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In January of 2017, we sold our 2200 sqft home and moved into a home less than half the size. And (spoiler alert) we couldn’t be happier. As such, I thought I’d share my best tips for downsizing your home with kids for anyone else considering it.
But first of all, let’s backtrack a bit so I can explain what prompted us to make the decision to downsize our home so drastically.
In October of 2011, a month before we got married, my husband and I bought our first home.
It was located in a new subdivision in Tennessee, surrounded by beautiful trees and backing onto a lake. The home was 2200 sqft, had 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms and a large bonus room downstairs.
While the home was large, it wasn’t above our budget so we felt comfortable that we weren’t overextending ourselves. And while we didn’t have much “stuff” at the time, we felt like we’d grow into the house, have a family, etc.
We were so excited to move in, start decorating and make the house feel like a home. We painted the whole house, decorated every single room, stocked the kitchen, bought new sets of towels for each bathroom… the list went on.
And slowly but surely, we both started to feel overwhelmed with THINGS. Every set of drawers, every storage cabinet, every linen closet was full. It was a disorganized mess and I could never find a thing I needed. (If that sounds familiar, then The Organized Home is an awesome course that will help you get a handle on your clutter once and for all.)
We’ve always been careful with money, but we started to realize that having such a large house meant that we felt obligated to furnish it and buy things for it. And it cost so much more. Unless we wanted a completely empty bonus room, we needed to purchase two living room sets (one for upstairs and one for downstairs.) If I wanted to decorate the house for Christmas, I needed to buy double the decorations. It took me SO LONG to clean the house (3 bathrooms every week is NO fun.)
Then I got pregnant with our first child, and my husband (who’s active duty military) got orders to North Carolina.
We were faced with a decision…
We knew we were going to sell our Tennessee house, but what kind of place were we going to get in North Carolina?
I mean, we had a child now. Didn’t that mean we’d need all that extra space..?
Despite that concern, we couldn’t shake the feeling that we wanted something MUCH smaller. We wanted to have less THINGS. And having a smaller house would mean that having less stuff was a necessity.
So we made the conscious decision to downsize.
We held a massive garage sale and sold probably 75% of our possessions.
Then we move into a home that is just over 1000 sqft. That’s less than half the size of our previous home. Our new home has 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and one living space. It’s single story, which means there’s no bonus room. There’s no huge storeroom downstairs (because there’s no downstairs!)
We’ve lived in our smaller house for over a year now, and we LOVE it. Here are my tips for downsizing your home with kids.
Must-Read Tips for Downsizing Your Home With Kids
1. Plan Ahead
We had quite a bit of time from the time we found out we were moving to North Carolina until we actually moved. This gave us the chance to really go through our stuff, figure out what was important enough to keep and what could go.
We were also able to organize a huge garage sale, sell a lot of things on Craigslist and Facebook sale pages, and donate the rest.
If you’re planning to downsize, I recommend taking the time to plan ahead like we did. That way you can maximize your profits from selling items you no longer want, as well as really take the time to determine what’s important to you without getting rid of things on a whim (or vice versa, keeping things you don’t really need/want.)
On that same note, I really recommend this book by Marie Kondo for helping you in the process of determining what to get rid of and what to keep.
2. Get a Handle on Your Clutter
If your house is constantly covered in clutter, then it’s so important to get a handle on that because when you downsize, that clutter is only going to feel even more consuming.
When you’re living in a small home, you need to learn how to effectively utilize space and get your house organized (if you’ve ever rifled through your kitchen drawers searching for something you *know you put in there…. at least you think you did…. then you’ll know how overwhelming it can feel.)
If you want to truly get your house organized and get a handle on your clutter, then check out The Organized Home course by Hilary from Pulling Curls.
This is the perfect course for you if:
- You want to downsize but you’re kinda freaked out at the thought of finding space for everything
- Your house is constantly cluttered, you can never find anything and honestly, it’s pretty overwhelming
- You can never find things you need (like important documents, a pair of scissors, etc.)
- You need a few hours notice before friends or family come over because the state of your home is a bit embarassing
- You just need someone to help you get.things.organized.
If you want someone to teach you how to get a handle on everything, get clutter under control, get your house organized and regain some of your sanity in the meantime, then Hilary is the person to help you. Check out her course “The Organized Home” here.
3. Think About What You Would Replace If It Was Destroyed
Take a look around you. I bet you have TONS of things that you just sort of accumulated over the years. You don’t really need or want them, but you’re just holding onto them for… well, who knows what for?
When you’re going through the process of decluttering, a good way to work out what to keep and what to get rid of is to think to yourself, “If this was destroyed/stolen/lost would I replace it?”
If the answer is no, then you probably don’t really need it.
4. Determine Your Future Lifestyle Goals
Before you rush into anything, sit down and work out what you want your future lifestyle to look like. You want to make sure that the home your moving to fits perfectly with your lifestyle goals.
Here’s an example of how your home goals might not meet your lifestyle goals:
You’re a family who loves kayaking and mountain biking. You decide you want to downsize to an 800 sqft apartment. Where are you going to keep your kayaks, kayaking gear, and mountain bikes? Is there an extra storage area in the apartment complex you can use?
It’s important to remember that you don’t necessarily have to go from living in a 5000 sqft home to moving your family of 6 into a jetstream to have truly downsized. There’s no competition involved, so determine what works best for your family.
5. Choose Multipurpose Furniture
Multipurpose furniture is a godsend for smaller home living, so try to take advantage of this.
For example, instead of having a couch with a coffee table, we have a couch with a large ottoman which doubles as extra seating should we have guests, and can be easily used as a coffee table by putting a serving tray on top. Additionally, benches or seats can be replaced with storage ottomans to store blankets, pillows, toys, etc.
