year with vicious storms, howling winds and frigid temps. Cabin fever is a regular visitor.

    Unlike Kathleen I do not long for hoards of people around my dining table. I tell the kids that I have done my time cooking large feasts for many and now it is their turn! I’ll come and help out but it is not going to be a cast of thousands at my table. I expect, too, that as they get married and have kids, time will have to be shared with in-laws so we may just alternate holidays. I am not a crowd person – I just get too tired and frazzled and do not enjoy myself.

    As for cleaning, because I am a minimalist and keep my surfaces fairly bare, dusting is fast and easy – luckily, as wood heat can be rather messy. We have cork floors that just require a light sweeping or washing with a damp mop and both DH and I tend to clean up after ourselves as we go.

    There are so many more things I would rather be doing in life than cleaning big homes and cooking for a lot of people. It all depends on your personality I guess.

    • Kerri says:

      I have to agree, Olivia, I’m not an entertainer. I get nervous and frazzled if we’re having a BBQ, with Dale doing most of the cooking. And I’ve always told my girls that if we could all afford to be together at the same time, I would much rather meet them at a hotel/resort so no one would have to worry about entertaining, cooking and cleaning. But that’s me and it does depend on our personalities, family circumstances, etc. I love for people to visit us here, but really, I’m exhausted at the end of a few days, I worry about my entertaining skills. Truthfully, Dale is as big a pack rat as I. His 2 car garage in KC was fully packed to the brim and he still has so much stuff (he’s a mechanic afterall) that he routinely complains about not being able to find anything. We’re also guilty of not picking up as we go, which does make things easier in the long run, but is sometimes hard after a long day for both of us. I was prodding (He might call it nagging!) him last night after we both discussed and resolved last weekend to do a better job of it during the week. As stated somewhere, I had allowed the mail to accumulate for a good 2 weeks and he let his little corner stack up. Not only could I not clean, I didn’t feel I could put the tree up until I cleared the clutter and then cleaned. Now, I’m set to go with the tree. 🙂

  18. Sue says:

    I’ve been downsizing for years even before moving to my little cabin. The things I had left to deal with were CDs, photos, and books. I copied all the CDs to the computer and we are using iPods for our music. I’m in the process of scanning all the pre-digital photos. When I finish I will give each of the kids a copy on a jump drive and giving them the hard copies to dispose of or keep. We will all have copies so they won’t be lost. I’ll make a few of those thin photo books from snapfish of an assortment of the photos. I have a kindle and have been buying new books that way. Have even found some of the hardcover/paperback books I kept almost free in kindle and have bought them and gave the actual book away.
    Some of my friends have so much stuff you can hardly walk in their houses or rest your eyes on an empty spot on the wall and they keep upsizing so they can get more stuff. To each his own but that is harder to me than turning loose of unused stuff. The key is, as you say, making the stuff match the house size. If a person doesn’t they will never have a house big enough and I’ve seen that in some people I know. Then again some people just like a big house and that is ok too.

    • Sue says:

      I happen to love small houses and would rather have multiple small houses for guests than one large one! I fall madly in love with all the little houses on the tiny house blog!

      • Kerri says:

        I’ve also found having music on my iTouch and computer takes up less space, as well as having the Kindle, Sue. These are great space saving tools. We’ve also solved the “visitor” issue by having the studio, which afford the space and privacy anyone visiting wants or needs. I’m so glad we did this rather than adding an awkward addition on to the house! And you’re right, to each their own. I never thought I would be as satisfied with a small space as I am now.

  19. When my husband and I went from a smaller house to a larger one, I actually did a complete purge of all of our stuff, including much of the stored items that we kept for our grown daughters. It was a cleansing experience that made me feel lighter and more in control of our stuff.

    Most of our decision to move to a larger house had to do with wanting more space for cooking, entertaining and plenty of room for when our daughters come home with boyfriends in tow. It really was not so that we would have more space to store things. In fact, we have much less stuff than we did in our smaller home. However, I do appreciate the additional closet and storage space of this larger house, because I feel like the stuff that I DO have, is easier to manage and keep organized.

    Some of the efficiency of the house has to do more with design and layout than actual square footage. The master bedroom, bath and utility room with washer and dryer, are all integrated and within steps of each other. There is a large linen closet in the master bath where all of our towels and sheets go. Clothing goes right from the utility room and into our closet, just a few feet from the dryer. Easy peasy.

