Monday, June 12, 2017

My 5 Guidelines for Upsizing Minimally (or We Bought a House!)

No, this is not the house we bought. This is just a picture of Boone Hall Plantation outside Charleston, because every post is better with a picture.
So I mentioned this a couple of posts ago, but we bought a house. It closed last week so we are officially homeowners! The story of how we got this house is a whole thing, and I'll tell you that story some time, but today I've got other things on my mind.

Just over a year ago, I wrote a post considering the pros and cons of small living vs. more space. At the time, we were a family of four living in a smallish two bedroom city apartment, and I honestly felt like we were in a good spot space-wise. After majorly decluttering our stuff, I felt really comfortable in our place. We were living a comparatively minimalist lifestyle, and our "stuff" was under control. It felt good. Also, minimalism and small living is totally hip right now, and I liked considering myself one of the cool kids being counter-cultural and all.

But then we had another baby, and somehow things just started feeling cramped. She slept in our room, but all of her stuff and accouterments didn't have a real home. Her clothes stayed in baskets that rotated spots throughout the house, we were constantly tripping over her swing and boppy and Bumbo chair that seemed to live in the middle of the floor, and it just would've taken some major reconfiguration of our space to get her to fit in long-term. I started pining for more space.

Around this time, we started house-hunting for our move to Kansas. Based on our financial situation, we'd set a price range we were comfortable with and that we felt would get us a modest home, but I was surprised once we started looking at just how much house we could actually get in our price range (the Midwest, you guys, cost of living is sweet!). And once you know you can afford something bigger, it's kind of hard to hold back and stay small (especially when you're already daydreaming about more space).

So the house we got is more than double the size of our apartment in Houston. It wasn't the largest house we looked at or could afford, and it certainly isn't any McMansion, but it's still so much more space than we've ever lived in before. In fact, it's bigger than anything I've ever lived in before, including the house I grew up in.

At first, I was just giddily excited. The baby gets her own nursery! I get a home office! There are more than three drawers in the kitchen!

But then we started to make lists of all the things we would need to buy to live comfortably in this house. And the lists just kept growing and growing. This whole week it feels like we've been doing nothing but shopping: furniture stores and hardware stores, Walmart and Target and Ikea, and let's not forget the hours and hours online scouring Wayfair and Overstock and Amazon (and Craigslist, but you guys, scoring deals on Craigslist is an art form I do not have the skills, or patience, for). Going from renting to buying any size house comes with it's necessary purchases: washers and dryers and lawn mowers and hoses and all those things you're not responsible for when you rent. But then there's also all the furniture we need for these new rooms, and all these home improvement projects we're already trying to tackle (new carpet! new paint!). It feels like the list is endless.

And with every swipe of the credit card, my old anxiety flares up about all this stuff we are accumulating. It is so much stuff in so little time that it just feels overwhelming. There is so much stuff that part of me just wants to call the whole thing off. Let's just find an apartment and keep renting, keep living our minimal lifestyle, keep things small and simple so we never have to worry about replacing a roof or fixing the water heater or whatever million possible hassles we could face as homeowners.

But another part of me is still deeply excited by this new responsibility. Yes, this is a big house, and we will need to accumulate some more stuff to live comfortably here. Yes, there will be things to fix and a lot of work and a lot of money to keep it up. But this house is ours. It is part of this whole family thing that we are building together. It is a space that will give us room to grow and work and dream and build together as a family. Owning a home is an act of creation. We have here an empty canvas upon which we will create, decorate, design, build, work, clean, fix, arrange, and make it more beautiful. And we will do it as a family. I'm excited about this.

So while everyone else on the internet may be throwing up the virtues of downsizing and going minimal, we're upsizing. But there's still a huge part of me that will always feel drawn to a more minimal lifestyle, and so I'm working on creating some guidelines for myself on how to approach our accumulation of stuff. Here's what I've come up with so far.

