Intentionally Buying a Bigger Home
Your physical surroundings are often a reflection of your mental landscape.
An unfocused, noisy, and cluttered home can be physical representations of what is going on in your head. Even if functionally productive, under the hood, the mind may be in complete chaos and the immediate surroundings often reflect that.Over the years, I’ve worked on clearing and focusing my mind. My interests and passions have narrowed but those that remain are stronger. Minimalism has been key in that process and helped define a vision for how I would like the home I live in to breathe and feel. Sparsely decorated rooms and surfaces have become canvasses where my ideas can grow and evolve within them. Before I had this clarity, I felt the need to fill these empty spaces with collections of things.As those ideas have taken up space and been refined, a more specific definition of our values and beliefs have come to the surface. Those values and beliefs have given structure to what is our lifestyle. Walkability, Access, Gathering, Ideation, Relaxation. Through discovery and necessity, an understanding of where it was ideal for us to live became clear so that the lifestyle and values could flourish. All of that lead to a decision to sell our home and move into a new one with exactly 500 more square feet of space. I know, it sounds weird, a bigger home fit perfectly into our minimalist values and lifestyle.
Clear Your Head
Being a Minimalist does not mean living in a small white room with nothing. Minimalism is about living with intentionality. That being said, when you analyze your life you may come to realize that your space may not fit how your lifestyle. To know that answer, you have to define that lifestyle from the beginning.
As I always like to recommend, minimize the excess first. Remove the clutter in every facet of your life. That means physical belongings, commitments, social connections, notifications, technology, and more. After clearing, reflect. With a blank canvas we can find the space to analyze and understand so much about ourselves. Live without the things your removed for some time and you will find that the things you didn’t need or miss won’t make their way back in. The things you want, will be intentionally added back and probably with greater purpose.
Identify Values & Beliefs
Defining your values and beliefs is the step where we start to select the brush heads, paint colors and style that we will fill in the blank canvass with. The values you identify should be the concepts that bring satisfaction and meaning to your life in such a way that they are acted upon and prioritized before the “values” placed on us by outside commitments. Your values should be quantifiable and measurable. Our beliefs, ethereal and metaphysical, are the moral compass orients how we navigate various life scenarios. But not so hard and fast that they can not evolve and handle difficult grey areas. I have shared my own below.
|Time with People (Family & Friends)||Work Life Balance|
|Travel||The Rule of Three|
|Financial Independence||Low Expectations, High Standards|
A clear mind along with solid values and beliefs become a very strong foundation and framework to define your lifestyle. By lifestyle, I mean the daily actions you take to actualize all the things you have put first through minimizing and value/belief setting. Such as, how you decide to get to work (bike, walk, train, ride share, etc). How often you organize a get together with family. Blocking off your calendar and saying no to unimportant commitments so you can pursue your passions. Understanding where you need to go eat and shop to meet your dietary and other requirements. Actually using those vacation days to go to those “one day” places you put off before.
You have to find a place to put the metaphysical home you built from your values, beliefs, and lifestyle as materials. When we went searching, we tried to balance various areas we loved against how well they fostered all of these things. For us, it had to be an area with a high walkability score, because we value our walks with family and our dog. It had to have access to Marta so we could commute easily to work. It had to have easy access to the shops, restaurants, and facilities that would allow us to pursue interests like yoga, a healthy diet, entertainment, etc. We also wanted to remain without a car, so a strong neighborhood with connectedness factored in.Perhaps you need to live by water. Or skiing is your priority. Some need seclusion and others the beat of the urban jungle. Each of these locations that support these priorities inherently have different neighborhood features and home styles. So your choices, are greatly impacted by location.￼
We didn’t settle on a tiny home community. We know our lifestyle, values and beliefs. They don’t align with a tiny home. Moreover, forcing ourselves into one for some imagined ethos doesn’t make you a better minimalist. It makes you stubborn. However, we also did not settle in the burbs in a McMansion. Primarily, because we want to avoid lifestyle creep.Over the years, we have found that in the central part of Atlanta the 1,800 to 2,100 sq ft range balanced well with our vision. In fact, until 2017, the city of Atlanta has had a long standing ordinance that set the minimum size for most single family homes to 1,000 sq ft. That amount of space affords you a second bedroom, 2.5-3 baths, a little yard, and just the right amount of space for things like bikes and/or winter sports gear.So, our big change going from our 1,600 sq ft to 2,100 sq ft home was a big deal. Five hundred square feet does not seem like a massive change but for us it was. A whole extra room that could easily become a space for rampant consumption and lifestyle inflation. After all, we started our lives together in a 600 sq ft studio.
Once we picked the space, we had to make sure the whole of it could meet the 80% of our life. For us that meant a duplex. It aligns with our view of reducing our footprint by participating in high density living. My work requires me to solution for complex scenarios, so I am always working through various stages of ideation. I like to move from room to room to get a fresh take on a problem. We love to host gatherings, so a large backyard space and dining room allows us to create the opportunities where friends and family can engage and fill up the room with laughter and discussion. We both work from home a lot, so a dedicated office space was ideal. We have a dog who literally jumps 5 foot retaining walls, so a larger yard is great for her. Wellness is important for us, so when not used as a bedroom, the 4th 3rd bedroom is used for yoga, meditation, and just family time in a room without devices. Lastly, there is the front porch, where the “Front Porch Society” meets to enjoy nature.
Bigger or smaller, don’t rush to decorate and nest. Let that process happen organically, in the same way you bring things back slowly after minimizing. After deciding to buy the home, we actually ended up downsizing our belongings even more. We approached the move as a way to better utilize what we already own in space instead of trying to buy things to fill a space. Additionally, we worked with a professional mover who helped us mapped what we owned to their new place in the larger home. That approach kept us from feeling we needed to buy much of anything to complete our home. I feel like we’ve better showcased what we have in spaces that work better for them.
In the future, we may make the exact opposite decision. But that choice will be driven by what our lifestyle dictates. I think the understanding of how you live may be the most important discovery you can make before ever moving into a place at all. Whether renting or buying; analyzing how you live and optimizing it for your values can make the home search process more successful. That process never ends, so more and more, I am starting to believe less and less in the idea of a “Forever Home.”Ultimately, a home purchase is a negotiation of balance. Between too little space and feeling constrained or too much space and being overwhelmed. Add in the struggle to find the right location and you can see how it’s impossible to define a one size fits all size to everyone. But if you can clear your head, define your life, and understand your own 80% needs; then you’ll end up in the right place.