Living with Less in a Bigger Space

by Kelvin Belfon

Living with less

I’m a minimalist.

I love the idea of less –that is, less clutter, less cleaning, less organizing, and less storing.

I also enjoy smaller living spaces which is ideal in minimalism. Seldom do folks talk about upgrading in my minimalists circles. But a few months ago, a series of unexpected events lead to my family’s decision to go bigger.

Although our family experienced a 50% growth, I still resisted the idea of relocating. The thought of moving with 4 children was too stressful, especially when two of our children were as young as 6 month old. Plus, our 2-bedroom townhouse was cozy since embracing the newly discovered minimalist lifestyle.

Yet, in spite of our wishes, a move became inevitable when our landlord decided to sell the townhouse. My wife and I secured a similar minimalist space for rent. To our dismay, that deal ended up being a rental scam. Now frantic, we began looking, a process that would cost us about 4 months of uncertainty.

You can imagine our relief when we finally found a well-maintained house for sale. But the home was loaded: 3 bedrooms, a finished basement with half bath and utility room, garage, and backyard.

It was perfect!

We had way more than enough room to entertain; and the children had a good sized fenced yard to freely roam. Happy and grateful over these big pluses, I was at the same time nervous about all the potential maintenance responsibilities. Hadn’t I just spent almost 2 years de-cluttering every area of our home?

I gotta admit, the moment was pretty emotional for me. The return of more clutter, cleaning, and expense of furnishing rooms and updating spaces…“This house purchase was a step in the wrong directions,” I concluded.

It’s been 6 months and we’ve settled into a routine. I’m less anxious about the big house. Everyone is happy about the extra space, even our now one year old twins who love crawling up stairs. The best part…our family remains committed to a simple lifestyle. We are living with less in a bigger space!

With everything now unpacked, we continue to de-clutter our home and find new purposes for old things. It’s a never ending process. We still sell and donate unused furniture pieces, kitchen appliances, dishes, clothing, toys, and books, just like in the past.

Everything must have a home! That’s shoes, coats, clothing, bags, toys, mail and those little things that seem to collect all over the house. This is a struggle for me though not the case for my wife. We’ve also renewed our fight against the ever growing accumulation of children’s toys and junk mail.

Storage containers are good on the eye and keep us organized. But over time they can become clutter magnets, keeping stuff hidden for years and even decades. So we decided to empty a handful of containers, and use or giveaway the unused contents.

What’s more, we have in fact added some new things to our home. When you own a house, you want to customize and make it your own. It’s only natural, especially if you’ve been renting for a handful of years.

 

“Your minimalism isn’t dependent on square footage. It’s a lifestyle and mentality!”

 

But at the same time, we’ve built in strategies to keep over-accumulation far off. For example, limiting our trips to the home improvement, appliance and furniture stores. We’ve also focused more on quality vs. quantity and intentionally left some areas of our home unfurnished because not every space needs to be filled.

Not all minimalists live in tiny houses or apartments. That’s because your minimalism isn’t dependent on square footage. Some prefer a little more real estate, especially those with larger families. Minimalism is not about seeing how much misery you can tolerate. There is no right or wrong methodology. It’s a lifestyle and mentality; and this will work differently for everyone.

Minimalism is also more than subtracting the unnecessary. It’s about creating a safe, positive, meaningful and enjoyable space where lifelong memories are forged. Big or small, this sacred place, I like calling home!

 

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22 thoughts on “Living with Less in a Bigger Space

  1. Tracy says:

    Thank you Kelvin for this inspiring post. I agree with you about the storage containers, that they look really nice, but they too can just become more clutter. I really like how you emphasize that minimalism is a lifestyle. It is a lifestyle I aspire to and this is helpful information for my journey.
    Best,
    Tracy

    • Kelvin Belfon says:

      Tracy, it was tough saying goodbye to those sleek looking IKEA storage bins at first. But doing so helped us de-clutter. And yes, we’ve found minimalism to be more of a lifestyle than just an event or seeing how many things you can own. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Calla says:

    I have a three bedroom house, with only one person living in the space. I have to work hard not only to keep the clutter nonexistent. The problem is other people wanting to “store” stuff or give me stuff that would look great. My solution is to have a garage sale yearly. This year I have half a garage full of stuff which includes large pieces of furniture.

    • Kelvin Belfon says:

      Hi Calla, looks like you have no problem keeping your space de-cluttered on your own. You raise an interesting question, “What to do when people give your stuff you don’t need…in your case, large pieces of furniture? The obvious answer would be to say, “No thanks!” But this is hard to do especially when they mean well. I’ve found it helps to be real and tell people how you feel. Also suggest that the item be given to a local donation store where it will find a home.

      Personally, because of my schedule I wouldn’t have the time to do yard sales each time. I also prefer using the garage for my car, sometime that’s pretty nice living in Denver.

      If anyone have any other suggestion, please add to this comment. I’ll make this topic a post in the near future.

      Thanks again for sharing Calla!!

  3. Gabriele Dean says:

    Awesome blog. I love the way you take us on your journey with minimalism. I love that lifestyle. 🙂

  4. I’m glad it worked out so well for you Kelvin and you were able to continue to abide by your minimalist values. I prefer a slightly larger house to because I’m sensitive to sound, in particular, and really value quiet. But that’s probably not on the agenda when you have a family! I’m sure all the fun makes up for it.

