It’s Okay To Experiment With Downsizing

a window in my kitchen for the first time in a few years










I mentioned yesterday that we moved.

I would love to tell you it was to a micro-house. Six hundred square feet efficiently equipped for a family of three to work, live and play.

But it wasn’t. Not sure there is any such thing here on the Isle of Man.

What did we move into?

A renovated three bedroom flat in a very old building. I would guess it is somewhere between 1100 and 1200 sq ft. The building is 100+ years old. We’re on the top floor.

Why did we move?

We knew our first flat here wasn’t our forever Isle of Man home when we moved in. It was a case of choosing something fast out of limited stock. The plan was to move at the end of this summer but after keeping tabs on the rental market we knew it would challenging to find what we wanted for a specific date. This flat became available and we snapped it up.

Our last flat had some challenges for a family of three. The biggest was that the kitchen was enclosed and windowless. Not only was it a dreary place to cook but I was constantly battling safety issues. I either had to lock Henry out of the kitchen (only possible when husband was home) or let him in to play while I cooked. A small enclosed kitchen is not a safe place for a two year old to play.

Also, living without a freezer was no longer a fun challenge. Every other week we had at least one item of food waste (even with meal planning) that could have been avoided if we had a freezer.

The other challenge with our previous flat is that there wasn’t a desk, or space for a desk. My husband’s desktop computer took up half of our dining table. We considered buying him a small desk but there wasn’t an easy place to put one. The furniture in the small flat was house sized leaving very little floor space.

It’s okay to experiment with downsizing.

I don’t see this move to a bigger home as a failure of downsizing.

Rather, this was a chance to learn about what we’re comfortable living with and without.

We also know more about the housing and rental market after living here for almost a year. We know what area we want to live in and the types of housing available in that area. If there had been a suitable flat that was 800-900 sq ft we would have taken it but there wasn’t.

Our new home is a great fit for us: furnished, great location and those sea views that we love so much. We are also confident the owner won’t be selling the flat anytime soon. That was a constant threat in our last home.

Downsizing experiments = cash in hand.

Living in a small home for 11 months and negotiating a rent reduction saved us money. Our rent was below what we budgeted for and so were our utilities. We saved more money in the last year than we ever have before. A big part of that is being out of debt but another part of it was living smaller.

I think as a family we’re now open to the idea of radically downsizing for a short period of time to meet a goal. When we someday leave the Isle of Man I could see us living in something very small while we start new jobs or careers.

Has anyone tested the waters with downsizing only to turn back? The other things we have tried, and are still doing well with, are no car and no smart phones.

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  • I hope you are loving your sea view! Looks lovely! When it comes to a home, size is a personal choice. I like space, albeit not a lot of stuff in that space, but space none the less. For example I have a thing about ceiling height. I don’t like low ceilings. This may be because I grew up in an early 1900 house with tall rooms. So when we moved to our ‘forever’ home I was taken by the fact our hall has a double height ceiling. I felt I could breathe. Our simple life has meant downsizing in many areas, but not our floorplan, yet. It’s likely once I have an empty nest I’ll be selling up, packing up and hopefully (health permitting) living out the back of a camper van (The kids can house us in the winter – when we’re not skiing of course ;-)). I can do camper vans – there’s plenty of space in the location where you park one of those – and the ceiling height is infinite!

    • I agree, size is a personal choice. I would have been fine with 800-900 sq ft with a good floor plan but there wasn’t such a thing in the area we want to live in. So this is what we have and so far it is lovely.
      Camper van retirement sounds fabulous.
      PS. Emailing you soon. Only a few weekends booked for the summer so hopefully we find a date that works.

  • Thank you for this post. I have a bigger home than I would like – about 2000 square feet. There are just two of us – my son and me and we don’t use all the space we have.

    The pros do outweigh the cons. I just love our house and it has all the things that were non-negotiable to me. We live 800 feet from where I work, which is a job I love and plan to retire from. We have extra room for company and for my son’s friends as he gets older (he is 3 now).

