A Journey of Right-Sizing, or How Big Is Big Enough?


Just over three years ago, Thom and I bought a new home in the “village area” of La Quinta, CA.  We called it an experiment because we weren’t sure if we could live in a house that was nearly a 1,000 sq. feet less than the one we had before.  Never mind that the new house had 1,400 square feet with three bedrooms, two bathrooms and was plenty large enough based upon comparables around the world.   But with huge changes happening in the economy, and our personal growing awareness in the “green” movement, Thom and I felt it was time to discover if the American obsession with size was just a habit we’d adopted, or a true necessity.   What we’ve come to know during the last two years is that smaller is plenty big enough, especially when it fits perfectly within your needs.

One of the first unexpected responses we got from our experiment was reaction from others.   When people heard we were selling our previous home and moving to a different area of La Quinta, we were asked several times if “everything was alright?” Some people seemed to assume that because we were selling in a down real estate market that something must be wrong—and some seemed to assume that because we were buying a smaller, visually less impressive house, that something must be really wrong.   Without being said, the implication was that the size and stature of our home was being used as an indicator of our well-being or success.

When did that happen?  When did everyone start using the size and quality of a person’s home to evaluate the family’s happiness and prosperity?  I think we all know on some level that such a superficial comparison has nothing to do with true happiness or contentment.  After all, if you ask most people what is most important to them, no one will admit it is the size of their house or car or television set.  Still, much of the time if anyone makes a move that seems contrary to “bigness” or even pauses on the ladder of success, observers tend to think something is abnormal or wrong.  Maybe it is time to rethink that reaction.

So, what were the personal intentions behind our experiment? One goal was the quest for fewer hassles.  As any one who has one knows, the bigger the home, the more time it takes to take care of it. Sure we had lots of nice furniture, and a big lovely yard with a pool and spa.   But based upon how much the two of us actually used some of those amenities, they just didn’t seem that important to us. We also decided that although our mortgage on the bigger house was something we were able to easily maintain, the thought of a home completely free and clear seemed daringly extravagant.  Lastly, we wanted a home in a certain neighborhood that offered dozens of free benefits and the only ones available in our price range were more modest in size.  Again, the trade-off seemed beneficial.

Three years later, we fit perfectly in our home with no regrets.  Not only does our home contain everything we need, we also love our neighbors.  One thing we never expected was the advantage of living in a denser neighborhood and being physically closer to people.  We feel much more a part of a community and enjoy spending time walking and participating in everything that happens around us in a much more personal way.   Daily we can walk or bike to grocery stores, the library, restaurants, parks, and all sorts of other outlets.  Instead of merely living in the suburbs, we now live amongst friends.

Interestingly enough, once we cleaned out the excess from our previous home we found our new home was plenty big enough for all the stuff we really wanted and needed in our lives.  Again, the more stuff you have the more it has to be cleaned, taken care of and maintained.  Now, instead of having to manage and take care of a bigger home and yard, we get to spend that excess time doing things we enjoy.

Lastly, by buying a home that we could purchase free and clear we have created a freedom in our lives that was unexpected.  While we realize that not everyone is in the same financial position, it is drilled into most of us (especially those of us in the real estate field) that buying as big a home as possible with a mortgage and then using it as a write-off is as American as apple pie. Trust me, the freedom that comes from not having to make a house or rent payment month, after month, after month is incomparable.   Not only do we not have a house payment, we are entirely debt free and our new (smaller home) uses much less utilities and therefore, carries much less cost.  All the money we used to pay out for mortgage, higher taxes, higher insurance, maintenance and stuff from our previous home allows us to travel and do things that feed our passions—not pay bills.

While I am obviously overjoyed to have right-sized our home and life as we have (can you see me smiling?) I don’t share it to brag. On the other hand, wouldn’t it be good if we all did?  Wouldn’t it be nice if we all started talking about and discussing the freedom, advantages and joy that come from living within our means?  What if we ignored obvious displays of grandeur and bigness and instead looked with admiration on people living lives of passion and purpose—in a sustainable and moderate way?   What would happen if we started congratulating each other for being able to relax and enjoy what we had, rather than working our butts off to pay for stuff we don’t really need? What if we all started making choices and decisions that were based on living SMART, instead of living big?

Much of the time, sustainability means taking care of the planet—cleaning up after yourself and not using more than you need—being ecofriendly in all that you say and do.  However, what I have come to learn is that sustainability starts at home, literally and figuratively.   I now believe that sustainability is living within your means, and loving what you have instead of always striving for something bigger and better.   When it comes down to it, having the room to breathe “mentally” is way more important than having extra rooms in your house.


 This post is part of the Generation Fabulous Blog Hop for September: Click here to read the other stories of Reinvention.

“There are thousands and thousands of people out there living lives of quiet, screaming desperation who work long, hard hours, at jobs they hate, to enable them to buy things they don’t need to impress people they don’t like.”—Nigel Marsh, author and CEO of Young and Rubicam Brands.

Other posts about right-sizing here on SMART Living 365.com:

1) Rightsizing vs. Downsizing—Making A Positive Lifestyle Choice

2) Rightsizing Your Finances—A SMART Way To Manage Money

3) Right-sizing Your Way To Retirement—Step One

4) Right-Sizing Your Way To Retirement—Step Two

5) Final Thoughts On Right-Sizing Your Life Right Now!


