Real Life Minimalists: Evelyn

Every Monday I post Real Life Minimalists, a profile of one of my readers in their own words. If you’d like to participate, click here for details.

This week, I’m pleased to feature Evelyn (and her beautiful family!). She blogs at Smallish, where she explores intentionally living small: in a small space, with a small footprint, within a small budget.

Evelyn writes:

Evelyn and her family

We stumbled across minimalism like it was an interesting smooth rock on the side of a rough hiking trail. We picked it up and admired it, stuck it in our pocket but have yet to say that we “own it.”

My husband and I began downsizing over two years ago when we first found out we were pregnant. It was important to us not to put our kids in childcare; I wanted to stay home with our new son. But meeting that goal meant me leaving full-time work, which in turn meant living off of one paycheck. Instead of going into debt to make up the difference to maintain our lifestyle, we evaluated our lifestyle. We chose to live small in order to live fully.

That hot summer while I was pregnant with our first boy, we rented out our cute little house. We sold or gave away half our belongings and moved into a tiny 450 sq. ft. basement apartment across town. Minimalism was an added bonus, a sideshow of sorts to downsizing. We just couldn’t fit all our stuff into our new home so we brought only the basics. (Or so we thought. Even now we routinely purge unnecessary items to claim more living space.)

Two years and two kids later, we are happy clams in the home we affectionately call the Shoebox. Sometimes it still feels like we own way too much stuff for this little space, but we are learning what it looks like to lose attachment to things. It’s a work in progress, like most of life.

I wouldn’t quite claim the title of “minimalist” quite yet; maybe “reductionist” fits us better at this point. We’ve learned that great freedom can be found in living intentionally with less stuff. We’ve also discovered that minimalism is not always a one-time decision. Often it is a daily choice, a moment-by-moment battle to be content with less. We are realizing the joy of owning fewer things, the freedom of living small. And it suits us just fine.

{If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider reading my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, or subscribing to my RSS feed.}

46 comments to Real Life Minimalists: Evelyn

  • Helen

    Hi Evelyn

    What a brave lady you are giving up your “nest” while pregnant. But incredibly forward thinking too – how lucky are your boys to be in a family that values what’s truly important.

    I wish I had had your wisdom and foresight before having my own family. Life and clutter have a habit of creeping up on you so it’s great to get a head start on it all.

    Thanks for sharing


  • Congratulations on having your priorities straight. You are inspirational, and reassure me that 500 sf for three people is plenty :) I also stay at home with our daughter, and we decided to reduce our stuff in order to fit in a smaller place, and to make life easier in other ways too.
    You are also teaching your kids important values.

    • Thanks, Vappu. Sometimes I wonder if 500 sq is “plenty.” At this moment my two year old is running as fast as he can back and forth across the 15 feet of the living room. ;) But we love it! Sounds like you’re a kindred spirit.

  • Dan

    “We’ve also discovered that minimalism is not always a one-time decision.”

    True. With almost all of our values they are choices that we must make and commit to every day. Each day we clarify our values and fine tune who we choose to be. There are many reasons that people choose minimalism or simplicity.
    Mine are here – 12 Reasons I’m a minimalist

    Dan @

  • Cindy Kerstetter

    Congratulations – so easy to have values; so much harder to actually live them. You’re clearly doing this. Yours was a fun real life post to read. Enjoy those babies – they grow up so fast. And as you know, they don’t need all the toys the marketers say that they do. I’m learning this in hindsight.

  • Yes, yes, yes–wonderful to read, Evelyn. Many people think they simply can’t afford to have someone stay home with the kids, but in most cases, if you can afford to have them in the first place, you can find a way to afford to stay home with them. It’s a matter of priorities. Good for you!

  • Heather

    Thanks. I love reading about families who live small. It’s great encouragement when I feel like everyone around me lives in mansions with 1 or 2 bedrooms per child.

    • Hi Heather, I agree that it’s interesting to talk to people who think that each child must have their own space. I imagine it does make some things easier, but when you consider that most of the world live all in one room… let’s just say it’s a perspective thing, right? :)

  • You guys are awesome! You can say what you want but most people would think a family of 4 living in less than 500 square feet is a minimalist :)

    Love your blog, so glad you are over here today too!

  • Evelyn! :-) It’s a funny thing about minimalists, that none of think we’re “minimalist enough” to claim the “title!” But minimalism is not so much a destination that we arrive at, as much as it is a journey and a change in mindset. We’re never as decluttered or as intentional as we would like to be, and that’s fine, because it’s all about growth and improvement.

    I love the “Shoebox” (all right–I’m completely jealous!), and I love reading the Smallish blog. Thanks for sharing!

