Eating My Hat: Living In A Small Town

 

When you live in a 598 square foot condo in an urban area and are expecting your first child, many, many people tell you to move out of the city. They tell you it may not happen now but eventually you’ll want to leave the big smoke for the greener pastures of the suburbs: a bigger house and safer streets.

I scoffed at them.

We loved living in downtown Vancouver.

When our son arrived we loved it even more.

Community centers, the sea wall, parks and libraries were mere blocks away. I met a great group of women with children around my son’s age and my first year as a mom was filled with play dates, mom and baby bootcamp and long walks with other new moms that were just as tired, elated and confused by motherhood as I was.

I firmly thought I would never live in the suburbs or a small town for that matter.

Three years later we’re living in a small (for us) town on an island. No Starbucks. No skating rink. Nowhere near the amenities or conveniences of our old life in a big city.

The biggest surprise for me: I love living in a small town. So does my husband. We like the quiet. We like how slow it is. There are frustrations for sure but right now we’re enjoying all the perks of this quiet life and this small place.

I can say now that I was wrong. I thought the suburbs and small towns were boring and limiting. I identified what we valued with the area we lived in.

As many of you can tell me, and as I can see clearly now, it’s now where you live or what you have available to you there that defines your lifestyle and values. It’s how you live that matters most.

Many of your are living well, and simply, in big homes or small homes in the city or suburbs or off a windy country road in a rural area. The small urban home isn’t a necessity for simplifying.

Being in this small town is tied to my husband’s job so we don’t know how long we’ll be here. I do know that this experience has expanded the possibility of where we could live in the future. Big urban center is not a necessity anymore. We’re much more flexible on where we could live.

Do you think simplifying, living with less or slowing down is harder because of where you live?

 

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  1. Dan Garner says

    I think that you can live a life of simplicity or minmalism in any setting. Where you live can affect many other aspects of your lifestyle however. It is very hard for my wife and I to fully live our values of mindful sustainance here in a small town in the southeastern US. We grow what we can, but find it hard to source locally grown and raised , pesticide free foods. It helps to be surrounded by like-minded folks.

    Dan @ ZenPresence.com

  2. The Greatful Mom says

    I think for us, simplifying is harder because of where we live. One of the biggest things about living where we do is the fact that the public transit system is HORRIBLE. In the city we lived in before we had kids (Calgary), it was completely possible to get around without owning a car. I was without a car for years, and even when I was a nanny it was simple and convenient to take the kids around via the C-train (monorail type deal) or bus system. Where we live now, it would be a nightmare. It takes hours to get anywhere (as we found out when we were car-less for 8 months while saving up to buy our van cash), and in my opinion, that would not be simplifying–it would be making life a lot harder and a lot less enjoyable.

    • theminimalistmom says

      The public transport here is good but there are still things we can’t do or do easily without a car. I can see that when our son goes to school (2 years from now) we’ll have to think about getting a car or moving.
      Good for you on sticking out no-car for 8 months to save up!

  3. Becky says

    I agree with PP about public transportation. It would be completely illogical to not have a car where I live.

    When we got married, my husband already owned the 3 bedroom ranch we currently live in. At the time, the house really was too big for two people and all that extra room did make it hard to simplify (it’s hard to get motivated to get rid of stuff when we had so much room to store it!). Now that we have two kids, our house is the perfect size and we definitely have had to get rid of a lot of stuff before each child arrived :)

  4. Kate says

    Ironically, I think it’s hard for our family to live more simply because we live in a tiny space. The issue is we have no outdoor space with our little townhome. My boys are just those kind of kids that need to have a backdoor to be set free out of as soon as breakfast as done, and just roam in and out all day. But we can’t do that, so instead I have to compensate with more options to keep them active insisde our home while I’m cleaning and such, or try to plan time in our day to drive to a playground, or now that the weather will be too cold for several months, shell out money for indoor play areas too (where you need a big block of time to get your money’s worth). It’s the free, open, natural space that we need, without the pressure of having to get laundry set and the table cleared before we can all pack up our stuff and head out. So for that reason, a place in the suburbs with a yard is our ideal (there’s no country anywhere remotely near here)

    • theminimalistmom says

      Kate – we’re facing similar challenges in our current home. I love the ease of living in an apartment, less cleaning, cheaper than a house and such, but it would be nice to just open the door to a backyard and know my son could play safely there while I got laundry/dinner/etc ready. I think at some point the pros will out weigh the cons and we will move nearby to a small house with a yard.