    I love living here, but I have always felt guilty because I know it is more than we need, but your post has helped me let go of that somewhat. Thank you! :)

  • We moved across country last year downsizing from a 1250 sq ft, 3 bedroom, 2 bath house with a fill unfinished basement stuffed with storage items. We minimalized a lot! And when we first moved we stayed with family in a guest house. We have 2 young boys and lived in 480 sq ft, 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom, fully functioning kitchen. I loved the adventure of it all but after 6 months it was apparent it was too small. Our boys slept on a hide-a-bed in the living room at night, making our living room unusable after 7pm when they went to bed…finally we expanded and added another larger bedroom to that place making it just under 700 sq ft., it was nice having a real bedroom for my children to share and keep their toys in…but it still didn’t have enough “family living space” so 3 months ago we moved into a 2 bedroom, 1 bath apartment with smaller bedrooms but larger living area at 956 sq ft and we feel like we are in the perfect size space for us! It also helps that this place is within walking distance to lots of shopping areas and walking trails which meet our families needs. It took u a while to figure out what was doable downsizing wise for our family. But we couldnt be more happy now!

    • Location is such a big factor for us as well. We love being within walking distance (20 mins) of three great parks, across the street from the beach and a 20 minute walking commute to work for my husband.
      Thanks for sharing about your “right sizing” experiments for your family. Helpful to hear other people have tried different size homes as well.

  • I hear you saying that you could have done with a smaller floorplan, if it was the right floor plan with the right furnishings. The market being what it was/is, that was rough, and you now have a compromise, less stuff in a better for you space. Win!

    • Yep, that was the case. You can’t always have everything – location and ideal floor plan and square footage.
      Although, I did meet a family today that lives near us in a 1 bedroom. It’s a family of four, soon to be five. I’m going to work up the courage to ask them to share their thoughts, perhaps photos, of living in a small space with me. Would love to hear more about how they make it work.

  • We downsized from a 4 bedroom 3 bath house to a 2 bedroom 2 bath apartment. Like Jo in the comment above, we like space, so we chose an apartment with a spacious open living room. We’ve been here 3 months and we are doing well so far. I’m not sure what the future holds, but we are happy with our accomidations for now. You are right about downsizing equals cash in hand. We are saving at least $1200 per month by moving and downsizing.

  • We have been downsizing more and more over the past two years. We went from a 2300 sq foot house to an 1100 square foot and now a 900 sq foot. We are a family of four and I personally love the small space. It has forced me to keep only what we need (we recently sold most of our “extra” things). The hardest part for us right now as parents is that our kids 10 and 6 remember the “big” house and often talk about wishing they had that big basement to play in. Its hard to hear that and explain to them what we are doing. Our dream is to live in an RV one day and travel the U.S. – we want to teach oru kids that home is where WE are together and the world is our playground.

    I really enjoy your blog!

  • We are in the process of down-sizing right now. We did an experiment in our own home to see if we could do it. We moved our kids in together and moved our room to the other small kid’s room. We only used one bathroom for the duration of the experiment. It went well for three weeks, so we decided to put our house on the market and find something smaller and cheaper, so we, too, can save money. Because my two children are a boy and a girl, I know living in a two bedroom will not be a permanent move, but I am looking forward to living tiny for a while.

  • Living in the right space can be quite important. Our last house has the strangest floor plan, and it was very difficult for me to get my chores done and take care of the children. I was frustrated all the time despite the very low rent making our budget so good. We moved into the house we bought last year, and while it’s the same size as the old Victorian, it feels so much better for us. Smaller bedrooms, more spacious kitchen. Like you, though, now I know we can manage in just about anything, although I think 600 sqft would be quite an adjustment for a family of five!

    • Our 598 sq ft home had a better layout than our 1100 sq ft home. The little kitchen was easier to cook in and the living/dining area worked so much better than the large boxy living/dining area in our bigger home.
      Layout is so important.

  • We have been slowly up sizing over the past few moves. Not because we want to but because landlords won’t let us rent their smaller home with a family our size. They say it like 3 children is a lot. Currently we are in a 3 bed 2 bath that’s 1400 sq ft with a 2 car garage. We don’t use a lot of space. Legally the rental only has to be 550 for them to rent to our family of 5 but because how they feel about it we have to go with what we are allowed to rent. Once we have the cash saved up to build our own home we plan to build a small home with a large covered porch.

  • We are currently renting a smaller house while we build, so we are experimenting with minimalism!
    Our family of 5 is living in a 2 bed 1 bath, it has been 6 months, and although it is very manageable, we have a few issues – I miss my privacy in the bath, I have 3 girls fighting for mirror space, and I miss not having a space where I feel like I can decompress without everyone being on top of each other.