    I don’t think anyone who knows me, would consider me a pack rat. Like I said, our reasons for wanting a larger home had to do with lifestyle, not more space to accumulate junk. There are a couple of closets and storage areas of this house that in fact sit empty, unless we have overnight guests. We have one large walk in closet that we use to store seasonal clothing, swapping out our summer and winter clothes from our bedroom closet as weather changes.

    We also use that closet to keep a couple of coats and some heavy sweaters and other winter items for when our daughters visit. They both live in L.A. and when they visit at the holidays, need warm clothing. Since they are twenty somethings and still in a transitional stage of life, it would be difficult for them to keep those things in their small L.A. apartments, just for visits home.

    I have a large Irish Catholic family and in recent years, it’s become more and more difficult to find a way for all of us to be together at the holidays because nobody had a house big enough. We had over thirty people at Thanksgiving this year, and because of the size of this house, everybody could be comfortable and have room to move about freely. We even set up a play area for the kids, with games and toys to keep them entertained and occupied so they wouldn’t get bored and drive everybody crazy.

    Another thing I love about additional storage space, is that we now can stock up on the kind of things that we need on a regular basis, and reduce trips to the store. There are shelves in our garage area where we keep supplies of toilet paper, paper towels, cleaning supplies, pet food, cat litter etc., so can go a long time without running out of those kinds of necessities.

    But probably the biggest factor in our “upsizing” had to do with looking towards the future, which we hope will bring grandchildren and visits home from both daughters and their families. My parents had a big, rambling farmhouse until my dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. I can’t begin to describe how my daughters cherish the memories of Christmases in that big house, with cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents all gathered together under one roof. It was never a problem if some of the kids suddenly wanted to spend the night or a few days with grandma and grandpa, because there was always room for whoever wished to stay. It’s my hope to provide those same kind of memories to another generation, not only my own daughters, but nieces and nephews as well.

    I guess I would feel guilty about the space that goes unused in this house most of the time, if not for the fact that it has zoned heating and cooling, so we don’t waste any energy on empty space, but when that space is needed, it’s wonderful to have it! As I said in my original post on this subject, I admire Kerri for her very efficient and streamlined way of life, and certainly know that the time will come when this big house will be more than we need or want, but for now, I’m looking forward to houseful of family at Christmas, including both daughters and boyfriends! Happy holidays! 🙂

    • Kerri says:

      As I wrote, Kathleen, my post was not to imply that you are a pack rat, but the fact that you have less stuff now, but larger sq. ft. while still enjoying less time organizing and cleaning, I think proves my point. It’s the amount of stuff per sq. footage, not really the sq. footage itself that determines the time we have to invest in organizing and cleaning. When we live in a house for decades and there is space to fill, we have a tendency to allow stuff to accumulate (or allow other people such as our kids to leave stuff to accumulate). I know we did. More stuff came in faster than we ever purged. As the stuff grows, so does the amount of time it takes to clean and organize it. If that isn’t done, no matter the amount of sq. footage, it will take more time from our lives.

      • Oh I agree Kerri, nature abhors a vacuum and a closet sitting empty is an invitation to accumulate. When we moved here, I told my husband that it’s my goal to keep the upstairs closets and storage areas empty, unless we have company. There is no reason why we should fill those spaces with junk, but you’re right, having the space creates a constant temptation to fill them. So far, we’ve remained true to my commitment but check back in a few years and we’ll see! Great post and enjoyed all the responses!

        • Kerri says:

          Stay true to your goal, Kathleen! Although that may be difficult if you have grandchildren and the temptation arises to have stuff for them to play with or use while visiting! 😉

  20. Heather says:

    I just downsized a month ago from a 3000 sf house to a 200 sf house with myself, my 11 yo daughter and my dog. I love my new house and I wouldn’t change anything about it!

    Do I clean more often? Absolutely! I don’t have a dishwasher, but we only have 4 of everything dishes-wise, so if I don’t do my dishes everyday, we run out. We also only have 6 towels and I do laundry every week, too.

