Photo: Nicole VandeBoom

In February of 2017 we moved to Downtown Chicago from the Northwest suburbs. While there were many reasons on our pro-move list, the major reason ended up being our desire for more quality family time. We ended up moving closer to my husband’s company.

Our previous home was almost 4 times larger than the condo we moved into. We had to downsize quite a bit. As family of 4 with two young boys, decreasing living space by so much may seem a little crazy. I honestly believe it was one of the most stress-relieving choices we have ever made. There have been studies done on excessive amounts of things and the link between stress and depression. There is an increase in stress and anxiety with an increase of clutter. I did not need any book referenced to tell me that. I was living proof of that. I often found myself feeling overwhelmed with the amount of work it took to keep our home in somewhat of an order. I use the term order loosely. I usually felt like I was struggling to keep up. Spending every waking moment trying to clean up space after space. With a large home comes the urge to fill it. You begin to ask yourself, perhaps subconsciously, what is the point of empty rooms? You surely should put things in these closets and rooms, even if they are rarely entered. There were parts of the house we did not enter for weeks at a time. I am not remotely exaggerating. For the most part we spent our time in our kitchen. Then headed to our respective bedrooms for sleep.

Before we even considered a move, our oldest asked if his brother and he could share a room, but we had so many bedrooms, why would they share? We gave them each their own space. The boys share a room now. They have a super cool bunk bed. There are occasional arguments but they have arguments when not in their bedroom and they had arguments before we moved. That is part of sibling life. I have two brothers, I know how it goes. I find it helps them learn to share a bit more and how to manage their own conflicts. It has also taught them to rely on one another. They have each other, even in the dark of night.

My husband and I have absolutely fallen in love with our smaller space. We feel so free and much lighter. I can breeze through the condo and tidy up in an hour, maybe less, that depends on the level of destruction the boys have managed. In the other house, things easily got out of hand a lot quicker and a lot worse. More stuff and space to mess means it is easier to make a bigger harder to tackle mess.

As I reflected on the beautiful dream home we purchased, I realized our eyes were bigger than our stomachs. It was our dream space, but neither of us had ever lived in a house that large. We were unaware of how much must go into upkeep. Add multiple kids, owning a demanding business, and a million other daily tasks, the stress adds up, the mess adds up, and if I am being honest, the unhappiness adds up. That is not to say smaller living is for everyone. I think the important takeaway is to consider your own heart and family then determine what is right for you. For us, this has been a positive experience.

We cherish our old home and we cherish the relationships we made while living there. I met so many wonderful human beings while we spent six years in that area. It was hard to say goodbye. Some will be easier to stay connected with than others. Leaving the boys’ amazing pediatrician was very hard for me. Staying connected with our friends will be easier. I am thankful for that. I gave up my Pilates room. I have a space for it but I no longer have my own room. The boys only took their most cherished toys. We gave up our amazing yard and pool. We had to make hard choices on what to bring and what to give away or get rid of.

While a lot was let go, we gained a massive amount of family time. The boys get to eat breakfast with their dad. Before, that only happened if he worked from home. We walk our oldest to school and from school every day, something my husband was never able to do before. Getting to school events is far easier for him. He isn’t being pulled in as many directions, which means I am not being pulled in as many directions. We can share our parenting duties more easily. Teamwork is simpler to accomplish. I gained sense of relaxation and ease. My husband gained a nearly non-existent commute. It had been 3 hours every day. Now he can walk to work. We gained easy access to museums, parks, and events around the city, something we love to do. We discovered more stress-free living.

We gave up material things and space, but we gained so many emotional benefits. Life is change. As hard as it can be to face, sometimes it is exactly what you need. I do not know what the next six years will bring us. I do not know if in six years I will be writing about how living in a small space with a 12 year old and a 8 year old is impossible. I could not have predicted that I would be regretting my choice to move from Chicago to its suburbs. That is life though, an adventure. Cheers to this new adventure and a lot more cuddling, in a smaller space.