Live Small to Live Large

There is a new subdivision going in by our house. Soon families will be moving into their new homes. It is exciting to think of designing a brand new home. For years, my friend and I would attend our local Parade of Homes to see the latest and greatest in new home design, dreaming a little at the new ideas and updated looks. 

As I walked through the new subdivision, thinking about that first thrill of what a new home would look like, I saw the advertisement sign: “Home and lot packages start at $400,000. When I read that, so many thoughts went through my head.”

That is a lot of money for a house. The mortgage with 10% down would be around $1,700 a month with today’s rates. That is just the beginning. You also have to add in the costs for driveways, landscaping and all the “upgrades” you would want to make to the builder’s model home. The money, the decisions, the stress!

With my focus on simple living, I can honestly say the idea of building a new home no longer interests me. (Although, I was tempted when we toured Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin!) Instead, I try to live small to live large. What do I mean by this? The less you have, the more life you can have. Let’s think a little about this concept.

Large homes, fancy cars, expensive vacations, designer clothes and jewelry are usually the image of living “large”. Unfortunately, these often come with a large price tag, large decisions, and large amounts of stress. Additionally, the more we own, the more we have to take care of.

My definition of living large, puts the emphasis on living, not an emphasis on large possessions or activities.

When we are surrounded by too much – too much stuff, too much debt, too many activities – we feel stress. By living with less stuff, we can focus more on living. We can spend time on activities that are important to us. We have time to be with people. We get space to breathe. All of these things represent living large.

When we realize that we have enough things, a big enough house, enough money, enough friends, enough activities, etc. we are able to feel contentment in our lives. This feeling brings peace and less stress.

If you are searching for contentment in your life, three ways to begin living small include owning less, buying less, and scheduling less. 

Owning Less

Having more things in our house doesn’t necessarily bring more joy. Instead, all the items tend to bring stress. There is less room, more to clean, and more to put away. Everywhere we turn, cabinets are full, tables have piles, and there is something in every space. 

When you clean an entire room at once, it looks neat and tidy and you feel relaxed. By permanently removing items from a room, that just-cleaned feeling stays longer. Also there is more space to relax and just be. It is really a liberating feeling. 

However, it isn’t always easy to do this. If you aren’t the type to just clear out a room and declutter all at once, start with a drawer in the kitchen or bathroom. This takes less time and gives you small wins to help you keep going. 

Move from room to room, tackling drawers, and then cabinets and closets. Evaluate what brings you joy and what you use each day. If you aren’t sure about getting rid of an object, put it in a box for a month and then revisit it. 

Whether you do this all in a very short time period, or over the course of a few months, you will definitely feel the difference. Don’t feel like you have to strive for perfection either. We are on our second round of decluttering and this round happens sporadically. It is really an ongoing process as your life can change from year to year. 

A similar process with your wardrobe not only frees space, but proves to help lessen stress. Closets and drawers full of clothes cause confusion and anxiety. We tend to shop more and continue searching for new items because this full closet does not satisfy us. In contrast, a smaller, well-thought wardrobe brings peace and contentment.

Start each season with a careful review of your clothing. Pull out everything, try it on and keep only what you truly enjoy wearing. Again, if you aren’t sure, put some things in a box for later. Left with just these items, you feel great each day wearing clothes you like. Your mornings are less stressful as you easily see and select an outfit that works for you. 

Buying Less

Now that you have removed the excess from you home, buying less will help keep it from creeping back in. Buying less also allows you more free time as you spend less time in stores. This is one concept that is a win-win all the way around. 

The concept of “enough” works wonders in this category as does “making do”. Whenever you feel the need to shop, look around your home to see if 1) you have enough of that item and 2) you can make do with what you have. 

Shopping also increases consumer debt. Adding debt to your life, adds stress and discontent. The immediate high we get from buying something disappears quickly and is often forgotten by the time the credit card bills arrive. Living small includes reducing expenses and purchases so that we have freedom to live large. 

The less we buy, the more money we have to pay off other debt as well. There is great joy in paying off debt - joy that surpases that instant gratification of purchasing something. Removing debt increases happiness and well being, bringing peace and contentment to our lives. 

Somehow, shopping has become a pastime. No longer reserved for items we need to survive, stores and malls become an activity destination. Shopping takes time away from other pursuits and relaxation. The less you shop, the more money and time you have. 

Less scheduled activities

Living large includes having freedom to pursue the activities that bring you joy. Too many activities, whether they bring you joy or not, can cause stress in many areas of our lives. We feel rushed. Eating healthy food at home proves difficult. Pressure to get everything done turns into negative feelings and words.

This category is not as easy to accomplish as getting rid of things because people are involved. Sitting down with your family and having an open and honest discussion about all their activities isn’t without conflict.

Begin by saying no to additional commitments. Efficiently schedule errands. Try to schedule one night a week to stay at home. Children who are over-scheduled feel stress and anxiety too. 

If your children are involved in sports, try to pare it down when possible, or at the very least look to join car pools. Ask them what they would like to spend their free time doing, and make sure to schedule that free time for them.

Your family members may feel boredom at first. Begin with planning simple family activities. Gradually help them find independent pursuits to discover during this additional free time. Creativity blossoms during unscheduled, unrushed time. 

Living small doesn’t mean giving up everything, living without, or denying yourself. Instead, it means surrounding yourself with just enough to live comfortably and peacefully so that you can pursue the activities that allow you to have a full, large life. 

What can living with less do for you? What can you gain?