Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Living with Less

"My life is just plain better than yours.  We have a 5 bedroom house with a yard and you live in a 1 bedroom apartment. Our monthly budget is $9,000 plus vacations and extras."

Can you imagine someone saying that to you?  Comparing who has the better life because of housing size and how much money they make?  Do you compare yourself to others based on these things?

Longtime readers will know that our family
of 4 lives in an 800 sq ft one-bedroom NYC apartment.  Some of you (no doubt, many of you) probably think we are crazy.  Perhaps.  I can understand that.
It does sound a little crazy and admittedly, I never saw us happily living in such a small space.
When I was pregnant we looked at many larger apartments and found that bigger did not equal better.
We consciously made the decision to stay put.
My family is learning the art of living with less, acquiring only what we really need, living not just within our means but below it.
I wouldn't call myself a minimalist by any means, but here we are, doing it and it's working out quite well.

So I was shocked this past week when a 'friend' (and I use that term rather lightly as we were never really friends, haven't truly spoken much in almost a decade and simply follow each other on FB) compared his (wife's) salary and their suburban 5 bedroom home with a yard to my one bedroom NYC apartment.  He basically trashed the way we live and insinuated how much better his life was than mine--because of MONEY and his large house/yard (and it's not like he even owns the house--it's a rental--but urgh, never mind).
That's when it occurred to me that there were probably many others out there judging me for how we are choosing to live.  He was trying to knock me down, to embarrass me.  (Why?  I don't know.  He's a crazy drunk.  I guess he was on a rampage and I got in his way).  Whatever his motives--it didn't work.  I've never found my home to be embarrassing or depressive.  I love where we live.
We could move.  We could also afford to rent a 5 bedroom home if we chose (not in NYC).
If we really wanted to, we could get a 2 bedroom right around the corner or maybe even next door.

Instead we've chosen to focus on what really matters.  For me this is all about comfort and ease of living.  I don't care not having a big house to clean or a yard to maintain.  I like how our small space forces me to (mostly) get rid of clutter and keep things organized.  We have everything we need within the walls of our small space.  I believe that if you have so much 'stuff' you need a storage unit, then you have too much that you really don't need at all.  I love being in the center of a vibrant, walking city with a multitude of parks, museums, markets and restaurants all around me.  There are so many options for my kids each and every day and we never run out of fun things to do.

Our biggest goal is focusing on how to live with less in order to travel.  Not just a vacation here and there, but to really get away and travel.  We have been doing this before the twins were born and we wanted to keep on going with the boys.
For us, having a big house, the latest gadgets, an expensive wardrobe, a new car--is not where we find happiness.
Stuff and money is not going to buy me happiness.  In fact, since having kids we have downsized more than ever and I find myself constantly purging items and selling things we don't really need/use.  Every time we come home from traveling, I take a look around and think "we have too much crap!"  My wife loves these moments!
Spending time with my wife and kids, experiencing the world together--that's worth far more to me than any of the material 'stuff'.

We all make our choices in life based on priorities.  For us, our priority is the ability to travel.
And so we choose to live with less in order to live fuller lives through travel.  I'm willing to sacrifice a bedroom for that.

If you want to get inspired to live with less, take a look at this TED talk, "Less Stuff, More Happiness".  I love his vision!


non-fat-caramel-gal-about-town said...

The money thing and people's attitudes really gets me down. We are currently renting a very, very tiny apartment in London, England. Over the past 10 years I too, have learn the art of downsizing. Consequently I find that each time we relocate it's relatively easy (apart from all the books!) I know without a doubt our friends judge us for our many travel escapades...the fact we have chosen to rent over buying. And now we are almost on the baby train...I know people will think we are mad to have a baby in this apartment...but as long as 'we' are happy...our home is happy. Location and experience is so much more important than designer curtains or whatever. I digress. Your 'friend' sounds heavy...heavy in expectation, responsibility, a heavy outlook on life. Here's to no clutter!

K J and the kids said...

I have such great friends in my neighborhood. Our kids are best friends. and they are all moving.
Mostly because they want more. bigger. better.
We have a great house. (3,000 sq ft) and yet people say to us all the time that we need more space....more bedrooms.
I remember growing up and having a 2 bedroom (downstairs wasn't finished for a lot of years growing up) house that 5 of us lived in.
What's the big deal with having bigger and better.

There are so many benefits to city living with the smaller home and apparently less happy lifestyle :)
Don't let her comments bother you too much.
Plus....I gotta tell you...yard work aint so much fun !

You sound like you have a handle on happy and that puts you ahead of the happiest :)

Strawberry said...

Clearly that person is an asshole, because you'd have to be an asshole to make a comment like that. Whenever people judge others (regarding things that do not harm anyone), it basically boils down to an insecurity on their part. It's like he has something to prove...not just to you, but perhaps to himself. Like his money and his house make him happy and whole. I highly doubt that. There's more going on behind the scenes there.