    • The Greatful Mom says

      I completely empathize with you. We have the same challenges in our apartment. Our three year old son needs to run and play (and our one year old is now starting to toddle too) and I would love to have a nice big yard to set them loose in. In fact, I’d like to move to a nice little house with a larger yard in the future.

  5. Iveth says

    I also live in a small town and we love it. My entire life I lived in a big city, small housing and no car need it. Yes, we need a car here but it on the other hand there are some things I wouldn’t change. Like you, I realized to live simple you do need to live by a specific and rigid set of rules, we all can simplify according to our individual circumstances. Anyway, I love all the little perks of small town living.

  6. Shelly says

    I have loved reading your blogs about life in a small town! Having been a city dweller my whole life, it wasn’t really something I could imagine very easily. But hearing your experience makes me what to consider at some point in my life, even if it’s just for a short while! When I look at how long friends spend commuting to their jobs and rushing around to get kids to daycare/school/soccer/dance etc, here in Calgary, a small community definitely sounds appealing.
    As always, I love reading your blog, following your adventures and getting your insights on so many things (and the insights of your readers as well!!).

    • theminimalistmom says

      Aww, thanks Shelly. As you know, this is not really where we ever thought we would be but we really like it. Katy says she would stab her eyes out if she had to live here. Totally understand this place is not a good fit for everyone. But it’s a great fit for us right now.
      Who knows, maybe we’ll move to the Sunshine Coast if/when we move back to B.C. Stranger things have already happened.
      Congrats on the engagement. Keeping tabs on you from afar – R

  7. Jessica in Canada says

    I grew up in a small town and now live in a city. I can honestly say I don’t miss living in a small town whatsoever. Life was very complicated. We wasted so much time driving into the city for specialized lessons because our town didn’t offer any. Then you have to piggyback all your errands on top of every trip you make to make it worth it and try not to make an extra trip in. It’s exhausting. Errands frequently end up being done on Saturdays, the busiest day in the city. If you live in the city you can go whenever and choose slower times.

    A lot of my childhood I remember waiting in the car while my mom had to run into somewhere for something. Living in the city I enjoy going grocery shopping by myself after the kids have gone to bed, therefore freeing up the daytime to spend with the kids or get other things done.

    We briefly lived in a small town and it was nearly impossible without two vehicles. We had to go to work together and if one person’s shift was shorter that day you had to wait for the other’s to be done. Waste of time. It was difficult coordinating. It is much easier in the city to be a one vehicle family.

    • theminimalistmom says

      This is where I think we have a good balance between small town but good proximity to the town. I can walk in to town in under 20 mins. We get grocery delivery which helps.
      Big hurdles like getting to school and soccer practices are still to come for us. We’ll see how we like it then and if we can continue to get around by foot/bus and still take part in activities/classes.
      Thanks for sharing about your experience growing up. I grew up in a suburb and my mom drove a lot but it was all short distances. She was able to run errands easily during the week.

      • Jessica in Canada says

        I was discussing this with my husband and I think it totally depends on how far away you are from the city and if you have to commute. If you live quite far (and therefore don’t go in that often) and don’t commute for work, life could be simpler time-wise. If you live quite close, it’s not too big a deal. When you live kind of in between (30-60 min.) you’re wasting a lot of time and money.

        Our cousins are trying to move into the city because they will be able to go down to on vehicle, the husband can bike to work, and they will save enormous amounts of money on less gas and car payments.

