Less is best

What I learned from liv­ing a big­ger life in a smaller space.

The Coast - - WELL BEING GUIDE - —JH

I blame Marie Kondo. I was sit­ting on the kitchen floor, sur­rounded by kitchen uten­sils. Af­ter de­cid­ing that I only needed one cheese grater, I held each of my three cheese graters up to my heart, as the author of The Life-Chang­ing Magic of Tidy­ing Up ad­vo­cates, and pon­dered which one brought me the most joy. It was a mo­ment of truth, spurred by the sud­den clar­ity that there is only so much joy a cheese grater can af­ford, and that it is not di­rectly pro­por­tion­ate to the num­ber of cheese graters one owns. I started to ask the Big Ques­tions. How did I end up with all this stuff? Do I re­ally need a gar­lic press? Is this re­ally how I want to be spend­ing my time?

Back then, my hus­band and I were own­ers of a large home in Halifax’s most cook­iecut­ter ’burb. When we bought the place, we cringed a lit­tle at the cliche but were won over by its prox­im­ity to schools and its gran­ite coun­ter­tops. Seven years and two kids later, though, we were feel­ing the itch: We seemed to be spend­ing too much of our time clean­ing, mow­ing and work­ing to pay our pro­por­tion­ately size­able mort­gage.

In­spired by my KonMarie phase and all things min­i­mal­ism, we de­cided to down­size. I wanted to be able to turn my side hus­tle into full time self-em­ploy­ment. We both wanted to be able to spend more time with our kids, and we wanted to free up our fi­nances for more travel and ad­ven­ture. It took us an em­bar­rass­ingly long time to re­al­ize that rather than try­ing to make more money, we should be ex­plor­ing how we might spend less. The first thing on the chop­ping block was the cash we were shelling out to keep a roof over our heads.

Our new place is nearly 2,000 square feet smaller than our former sub­ur­ban spot and we’ve learned that mov­ing to a smaller space is a lit­tle more com­plex than the hip tiny home idyll would have us be­lieve. If you’re think­ing about down­siz­ing, or re­ori­ent­ing your life away from the col­lec­tion of ma­te­rial things, here are the things you need to know. You’re go­ing to have to get rid of stuff you ac­tu­ally like. Du­pli­cate cheese graters aside, when you’re squeez­ing your­self into a smaller piece of real es­tate, you’re likely go­ing to have to re-home some of the stuff you ac­tu­ally love. Even the most zen-like de-clut­ter­ers have more at­tach­ments to ma­te­rial things than they re­al­ize, or would like to ad­mit. My ad­vice? Go gen­tly. Try putting some things in stor­age for a lit­tle while, and you may be more ready to part ways in a few months.

You’re go­ing to feel claus­tro­pho­bic for a while. Small spa­ces are, in fact, small. Be­fore you dis­cover the mag­i­cal world of space­sav­ing hacks, you’re go­ing to feel like the proverbial bull in a china shop. You’ll re­al­ize you still have too much stuff, and you’ll be mak­ing of­fer­ings to the Fe­breze gods now that your en­tire house­hold shares one bath­room. But here’s the thing: Liv­ing in a smaller space of­fers us the op­por­tu­nity to spend more time ac­tu­ally with our co-habi­tants, and also a chance to get out of the house and be a part of the com­mu­nity or the land around us. This is the time to take ad­van­tage of it.

You might need to find some hob­bies. With fewer floors to mop and a smaller hous­ing bill to pay, you’re go­ing to end up with ex­tra time on your hands. This was the point, right? It’s time to grab the bull by the horns and get clear on how you re­ally want to be liv­ing now that you’ve taken the first brave step to­ward re­jig­ging the way you spend your valu­able money, time and en­ergy.

You had it all along, Dorothy. On your first post-down­size foray to your favourite se­cond­hand store, it’s go­ing to hit you. Get­ting rid of so much stuff snaps you into a vis­ceral sense of abun­dance: It’s the ul­ti­mate cure for the con­sumerist men­tal­ity that we all fall vic­tim to. Rather than feel­ing a nag­ging sense of lack or the de­sire for more or bet­ter, the process of down­siz­ing will make you re­al­ize that you have more than you could pos­si­bly need. You had it all along, my dear.

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