Downsizing….The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly!

Some people choose to downsize their home based on family circumstances, life changes, or they just want a smaller space to maintain.  Our latest move to Rhode Island forced us to downsize based on economic factors.  For one, we were moving from Peoria, Illinois where housing prices are much cheaper than in Rhode Island.  Also, we were dealing with a quickly changing housing market.  We had previously bought and sold houses in California with no problem at all, but now with the declining market, we were having many issues trying to sell in Illinois.  It ended up taking us about a year to sell.  I was holding on to the value I thought our house should be, and in retrospect I should have listened to my husband who wanted to drop the price significantly much earlier than we did.  All I did was give us more heartache, separation from each other, and stress.  We ended up selling our house for less than we bought it for, and we spent five months apart (as he had to come to RI to work at URI with me staying in IL to try and sell the house with a 3-year old and 1-year old at my side).  So, for the difference in housing prices, the loss on our house, and the new PMI we were having to pay in our monthly mortgage, we were forced to downsize from 2,710 square feet to 1,974 square feet.  It has been quite an adjustment, as well as the adjustment of having a brand new home on a golf course to a 1960’s fixer-upper.  The only thing that made the adjustment a bit easier was being able to live in a lovely rental home in Warwick in between houses (which was close to 2,500 square feet).  Sadly, the rental ended up being too expensive for us to buy in the end as well.  Here is what I’ve learned in the past two years:

Downsizing:  The Good

*  Less area to clean!

*  More environmentally friendly (use less resources and heating/air bills much cheaper)

*  Taxes are cheaper

*  More money to spend on traveling and other things for the family (going to Ireland in June for our 10-year!)

*  Forced cleaning and getting rid of unnecessary items (constantly)

*  Have just what we need, and are happy with what we have

*  It’s cozy and keeps the family close together!!!

*  The ability to make the choice to stay-at-home with the kids

Downsizing:  The Bad

*  As the kids are getting bigger, the space seems to be getting even smaller

*  Not enough space to host parties/playgroups

*  Not enough space for an office or workout area (my husband uses the dining table for his work)

*  Hard to host out-of-town family and friends (we are from D.C.)

*  Not enough space when the kids are playing loudly and you are craving some quiet time

Downsizing:  The Ugly

*  To add more space (an addition) is very expensive

*  For older homes, maintenance and fixing-up can be costly (yes, even for large homes as well)

*  Your house may not be the house of your dreams

*  You may feel like you’ve taken a step back in your life instead of forward

Overall, downsizing can be a good thing to do both for the environment and your wallet.  I like that the bills are less, and that we are not strapped to a mortgage that is difficult to afford.  However, it is a difficult adjustment after previously having much more space, but if our perspective was coming from a 1,200 square foot house then this place would seem larger than it currently does for us.  The most difficult thing for me with downsizing is losing the space to host parties, playgroups, and family get-togethers.  I really LOVE being a hostess, but if you don’t have the space then you don’t have the space.  I always have to sign-up to host playgroup when it’s warm out so I can do it at the park.  You can always find some way to work things out.  If we can fix up our yard and deck area, then that would be helpful with entertaining space too.  We are slowly working on our “things to do” list for the house, so we will eventually get to the place where we feel comfortable with the space we are in.

2,710 square foot (plus, 1,500 sq. ft. basement) house in Peoria, Illinois:

1,974 square foot house in East Greenwich, Rhode Island:

I have also learned in the past two years that there is more to life than the house you live in and the possessions you have.  Family and health are even greater things to cherish.  I am blessed and happy with my family and my two beautiful kids!

Have you been forced to downsize, or made the choice to downsize?  I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences!

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Kristin Wheeler

About Kristin Wheeler

Kristin Wheeler is a stay-at-home mom of a 7 year old daughter and 4 year old son. She was previously a teacher for 8 years (in Virginia, Oklahoma, and California). She taught elementary and middle school, with a focus in technology. Kristin received her Bachelor's degree in Psychology and her Master's in Middle School Education from George Mason University in Fairfax, VA. Her husband is a professor at The University of Rhode Island.