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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Comments

  1. Faith I don’t know how you do it. But by reading this post, now I know why you do and it makes perfect sense. My brother shares our home and for some people that seems odd but we have more than enough space and it’s nice having my brother around. Luckily my husband and brother get along. Some people may think our choice of becoming minimalists are unconventional as well. But I look at the upside. Look at the money we save! Right?

    • Faith Janes says:

      Thanks, Jenny. It’s nice that your husband and brother get along. It doesn’t work for everyone but it’s nice when it does. πŸ™‚

  2. Do you share all of your living spaces? We are considering buying a house with my Mum when we move back to Australia sometime in the next couple of years, but I have thought it would only really work if it was more of a duplex type set up where she could have her own space and privacy but still come be with us when we all wanted.
    I think that parenting could be easier living that way… we don’t all live in villages any more, and that puts a greater burden on the individual family (just my opinion!).

    • Faith Janes says:

      We do share all the living spaces. We cook together and eat dinner together 6 out of 7 nights of the week.

      When my husband and I were first married we lived in a duplex next to my grandmother. Weeks would go by without really seeing her or talking to her. It was just too easy to miss each other because of schedules and not setting up a formal time to get together. I’m not saying that sort of arrangement can’t work, it certainly can and may help the boundary issues. But it can also create a farther distance that you may realize.

  3. You’re only considered a ‘weirdo’ in western society.
    In just about every other country on earth, living like this is perfectly acceptable.

    Greetings from the Netherlands!

  4. I agree with Jurino. I was raised in a multi-cultural household. I have always fully expected to have my mother living with us (my father is deceased) in the future. I wish she would come to be with us now, but she isn’t “ready” to leave her city yet–and since we live 1 1/2 hrs away from her-with our jobs–the commute would be costly…plus–she has a HUGE house that she lives in alone. When she is ready–she will come. πŸ™‚

  5. What a great journey you are on. You are fortunate that your family has the space to house you, I’m not sure my family would have the space for use. In our case, both sets of parents already have some of the family living at home. We are on a similar, yet slightly different journey. We are planning to sell our house and move back into an apartment. Like you, it’s not a purely a financial move, as we are able to afford everything we have now. We do want to free up some extra money and time so that we can experience more of life. We want to travel more and see all the world has to offer. I’ll be following your journey, I hope you’ll keep us updated on how life progresses in your combined household.

    • Faith Janes says:

      Many times throughout our marriage we have reflected how simple life was when we lived in our duplex and joked about going back. It’s always hard to take steps back like that. Best of luck with your transition.

      We definitely hope to travel a lot more too. We are still trying to get things settled down some, but we would like to take more family trips this year.

  6. Thanks for sharing your story. My husband and I have lived with family in the past, then on our own, then back with family, then on our own again…recently we had a family member stay with us for a few months. The challenge during this time was that the person (politely) refused to be involved in the household activities (such as meals, watching movies, etc.) and retreated to their own room most of the time. I feel like this person lost out on spending more time with our daughter and building a strong bond with her – they had the opportunity, and just didn’t want it, for some reason. I guess my point in sharing this is that if you are going to live with family, you should do it as you are – sharing everything, being involved with each other, interacting with each other. It makes for happy memories and special times.

    • Faith Janes says:

      I totally agree. Several years ago my brother and (at the time) sister-in-law lived with my parents. She never wanted to spend time with the family and it just created a wall of awkwardness.

  7. I love it Faith and support your decision to move in with your parents. I believe this is an avenue more families should explore.

    I have tossed around the idea of selling out house, my parents selling theirs and we buy a high plain ranch in Palisade, make wine and grow orchards in a B&B setting.

    I also dig your take on radical minimalism and you’re right why is it that someone that had 200 things and are single is considered radical? I would think a multi-person family downsizing and completely changing their view of possessions is more radical shift in lifestyle. Why? Because it requires a joint effort and THAT is a radical transition- especially in suburban America!

    Excellent write up and you’re my hero for today Faith!

    Eric

  8. Faith,
    I am so glad this is working for you. I am not sure it is something I could so. We lived with in-laws when we were very young and it was difficult.
    For your readers who are not in the US, there are lots of homes built in the US with a separate suite that includes a small kitchen/living area, bath and bedroom. They are typically called an in-law suite πŸ™‚
    Are your siblings that are at home not adults yet?
    Bernice
    There is a God and it isn’t me

    • Faith Janes says:

      It wouldn’t work for everyone. I couldn’t live with my in-laws. I’m just glad my husband can.

