Confessions, Contentment, Husband

Downsizing Lessons

Over the past five and a half years of marriage, we’ve lived in five different homes. Each one has had it’s own purpose, it’s own cost of living, it’s own quirks, it’s own redeeming qualities. Some of these moves have been necessitated by life’s circumstances, but we’ve learned lessons in each move.
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Immediately following our honeymoon in May 2008, we moved into a loft in the city of Detroit. Sounds rather fancy and romantic, doesn’t it? It was quite a nice apartment in a reasonably safe, gated complex, but it was in the heart of the city. And I was a naive girl from the suburbs.

Every day, your dad and I would haul our bikes down three flights of stairs and bike 4 miles to his chemistry building at Wayne State University. I would then turn around and bike home, at lightning speed and lock myself in my apartment for the next 9 hours.

I tried desperately to get a job, any job. But it was the summer of the stock market plummeting and even McDonald’s wouldn’t hire me. Perhaps my newly-earned Bachelor’s degree overqualified me. Or maybe I just didn’t fit in.

After paying for our pricey apartment, our health insurance, our car insurance, our Comcast (tv/cable), we had just enough money for the potatoes and rice we ate for most meals. I didn’t even buy milk – a childhood staple of mine – because it was $3.99 a gallon.

>>>Looking back, we now know we shouldn’t have picked the loft apartment. We easily could have lived in a smaller space, a more cost-effective space. Most of our belongings were unnecessary, quite frankly. Desirable, maybe, but it is not fiscally responsible to pay for a larger home in order to fit all of your stuff.

>>>We didn’t need  health insurance, at least with the state of finances at that time.

>>>We certainly should have done without the cable portion of our Comcast bill. Once again, this was a case of, “But I’ve always had cable my whole life so I simply can’t imagine living without it.” But that’s simply not true.

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When we moved into the Monroe FMC parsonage just five months later, our possessions suddenly seemed meager. This was a 2000 square foot, four bedroom, 2-1/2 bath, full basement home. OF COURSE we didn’t own enough to fill the space. But over the next 3 years, thanks to friends, family, garage sales and Craigslist, we managed to fill all of the rooms.

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It was nice, having 3 spare bedrooms and plenty of space to entertain a group of 28 for Thanksgiving. It was awesome, actually. But the cost to heat and cool, and electrify that home was extremely high. And again, when it came time to pack the moving truck in July 2011, we realized how much STUFF we had accumulated.

We sold a lot of excess furniture and other various possessions at a successful yard sale, but we still managed to require the LARGEST trailer UHaul offered. For two people, Child, that’s just ridiculous. Honestly, I’m kind of ashamed, looking back. The amount of STUFF (are you catching a theme, here?? stuff…) that I was positively convinced I could not live without was quite ridiculous.

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We arrived at our new dwelling in Albion, NY with our oversized  truck full of STUFF and as the church movers helped unload its contents, there were moments of panic. “There is no way we’re going to be able to fit everything in this house!

Front of Platt St. House

Now, mind you, this house was a tiny compared to most American’s standard of living, but it still had a decent sized bedroom and bathroom, a tiny guest room, another room I would use as a piano studio, yet another  room Kevin would make into his office, a dank basement with storage and washer/dryer, and a decent sized kitchen, dining room and living room. Nothing to complain about.

But it felt so tight compared to our sprawling ranch in Monroe.

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The next two years fell into a nice rhythm in our cozy, two story home. It did feel small when we had 15 teenagers squished into the living room or if we hosted friends or family. But most days it felt too big. After many conversations about our STUFF, I finally started realizing how much excess there really was in my life. Why was I unwilling to part with these items – particularly those that sat in storage for the past 2 years?

And so I began sorting through our basement boxes, brushing away cobwebs and discovering a few lost treasures. But mostly, I found things I simply didn’t need. I went through our closets and we both got rid of clothes that were too worn or too abundant or too infrequently used. (I definitely do not need to hoard clothes. I love Goodwill-ing every 3 months or so and refreshing my closet. Which leaves plenty of items up for grabs for someone else. It’s a beautiful thing and it only costs $30 or so.)

With that house up for sale by our landlord, we felt the need to find a new place to live before we were forced out. Completely by happenstance, it would seem, I stumbled upon an ad in the Pennysaver for a studio apartment with utilities included for $430 a month. WOAH. Now THAT would be worth downsizing…saving a good $350 each month on living expenses.

Feeling motivated and freed of my bondage to possessions that needn’t define my worth, we had yet another yard sale and gave the rest to anyone interested. I thought I would need to buy all sorts of storage or living devices to make this small space feasible for the two of us. We did lots of shopping and would you believe…we returned almost everything. All of our favorite pieces of furniture and personal possessions made the cut and we didn’t lose any money in the switch.

I believe God honored our conviction that our treasure-focus needed to be changed to an eternal mindset.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 

Matthew 6:18-20

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Yes, our home is tiny. Yes, it’s a little cramped when we have 15 teenagers over, or family gatherings. But we think it’s totally worth it. You see, it’s just your Dad and me 90% of the time, and we love sharing space. We really do. When I’m in the dining room and he’s in the living room, we’re still in the SAME ROOM. :D It might drive some people crazy to not have any privacy. And it really is like an upscale, expanded dorm room. But it’s exactly what we need.

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I love my STUFF. (After all, if I spend money on something, should it be something I really, truly LIKE?!) But I no longer feel attached to my STUFF. If God asked me to leave everything behind, I believe I could. And I definitely couldn’t have said that before. It certainly won’t be easy, but my mind is now ready to follow Jesus no possessions attached

The STUFF of life is an ebb and flow kind of thing, Child. There’s a time for gathering and holding and storing and collecting. And a time for cleaning and sorting and giving and ridding.

I hope you can learn, sooner than I did, that STUFF is not what life is about. Life is about being with the people you love, and being completely, totally willing to do what Jesus tells you to do, no matter the cost.

Love,

Mama

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One thought on “Downsizing Lessons

  1. Pingback: Settling In | Kevin & Melanie

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