When we started planning for a second child, my husband and I decided we needed to find a bigger house. At the time we lived in a picturesque lakeside community in Northern Virginia where we had a 1,300 square foot townhouse on the water. After a year of searching in the frenzied housing market, we found something much larger –- a 3,500 square foot house on a half acre of land. Built in 1949, the house needed lots of work, including refurbishing a pool in the back yard that hadn’t been used in ten years.

So began an unexpected dark period of our lives. Not every moment of our time in that house was miserable; we certainly enjoyed the yard and the pool when the mosquitoes weren’t swarming, we had lovely neighbors, and the space allowed us to have large parties and family gatherings.

A surprise event breaks our traditional path

But it felt like every spare minute of our free time was taken up by taking care of the house — cleaning, mowing, painting, renovating, maintaining the pool. While some people enjoy this kind of lifestyle, we did not. It wasn’t until my husband received an unexpected job offer in California did we realize we could live differently. We packed up the house, rented it out to another family, and moved across the country into a 1,100 square-foot two-bedroom garden apartment.

Just before the move, I ended up either giving away or selling a lot of our furniture that I had only bought to fill in the empty rooms of our big old house. I wasn’t attached to any of it and most of it was inexpensive.

Even so, when we arrived at our California apartment, we realized quickly we would need to streamline even more. Even though some furniture we loved ended up in storage because we just didn’t have room, paring down meant we were surrounded by our favorite and most treasured things.

How a new start became a precious gift

This single (and initially quite scary) event — starting over in a new place — was the best thing to happen to us since having kids. Though we moved across the country and away from all the family support we had in our hometown, we were incredibly happy.

The first thing we noticed about our new lifestyle was the amount of time we were not taking care of our home. We didn’t have a private yard, but the kids were free to play outside in the courtyard, and there were paths and sidewalks for them to ride their scooters on. There was also a community pool, but there was no grass to mow, no beds to mulch, no pool to maintain.

Read more of how downsizing improves lives here!