Last week was our wedding anniversary, and Ryan’s parents took Henry overnight so Ryan and I could go on a date.
We really don’t go out to eat – just the two of us – ever. Even when Henry is with his grandparents, we often end up working on projects or falling asleep on the couch at 8:30 p.m.
We are very exciting like that.
But, this time, we went out to eat. Which meant we sat across from each other at a table and talked. We talked so long that I think the restaurant staff were pegging us as squatters.
I’d like to say that we do this all the time. But we don’t. Even though we spend a lot of time together, we don’t often have each other’s undivided attention.
We talked about Christmas, and Henry, and our wedding, and mostly about our future home and the barn. And stuff.
I talked a big game about downsizing. But, in truth, there was a tiny part of me that was worried about moving my family into a 320-square-foot apartment.
Worried that I couldn’t be happy in such a small space.
But, you know what I’ve actually realized? I’ve realized that I’m actually SO MUCH HAPPIER now. It’s not that everything is sunshine and roses. It’s not that the barn MADE me happy.
But, this smaller space has already helped me realize just how much time I spent in the past taking care of our stuff.
Cleaning here or there. Putting stuff away that found itself on counters and on the floor and on tables. Finding homes for all the stuff. (We call that organizing, I think. But I’m realizing it was really stressful to try to find places to put everything we were acquiring.)
And most of all, just worrying about all the stuff. How would I arrange it? Where could I move it? Does it look right there? Why is it always in the way? Why is it already dusty?
I didn’t even realize all the time I wasted.
The time spent in the company of stuff was taking me away from other things that actually make me happy.
At the barn, I don’t worry about stuff. 90 percent of our stuff is in my parents’ barn. Honestly, I don’t even know why we could possibly need it ever again. I don’t even remember what most of it is at this point.
And since moving in, we’ve actually found ourselves packing more stuff away and getting it out of here. Stuff we thought we needed but actually don’t need at all.
So, we’ve been compiling a list of STUFF we thought we needed and actually don’t.
**A quick disclaimer: Our experience living in 320-square feet is unique – it’s short-term and also comes with many luxuries (like a great garage/barn for storage and wonderful outdoor space). Maybe this doesn’t make sense for you. I think that’s okay. I don’t believe this will work for everyone. I don’t believe that our way is the only way. I think you should do what works for you. But, if you are like us and feel overwhelmed by all the stuff, maybe some of these ideas will resonate with you, too. And maybe you’ll benefit – like we have – from letting go of the stuff.
Now that that’s out of the way … my list of things we thought we needed and really don’t need at all.
We used the dishwasher A LOT in our old house. And I would have told you that it was very convenient. And possibly even a necessity. (Many of you told me this when I shared our plan to go dishwasher-less.)
But I don’t miss the dishwasher. Not even a little bit. (At least not yet. But it’s been two months.)
We always rinsed our dishes before putting them in the dishwasher to keep away the stench. And then we had to run it. And then we had to unload it. And while we were avoiding unloading the dishwasher, the sink was piling up with dishes that needed to be in the dishwasher.
None of this was difficult, but it was just too many steps. And it seems to us that it’s a lot simpler to just do the dishes as we use them.
It means that our sink and countertops in the barn are usually cleared off. While I’m cooking, I rinse and wash dishes. When we finish eating, Ryan washes the plates and silverware. There are rarely dirty dishes around because we just make a habit of doing them and putting them away right away.
More than 6 of (almost) anything.
Because our dishwasher isn’t overloaded, we really don’t need much of anything. This goes for plates, bowls, silverware, cups … pretty much everything. (We actually have more than six bowls and plates right now, and it’s totally overkill. I’m planning to pack them away.)
There are only three of us. So, we’ve found that just having a few extras is more than enough. It also means that almost everything is being used regularly and not getting dusty. (And if someone does come over, we have extras enough for everyone.)
And the rule of six or less goes for lots of things outside the kitchen, too. We’ve found that we rarely need six of anything – ink pens, pairs of pants/jeans, towels, rolls of toilet paper, bottles of wine (kidding, not kidding).
(Note: I’m aware that because of the size of our space, we cannot entertain traditionally. I love to entertain. So, when we have a larger space, this “rule” will definitely shift for some things.)
This is a close cousin of the rule of sixes. In past houses, we had a closet of spare linens – sheets, towels, blankets.
In the barn, we have found that we totally don’t need it. We packed everything up. I have found it easier to throw sheets in the washer and then just remake the bed when they are done. I wash the towels and then hang them back up.
The best part – I don’t have to worry about where to store the extras and how to organize it and make it look decent.
I was a sucker for small appliances in the past – juicers and coffee makers and waffle makers and blenders and fryers and food processors … this was a small selection of them in the old house.
The truth is, sometimes they got used. But they spend far more time collecting dust. So, when we moved to the barn, I had three tiers of small appliances.
- First tier – used at least weekly (KitchenAid mixer, toaster, crock pot, bullet) – these appliances found a home in our kitchen.
- Second tier – used monthly (food processor, hand blender, waffle maker, etc.) – these appliances are stored in the barn in case we need them.
- Third tier – everything else or things that COULD be replaced by other items (juicer, coffee maker, electric tea kettle, fryer etc.) – these appliances were packed away or donated. Some will probably find a home when we move to the new house, and others are gone for good.
We haven’t needed anything in the second tier at all. And a few things that we considered “first-tier” ended up going into storage. For example, I used to use an electric tea kettle to heat water for tea. Now, I just microwave a mug of water. Just as simple and no extra stuff needed.
I thought that cutting back on clothing would be a challenge for me. But, believe it or not, it’s been so simple to let go of the need for closets of clothes. (See our limited storage for clothes here.)
I’ve found that I have a pretty simple style – I tend to spend most days in jeans/cardigans/casual tops. So, instead of keeping many of the clothes that I like but never wear, I stored them away. And I don’t miss them at all. I may just get rid of everything. (I’ve already consigned and donated a lot of my clothes.)
Over the holidays, my mom and I shopped for some new clothes for me. I got some great new cardigans and shirts. And it led me to go home and get rid of more clothes I don’t need.
The best part about having a limited selection of clothing is that I feel good in the clothes I have. It’s easy to get dressed everyday. And I don’t worry about organizing my closet.
The bottom line.
Two months in a tiny space has been so good for our family. It’s been really exciting to let go of all the stuff and embrace a new way of life.
But, I know that – if I’m being honest – living in such a small space is “easier” for me because it’s temporary. It comes with the promise of a new (modest) dream home for our family.
But when Ryan and I were talking, I confessed that I’m actually really scared about the space. What if we allow ourselves to slip back into the trap of MORE MORE MORE? What if we let the stuff stress us out again and take over our lives?
The answer – I don’t have an answer. But as we are planning our build, we’re trying to keep perspective about what we really “need.” And there are few THINGS that we truly need. Instead of focusing on the stuff – we’re trying to focus on the experiences and the dreams that our new home holds.
Are THINGS holding you back from happiness?
What THINGS do you think you could do without?
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