This is a guest post from Evelyn Rennich of smallishblog.com
The beautiful thing about a life in progress is that it is in motion, ever changing with each season. A life in progress means we can’t ever claim to have arrived or that we have it all figured out. Much freedom lies in admitting to being a work in progress. The best we can do is share what we’ve learned along the way. So here is the story of how our American dream progressed from bigger equals better to smaller equals sweeter.
In 2010 my husband and I expected our first son. Dreams of becoming parents danced in our heads like Christmas sugar plums. Like many pregnant women, I spent my spare time imagining how I would decorate the nursery room in our 1,300 sq. ft “starter house”.
My heart’s desire was to be a stay at home mom, but as we looked at the budget it seemed that the best we could do was to have me work part-time while my husband watched the baby in his hours off work. Even to implement that plan, we would have to move to a cheaper living space. We knew the decision was worth it. We rented out our house, stored about half our belongings, donated large loads of things, and moved across town to a 450 sq. ft. basement apartment.
We didn’t know it at the time, but the decision to choose small over large and less over more was the beginning of our family’s calling to intentionally live small.
Our season living in that apartment – we called it “The Shoebox” – was supposed to be a simple year-long experiment until we could afford to live in our house again. Yet life continued to throw us curve balls; we ended up signing the lease three more times. Every summer we thought we would move out but circumstances kept us planted in The Shoebox.
The four years we lived in The Shoebox were hard and stretching. It had a great location, but the apartment itself was dark. We shared the space with multiple species of bugs and mice. We also added two more beautiful children to our family, which was joyous but meant that I was either pregnant or nursing the entire time. (Read: EVERYTHING WAS A VERY BIG DEAL ALWAYS.) We constantly evaluated the items we chose to own and the best way to use every inch of our living space.
Our appreciation of living small was a bulb lying underneath the soil of a wintry life season. Like a diligent gardener I dug deep for contentment every day. I leaned heavily into my faith, feeling a strong purpose for the time we spent living in the teeny, dingy apartment. In the midst of the struggle to choose joy daily, a blossom unfurled in my heart.
We discovered something amazing. Life was better when we were “living small”. Life seemed clearer in ways. We liked life with less stuff. There was less to pick up, a smaller space to vacuum and fewer items to take care of (which is paramount when you have three kids under four to keep alive!) Our smaller home, with its cheaper rent and fewer belongings began to mean freedom. Unexpectedly my dreams changed—I wanted less. I craved meaningful. I wanted purpose. I reveled in the spiritual heights I had found when released from the larger home filled with junk I didn’t want.
Most of all, we found that we had to be intentional with the belongings we kept, with the space we had, with the clothes we wore, with building family rhythms, with the money in our account, even with how we spent our time. A striking intentionality is key to choosing to live with less, and intention became the staff on which we leaned.
Our family’s goal progression slid from the normal American dream of bigger and better to finding purpose, deeper faith and joy in wanting less. Our dream became a smaller home, outside space to thrive, and healthy experiences over stuff.
Today we are a family of six living in a light-filled home of 1,000 sq. ft. It is modest and sweet.
Our days are built around an intention to live together peacefully and to choose a life of less with full expectation that less is wildly more than we ever dreamed.
Evelyn resides in a small home in Colorado with her husband and four young children. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications, although lately her expertise is spent determining the needs of the kids orbiting her feet. Evelyn is passionate about faith, mothering well, a great cup of coffee and intentionally living small. You can learn more about her life of less at smallishblog.com or connect with her over on Facebook.