As I mentioned in a previous post, we recently spent the weekend at my partner’s mother’s house visiting her family. It was short trip, only three days, but it had a lot going on for us. One aspect of the trip was a new house: her mother had recently moved into the house with her partner when they decided to consolidate living quarters. This was the first time that we got to see the house, so we got a full tour.
When they set off to move in together, both my partner’s mom and her partner had to downsize. They were both living by themselves in family-size homes and had accumulated a lot of their own items, everything from furniture and appliances to art and garage filler. So when we got the tour of their new house, which has been updated and is very spacious, we were both struck with the realization of how our downsizing has altered our expectations of our own and others’ living spaces.
Their new home has four bedrooms, three and a half baths, and the equivalent of four closets. They had prepared for hosting their full families on the holidays, hence the four bedrooms. Compared to our little-more-than-800-square-foot apartment, their house was enormous, with enough space for almsot 20 people to sit and eat. We were almost overwhelmed thinking of how much unused space it would be for us, and we figured they would be in a similar situation. Two people in a four-bedroom house must have left a ton of empty cabinets and unused storage space. But, boy, were we wrong!
What first struck us were the closets–they were all full! Every. Single. One. All the bedroom closets were filled with clothes and the hall closet was overflowing with storage. “But you said you downsized and got rid of stuff,” we said. And they had. This was what they kept. We had forgotten what it was like to have so much stuff that your storage is bursting at the seams. We laughed when we stepped into one of the four closets because it is twice the size of ours. My partner and I fit all of our shirts, jackets, and oddities such as her wetsuit in the closet along with a cubby shelf for all of our socks, winter clothes, workout and swim gear. We’ve also managed to make our shelves work for storage of odds and ends that don’t fit elsewhere and use additional space to store items against the wall on the floor. It’s half the size of her mom’s closet and works perfectly for us; the closet we stepped into in her mom’s new house only held half her clothes! That means that the two of us use a fourth of the closet space in comparison. Tell me that’s not hard to process!
Their living space and kitchen are definitely designed for large groups. The living room fits a full couch, a love seat, and two recliners in a semicircle facing the sixty-inch television that hangs at the center of the wall. Compared to our living space that holds our three-person couch (we were nervous the chaise at one end would be too long) and a single rocking chair in front of our thirty-two inch television, their living room swallowed us up. It was easily three of ours and their kitchen was easily double the cabinets and counterspace. It looked fantastic for preparing large meals–and will no doubt be perfect for Thanksgiving or Christmas Day dinner–but we laughed when we considered how we barely fill up all of our kitchen drawers after getting rid of duplicate items.
Their two dining areas, one a formal sitting area and the other a more open space that leads from the living room to the master bedroom, both with dining tables, provided plenty of space to move through the house and will give everyone a place to relax during the holidays with a space to sit and eat or do activites. But it made me miss our four-seater dining table that sits near the windows overlooking the street. It shares a corner with the cat perch and is maybe three feet behind the couch, but it’s so convenient that we’ve eaten more meals at the table in last two months than we have in the past three years we’ve lived together!
They commented that their backyard wasn’t very big, but we would have taken it in a heartbeat. With a covered patio that fits chairs and a table, a decorative pagoda covered in ivy that protects the grill, and plenty of grass for their two dogs, it made me miss the patio we had given up to downsize. To have time together outdoors, now we have to plan to go out and find a place that gives us that experience in nature. Most often it’s walking the neighborhood or volunteering on the weekends. More than anything on that weekend, just having a place to sit outside in the cool evening was wonderful to us!
They have a beautiful home, and it works well for them. But it made us realize that we have embraced a lifestyle of owning less that would make a home like that feel overwhelming. We could never put that much space to use. By pure happenstance, the concept of minimalism came up on its own during breakfast when one of them mentioned how extreme their neightbor is by having a large house and so little in his home. Throughout the weekend, my partner had left little hints in conversations that we had minimized a great deal and knew some resources that might help them with the process of letting go of items, especially given that they seemed to struggle to find room for a lot of items, but until the breakfast conversation, neither of us had discussed our new lifestyle much with her mom. It didn’t stick. Before we knew it, we were talking about other topics and the boxes of unpacked clothes that hadn’t been worn in a month were still boxed up in the garage when we left the next day.
My partner said it well when she commented that minimalism, even in smaller forms, is not for everyone. It works well for us, even when we struggle to keep to it, but it wouldn’t work well for her mom and her partner. It takes a level of discipline, but it also takes a strong urge to have a simpler life in many forms. And we see those benefits daily and occasionally in ways we didn’t expect. We’re not perfect by any means, especially with it comes to keeping our apartment clean all the time–something I am still trying to accomplish–but we have to admit that many aspects of our lives are better and simpler, in short less stressful, because of this change. And all it took was an overwhelmed closet or two to remind us that we are moving in the right direction!