    • Kelvin Belfon says:

      Hi Pawula, I totally get the need for silence. Our bigger space helps in this area too. The kids can either go outside or in a separate part of the house to play. This is important because my wife is a full-time student too. But when it’s family time…it’s loud and we are ok with it. Thanks again for sharing!

  5. Sharon says:

    Thanks for sharing your journey with us Kelvin. Your observation that “Your minimalism isn’t dependent on square footage. It’s a lifestyle and mentality!”really resonated with me. We live in a house that is far too large for us, because strangely it is the cheapest option for us. My challenge is that it takes longer for the clutter to build up when you have lots of space – decluttering is a constant process.

    • Kelvin Belfon says:

      Our home was also the cheaper option too Sharon. In Denver, renting can be expensive…plus, you are helping to pay someone’s mortgage 🙂 Thanks for sharing and enjoy your weekend!

  6. Corinna says:

    I am happy that you found a good place for your family to live. And it is always good to be reminded that it is our choice how much we posess and not a matter of living space.

    • Kelvin Belfon says:

      Well said Corina…”it is a choice how much we possess and not a matter of living space.” This to me is the essence of minimalism…choice and intentional living. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Kathy says:

    Great post! I particularly liked the quote “Your minimalism isn’t dependent on square footage. It’s a lifestyle and mentality!” It is easy to fall into a sense of competition when one surrounds themselves with other minimalists, so your post was a good reminder that isn’t necessary. It really is about living an intentional life. I’ve been able to rent out my extra bedroom and bath on Airbnb and almost have it pay my mortgage. This enriches my life with amazing guests from all over the world while going towards my travel fund. Minimalism isn’t a one size fits all!

    • Kelvin Belfon says:

      Thanks Kathy! Yes, it’s easy to compare ourselves…even in our minimalism. As you said, the key is to be intentional. Congrats on almost paying off your mortgage by renting the extra bedroom. That’s great! I like the idea of no debt 🙂

  8. Terri says:

    I love this line “not every space needs to be filled.” I’m glad you’ve been able to keep the minimalism going even in a bigger space. Because it really has become a way of life for all of you. And what a great gift it is to give this to your children at such an early age. I grew up the granddaughter of someone who had lived in the Great Depression and I saw the effect that had on my mom. I’ve made a conscious choice to not be that way in my life. Experiences are so much better than things.

    • Kelvin Belfon says:

      Living in a bigger space is challenging but we are committed to our minimalism. It’s changed our consumption habits for the better. And it helps keeping our home relatively clean with our 4 children. Like always, thanks for sharing your story Terri!

  9. Christy King says:

    We recently downsized from about 2250 square feet on 1.5 acres to a 1250 square foot townhouse.

    We’re down to one kid at home now, and he’s 15 – no toys. Other than his clothes he has his computer and some models. (And two small dogs, a cat and a gerbil).

    We’re loving the new space, but don’t think I have the personality for some of the tiny spaces I see some people raising children in.

    Great that it works for them, but I need some alone time and quiet.

    • Kelvin Belfon says:

      Hi Christy,

      Good for you. Totally love it.

      We’ve also downsize in the past. But right now, the bigger space is perfect for our growing family.

      Tiny spaces are good and they work for some people. I just don’t believe we should limit minimalism to the size of a person’s home. The minimalist lifestyle involves so much more. That’s all.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  10. […] If like me, yours is a kid filled journey, father of four Kelvin Belfon offers advice that will help you with the practical aspects of tackling your clutter. One of my faves is  Living with Less in a Bigger Space. […]

  11. Pippy Tolan says:

    Kelvin,
    I am sitting here in amazement as my story is so much like yours! I write a blog about simple living and have been living a life with way less stuff and still going through the process when we had to leave our 3 bedroom home with all the trimmings. I thought that it was our opportunity to get a small place. We were in limbo land for months enjoying a 500 square foot beach furnished vacation rental with all of our belongings in storage. We looked and looked and were almost homeless when we finally said yes to an even bigger house, with the trimmings, garage, yard pool…. I felt like a fake, a traitor and the worst minimalist in the world. How was I to face my readers? I have sort of avoided the rest of my story and yours has made me feel so much better. I think it’s time for me to face, and post the truth. Minimalism is a state of being and a state of mind. It is harder to remove things from your home and leave empty space- however I have come a long way and this is a jouney. And my dog sure loves her yard and it’s almost warm enough for the pool!! Please check out my blog! http://www.livebigandsmall.com

    • Kelvin Belfon says:

      Hi Pippy!
      Yes, our story is similar in many ways. I struggled with the idea of “upgrading” when all other minimalists were “downsizing.” But in our context it make sense to go bigger. We truly enjoy the space for the children, hosting family and friends and so on. I have minimalists friends who go smaller and it they enjoy the benefits too. So ultimately, as stated in the post…it’s not the size but the mindset.
      I believe your readers will understand and appreciate your honesty. You’ll help those who are struggling with the same issue.
      Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your story Tippy!

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