Making Room for What's Important


Making Room for What's Important

Freedom may be the impetus behind voluntarily downsizing your home.

December 1, 2014

For many Americans, bigger is not always better. There was a time when “living large” drove American desires for big cars and even bigger houses. But that appears to be changing for a variety of reasons. For some it’s economical or environmental; for others it’s about convenience. Still others just want the freedom of living simply.

Although the recent recession did spur some downsizing, the trend has been happening for 15 years or more, according to research done by John Zogby, author of “The Way We’ll Be: The Zogby Report on the Transformation of the American Dream.” He identified several reasons for the movement, including financial and ecological concerns among Americans. It seems that many of us are re-evaluating what’s important in our lives and have come to the conclusion that a more modest lifestyle can be very fulfilling. Pragmatically speaking, living below your means also gives you a certain financial flexibility to pursue experiences that mean more to you.

Retirees and empty-nesters have been downsizing or “smart-sizing” for decades in a bid to make their income last as long as possible. This demographic often sells larger houses in favor of a mortgage-free lifestyle with less maintenance. Really they’re permanently reducing one of the biggest fixed expenses they’ll encounter: housing costs. Plus, with their children out on their own, homeowners probably don’t really need or want that five-bedroom house in the suburbs when a two-bedroom condo on the beach is that much more appealing. Saturdays can be spent collecting seashells rather than mowing the lawn.

The downsizing trend can be seen among younger Americans, too. Those starting out in their careers may not believe they can afford a large house and car, and many have differing priorities from the generation that came before them. For example, they may prefer living in a smaller place that’s closer to work, nightlife and public transportation. The focus is less on tangible possessions and more on quality of life and sustainable living.

Many of those who are voluntarily downsizing can afford a big car and a larger house, but they’re doing the math and find in that living with less doesn’t necessarily mean going without. Selling your big car, for example, could mean forgoing high gas prices, insurance payments, and parking and maintenance costs in favor of cost-efficient public transportation or car sharing. Or you could buy a smaller, more efficient, easier-to-park car.

Lest you think downscaling your car may mean sacrificing some of the creature comforts and performance of a larger vehicle, consider that a J.D. Power and Associates study found that today’s smaller cars boast many of the features found in larger, more expensive vehicles.

A smaller home doesn’t have to be confining either. A right-sized home may mean less yard- and housework and more time and energy to pursue things you truly enjoy. It’s not necessarily about making do with less; instead the trend is about making room for what makes you happy.

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