        I may not be able to have a huge garden and chickens, but I feel like our life is more simple time-wise than when I lived in a small town. The kids can take their specialized lesson immediately after school and we can still all be home to sit down for supper together. I am even at the point where I am trying to find a doctor, dentist, optometrist, etc. to all within a few blocks from us to cut down on city driving. (We live close to a downtown area.) I feel like we have a lot more free time evenings & week-ends. But maybe this is an exception for an urban dweller!

        • theminimalistmom says

          Much agreed on proximity and need of services. If you work from home and your kids go to school nearby rural living can be quite simple.
          The perk about living on this small island is that nothing is very far and traffic is never really bad. We know people that live in a very rural setting but can be in town by car in 15 mins. That just isn’t possible where we are from (Vancouver, BC).

  8. jasi says

    as far as minimalism goes you’re mostly limited by either extreme weather or lack of good public transit. otherwise it should be fairly easy to live the life you want in different settings.

  9. Rachel says

    We live about 12 minutes outside of a small(ish) city. I think this makes it both easier and harder to live simply.

    Obviously we can’t live car free in this setting since there is no public transportation available and our gas expenses are more than they would be if we lived in town.

    The benefits of our location far outweigh the negatives though. We live on 1 acre and our boys have a large yard to run around and play in. We have room to raise our own food so we garden and have backyard chickens. And, the fact that we do live 12 minutes from town means that we’re intentional about our trips to town and eat out much less than we would if we did live close to restaurants.

    I definitely think you can live simply anywhere but the ‘type’ of simplicity will be different depending on the location!

  10. Becca :: Making Room in Sicily says

    With our newborn, we moved from hustling, bustling Capitol Hill (Washington, D.C.) and a tiny studio condo to a sleepy little Sicilian town. I think I am more of an urban girl because I did love the convenience of a library, shopping, and community resources within a few minutes walk. However, everything is still a few minutes away here, and there’s nothing like the quiet.

    Both places have strongly encouraged minimalism, by the way!

    http://makingroomwithus.blogspot.it

  11. Amy says

    You can simplify and live with less no matter where you live, it might not be as minimal as someone else but who cares. The only person you should be in competition with is the person you were yesterday. We’ve cut down on our belongings drastically. When my oldest son & I moved for me to go to graduate school we had to take a 24 ft. truck (the largest they had), It was fully packed. We also had the trunk & the backseat of my car filled. Then 7 years later, this past August, my family which now includes a husband & two other children moved back to the town my oldest & I moved from. We were able to move all of our belongings in 6 trips. Two of those trips were weekends when we came up to look for places to live and one was the day we actually moved in so we only had the space in the trunk. The other 3 trips it was just my husband so he had the backseat of the car up to the windows so he could see out still & the trunk full. After this past move my oldest boy would like to be able to move with everything we own, except furniture, to fit in the trunk of our car in one trip. I told him I don’t know that I really want that little, but we shall see.

    • Amy says

      BTW with every place that I’ve ever lived we’ve had to have a car because of lack of public transportation but there are many things that you can do to use the car less even in a fairly rural area. We walk to the library, to drop my niece/nephew off or pick them up from school, walk to the grocery store for small trips, to the parks etc. These places are 2 miles or less for us to get to one way. We have a Sit & Stand stroller for our 19 month old & 3.5 year old to sit in should they get tired of walking.

      • theminimalistmom says

        So true, Amy. Just because you have a car doesn’t mean you use it at every chance. Even if we had a car here I think we would use it less than most families because we make the time and effort, and ENJOY, getting their by other means. If we ever move to a spot where a car is needed I know we’ll use it as sparingly as possible.

  12. Megyn @Unstuffed says

    I definitely agree that locations make various aspects of simple living/minimalism harder/easier. Where we currently live, we have the amenities of the suburbs, like great schools, parks, safe streets, and nice yard for our boys. However, that comes with the cost of bad public transportation and repetitive shopping centers EVERYWHERE. Since we’re most likely moving (in 2 weeks!), we’re reconsidering what is important for us. I kept expecting I would want a rural life on a lot of acreage, but we realize with kids, it’s not for us. We’re now a lot more content with a suburban life as our biggest concerns are safety, education, and having a nice sized yard for playing, but without the immediate fear of being too close for a wildfire.

