By contributor Emily Walker of Remodeling This Life.
It has been nearly 8 years since my family sold our nearly 3000 square foot, three story Victorian home with a big basement and lots of closets in New York. When we chose to put our home on the market and I put in my two-week notice at work, I had no idea the kind of journey we’d be on.
I knew that I wanted to be home with my baby and I knew that my husband was sick of the snow and cold. So, we made the most fly-by-the-seat of our pants move of our lives so far and gave up the grind of long work days, lots of bills, and more house than we needed, and chose to find a new path somewhere sunnier.
For months, we flailed around trying to figure out where we wanted to live, what we wanted to do with ourselves and how to find a simpler way of life. We lived with friends in Maryland, followed by living in a hotel for months in the town we have now settled down in on the coast of Florida.
The days were long, scary, and full of the unknown. The one thing we knew was that we wanted a smaller and simpler home and less to worry about in our lives. To get there, it took buying a really ugly, outdated fixer-upper, and spending 5 years transforming it into what we can proudly call home today.
Looking back, it’s easy to say “Wow! That was fun and not so bad!” but really there was so much not fun, so much bad, so much ugly. We could’ve given up and decided that what we’d hoped would be at the end of the tunnel – a much better way of life – wasn’t worth the years of blood, sweat, and tears.
But we knew day in and day out that despite the projects, despite the upheaval, and despite the agony of the process that we were already living better – more simply – than we were before.
I was home with my daughter, had given birth to our son and was able to be right where I wanted to be – home with them – in a place that was not yet perfect but had afforded me such a luxury that I wouldn’t go a day without appreciating. Sometimes we forget that it’s the ugly, messy, scary unknown that teaches us about and brings us life’s greatest blessings.
One of the hardest parts of the new path we had chosen was going from having more of everything – space, stuff, paychecks – to having less of it. Even after a huge garage sale before we moved, I had boxes and boxes and bags and bags full of things that we just didn’t have the luxury of keeping simply because we had space for it.
It was as I unpacked those boxes of too many extra sheet sets, extra pots and pans, overabundance of clothing, too many toys that I realized that the stuff we had accumulated had gone unnoticed simply because we had the space to shove it away somewhere. I realized how I had unknowingly become a person with way too much stuff – stuff that I obviously didn’t even appreciate, seeing as I didn’t even use it.
With no basement, garage, or storage closets we slowly became accustomed to having only what fit. We now actually have two of four bedroom closets that are essentially empty. In our old life, we had a basement, garage, attic and seven closets shoved full of stuff. We may have had more of some things, but we had less of everything else; less room to breathe, less time to spend as a family; more stress, and more things that just didn’t matter.
It wasn’t easy. I was unaware until it came time to part with things how attached I had become to simply having things – even the ones I never used and that never came out of boxes. But with time, that shifted to a true appreciation for the things I did have.
I take better care of things now. I don’t want to buy more things for my home, so I try to keep what I have and appreciate those things for their usefulness even if they aren’t the most beautiful or trendy things.
Today, there is so much less stuff in our home that is half the size of what we lived in before. What you see is what you get. We live now – our family bigger than it was back then – in half the space with not nearly as much stuff.
But now we have more of the things that matter – more time, less money overall but more money for things that we actually want to spend it on, more space to play outside, more room for family life and love.
What began as a scary journey into the unknown world of moving, fixing up, and raising a family all at once, has become a story we can look back on now that we see the good, wonderful things that came from it. I am back to work these days – part time when my kids are in school. Every day when I walk into my home with my husband and kids, I am thankful for the small, the less, the simple and ever so thankful for the wonderful unseen blessings that have taken the place of big space and more stuff.