Real Life Minimalists: Sarah

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.

Today, we have a wonderful contribution from Sarah, who extols the joys of downsizing her family’s home.

Sarah writes:


My journey into minimalism started roughly a year ago when I realized I wasn’t enjoying my home or my job (homemaking) anymore. I was caught up in a failing attempt to corral the physical clutter in our beautiful 2.5 story, 100 year old, 2246 square foot home during the long hours my husband worked and feeling like I didn’t have time to really enjoy spending time with my two small children, despite the fact that I was with them constantly. I learned about minimalism (a concept with which I was not the least bit familiar) while researching strategies on decluttering, and the concept immediately hit home. I went straight to work, one shelf and drawer at a time and seriously pared down our belongings until, by the time we were ready to put our house on the market in order to move to a better school district, realtors were happy to note that we didn’t need to put things in storage or get rid of more in order to be ready to list our house. Friends made comments such as “where did all your stuff go?” I felt a palpable decrease in my overall stress level and increase in my contentment with everyday life. I was better able to be fully present for my children and even begin focusing on other areas I’d neglected in the past (overall health and wellness for myself, for example). I felt lighter, freer, and happier.

Five days ago we moved into our new home: a one-story, 1920s brick bungalow with 1326 square feet of living space. While not small by some minimalist standards, it is certainly downsizing for us, which came as a shock to many family and friends. They seem to, quite genuinely, not understand our decision. A family of four (on the way to becoming five, as we’re in the middle of an adoption), downsizing? “Why would anyone do that?” someone asked us. Others have speculated that perhaps we’re having financial problems (to be clear, we are not). Interestingly enough, the family from whom we bought this house mirrors our family in many ways: a couple, two children, wanting to adopt a third child. But we’re also different: they saw this as their starter home and are “upgrading” to a bigger house with more room for their family. We, however, already moved out of our “starter” (actually, we believed it would be our first and last) home, and into what we see as an upgrade for our family: more time together, great schools to which we can walk, more financial freedom, less time on housework and maintenance. Overall, a simpler life focused on our family.

I love our new home, but what I am most proud of is the fact that my husband and I have made the decision that we, together, will decide what is right for our family: not based on societal norms, or what the people we know have chosen as best for themselves and their families. It is liberating to know that we don’t have to buy the biggest or most expensive home we can afford. We don’t have to take the well-beaten path if it is not going in the direction we want. I don’t purport that minimalism is right for all people or all stages of life, but it’s right for us right now.

I have found recently that people will say to me, “I know you’re busy with moving and everything, but…” my response is, “I’m never too busy for a friend,” and for the first time in a long time, I feel the truth in that instead of just knowing it should be true.

Our new motto is “experiences over things,” and I’m excited for the adventures that lie ahead.


No blog (yet!), but you can find me on Twitter @MinMeOver

27 comments to Real Life Minimalists: Sarah

  • A

    I enjoyed your story and your perspective, Sarah! Thanks for sharing it.

    Two points that resonated with me were your downsizing and your saying “not too busy for a friend!”

    I believe you can be a minimalist without living in a tiny house, although I personally would love to live in a tiny house! What really matters is the comfort and togetherness of family, and you’ve selected a home that is right for your family’s needs without being excessive. Congratulations!

    Friends are a treasure as well – making them a priority is so important!

    Best of luck with your adoption and your new home!

  • Sue

    What a wonderfully refreshing outlook.

    Having time for your friends, your family AND yourself is one of the best things about minimalizing what you have. I wish you all the very best in your new home.

  • You are never too busy for a friend. That is an incredibly loving statement and to know that living with less helped make it happen is inspiring. I am so thrilled for you and your family. I know you will enjoy your new way of life and that beautiful, growing family.

  • Hi Sarah,

    It’s crazy how wise you are for being so young. While it seems your husband has been on board since you started your de-cluttering phase, I wonder what the early conversations were like. Did he reveal that he felt the same way or did he think you’d gone crazy? It sounds like you removed a lot of stuff from your home!

    I have a minimalist tendency but I also like the things I do have. I’m not the type of person that has to have a new bed set every year. I buy once and use it until it’s threadbare. Until just a couple of years ago, I had only one set of sheets that I would wash and put back on the bed. I now have a flannel set for winter (kind of a joke here in Southern California!). I figure in my 50’s that’s a treat I allow myself :)

    I share your thinking that minimalism is a state-of-being defined by each person. And, that when you are “in it” you feel right. When you start collecting too many “things” the discord begins. Like being financially healthy, minimalism is a tide that ebbs and flows and requires regular check ups!

    Here’s to your family’s health, wealth and happiness…

  • Diane

    Congratulations on the adoption. My brother adopted a little Chinese girl 14 years ago (she’s 15 now) which made be a first-time aunt, and a very proud and happy one!