1. Only buy what we need to live here comfortably. Just because we have more space doesn't mean we have to fill it to the brim. But we still want to make this extra space usable in the most effective way.

2. Take it slowly and be fiscally responsible. There are some things that we have to buy right away (like a lawn mower, washer and dryer, etc.), and some purchases we've budgeted for (like a new office desk and chairs), but other things we can wait on, like furniture for the front room, patio furniture, or decor items to fill up all this new wall space. We have some ideas of what we want to get, but we don't need them right away, so we'll wait until we've saved up or find the perfect item. This means things might look bare for a while, but I'm trying to be okay with that.

3. Buy less at a higher quality. We could buy a bunch of cheap furniture and decor to fill up the space, or we can buy fewer things that are slightly higher in quality. We're actually trying to take this approach when it comes to our home improvement projects too. There are a couple of rooms where I want to rip out the carpet and replace with a hard surface of some kind, but we decided to hold off on that right now and save up until we can afford to put in flooring that matches the hardwood already in the kitchen and dining area. We could've gone with a cheaper laminate or composite wood option, but hopefully by saving up and putting in higher quality flooring that matches through the whole house, it will increase the value of the home and help with resale.

4. Buy for joy and beauty. I never want to own more than I need, but I'm also giving myself permission to buy things that make our space beautiful or that make us happy (as long as it's in the budget).

5. Keep perspective and don't get attached. Just because we have the space now doesn't mean we will in the future. Should life ever throw us a curve ball, I want to be able to let all this stuff and space go and be able to downsize again. Maybe easier said than done, but I can try.

So, any other suggestions or nuggets of wisdom to share about how to upsize gracefully? I'd love to hear! I'm still feeling quite a bit of anxiety over all of this change, so advice is appreciated.

Also, you better believe there will be pictures coming, probably even whole before-and-after montages (I am the girl who posts about my over-thinking of holiday decorations, after all). But like I said, we'll be taking it slowly. We don't move in officially till next week (when the carpets are finished and they can ship our stuff to us from storage), and then we'll be drowning in boxes and chaos for a while, so don't expect anything soon.

But do get excited to hear the dramatic story of how we bought our house, complete with bidding wars, a private jet ride, and all the stress and anxiety of buying a house I hadn't actually seen!


  1. Ooo, I'm excited to hear more! We're about to close on our house tomorrow if everything goes as planned, and I've had a lot of the same thoughts as you...we've been living comfortably in a two-bedroom apartment for over six years now, and I've gotten rid of quite a lot in the past few years. But I totally get what you're saying---with a new house has already come all the stuff you listed (washer/dryer, lawn mower), but my parents have also found us a bunch of furniture and given me all the stuff back that I was storing at their place, and now it's like I'm drowning in stuff again. AAAAGHHH. Basically, I'm just saying that I totally get you and that I'm excited to hear more about your journey since it seems to be mirroring mine quite a bit :)

  2. Congratulations on your new home, I hope closing goes smoothly! Good luck with your move and dealing with all the stuff, I'll be interested to follow along with your story too.

  3. I can't wait to see pictures and hear more about your house!

    This all sounds so familiar to me; my new house doesn't need any renovations or major work, but there's still so much to buy. I spend just about every evening assembling something - dining room table, chairs, bookcase. The money's just about gone though, so from here on out I'll just have a small monthly amount to spend on house stuff. My problem with trying to buy quality is that everything I like seems to be either designers $$$ or Target/Ikea imitation (although the stuff I've bought from Target does seem to be good quality). All of the stuff in a mid price range doesn't match my vision.

    1. Yep, totally relate. When I say buy higher quality, I'm talking about higher quality Ikea (I'm over their cheapest offerings, but they do have higher quality too). And I agree that Target has super solid options. In my dreams, my house would be all Restoration Hardware, but yeah. Never going to happen.

  4. Well you've left us hanging!! Do hurry back and tell about the bidding war and jet ride!!