A Personal Journey—How downsizing upgraded our lives and revealed what’s really important to us, in this moment.
It may seem counterintuitive, particularly for an architectural designer amid a pandemic, to sell our house and move into an apartment. But that’s exactly what we did.
We let go of the “American dream.”
As homeowners for the past 22 years, we grew up thinking success meant accumulating. Progress meant more space and things to put into that space. Upgrade the house to make room for more people, nicer cars, and larger furniture.
Fourteen years ago, we nearly doubled our space and bought our 3200 square-foot dream home: our private resort in El Dorado Hills, California with a 3-car garage on a nearly 1/2-acre lot with a large garden and pool to raise our two young boys.
We watched the boys grow and spent cherished time with friends in a quiet community. We explored creekside pathways where wildlife roamed between oak tree-dotted rolling golden hills. We always had dinner together as a family to briefly catch up between school and soccer practice, yet over the years, our intercom to communicate between floors became texts to each other.
Over time, our dream changed.
More space requires more time, more maintenance, and more stuff. All of that stuff started to weigh on us, and in a sense, even come between us. For years, our family has talked about wanting for something more. Instead of driving to stock up on bulk items, we’d rather walk to a market for fresh produce or to a local cafe where friends gather.
We wanted to take our boys on more adventures, to experience the world and its cultures, and ultimately, to live with less so we could do more.
Give yourself permission to alter your course when your dreams change.Ali Giaudrone
With an off-market offer on our home, we decided the time was now.
Our family has talked about possibilities for years. Still, we all had to be fully on-board—ready for the challenge, moving toward individual goals, excited for the future. So we quickly found a place that we could all enjoy for the interim.
Over the next 35 days, the four of us scrambled to consciously pare down all of our belongings into a two-bedroom, two-bathroom, 1100-square-foot apartment with just a single-car garage and small storage room. We brought only the things that currently serve us, currently bring us joy (thank you, KonMari).
We kept only items that we use regularly and that fit neatly into our new space—clothing and shoes, dishware and kitchen tools, bath towels and toiletries, electronics and books, furniture and accessories. We sold and donated the rest to allow others to enjoy the things we no longer needed. We made very few new purchases, only buying items needed for tidiness.
The elimination process was both cathartic and liberating.
Less Is More.Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
Our apartment is modern and clean. Although the main living area is not huge, the bedroom/bathroom “wings” are relatively spacious with walk-in closets to accommodate all four of us comfortably.
On-site, cafe lights surround the resident barbecue area with dining tables, cabanas, a ping pong table, and a swimming pool. Instead of a gym membership, we use the fitness and club rooms. We are within walking distance to shopping and a variety of restaurants and cafes.
Life in the apartment is certainly not perfect. We’ve made concessions and will eventually buy again. But we also feel lighter. We have found more time for experiences without all of the stuff.
We just got back from a month of travel, first to Spain, then to visit the US Northeast. As always, we returned with an increased perspective, stories to tell, photos to share, and lessons learned. But this time, the return unpacking was a snap in our efficient space.
Life is a balance.
We know this lifestyle isn’t for everyone. It’s important to find what works, for you, at this particular moment. We let go of the things that were no longer adding value to our lives. We are still surrounded by the things we enjoy. Life is just streamlined. For now, we’re taking time to find where we want to be, how much space we want, and what we will bring with us into the future.
Before Marie Kondo became a household name, in 2014 I discovered her first book, the life-changing magic of tidying up. Her positive approach was mind-altering for me, so I later soaked up her second master class, spark joy. After years of applying her methods in my own practice, her philosophy ultimately gave me the confidence to go all in.
At its basic level, the philosophy is about keeping only the items that bring some sort of joy (or ease) to your life. We honor every item with gratitude and good vibes, but let go of anything that no longer serves us. It gives us a chance to look inward without judgment. We allow ourselves to release items without guilt or attachment, particularly for sentimental items.
If you want to dive deep on your own, try the KonMari 8-Week Tidy Challenge (non-affiliated link, I just strongly believe in her process—and in the power of decluttering and organizing).
Or, if you need more guidance, please contact me for a free initial online consultation. Although I’m not technically “KonMari certified,” my approach incorporates Kondo’s methodology with 20+ years as a professional designer and organizer.
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