Living With Less

There was a time when I had an idea of what the American Dream looked like for me.  It involved a huge, five-bedroom house, and eventually an upgrade to an even bigger one with all the amenities you could ask for.  Let me tell you this, folks: I’ve had a huge paradigm shift.  Lately I’ve been pondering what my family really needs versus what are simply desires.  We know that God provides us our daily bread, but not necessarily the steak and potatoes.  He sustains us.  He gives us plenty.  That’s not to say He may not bless us with more, because He certainly might, but are we finding joy in what He has already given to us?  This was a moment of epiphany for me.  Why was I not content with what God has already given me?  If I wasn’t being a good steward of this home He provided, how in the world would I expect He would entrust me with more?  Like the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30), I knew that I was squandering what I had been given.

Recently I wrote a post about what you really need for a baby.  As I continued to evaluate what we really need and began to de-clutter in my home, I realized that we have plenty – nay, surplus!  We were overwhelmed with a bunch of junk that was not organized at all.  There was some really good stuff mixed in that we never got to enjoy because of the mess.  So as we are getting rid of stuff, I’m realizing I’m left with some very empty rooms.  That got me thinking, why did I think I needed such a big house, anyway?  Our current house is 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, about 2200 square feet, and has two living areas.  It’s an older house, so the bedrooms are huge, as opposed to many new construction homes with tiny 10X10 bedrooms.  Do my kids need their own rooms?  Nope.  Do I need to use that 3rd bedroom as a nursery?  Nope.  A guest bedroom?  Nope.  It’s been a guest bedroom for almost 5 years and I think it’s only been used once.  And what about the boys’ bedroom?  Right now we have 2 twin size beds in there, and I could easily fit a third one in there as well.  And if (we hope!) we have more kids, where will the next one sleep?  Well, with me until he’s old enough, then we could easily put bunk beds in that same room and get 6 kids in it.  I know what you’re thinking: SIX kids in a bedroom, seriously?  Are you crazy?  Where will you put all their stuff???  This is where I think we need a paradigm shift.  We have it so well in America.  We think each kid needs their own room, with their own bedroom set, a TV, a little cute desk to do homework, toy chest, and all that jazz.  But do they?  Really?  What they really need in a bedroom is a place to sleep.  As they get older, if you have mixed genders, that would be something to consider, as you might want a boys room and a girls room (and let’s face it, that’s IF you have a bunch of kids like I want…most people only have 2 or 3).  But then again, in a typical 5-person family, we expect that people “need” a 4 bedroom house.  Honestly, we have 4 and could really downsize to a 2 bedroom.  And two living areas?  Who needs two living areas?!  Well, maybe you do, but we don’t.  It doesn’t fit our lifestyle at all.

I look back on our first house we had with children.  It was 1280 sq. ft., 3 bedrooms (all small), 2 baths, one living area, and a kitchen/dining room combo (or I guess you could call it an “eat-in” kitchen).  It had a small laundry room as well.  When we were there we thought it was great for two people, but could never imagine having a family in it.  We had our first baby there, and one of the bedrooms was his nursery and the other was a guest bedroom/office.  I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I actually wished we lived in that house right now instead of the one we’re in. Not that there’s anything wrong with where we live, it’s just an older house that is in need of many repairs and has some problematic layout issues.  It’s bigger, but I’d take the smaller one over this one any day.  Oh, to have a beautiful kitchen again!!!  I loved that kitchen!  It didn’t have upgrades like granite, it’s just that the layout was nice and there was plenty of countertop space to do prep work, which isn’t the case in my current house.

So what does it look like to be in a smaller house?  Here’s what we have set up right now in our big house, and how it could be adapted for a smaller house.  My husband and I have our room, and the baby sleeps with us.  No crib, no nursery.  His clothes take up two small dresser drawers and mine go in the rest.  My husband’s clothes go in the chest of drawers.  Anything else that shouldn’t go there is hung in the closet.  My two older boys share a room.  All their clothes are in a dresser that I shoved in the closet, and then what needs to be hung up is on the closet bar.  I put a cube system in there for their toys, and every so often I go in a purge a little more.  We are slowly getting rid of more and more toys.  The third bedroom is an office right now.  We have a desk, bookshelf, table, and a dresser.  It’s having a bit of an identity crisis right now.  I’ve got homeschool supplies in there at the moment.  The den is where we gather as a family.  That’s where the couches and TV are.  The other living area has a piano, but other than that it’s pretty empty.  I just put a coffee table in there with a TV and an old NES (Nintendo) for the kids to play every now and again.  Honestly, this room is extra.  I just don’t need it at all.  But since we have it, I’m going to make do.  I can’t just leave it empty.  (Well, I guess I could, but I really don’t want to!).  I look around and think that I honestly could do without the 3rd bedroom and the 2nd living area and be just fine.  There are other places that I could put the homeschool supplies, and I don’t have to have an office.  However, I really enjoy having my desk in its own designated area, so I truly am glad for the 3rd bedroom.  Again though, needs versus wants.  I could honestly do without if I had to.

As I look for houses that I’d like to move to eventually, I have completely reevaluated what I need in a house.  I really don’t need 5 bedrooms after all.  We can live perfectly contently with less.  It’s a choice though.  You choose to be content, to have joy, to be happy.  And that’s where I finally am.  I thank God for showing me that.  And as I paint and try to make the best of a house that’s not ideally suited to our family, I keep remembering that it could be a lot worse.  I’m so blessed to have what I have, and I have made a vow to be a good steward of that which the Lord has given me.  So if you’re not happy with your current living situation, look around.  Think about what you could do without.  Downsize all the “stuff”.  Organize it, decorate, make it your HOME.  You will find joy in your contentment.

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