A Simple Approach to Living With Less

Back Home By Choice: Our Move to Live with Less

“Mom, what I want for my birthday is to move in with grandma and grandpa.” We didn’t know it at the time, but my seven-year-old son’s birthday wish would completely change our lives.

After his initial request, we just laughed it off as, “Aww, isn’t that sweet?” But it grew into a nagging thought that we just couldn’t shake. Could we really make the choice to move back home?

We began to ask questions like: What would life be like if we were a family of ten? Would we have enough room if we lived together? Could we handle living under one roof long term?

I’ve always been close with my family and thankfully my husband gets along with my parents. We are very blessed to have such a good relationship with them. But giving up our independence and our own space was a lot to consider.

It wasn’t the first time we lived with my parents. A few years earlier, we sold our house and had to be out in three weeks. Since we were considering building a house at the time, we decided to move in with my family until we knew what our next step was.

For seven months we lived in limbo with makeshift sleeping arrangements and the bulk of our belongings in storage. This new move we were considering would be forever. That would mean selling most of our stuff and melding our home into theirs. A change of that magnitude was a bigger move to consider. In the end, we moved in the weekend before my son’s eighth birthday and he was one happy birthday boy.

Why Would You Move in With Your Parents?

When we tell people we gave up our home to move in with my parents, most folks assume it was because of money. However, that’s not the case at all. In reality, we were making more money than ever and wasting a ton of it along the way. Our food bill is still higher than we want it to be, but overall, things are still cheaper than what we were spending on our own.

So, if it wasn’t because a money, why did we move back in with my family? It came down to a simple question:

What is the most important thing in life?

For us, the answer was our family. It is our family relationships that we want to invest in, not a house. It is the connection between our children and their grandparents that we want to grow, not the bushes we planted in our backyard. Even though we already saw my family once a week or more, we wanted to plant our roots deep and give our kids a future that was saturated with family time.

Accidental Minimalists

So, we put our house on the market and packed our boxes. It’s almost as if we took a minimalist approach to life before we knew what minimalism was. We were paring down our physical possessions so we could focus on what truly mattered to us.

My parents house is larger than ours, but in a way we have downsized from a 3,000 square foot home down to three bedrooms. Some of our belongings have melded into the rest of the house like kitchen stuff, adding our books into a joint library, along with sharing an office/den area of the house.

Radical Minimalism is Relative

I read a lot of “radical minimalists” these days. People who exist with next to nothing in terms of personal possessions. In my opinion, if you didn’t have much to begin with and you chose to continue living with next to nothing, then you are indeed a minimalist. But is that being radical if not much change was involved? Granted it’s a counter-culture way of life but the term is thrown around so much lately, it’s as if anything less than “radical minimalism” isn’t really minimalism at all.

On the other hand, stepping away from life as you know it and questioning everything you have is a radical change of life. It was coming face to face with how much stuff we had accumulated that brought me to the discovery of minimalism when I was looking for a solution to the mess. I’ve learned the hard way, when you have a mortgage and a house full of junk that goes along with it, the journey to minimalism is not a quick one. Our house is still for sale, we’ve made countless trips to donate stuff to charity, we’re on our second dumpster at the house, and there’s still more to declutter. It takes a long time to undo years of clutter and the debt that paid for it all.

The Benefits Outweigh the Bothers

Living in a household of ten isn’t perfect. . .but what household can claim perfection? Even on the most challenging days the benefits far outweigh the bothers:

  • The grocery shopping can be exhausting, but we have four cooks to share the workload of preparing meals.
  • Opinions are never in short supply, but the built-in support system is incredible.
  • It can get crazy and it’s often noisy, but it’s never lonely and there’s always someone to share a cup of coffee with.
  • Finding a spot for time to yourself can be challenging, but grandparents, aunts, and uncles make excellent babysitters.

It’s not a decision that works for everyone. (My own brother thinks we’re nuts). But it’s a decision that brought us all closer, reminded us what’s really important in life, and we see new benefits that we never planned on. I continue to be grateful that I discovered minimalism because it has helped our transition to living with less. I firmly believe it will help yours as well.

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photo by me (that’s our old house)

Article originally published on 01/12/2011

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