  13. Jennifer G says

    We moved to a small town a few years ago, and while we love some of the “community” aspects of it, being so far from everything, 35 minutes from the nearest grocery store (or any other store), and most importantly an hour long commute by car, each way to my husband’s job…about 110 miles EVERY day, is not appealing to us at all, and is beginning to take its toll on my husband’s health. We have just discovered that his blood pressure is just shy of stroke levels, and he’s only 37 years old. We are having to consider moving back in to a large city closer to amenities and work, and are pretty excited about the prospect.

  14. EcoCatLady says

    What an interesting post. It never occurred to me that someone might think a small apartment in the city was a requirement for simplifying – since to me, such a living arrangement sounds anything BUT simple.

    I guess my picture of city living is colored by what my life was like when I did it. I felt like I had no control over anything, like there was a constant stream of people that I had to pay for services that I could have easily done myself if that had been an option, and I was doomed to pay higher and higher rent and fees every year with no possibility of ever getting out from under it.

    For me, buying a small house and becoming much more self-sufficient was a HUGE part of my road to simplicity – a garden, a mortgage payment that was smaller than the rent and that nobody could raise on me (and is almost paid off,) control over utility bills, and just the security of having a “home base” that nobody can take away.

    But as I think of it, I suppose it doesn’t have to be that way…. I think one could carve out a simple life in a city apartment, it would just be different kind of simple. Maybe it all boils down to what simplicity means to you.

  15. Vappu says

    Yeah, it’s what you make of the situation. Living in an apartment in a city can be more minimalist “stuff-wise” as you don’t need any tools and equipment. With a house there are the shovels and lawn mowers and hammers and axes (to chop fire wood with, of course)… Living in a (small) house, while being more self-sufficient, can mean more work, but also more independence. Many city-people shop more and eat out more and such. Country dwellers tend to drive a car more more. These are generalizations, of course. When we lived in the city there were playgrounds and other “artificial” entertainment closer by. Now we are living in the suburbs, and planning on moving to countryside, although only a few minutes’ drive away from the nearest small city with all the amenities one could need. We will have all the country life we want, but can still offer our daughter activities and hobbies found in the city.

  16. Jo@simplybeingmum says

    We’ve just spent the weekend in central London. A great time was had by all, but it was so nice to return to sleepy suburbia. There is no way as a Mom of 2, I could manage in a city. I saw well-versed Mom’s managing quite well – but I know that wouldn’t be me. In fact this weekend has shown me just how much I personally have ‘slowed down’ over the last couple of years…and am continuing to do so…

  17. Lori says

    I think it depends somewhat on age and where you are in life. I couldn’t imagine not living in a city when I was in my 20s (I’m mid 40s now and our interests are so different than even 10 years ago), even though I grew up in a small town (yet with access to a big city). Now I just want small town life. When our son was 3 we moved to a much smaller town and into a much smaller house, one that has access to forest, lakes, ocean, and countryside. I’d never say no city life ever again, but perhaps only in our retirement years when we could live in a tiny house or small townhouse, still have access to nature – this is a must, no land-locked or barren states for us, have have no car, and have walking access in our neighborhood for our needs and interests. When there is less, you look for more, you find more, you appreciate more, and you make (create) more.

  18. Houda says

    Last night, I was waiting with my 2 year old daughter at a bus stop at night, it was raining and the bus was 15 minutes late. We were visiting a friend who lives in a small town and with no car, I had to travel by bus.
    I guess the darkness, the rain and the no people except the random guy walking his dog was so unpleasant it made me so happy we decided to buy a small condo and stay in the city.
    Now you’re making me wonder if one day we’ll change our mind…

  19. Sharon says

    As someone who has moved out to the NJ ‘burbs from New York City prior to having kids, I would say that yes, the area where you live can definitely add a significant challenge. I’m finding a lot of peace in the idea of paring down and donating the unnecessary, in ridding ourselves of the extra material baggage, but I feel we are in the minority, living in a somewhat affluent area where more is believed to be more. But slowing down is something we continue to pursue, despite the added challenge!

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