Filed under Sustainable

18 Responses to A Journey of Right-Sizing, or How Big Is Big Enough?

  1. Pingback: Right-Sizing -- Choosing Semi-Retirement Instead of Retired

  2. Pingback: Final Thoughts On Right-Sizing Your Life Right Now!

  3. Oh, I can’t wait to downsize! It probably won’t happen for another 6 years, but I look forward to smaller energy bills, smaller yard, less carpet to vacuum, fewer possessions to manage. I’m green about your green move. Enjoy!
    Karen D. Austin recently posted…The More Things Change. . .My Profile

    • Hi Karen! Nice to meet you and thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment. I so-so-so encourage you (and everyone!) to take the step if you can. There is a reason so many of us are on this “simplifying our lives kick”–that’s because of the freedom and peace of mind it brings! While you might not be able to downsize just yet, you might start working on the letting go of things. For some who have been in their houses for YEARS it might take about six years to gradually work through that.:-) If you ever need some more encouragement just stop back by and drop me a line…I’m a good cheer-leader for rightsizing! ~Kathy

  4. Great post. I live in what the most Americans consider a small, small apartment, but it’s exactly where I want to live. I’ve been happy to trade space for location. I can walk to at least fifty per cent of the places I want to go, and there’s a bus and subway for most of the rest. More space would be nice, but I’m happy to balance it against less stuff.

    • Hi Carol! Thanks for stopping by SMART Living and leaving a comment. Isn’t the trade off worth it when you live in a place that offers so many great things. About the only thing I REALLY miss where I live is good public transportation. But the funny thing is that because so much of our entertainment is local, we actually ended up saving about 1,000 miles off our annual milage. As it turns out we just don’t have to drive as much so that saves gas AND wear and tear on our 2 vehicles. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts…it is ALWAYS appreciated! ~Kathy

  5. Kathy, we are having this conversation right now! The idea of being mortgage-free is so enticing. In fact, I’m going to be in La Quinta for 2 weeks in October to see how we like it there – maybe we can get together for coffee???
    Sharon Greenthal recently posted…Reinvention for Real PeopleMy Profile

    • Hi Sharon! Small world huh? Yes, yes, let’s definitely do coffee….and maybe you and your husband for dinner too if it works in your plans. It would be great to meet in person and sell you on La Quinta…we absolutely LOVE it here (at least most of the time when it’s not 110 degrees out!) Once you have your plans down send me an email and we’ll pick a date. ~Kathy

  6. I like your term ‘Right -Sized’ and it looks like a ranch so it can be your home for years. Sometimes reinventing is looking toward the future and adapting now.
    Haralee recently posted…My Entrepreneurial ReinventionMy Profile

    • Hi Haralee! Thanks for stopping by SMART Living 365. You are so right that reinvention can be many things–but one great one is looking to the future and adapting it to the now. Now that you mention it I think I enjoy doing that quite a bit. Now I’m going to go to your blog and check out how you see reinvention. Are blog hops fun? ~Kathy

  7. Connie McLeod

    I love your term right-sizing. I also love when you gave up the concept of more is better, you discovered new rewards and a new community. Great post, thanks for sharing.

    • Hi Connie! Nice to meet you and thank you for dropping by my blog from the Blog Hop! It’s sort of my personal mission to let others know that the rewards of a right-sized life are so numerous and beneficial that more people should try it. I also think is makes so much sense of our “generation” to start thinking of simplifying our lives instead of accumulating and stressing ourselves out. Besides, once we do that we can use all the money we are saving to do things that REALLY makes us happy and satisfied (like in my case travel!) Thanks again for stopping by and I look forward to reading your blog hopped post too! ~Kathy

  8. Great points! I’ve been trying to make the case for cars, at least. For most people, it makes more sense to buy the car you can afford and save for the next one instead of always paying off a car loan. Given that so many people have credit card debt, that might be the first thing to tackle!
    Joy Weese Moll ( recently posted…Reinvention — A Generation Fabulous BloghopMy Profile

    • Hi Joy! Thanks so much for stopping over on my blog and letting me participate in the Generation Fabulous Blog Hop! They are so much fun and a great way to discover new blog and new friends.

      And yes about the auto right-sizing. If you’ve traveled much you know that the USA is obsessed with HUGE vehicles (and the corresponding costs) in a BIG way compared to other countries. I just see an auto or a truck as transportation to get me to one place or another so to me it is silly to overspend buying a vehicle. So many people–and lots of them young people–burden themselves with HUGE monthly car payments when a much more modest vehicle would take the stress out and get them where they want to go. It’s all about the trade-offs to me.

      Nice to meet you and I look forward to reading your posts too! ~Kathy

  9. Betty

    Thanks for this some good points. Comparable houses worldwide though. There are 2 billion people living on less than $2 per day, this is a good perspective to have. You are lucky to be where you are and by downsizing you are doing your bit for the whole planet. And big gestures are hard for individuals so living in an ecofriendly way as possible is a good way to do your bit. Give yourself more credit than you have! I think that Americans face a big challenge to live in a sustainable way – your society is the most consumer driven on the planet so good on you for your stand. Thanks and good luck.

    • Thanks Betty, I appreciate your comments. You’re right about worldwide comparisons…our new house is still relatively large for the two of us 1375 sq feet compared to those around the planet. And yes, as Americans most of us have taken our advantages for granted. You didn’t say where you are from, but hearing other people’s perspectives is always helpful. Please check back often and make comments when possible!–Kathy

  10. We are a bunch of volunteers and opening a brand new scheme in our community. Your site offered us with helpful information to paintings on. You’ve done a formidable task and our whole neighborhood will probably be thankful to you.

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