    I find that, because we don’t own as much “stuff”, what we do own is precious to us. I can honestly say, as I look around my home, I love every stick and stone about it. I couldn’t have said that about my bigger house, and I found things when we moved that I didn’t even remember we owned.

    I’m also much closer to my daughter now…its not easy for her to get away with anything when the house is so small I can hear if she’s texting after bedtime or listening to inappropriate music. We find that we spend a lot of time on the rug in the living room playing board games and talking…

    I wouldn’t trade this life for a more cluttered life in a larger house, ever.

    • Kerri says:

      Wow, Heather, now *that* is impressive! From 3,000 to 200 sq. ft., I applaud you. Ok, yes, I do spend more time doing dishes (no dishwasher here either) and like you, we have limited dishes, so if we don’t wash them each day, like our clothes, we run out. I cannot allow the clothes to stack up for 2 weeks because we just don’t have that many. But I bet when you get to the nitty-gritty, of sweeping, cleaning the bathroom and dusting, it takes much less time. One thing about it too, is that our homes were not built 40-50 years ago for what stuff people had then. We built our small homes with smart storage already in mind. Our closet is twice as deep with built in shelves, etc. (I hope that makes sense)

      • Kerri says:

        And you’ve got us beat on the towels. We have four “good” towels, two hand towels, two wash cloths and 2 dogs dogs. 🙂 I have many more in the kitchen because I’m anal about using a clean dish cloth with each dish washing. 🙂

        • Teleia says:

          It’s fun to read about the way other people live. I smiled when I read that you extra dish towels; you would probably have laughed when I looked under the sink and said to myself, “Hm. Only 6 rolls of TP left, I’ll need to get more.” That’s when I realized I have a fear of running out of toilet paper. 🙂

          Another was reading Kathleen’s post; all my clothes, year round, fit in my 3′ wide closet and my dresser. I have a light jacket, a dog walking coat, and a decent coat. They hang by the door. And 4 pairs of shoes (including boots) and I’m a professional by day. Which reminds me of how Dee has 3 pairs of shoes, 2 of which are summery. We all make different choices, reflecting our personalities.

          And FYI, my mom has a big box of my stuff from when I was growing up. My excuse is that I live far away and I never have a way to get that thing home! 🙂

          • Hope Henry says:

            Teleia, I almost laughed out loud when I read that you feared running out of TP. I, too, have that fear…when my husband and I eloped, Daddy told me that he worried that we would not have enough money to buy things like TP. I have always made sure we had plenty…you just reminded me of why I buy the 12-pack…after forty years of marriage, I do it without thinking about what triggered my stocking up on it…

          • Kerri says:

            Teleia, I think you do have a fear of running out of TP! 🙂 I do buy TP in bulk, but that’s just because it’s cheaper (we keep it in the garage). We have a pretty small closet for hanging clothes and we have more than what we really need. The seasonal clothes have to be rotated out with the seasons. I have 3 pairs of shoes, including my summer sandals. A woman with a shoe fetish would have a very hard time living the small house lifestyle. 🙂

      • Heather says:

        Actually, this house was built in the 70’s as a summer home/escape cottage…it is HORRIBLE with storage. You have to get pretty sneaky around here.

        If anything occupies even 1 sf of my house, it has to be used at least once a day and have a dual purpose, with the exception of my elliptical machine. It gets used daily and, unless you count the fact that right now its our wet towel rack, it only has one purpose.

        When my friends see my tiny house, they all marvel at how small it is, but everyone who comes in is comfortable and I’ve never had to turn anyone away due to lack of space. I have large floor cushions that stack under the coffee table for extra seating if needed.

        I rent my tiny place for $300/month and that includes all utilities except internet. Its our dry run to see if we like living smaller, and I honestly can’t wait until I buy the land and start building my little place of my own!

        • Kerri says:

          I’ve seen a lot of summer homes built without much storage. People just didn’t think they would need it for summer weekends and 1-week get aways. It sounds like you’re adapting to the small house life! Remember to let us know when you get to building that permanent residence! 🙂

  21. Mary Brown says:

    I agree, it’s all about the stuff we need and want to have. We really need very little to get by but then we like things that add to our comfort and enjoyment which is different for everyone.

    I think I was holding on to things because although I didn’t use them I still liked them and there wasn’t anything wrong with them. I have since given some things to the kids, sold some and freecycled some. I still have a lot to go through and get rid of.

