10 Things I Learned From Downsizing Our Life

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I posted about Small House Living earlier this week and introduced you to Lori and her family of six who are currently living in an RV. The comments on that post were quite lively and there were lots of pros and cons shared for both living in a small house and having a larger house.

Lori posted a follow-up post yesterday called 10 Things I Have Learned By Downsizing Our Life. I think you’ll find it very interesting and insightful — at least I know that I did. Head over here to read it.

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Small House Living: Could you downsize in house?

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I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of Small House Living recently. My blogging friend, Lori, has shared about their family’s fairly radical decision to downsize to an RV and travel around the country as a family.

This in and of itself is impressive. But it’s even more impressive when you find out that they are doing this with four kids in tow.

Part of the idea of voluntarily downsizing appeals to me in a big way because I don’t like extra clutter and stuff. On the flip side, the thought of living out of a really small space sounds like a recipe for lots of tension. Namely, I like to have quiet places to retreat and living in such a small space might make me feel like I’d go crazy after awhile. :)

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There can be a lot of benefits to downsizing, though, if even for a short period of time.

When I was 10 years old, my parents sold our house and moved all 7 of us (there were only five kids at the time!) to a single wide trailer for 7 months while we built a home in the country. Since our living space was very limited, we put most of our household items in storage and only kept out the essentials.

We have so many memories from that summer in the trailer, most of them good memories. And we discovered a lot of benefits to living in a small space. Such as:

  • We hardly spent any time cleaning. My mom divvied up the household chores amongst all of us and with only 6 total rooms in the trailer, that meant very few chores to go around!
  • It fostered togetherness. We couldn’t really go off by ourselves because there wasn’t a lot of space, so we had to learn how to get along even in tighter quarters! I have many fond memories of nights spent all together in the living room reading before bed.
  • We made our own entertainment. We weren’t able to bring many of our toys/things along, so we had fun using what we had for forms of entertainment. We built an elaborate tree “house” using things left in the old barn. We experimented in the kitchen with new recipes that only used the microwave, crock pot, or electric skillet (we didn’t have an oven in the trailer). And my older sister did a lot of sewing since she was able to bring her sewing machine.
  • We became more grateful. My parents were investing most of their money into the house-building project so there wasn’t a lot of extra cash that summer. I distinctly remember it being the first time in my life where we had to do without and I remember how much contentment and gratefulness this helped me develop.
  • It taught us the difference between a need and something that’s nice to have. There are many things we had to put in storage that summer that we’d always assumed you needed to live. But we realized that, if you can survive without it for 7 months, it’s probably less of a necessity and more of something that’s nice to have. It’s good to learn from a young age that there are very few real needs in life. I’m grateful for the conveniences of things like ovens and dishwashers and dryers, but you can survive just fine without them, as we did for those 7 months.

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I was reading Kathi Lipp’s new book called Clutter Free recently and she talks about their decision not to move up in house, but rather to downsize in stuff.

She lists off a number of benefits for living in a smaller house, including:

  • Smaller houses are less expensive to furnish than larger houses.
  • Smaller houses are less expensive to heat and cool compared to comparably built larger homes.
  • Smaller houses force you to use all of your home.
  • Smaller houses force you to be intentional about your possessions.

I love her conclusion that, much of the time, we don’t need a bigger house, we need less stuff. If you’re feeling cramped in your space and like your family is bursting at your house seams, make sure you’ve eliminated all the unnecessary clutter and extras first before you starting shopping for a bigger house.

Have you ever downsized before — even for a short time? Do you think you could do what Lori’s family is doing and downsize your family to an RV? Why or why not? I’d love to hear!

For inspiration, check out this article: 12 of the Most Impressive Tiny Houses You’ve Ever Seen

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Why We Simplified Christmas This Year

Less Under Our Tree

I was with a group of friends earlier this week and one of the gals asked me, “So, are you all ready for Christmas?”

She was referring to whether or not I have all our presents purchased and wrapped and whether the myriad of other Christmas details were taken care of.

I wasn’t sure how to answer that question. You see, we simplified Christmas so much this year that it almost feels like we cancelled Christmas.

Only we didn’t.

We just decided that the past few months have been full enough that instead of trying to pack our December full, we’d instead leave it really, really empty.

Our extended families had already asked if we could cut back and really simplify when it came to gifts this year and we’d already decided that we were going to keep our kids’ gifts super simple, too.

Then, we decided to just let the kids choose which Christmas decorations they wanted to put up. They opted for their little pink Christmas tree — which they had fun decorating themselves.

Next, we decided that we’d skip sending Christmas cards. And pretty soon, after we’d crossed off or nixed most of the usual Christmas obligations or activities we’d opted to do in the past, we were left with a wide open December.

And it has been bliss. Bliss, I tell you.

Why We Simplified Christmas This Year

We’ve hung out as a family more. We’ve read together more. We’ve snuggled together and watched Christmas movies together. We’ve listened to a lot of Christmas music. We’ve gone to bed early. We’ve slept in. And we’ve not felt rushed or stressed or exhausted or frantic.

For the most part, December has been one of the calmest and quietest months we’ve had in ages. And it’s freed up much-needed space to just breathe, listen, love, rest, and enjoy being together.

Do I think families who have opted for lots of beautiful decorations, lots of Christmas shopping, and lots of festive activities are doing it wrong? Not in the least.

We’ve had years in the past where the Christmas season has been bustling with a lot of fun and where I found so much fulfillment in spending hours and hours picking out the perfect gifts to bless others. I don’t regret those years or those memories one bit.

