Three years ago, we made the decision to sell our big house in the leafy neighbourhood to move to a much smaller house in the generic suburbs. I always say that we did it to get our son into the (more inclusive) school across the street – but the other reason we moved was to downsize. We downsized our possessions, our house, our mortgage, our taxes, our utilities and our renovation bill in the process.
I follow the Becoming Minimalist blog. Today’s post is called The Things By Which We Get Embarrassed and reading it gives me comfort. Everywhere I turn, media and society tells us – accumulate MORE MORE MORE. We are in our mid-40’s/early 50’s and apparently in our highest earning years. We have friends building massive mansions with soaring ceilings, granite countertops and hot tubs in the walk-out basement. I am not beneath feeling great envy when we visit these spectacular homes.
For the first 18 months of living at our new modest place, I felt very embarrassed. In my Canadian way, I apologized for everything about the new place. I’d be quick to say: we moved here for Aaron’s school, and apologize for the miniature front entry, the commute to get here and the lack of street parking. I’d never admit that the other secret reason we moved is that I hated seeing my husband lie awake at night, worrying about the next huge renovation on our 50 year old house. Our youngest son was not welcome at the old neighbourhood school. Our eldest son had moved out, and there was just 4 of us rattling around an excessive amount of square feet. Sometimes we could not even find each other in the house. This seemed a bit ridiculous. So we downsized considerably – in price and square footage – and moved twenty minutes south to a newer, affordable neighbourhood. We’ve now been here over two years.
We had our annual open house last Friday and our little house was stuffed to the rafters with 40 people. I used to have a twinge of pride when people came over to our old, prestigious house, and bask in the glory of their compliments (oh, this is such a nice neighbourhood! Oh, your house is so beautiful!). Now I’m like: Meh. Stack your shoes at the front door, cram yourself inside, and here’s a drink.
The thing is, last Friday, nobody cared about the size or location of our abode. They were here for the food, Christmas cocktails and company. Kids zoomed up and down the stairs chasing cats, while the adults happily ate ham sandwiches and Christmas baking. The size of our house did not matter to anybody but the old me. This year, I was so pleased that people bundled up their little kids and took the time to make the drive across town and to celebrate the holidays with us. It meant a lot to me. It is obvious that it is about the people inside the house, not the house itself.
This may sound silly to you, but this is an epiphany to me. Now that our daughter has also moved out, our nest is emptying, and there is just the three of us. We are putting this house up for sale in the spring. We have a kid with a disability to save for, and debt to get rid of, and a basement that we never use.
Next up in our minimalist adventures? Moving to a townhouse. Who would have ever thought that? As Joshua Becker says, we are getting embarrassed over the wrong things. What if excess became the embarrassment? And responsible living that championed generosity became the norm?
Next December you are welcome to our annual open house. You might have to stack your shoes higher at the front door, and squeeze in tighter to find some space amongst the revelers. But the welcome will be warm, the food will be tasty, the baking will be homemade, and the cocktails will be strong. You are welcome to follow us wherever we go.