  • Awesome! We are also evaluating all of the ‘must-haves’ supposedly needed to be normal and mainstream. I love this: “Instead of going into debt to make up the difference to maintain our lifestyle, we evaluated our lifestyle. We chose to live small in order to live fully.” Thanks for sharing.

  • Melanie

    I love your term “reductionist”—that is awesome! I’m going to call myself that from now on because I’ve always got bags to give away to friends and Goodwill, but my space is a long way from feeling empty.

    Thanks for sharing!!

  • I love this! I would totally be on board for trying something along these lines. Not to the same extent, but certainly much smaller than what we’re in now. But my husband would never, ever go along with it. I wonder if you guys were both equally on board or if someone took some convincing.

    • Nicole, that’s a good question. My hubby was the first one to mention it, and he was pretty certain that downsizing was the way to go. I took a week or so to convince. ;) My biggest thing was that I wanted to be in a nice location and NOT in an apartment building. God graciously answered my desires perfectly with the Shoebox! It was the right price, right place… and we just figured we’d make the space work. :)

  • What a wonderful journey you and your family are travelling on. Your flat sounds great, my house is small but I am not sure of the measurements. I try hard to keep our stuff to a level that is uncluttered but I sometimes fall off that path!

  • The interesting thing about living in a smaller space is that it highlights how much you own even more. Minimalists or not you have chosen to value relationships over money/status and that is admirable. I know so many people who go into spending overdrive when they are expecting. To do the reverse is so refreshing. Good luck with your minimalist journey xo

  • Minimalist Housewife

    I think it’s great what you’re choosing to do… Probably because we are choosing to do the same. My husband is in grad school at the moment and we somehow (by magic) are making it work for me to stay home with our daughter. I love our days together and I actually find it a bit fun to find free or super cheap things for us to do. Of course there are sacrifices (like I no longer dye my hair) but all the sacrifices are totally worth it! Your story is inspirational how small you are able to live with two boys!

  • I would say you are a minimalist. Minimalism is a way of living, not how much stuff you have. From everything I read in your lovely little story, it suggests you live with a minimalist mindset.

    You should be proud of the life you have created for yourself and your family.

  • Inspiring Evelyn! You discovered what it took us 50 years to discover! Your blog looks great but today the links are not working. Hopefully a temporary glitch. I look forward to reading all of it.

  • Dee

    your post was exciting and scary at the same!

  • Sarah

    Thanks for sharing. I’ve been to your blog and read the entire thing. Continual evaluation of your belongings is the key. Love reading from a family perspective!

  • Anne

    Evelyn, your new life and site sound great! But I keep getting a ‘Threat Blocked!’ screen when attempting to visit it. (Thought you would like to know so you can scan it.)

    • Hi Anne, I’m so sorry you can’t get through. We have had malware attacks this week (go figure–it WOULD be the week all you fine people try to visit!!)but I’m working hard to clear everything up. Check back in a week or so!

  • […] friends! Today I’m sharing a very abbreviated version of our story over at Miss Minimalist. Francine writes about living a beautiful life with less stuff, and she spotlights a fellow […]

  • Tina

    I liked the letters commenting that minimalism is a process. We have been getting rid of 2 bags a week for quite a while. Those are just donations. We now have one car instead of two.Every day we find clutter to recycle and of course we always take out garbage. I am looking for another box of jewelry to get rid of because that is the one thing I collect.

  • Tina

    Still taking 2 bags a week to Goodwill. My husband is now on board and finding things to part with. There are still things here which need to be sent back to their owners. We are going on a Mediterranean cruise and each taking one small carry on suitcase. I only take what I can manage by myself. I love watching people with many suitcases to corral at the airport.

  • Tina

    I took a carryon for 11 days in Europe, including an 8 day cruise. Came home Sunday, left Monday to stay with my sister in law in DE for a week. Took an overnight bag to DE because I knew I could do laundry there. Like you, I question whether I am a minimalist but I try hard to keep reducing what I Have and what I use. I have given away so many art and craft supplies. I am planning to sell some jewelry because neither my daughter nor my DIL want it.

  • […] they’d slap us with a fine for claiming a level of less we have not yet achieved. (I wrote this post for Miss Minimalist in […]

  • I had a bag of broken wrist watches I found in a drawer at my Mom’s. I tried to sell them and got some money. My mother broke most of what she had or it was mildewed. When my kids were small, my husband worked full time, and I worked on the weekends. Since I have always had a very hard time spending money, this meant I did not work full time until the eldest was 12. Finding women with similar values was the most important thing I did.

  • Tina

    We had the smallest house of anyone we knew when our kids were little. Now we live in a 2 BR condo and most people we know are empty nesters who have bought even bigger homes. We have the smallest refrigerator of anyone we know and don’t belong to Sam’s Club or Costco. I travel with a carry-on suitcase or an even smaller overnight bag and a small tote bag for medicine and toiletries. I still have more than I need.

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