But I also don’t regret having a quiet and simple Christmas this year. Sometimes, your soul just needs to take a step back and breathe.

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Simple Ways We Saved This Week: Creating art, using the library, puzzles, and why you shouldn’t put egg whites in your coffee!

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The girls have been doing lots of painting and drawing this week — mostly abstract type art pieces. I love to see them being creative and having so much doing it!

Bonus: it’s such a frugal activity — especially when they use art supplies we already have on hand.

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My sweet friend, Victoria, sent me this Craft Night in a Box — complete with a Starbucks gift card! It made for a free night of entertainment and relaxation for me.

I had so much fun working on it last night and am planning to finish my project tonight. If all goes well, I’ll share the finished results tomorrow.

{Isn’t this SUCH a great gift idea? If you know a crafter or a wanna-be crafter, this might be a great last-minute gift idea!}

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The kids have been enjoying some books and this drawing DVD we got at the library last week. Have I mentioned how much we love the library?

If you haven’t visited yours recently, you should take some time to do so — it’s like having thousands of unexplored worlds and ideas at your fingertips, for free!

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I’m loving reading this Lynn Austin novel I requested used from PaperBackSwap, one of my favorite frugal sources for books!

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We’ve been making memories by working on this 2000-piece puzzle that we got from a White Elephant gift exchange earlier this week.

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I got a $5 iTunes gift card with my points on Recyclebank. And I spent it to get some songs from one of my favorite movie soundtracks.

{Oh yes, I know, you might think it’s a little kooky that I love Frozen as much as I do. But here’s the thing: the songs not only make me so happy when I listen to them, but I can relate to many of the themes in the movie because of my own personal journey with being more authentic to my true self in the past few years. So yes, it might be juvenile, but I don’t really care! :)}
Simple Ways We Saved This Week

One way I didn’t save: I could not figure out why the “cream” I was pouring in my coffee this morning looked so watered down. And then I actually read the box. Yikes… Clearly, not all brain cells were firing this morning. Needless to say, I had to pour that coffee down the drain and brew a new cup!

How did YOU save this week?

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How I paid for Christmas this year by selling on Facebook Yard Sale Groups

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Traci emailed in this reader tip:

I had been planning a yard sale for months but this summer I decided I didn’t have enough or valuable enough things to make it worthwhile.

About this time, I joined a handful of Yard Sale groups on Facebook and bought a few things through them. After purchasing a few things from others and realizing how easy it was to post things for sale also, I decided to list a few items around the house.

Within minutes — even seconds, sometimes — I had people interested!

I started cleaning out closets and found so many other things that I wanted to get rid of. It felt great to purge and makes some money, too. Items that I have sold so far have been: adult and children’s clothing, toys, kitchen items, furniture, books, and movies.

Money is tight this Christmas, but by selling items on the Facebook Yard Sale Groups, I was able to pay cash for Christmas for my entire Christmas for my family and even had some extra money leftover!
The best advice that I have for selling on local Facebook Yard Sale groups would be consider the time and gas you are spending to buy or sell an item. If you have to travel far, this could be eating your profit or savings.

Post that others need to pick up in your city. I like to try to arrange pickups or drop-offs either in the morning or evening as to not interrupt my daily work, school, and family routine.

I also don’t have strangers come to my home. Remember safety first and it is best to meet in a public place like a shopping center or, even better, the local police department parking lot.

Also remember that people have busy lives and things happen that they have to reschedule a transaction sometimes. With that said, if someone is not being respectful of your time or you are not comfortable with something, don’t meet with them.

I am not stressing about Christmas this year and have not put one thing on a credit card that I will regret having to pay for later! -Traci

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What Kim Kardashian Can Teach Us About Contentment

Contentment

I usually “live in a cave” when it comes to current events… but it’s almost been impossible to avoid the fact that Kim Kardashian chose to pose nude for the world recently.

Only God knows her heart. Only God knows why she made this decision.

I’m not here to call her names. She’s been called enough things this week.

I’m not here to talk about how her actions make other women feel. Many other writers have done a great job of that. Nor am I here to open up a discussion on what is and isn’t appropriate to be shared with the public.

But what I think we all can learn from Kim Kardashian is an important lesson on contentment.

Yes, contentment.

You see, so many of us buy into the lie that money and fame will buy happiness. We chase after more. We wish we had a bigger house, a nicer car, a better job, more clothes. We want to be in a place where we can afford to buy higher quality items or have more wiggle room in our budget.

We look at that family at church, or the family in our neighborhood, or that blogger online, or that family member, or that movie celebrity and we envy what they have that we don’t.

We think, “If only we had this…” “If only we had that…” If only we had more money…” “If only we had more in savings…” “If only we had a better job…”

We believe that more will automatically equal greater happiness and fulfillment. We want what the Jones’ have.

But here’s the thing: the Jones’ probably aren’t happy.

As Kim K. has shown us this week, having a net worth of $65 million dollars doesn’t equate happiness. Even though she can pretty much afford to pay for whatever it is on earth that she wants, from my perspective, it appears that she’s still seeking something she doesn’t already have.

Contentment

I think it’s fantastic to get on a written budget. I think it’s often helpful and good to look for ways to increase your income. But, ultimately, know that the best thing you can invest your time and effort into is developing contentment.

If you’re not 100% fulfilled, happy, and embracing right where you are, there’s a good chance you’ll never find fulfillment or joy elsewhere — no matter how much money you make, how many likes your post gets on Facebook, what kind of house you live in, or what kind of promotion you get at work.

Contentment is much more valuable than the greatest net worth on earth.

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