Tammy StrobelTammy Strobel is an author (Simply Car-free and Smalltopia), website designer, and media consultant living in Sacramento, California with Logan. Here she describes the downsizing of their possessions and the difference it made in their lives.
Five years ago, we lived the normal middle class" suburban lifestyle. We were newlyweds with flashy rings, living in a two-bedroom apartment, driving two cars, commuting long distances to work and living well beyond our means.
We were living in Davis, California, which is notorious for expensive real estate and a negative vacancy rating (more people than rooms). In reflection, we had a life with too much stuff and stress.
Initially, we resisted the idea of moving into a smaller one bedroom apartment because we were more concerned about appearances and space for guests than for our financial well being. Realizing the source of our stress was our financial situation, we decided something needed to change. This change" began by defining our values and prioritizing our needs over those of potential future guests.
After creating many long pro/con lists, the scaling down process began. We sold one car and moved into a one-bedroom apartment near the train station, the grocery store and downtown amenities. Driving everywhere was still a big part of our lives, but with lower rent we began chipping away at our debt. Our lives began to change for the better.
It wasn't until last year that we stumbled across Dee Williams's tiny house, the Small House Movement, and the concept of simple living. After doing a lot of research and making many to-do lists, we decided to move from Davis to mid-town Sacramento. We scaled down even further, to a 400-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment within walking distance to my work. Dee inspired me to go small and start thinking big.
Thinking big required setting goals and decluttering. Slowly we began focusing on the quantity and quality of our belongings.
Downsizing can be stressful, but the benefits are tremendous. Moving to a smaller apartment in the city opened up amazing possibilities. Once we sold our one remaining car, life became even better because we saved money and worked less. It sounds like a cliché, but without the car and the TV, we had the time, money and energy to prioritize our health, happiness and life goals.
Below are a few tips that worked for us:
- Going small. Downscaling to a tiny one-bedroom was a slow process that required a lot of work and many trips to the thrift store. Moving into a 400-square-foot apartment forced us to declutter our lives and seriously question why we needed so much stuff.
- Divorcing our car. After months of talking about the pros and cons of selling our car, we decided to follow in the footsteps of a Wisconsin graduate student and divorce our car.
- Becoming debt-free is indescribably liberating. Discovering the concept of simple living helped us become debt-free. After giving away the TV and selling our car, we realized how many hidden ownership costs we were paying. We also discovered an amazing book, called Your Money or Your Life, that fundamentally changed our relationship with money.
- Happiness counts. Purging our lives of clutter and debt has not only made us happier, but we have purchased less stuff. Since we started the downsizing process, we feel psychologically lighter." Since we eliminated our debt, I know I have options to engage in activities that make me happy. For instance, I'm a lucky person and enjoy my job. But if I didn't like it, I wouldn't have to be tied to the position. That is a huge bonus of being debt-free and actually having money in savings.
- Downsizing is a process, and it doesn't happen overnight. I hope our personal story will help you remove clutter from your life, one step at a time.
Good luck in your own simple living quest. Above all, pursue happiness and not more stuff.