Several Halloweens ago, I emptied a bag of candy into a bowl to distribute to trick-or-treaters. My young son, standing beside me, looked perplexed as he read the packaging containing the miniature candy bars.
“Fun size? Why do they call those fun-size, mom? Those candy bars are just way smaller! What’s fun about smaller?”
I have a sweet tooth, so I commiserate with his observation. When it comes to chocolate, I’m not a minimalist. Everyone knows that fun happens when there is more, right? If it’s bigger, it’s better. If there’s more, we’re happier.
But at the time, I was living in a big house, and I wasn’t having fun. My house was beautiful, and its four bedrooms, spacious kitchen, and living area served us well for birthday parties and Thanksgivings.
I should’ve been having the time of my life.
But if one thing went wrong with the house, like the time our roof leaked, or when the washing machine was broken beyond repair (just as a raging case of stomach flu was tightening its grip on our household, unfortunately), I would panic. How were we going to pay for this?
When everything was going along swimmingly in our big house, we were okay. But it always felt as though we were one step away from financial ruin. We were on a financial tightrope, wishing and hoping that a mighty wind didn’t come along and knock us off. Because we weren’t sure there was a safety net beneath us.
After we purchased our small home, I started to better understand the term “fun size.”
People were surprised when we announced we were selling our big house and moving our family (four kids and a floppy-eared dog) to a small two-bedroom home.
With the small house, our monthly mortgage payment is cut in half. So are our property taxes.
Our savings account continues to grow. Like never before, there is money left at the end of each month. We pay less in utilities. We use our cars less, now that we live closer to our jobs.
We buy less “stuff.” In a smaller house, you give a lot more thought to purchases. With 940 sq. feet of living space to work with, buying something like an end table is a big deal. Is there room for it? Do we need it? Is there something I have to get rid of first to make it fit?
Anything decorative goes through an even tougher vetting process. Does this wicker basket add to my life, or is it just something I’m going to keep tripping over? Do I really need this seasonal plate that I’ll only take out once a year?
Now that we’re living in our “fun-sized” house, I’m definitely having more fun. In fact, I feel like I’m living in a tiny, fun-sized lap of luxury. We don’t take side jobs on the weekends to make ends meet. Instead, we have time to do fun things like take our kayaks out on the lake, or hang out with friends. We take much nicer vacations. When something needs replacing in the house, we buy good quality items that (hopefully) will last a long time.
I used to think minimalism was all about giving things up: going without the things you really love. I thought it was a life of discipline, hardship, and sacrifice. I didn’t want to live a hard life. I wanted an easy life in a big home.
I had it all wrong.
Minimizing the footprint of our home was key in shifting our family’s trajectory for the better. I learned that the house of my dreams wasn’t big, after all. My dream house is where I live now. Small. Practical. Nice. My house takes care of me. It contains the things I need and the people I love. The other things I love? They’re outside of the house, in my community, in the big world. Now I can afford the luxury of chasing after them.
About the Author: Carol Pavlik is a features writer, columnist, and blogger. Her small house has opened her eyes, allowing her to notice and appreciate life’s simple joys. She writes about downsizing at Unwanting.com and publishes a weekly newsletter, The Cozy Cottage Chronicles.