6. Digitize As Much As You Can
I love flipping through a photo album as much as the next person, but traditional photo albums take up a lot of space. An easy and effective way to downsize and reduce clutter is to digitize things as much as you can.
Here are some easy ways to digitize:
- Instead of buying DVD’s, download them.
- Instead of printing out your photos, keep them in the cloud.
- Switch to paperless statements from your bank, and set up your bills to arrive by email (or just use direct debit.)
- Scan and save documents on your computer that you don’t really need hard copies of.
7. Limit the Amount of Space For Toys
If you have older children, this tip works well. Give each child a specific sized box, and tell them that they can only keep the toys that fit in that box. Obviously, things like bicycles or large toys that you’ve decided to keep don’t have to be a part of this rule.
But all of those little gadgets, knick-knacks and random toys that kids seem to accumulate? Those are the ones you want to try and get rid of!
Instead of telling your kids which toys they’re keeping, let them take on some responsibility and decide what is important to them.
On the fence about downsizing?
Life-Changing Benefits of Living in a Smaller Home
1. Things Don’t Make You Happy
I went through a period of feeling lost and lonely while we were living in Tennessee. I had just moved there from Australia, didn’t know a single person, and because my husband is active duty military, he was gone a lot.
Because I had this big, beautiful house, I would often fill the void I felt with going shopping for decor, towels, new bedding, etc. I loved choosing out pretty things and envisaging them in my home.
I’d purchase them, go home and make everything look beautiful, and then…
I still felt lost and lonely.
While there’s nothing wrong with taking pride in the appearance of your home (I still do now!) I eventually realized that I was buying all of this stuff for my home for the wrong reasons.
No amount of “stuff” can fix your heart.
2. Too Much Stuff Can Be Overwhelming
Not only do things not make you happy, they can also make you feel overwhelmed.
Have you ever walked into a hoarder’s home? Or not even a hoarder, but just someone who’s house is full of trinkets, ornaments, photo frames, etc.
If you’re anything like me, it almost makes you feel claustrophobic.
While my house certainly wasn’t cluttered, I owned so much stuff that the mere thought of it made me feel overwhelmed. So much stuff I’d accumulated over the years, so many sets of towels and sheets, 2 different shower curtains for each bathroom, etc.
3. Baby’s (and Toddlers) Don’t Need a Huge Playroom
Initially, I had plans to set up our downstairs bonus room as my son’s playroom. I thought he’d need all that space for his toys and books, and he’d have a jolly old time playing there.
And while it was handy having a bit of extra space for large baby items like his jumperoo, we found that you really don’t need as much space as what is often made out.
My son doesn’t have his own playroom now. He has his bedroom and the living room to play in. We’re clever with storage and I simply don’t buy him every single toy he sees and subsequently, “needs.” I feel horrible saying no to him when he has tears streaming down his eyes and he’s pleading “pwease Mommy, PWEASE.” But I also know that he doesn’t need another Thomas the Tank train and he’s forgotten about it 1 minute after we’ve walked away.
Our son is certainly not deprived of toys, by any means. He has everything (and more) that a child his age could ever need, but I don’t buy him a new toy every single time we go to the store.
4. Smaller Home = More Time Spent Together
When you have a huge home with a bonus room, theater room, basement, etc., there’s the tendency for everyone to retreat to their own space and spend time alone. While it’s always nice to have some alone time, living in smaller space encourages time spent together as a family, enjoying one another’s presence.
4. Cleaning is So Much Easier and Quicker
Hands up if you love spending the entire day on Saturday cleaning your house. Nobody….?
When you have a 2200 sqft home, it’s not a 1 hour job cleaning it. Scrubbing 3 bathrooms, vacuuming the stairs, all the bedrooms, living spaces, bonus room, mopping, etc… It used to take me a good part of the day to clean the house.
I loved having a clean house which is why I did it, but I definitely can’t say I enjoyed the process. And I felt like I was missing out on enjoying my weekend because I had this big house to clean.
Now it takes me maybe an hour to completely clean my house from top to bottom, especially when I use my genius cleaning hacks. I set a timer and just get to work and before I know it, the house is clean, leaving me the entire rest of the day to actually ENJOY.
5. Smaller House = More Money In Your Pocket!
While finances weren’t the reason we decided to downsize, the extra money we have from living in a smaller house has been a welcome change.
When you have less space, you buy less stuff. Buying less stuff means you have more money. Simple, really!
Additionally, it costs a lot less to maintain a small house, and the heating and cooling costs are substantially lower. (I did manage to cut my electric costs in half while were living in our old house, but they’re even lower now.)
And since we’ve downsized, we were able to pay off all of our debt and become 100% debt-free even faster. We’ve also been able to increase the amount of money we contribute to our robo-advisor investment fund.
6. Who Gives a Crap About the Joneses?!
We didn’t buy our first house to “keep up with the Joneses.” We had just moved to Tennessee, we didn’t know a soul, so there were no “Joneses” to keep up with.
But when we announced we were selling our home and moving to a much smaller one, there were definitely a few people that seemed quite, for lack of a better word, “surprised…”
There were questions as to whether everything was ok financially (it is) as if that must be the “real reason” behind us downsizing so much.
But honestly, we made the decision that was right for us, and it’s made us so much happier. So really, who gives a crap what the Joneses might think?
Now that we’ve lived in our small house for over a year and loved it, we’re considering spending a year or so living in an RV and traveling around the USA when my husband retires from the military in 5 years. That’ll mean downsizing even more, which to be honest, doesn’t phase me in the slightest!
What do you think about downsizing? Is it something you’d consider?