    We moved from 2600 sqft to 1020 sqft but had a 2 100 sqft storage units full and that’s after a huge yard sale and freecycling. We have since elimated 1 of the storage units and plan to go through the other after the holidays.

    I’ll always have stuff because hubby has his lionel train set which include piece from his dad and grandfather. I also have a couple of things I collected over the years and although we only need them mentally we will always find a place for them, even if it means more space and cleaning.

    • Kerri says:

      Great point (and one also made by Kathleen) that everyone has their own comfort level of what they can and cannot live without. When we first moved here, I told everyone I knew that I couldn’t live in this small of a space. A year passed without the stuff I didn’t think I could live without, then two. I learned I could not only get buy without them, my life felt less cluttered. My mother had collections: Dolls, bears, kachinas….I realized when she passed that it was not only a headache for her to keep cleaning this stuff (constantly dusting), but it was a major headache for me to try to sort through and sell or give away. When we moved, the first thing I sold was my doll collection and we gave away a shot glass collection (we bought a shot glass almost every place we ever visited). I would much rather be spending time with my dogs and husband, on the boat fishing or walking the woods than dusting endless doll heads and shot glasses. But that’s me. There are a few things I’ve kept because I absolutely love them (I will, never get rid of my first baby doll, for example). A few more things that I still cannot to bear to part with that are in the storage building. But when the weather breaks here, there will be a major cleaning out of what remains and I predict we will have more space in that building than we have stuff. 🙂

      • Sheryl says:

        Kerri —
        >>When we first moved here, I told every­one I knew that I couldn’t live in this small of a space. A year passed with­out the stuff I didn’t think I could live with­out, then two. I learned I could not only get buy with­out them, my life felt less clut­tered.<<

        I think you've hit it on the head with the "perceived space-needed issue". We all say we can't live without this and that, but when we force ourselves to for a long while, quite often we realize that we didn't really need it, after all. I once cleaned out a room that had a huge paper clutter in it. I had told myself I couldn't get rid of all the papers, so I put them in a big egg carton box and stored them until I knew I had time to go through them and file what needed to be filed. After about 18 months I came across the box again, and realized that whatever was in there I no longer needed. I did open the box, and sure enough, most of it was nothing worth saving – so out it went. It makes me wonder if I should just start using a big trash can for these sorts of "enlightenments"? At least it would save having to move things from a box to the trash. Ha.

  22. Liz says:

    Its been a hectic year for me, my fathers ill health, the sudden passing of my mother from pancreatic cancer, the ending of a 14 year relationship, all of which has put me in to position to downsize from a two bedroom apt. to a room in my dads home. Granted some things are in the attic awaiting my move out, but even so I’m trying to hang on to a lot less stuff. Its been marvelously freeing in some ways, letting go of so much. I’m now settling in and realizing I still have another round or two to go in culling the stuff I have. I do actually find myself cleaning my room more often than I did the apartment, but that is mostly because I still have too much stuff and when all you have to look at is the one room, clutter is apparent more quickly.

    • Kerri says:

      I’m very sorry for the loss of your mother and all of the other trauma this year, Liz. That is a lot to deal with in a year. I agree, if there is clutter, I have to move to clean it away or it will absolutely drive me crazy. Even the smallest things such as mail, can make the house seem cluttered. Two weeks worth of mail, as I had to clear away Sunday, was just insane. Dale said when it was cleared from the table that I added square footage to the house. So, yes, I agree, in that regard, I might be clearing more. But I don’t think it’s necessarily good to have space to “hide” all of the junk we should be clearing away daily either. It sounds as if you’re learning the tricks of living small. Keep at it! 🙂

      • Liz says:

        When going through the room I’m currently occupying, I came upon several boxes that were obviously “Uh oh company is coming, quick get this stuff upstairs and out of sight!” and then forgotten. Now however long later I’m having to go through as sort out what is there. Note to self, never allow a spare room to turn into the catch all junk room…

        • Kerri says:

          I’m glad to know we weren’t the only ones who turned the “spare” room into the catch-all! By the time we moved, the closet was full of not one thing I kept and there was a broken treadmill in it that was used as a clothes rack. Ugh.