I wouldn't have made some of the choices you all did, but you have every right to live your lives the way you want. The is nothing to judge- you have the kind of home you want, the family you want, you take such good care of the boys and each other, you live where you want, you can anyone judge that as "wrong" or not good enough? Maybe not good enough for them, but that's no reason to come out and say a remark like that. Did you un-friend him? ;)

LaurieAnn said...

We are in a somewhat similar living situation.... Our house is 750 square feet, with two bedrooms, one bath, and a living room/kitchen combo. No attic. No finished basement. But we are happy! People seemed to accept our home with the two boys, but now that I'm pregnant, I can't even tell you how many people gasp! that we aren't expanding/buying a new house! Umm.... Ever heard of bunk beds, folks?

We are still trying to learn the ins and outs of organizing our small space, but we are up for the challenge. And, as time goes by, it gets better and better :)

Nadine said...

I get that a lot, but it's usually from neighbours, we all live in small 2 bedroom bungalows, everyone else wants more-bigger, we just want small, our family of 4 do fine in our smaller house, bigger isn't better and more isn't better.
After all stuff is just stuff, and you can't take it with you.

AdventuresInBabyMaking said...

Totally bizarre. People like that are overcompensating, totally. Sometimes I wish had a smaller house, less crap (and we don't have that much).

It's been too long, we should catch up. I replied to your last email but don't think I heard back. It's been awhile though.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Strawberry - it sounds like insecurity or jealousy on his part. But I still can't believe someone would actually say that to begin with, what's wrong with people? We all to have make decisions and prioritise what's important for our families and no one else can do it for you. We got some comments about taking T overseas at one year old (albeit a very touristy trip only a few hours away..nothing too adventurous) and really it's grating. We definitely dream of travelling with him in the future to many different places but we know to do that there's going to be sacrifices somewhere which we're not quite able/ready to make yet.

We admire you guys so much for knowing what's important to you and making it happen. And if your travels ever get you down this end of the world, we've got plenty of spare beds.

glamcookie said...

I had an epiphany about this recently also due to a Facebook friend. She posted a real estate listing for her 2500+ sq foot home, 5 bedrooms, listed at over $750K and mentioned that they are moving "to the other side of the golf course." SO TOTALLY GROSS!

We live in a 1300 sq. foot condo and if it weren't for all of our stuff (we were nerdy collector types pre-baby and are working through selling most of it now), we would have all we really need. I have no desire for some giant house and yard that I have to maintain. Not to mention that we co-sleep so what need do we even have for more than one bedroom in the near future?

We are very frugal and still manage to vacation and buy all we need and have a stay-at-home parent all while living in Southern California. I'm very proud of my family and our home. I'm glad you are too.

anofferingoflove said...

well, i was going to say he sounds like an ass, but strawberry beat me to it! ;)

Marcia (123 blog) said...

Crikey, your "friend" is very rude!

I can't even imagine............. I would probably be gobsmacked :)

I'm like you, I prefer to live simpler even though we could buy a bigger house (hey, that might still happen but MUCH later), bigger cars, etc. but why? it's not necessary and I also choose other priorities!

I do think he's insecure!!!

Listen, do these dates work for you 24 - 28 July?

Anonymous said...

I love this post. I have a very hard time believing that large homes and lots of money = instant happiness or a better life. Of course, we all have different space needs, but most Americans think they need a lot more space than they do. And the stuff. Don't get me started on the stuff. It was a very great moment in my life when my wife and I paired down from a full three-bedroom home to a cozy two-bedroom apartment in a new city. It encouraged us to get out more. We were less focused on our things and more focused on what was out in the world. Huge houses are overrated. What we need are homes, no matter the size, that allow us comfortable shelter. And then we need to get out and see what the world has to offer.

Defining Family said...

Just saying… I’ve always been inspired by your small space living and traveling with twins! Sounds like a case of overcompensating to me too! We currently have our “small 2 bedroom” house on the market… twins complicate things quite a bit but in the best way ever. We are not so much looking for more space, as we are a better layout - 2 rooms on one floor. But you’re absolutely right about the de-cluttering/organization that comes from small space living! I love it.

Carla said...

That is so true: bigger does not equal better. I remember that my husband had to travel to Argentina due to business for a year and I thought it was going to be crazy hard to get an apartment for rent in buenos aires that was big enough for us and our 2 kids. In the end I realized that what I needed was something practical, not spacious!

Ashleigh said...

I just came across your blog through another blog. I wholeheartedly agree. More space = more stuff that we probably don't need. We live in downtown Toronto. We could get a place with three times the space if we moved outside the city. I adore our neighbourhood and also know that if you give us more closet space, we'll find a way to fill it! As for travel, I just said that to my partner, Jenn, recently. I never ever want to be house poor. I want to always be able to travel, twins and all!

Jen said...

Such a great post! I am a midwest girl, so I am used to space and a low cost of living. That said, when Tiff and I bought our house in 2005, some of my family bawked that it was small and out-dated. I was 25and bought a three bedroom house! I was proud and annoyed with my family. People have messed up priorities, and even though I do have a house and a yard, it is a lot of work and I am very proud that I am now doing it on my own. That said, some days I just want a townhouse or apartment with less responsibility. We each have to make decisions about what is best for our families and be happy.