    I agree with Jo, in that I don’t like the ‘stuff’ but I am longing for more space. I think that this is more relevant in the Canadian winter when you are couped up and have 3 times for clothing to deal with!!

  • I think there is nothing wrong with this. We just ran across the same situation. We just sold our 900 sq ft condo and moved into a two story 1200 sq ft townhouse. Everybody was very surprised by this since we have been downsizing everything else in our life. But the decision just made more sense. Our current home is within walking from EVERYTHING so this helps support our one car lifestyle. We also needed the two story layout since my husband works the night shift and goes to school and trying to sleep during the day and study with 2.5 year old running around down the hall just wasn’t working. If we wanted to get another small home we would of bad to move to an area that wasn’t as safe AND to far away from everything. I think just as long as your other aspects of life stay in line with minimalism (you know don’t fill the new larger home with a bunch of stuff) it’s ok to upsize a bit.

  • I’ve started to scout out apartments and townhomes for our family and have been reminded yet again that it’s often more about floorplan than square footage. In our case I’m finding that a larger footprint with a bad floorplan is going to be a lot worse than a smaller more open layout.

    In your case a larger place with a good layout, space for what you need and a lovely ocean views definitely sounds like the way to go.

  • I envy your seaside view! We’re in landlocked Kansas, and I can only imagine waking up to that view every day! We’re downsizing temporarily from a 2300 sq ft house to a 1200 sq ft condo while we look for our forever home. With a family of four, my husband and I expect it to be “cozy”. My issue is that I want to live much smaller than my husband does. He really needs to have space where he can decompress alone for awhile after work. So we really have to do a lot of negotiating to find the right house for both of us.

  • Oh yes! A year after we married, we purchased an ~1800 sq ft house (housing is cheap in Texas). But we hated the area, and it was too much house, so after only a year we sold it at a loss and moved into a one bedroom 900 sq ft apartment in a fabulous area that we LOVE. It was a move of misery (downsizing can be tough), but we stabilized and reveled in that apartment for 2.5 years. We also made back every penny we lost on the house by living small(ish) for a while. We’ve now just moved into a larger apartment because we love entertaining, we have family visiting us every 6 weeks for a week or more at a time, and we have a baby on the way. We had made the one bedroom work, but for us, more space could provide real value. We ended up getting a bigger apartment than we planned, but that had more to do with timing and location than anything else. Besides, it’s still only a 2 bedroom, just with very large rooms. I’m still committed to living with only the stuff that adds value to our lives, and so you won’t find “storage furniture” everywhere or even our tiny 1910-era closets stuffed. I like that.

    I also like your attitude of exploration and experimentation, instead of rules and judgment. I think that’s so valuable! Thank you for sharing it.

  • For anyone who likes to have size but not necessarily “fill” it up, how do you decorate without everything feeling bare? I ask because that is how I want to do things too….I hate clutter. BUT, I want my space to look homey. (that does not mean I want it to look like a martha stewart mag.)

    Hey, pictures of simple but livable spaces would be awesome!

  • I think that having the extra “breathing room ” this space provides could be really nice, especially if you don’t feel compelled to fill it with more “stuff” (which I’m sure you don’t!). At the very least, it will give Henry more space to run around :)

    • Already noticed we’re less stir crazy on the wet and windy days. And no, I have no urge to fill the place. It is nicely furnished and the only things I want to add are a few things for the walls.

  • After living in a small 3br townhouse, we now have moved to a bigger home. However, we haven’t bought new or additional furniture and I have an ongoing decluttering project that I attend to each week to decrease our stuff.

    As far as the home environment, I like the sense of space, and the opportunity that extra space gives me to retreat for half an hour for some yoga, or to read a book, or to have a creative space to work in.
    I like to be able to be at home and not hear the TV from every space in the home.

  • We (me, husband, two year old, and baby on the way in September) live in a 2,400 square foot home in the suburbs. I am tired of our clutter and tired of cleaning. I am a teacher and will be off work, starting mid-June until the first of the new year and I think this is a great time to practice downsizing! So my plan is to move our bedroom and Lily’s bedroom downstairs to the current living/dining room (which is currently a play/music room) and just to stop using everything but one bathroom (the one with a bathtub/shower) upstairs. We’ll still have a big yard (oh yeah, and three pets) but I’m really excited about the reduced cleaning and reduced amount of CRAP! Also, since it (probably) wont be permanent, we will be able to test out what we need and what we can live without!

    Now I need to actually tell my husband about this plan…

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