      I am the oldest of 5 kids. I have two brothers that are out on their own. My nearly 17 year old brother and 15 year old sister still live at home with us. My mom’s mom lives here as well.

  9. What a radically different concept, I like!

  10. How lovely! I was just having this conversation with my three year old. I was telling her if she wanted to, she could live with us forever. My husband gave me “the look” but I was serious. And I was thinking how, in another culture, that idea wouldn’t be odd at all. The idea just seemed really pleasant to me.

    On the other hand, I think it’s healthy for a child to get some time on their own in their formative college/post-college years. You want to make sure they have the confidence to handle life on their own terms. But after that? I say heck yeah…

    Thanks for sharing this and good luck!
    Jen

  11. Faith, I started to respond to your post yesterday and then I had to let all my thoughts percolate for a while first. I have to say I am absolutely amazed at what you’re doing. It’s a real inspiration for me. Your kids will have such a strong foundation from growing up with so many loving adults around. Talk about a difference from some of the single parent situations that some kids are going through.

    I want more! More, more, more! As you know I recently went multi-generational with my living situation, although 3 people is easier to manage than 10 I’m still adjusting to it. I’d love to hear all the details of how you manage to keep calm and order flowing through your days.

    Cheers,
    Tanja

  12. Wow, this just would so not ever work for my family. Beyond the personal conflict issues, which are to the level of my barely talking to my family at all… the dietary differences would be insurmountable I think. We eat little processed food, lots of whole grains, little meat… that sort of thing. My in laws eat what we consider crap – white pasta, fake cheese, lots of steaks… There’s just no way. Do you all have the same food styles or have you and them had to make significant changes?

    I do miss the babysitting component, we have never had that and it does make it hard. But, as different as we are from both sets of family, the distance and sanity is worth the lack of babysitting. My little girl will at least get to know one set of grandparents that don’t live far and are not crazy. πŸ™‚

    That said, we are more minimalist than most… we only have 1400 sf house, no garage and a small storage shed. Most of my friends houses are significantly bigger! I’m slowly paring down our stuff… I’ll never be radical or extreme but I will be better than most folks that I know! Apartments no longer have any attraction to us – too big of loners… we like our space and the independance of choosing what tree to cut down or which garden to put in and where… still… Thanks so much for the inspiration.

  13. Hi Faith, been following your blog for a while and this post has really got me thinking. We (myself, husband and two children) are about to move from UK (his home) to Australia (my home). We’ll be living with my parents until one of us finds a job. Am now thinking maybe it would make sense to make this a more permanent arrangement. My sister and her soon-to-be-husband are planning to move back in a year’s time also and we all have very similar outlook on life so maybe the whole extended family idea would work for us. Looking forward to seeing how the next couple of months works out. Would love to read more about the practicalities of your life in an extended family if you feel like sharing on the blog.

  14. I’ve really enjoyed reading your post, Faith! We are just completing what in the US would be called one of those ‘in-law suites’ in our home for my elderly parents in their eighties. Lots of people tell us we are mad, that it will drain us and over-burden us. That we will have to cope with increasing medical appointments, disability, decreasing function, possibly dementia. They point out that there is no happy ending here – that my husband and I will be living through the bereavement of one whilst supporting the other, and then living through a second bereavement. And I reply “Yes, I know all that”… Looking forward to reading more about your larger family life as we begin our own. Thank-you!

  15. Faith, it takes a lot of courage to swim against accepted norms! When I gave away my home earlier this year I didn’t have a place yet so I stayed with my cousin for a while. It was a challenge but one I will always cherish. Even now that I’ve moved out we call each other and mention that we miss our late night talks and hanging out.

    Sometimes large families are JUST the way to go!

    Good luck!
    Annie

Trackbacks

  1. […] her post Back Home by Choice: Our Move to Live with Less, Faith writes: It’s not a decision that works for everyone. (My own brother thinks we’re nuts). […]

  2. […] aren’t quite drowning in clutter like we were when we moved in with my family almost three years ago. But things around here could definitely use some more […]

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