    The size of your home is what you and your family feel comfortable with. I lived with a friend back in 1997 when I moved to a new city and she had intercoms in every room so that she could communicate with her two teenage daughters. It was 5,000 sq.ft. for three people! I can relate to the reaction of some of your family and friends as far as thinking you had financial problems. I too had that reaction but just smiled and told them I was happy with my decision. You will enjoy the feeling of knowing there are fewer things in the house, fewer things in the closets and cupboard, and fewer things to clean which means more time for the important things — children, husband, family and friends. All the best with your new life.

  • Julie

    Loved this – so refreshing. Just what I needed to read this morning. Thanks so much for sharing your story Sarah and all the best with your adoption.

  • Cindy

    I love your post. It’s wonderful to see young people able to shed the need to “keep up with the Jones”. I hope others who read your post are inspired to think about the importance of recognizing that each of our paths must be our own, not the path that others think we should take.

  • Well done Sarah. Love your little house and the choices you and your husband are making.

  • a home should be where you are “at home”.. and congratulations with the adoption and the new house.. your story is inspiring..

  • Susan

    this post is really resonating with me! We are currently discussing doing what you have already done…downsizing. We just welcomed our first child, and the 0.5 acre yard, 2100 square foot house no longer seem worth the time it takes to maintain.

    So glad to see someone else do this and be happy!

  • Carolyn

    Don’t know what your old house was like, but I LOVE the new one!

  • cynthia

    Adorable home. Smart lady.

  • What a sweet and inspiring post. The desire of our families heart is the same – make time for loved ones and new friends, too. We still have so much to learn and grow in this area, but your post is sweetly motivating. Thank you for writing it and sharing it here!

  • It is great that you can see the outside pressures for what they are and are strong enough to stand up for what feels right for you. I was the oldest of six children (growing up in the 60s and 70s) we had a 3 bedroom home about the same size as what you have purchased. One TV, and the basics we needed. It’s also nice to see you have found that happy place where your home doesn’t rule you and you have time for not only your children but friends as well. Good luck to you.

  • Quahana

    The home is small but
    the Love in it?

  • Molly


    You are awesome! I am so proud of you for doing what was right and good for your family, regardless of what society thought would be right and good. You rock!


  • How inspiring and I love your new home! It’s beautiful. You have embraced minimalism at an early age, I wish I could say the same. The starter home thing was not known to me until I became a working cpa. All my peers talked often about buying a starter home, selling and upgrading later. It was a foreign concept to me because when I was growing up everyone I knew had families that bought a home and stayed in that home for the rest of their lives. My parents still live in the house which is the only home they’ve owned. They bought the land and built the house in the early 70s. We’ve now added on a suite and I live there. If people had more kids, they didn’t move, the kids shared a room. Mostly everyone I knew grew up in 1,200 square feet or less.

  • Thanks for sharing your story! Your new home is super cute, as is the garden on the side. I, too, feel better when I get rid of things I do not need, with the added bonus that I no longer need to clean it or take care of it. I still enjoy things, just not too many things. Good luck with your adoption!

  • Eloise

    What a cool story! We’ve done a similar thing in our family, and it amuses me the assumptions people make about our financial status etc. I fully agree with ‘experiences over possessions’. Well done Sarah, for following your heart :)

  • Karen T.

    Congratulations on choosing your own path and not being swayed by societal norms. I wish my husband and I had been so wise at your age. Enjoy the freedom that comes with owning and being tied to less so that you can put your energy and money toward what really matters to you — family and friends. Best wishes!

  • Ritu

    You are so inspirational both with respect to downsizing (going against the norm and societal pressures) and adopting a child! Thanks for sharing with us.

  • Oh, what a wonderful story. I love the new place.

    We also get the ‘you must be having financial issues’ thing due to many elements of our life simplification. I am so glad you are doing it for a better life, for a life that is more about experiences than things :-)

  • Tina

    Just reading posts I’ve missed. Still thinning out cupboards and closets. Found some silverware to give away yesterday. Next I have some baking pans to get rid of, I only bake once a year. I keep a bag for Goodwill by the door. Next step is down to the car.

  • Tina

    Why do people assume you have money problems if you buy less? A friend spends her days shopping at Macy’s and Nordstrom’s but I never ask if she has money problems. I try never to stock up on anything because even soap and toothpaste has an expiration date.

  • Tina

    I have 2 full bags for Goodwill today. There is one thing I am looking to buy. I am finding more things I don’t use and don’t need.

  • Tina

    I just watched a few episodes of “Hoarders” and went through some papers and magazines to recycle or give away. I spent the day tearing up silk flowers so the petals can be strung to make leis for a Hawaiian themed art project. I also took some broken seashells to put in my potted plants. I gave away a box of plant cuttings because there are more rooting on my windowsill.

  • Tina

    Minimalism to me means enough. Not huge bags and boxes of stuff. 6 rolls of toilet paper, not 24. I wonder what will happen to the huge McMansions when the young kids don’t buy them. Many of our friends in their late 60’s and 70’s are buying them now. They are buying lots of new furniture, too. I try to get rid of 60 things each week. My craft supplies are second hand so I only keep what I need. I made 25 cards for a local nursing home for the Holidays.

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