reversing life's to-do list: downsizing for a bigger life

It is nine o’clock on a Monday night and I’m sitting in a pile of clothes, sheets and old papers. 

“I don’t want to do this anymore,” I said, complaining to my husband.

“We are almost done though!”

Unfailing optimism, that one. 

We were packing up our lives, whittling them down as we prepped for a major transition. Our two-storey loft had just sold and we were downsizing to a rental apartment, about half the size. This is often a story told in reverse—moving up in the world, moving up in house size, moving from rental to owner. However, we decided to shake things up, much to everyone’s chagrin.

Two years ago, our lives were moving at the speed of light—new job, completion of school, wedding planning. Somewhere along the way, we added house-hunting to the list, as this was surely the next step in the life to-do list. It was a trajectory prescribed by popular culture, the question asked by our friends and part of the race to join in our expanding city. We had the means to make an investment and find a place for us, stretching every last dollar for every last square foot we could get. It was an exciting time and we were thrilled by the expansive condo, soaring ceilings and bright walls of windows. It was a dream.

However, life happened and it became clear it wasn’t our dream. Travel, amazing dinners and experiences with our most loved ones were what we treasured—things that a maxed-out mortgage didn’t allow for. So we decided to take back our lives and reverse expectations. The condo was primped, sold and packed up—making a lot of space for our dreams. 

Craving a major change of your own? Here is what guided our decision making: 

Small changes create big ones
Big goals, like owning a company, travelling the world or moving permanently to the beach may seem like unattainable pipe dreams, far too intimidating to even entertain. You need to think about all the steps it takes to turn the unattainable into reality. Deciding to move was our first step, followed by finding a real estate agent. Each step was manageable and kept us moving in the right direction. Now we are out from under a mortgage, with a robust savings plan. Steps closer to actualizing that pipe dream.

Simplicity is easy
Deciding to downsize was easy. Actually downsizing was difficult—so many things! However, when you pare down to the essentials in your life, whether it is reviewing your wardrobe, opting to get rid of a car, or even just narrowing down your makeup bag, there is less choice. Less choice makes decisions easier as well as quicker, which gives you more time for fun and adventure.

Keeping up can be exhausting
In the end, a two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo wasn’t for us, but we bought into the idea that it was an essential part of some universal plan on the road to becoming adults. It can be very easy to focus narrowly on what you feel like you should be doing, so much so that you can lose sight of what you want to be doing. Do a gut check for all the big decisions in life, and be prepared to sit with the ones that are uncomfortable (and expensive). What’s popular isn’t always right, and what’s right isn’t always popular. Take time to figure out what is right for you.

Take stock of your life
Even when it is easy to get swept up in the next phase of life—jobs, houses, relationships—it is important to get clear on your intentions for life. What do you value and what do you desire? If you enjoy freedom and live for the outdoors, perhaps more responsibility and longer hours in your cubicle isn’t the best idea. Travelling is a passion of mine—something that became harder to do when I was weighed down by a house and all the things in it. Moving to an apartment has given us more freedom to do the things we love.

At the end of the day, when all the packing was over, we came home to our new, tiny apartment. It lacked the expansive windows and still didn’t even have furniture in it. But it was our place, without expectation or stress. The apartment was our next step for a life of fun, freedom and adventure— the plan we designed just for us.

I'm a very proud contributor to one of the latest online publications for a holistic approach to life, So Fresh Mag. I'm writing for them on a regular basis and love to share the latest articles with you! Check out the article at So Fresh here.