Day 9

Several years ago I became acquainted with the idea that “you fill up the space you have.” If you have a small space, you will accumulate stuff to fill it until it is slightly over max capacity and then you’ll either throw away some stuff or stop accumulating. Having that small space you might not be able to conceive of needing more stuff, but as soon as your space gets bigger you’ll start accumulating again.

So I think it’s been good for my family to downsize for a season.  I sorted through the bathroom cabinet yesterday to make room for some displaced cleaning supplies and, in doing so, I found two tubes of toothpaste still in their boxes. This was annoying because I had just bought new toothpaste two days before. If I hadn’t been forced to find space I would probably continue to buy toothpaste until the whole cabinet was full.

The old saying goes “waste not, want not.” Growing up on well water, I developed a habit of letting the water run for a bit to make sure it was clear before filling up my glass.  But now that all the drinking water we have is the 3 gallon dispenser in the fridge, it makes me convicted that water is precious and that not a drop should be wasted. The same goes for food and eating everything on my plate. The same goes for electricity now that we have fewer outlets and keep blowing fuzes. The same goes with time now that the chores are taking longer.

I’ve always seen these things as precious, but when we had running water and time-saving machines and a whole fridge to store food in, I’ll be honest and say that I was getting pretty lazy about how I stewarded my habits. We fill up the space that we have. Whether that space is measured in liters, inches, or seconds, it slips away faster than we realize and then the whole world feels the loss.

I know I will start accumulating again once the plastic wall comes down and I have a kitchen, bathroom, and laundry room to furnish. I don’t want to beat myself up about that because good stewardship is caring for and cultivating the things that you have, and that includes hand towels. But I do want to remember the lessons in preciousness that I’m learning from downsizing. (And maybe I’ll keep the 3 gallon water dispenser in the fridge, just because.)

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Day 2

I know I’m going to adore our new kitchen, laundry room, and bathroom, but I have to admit it, I’m really enjoying having a smaller house for a time.

In order to remodel we had to downsize by about 30%, and it was actually the 30% that we spent most of our time in. The back half of our house includes a large kitchen, a large laundry room and an enclosed sunporch, which my husband uses as an office. All the kids’ toys were in the laundry room since it’s so big (and we could close the door at the end of the day if we didn’t want to clean it up). And I often did my graphic design work from the kitchen table so as to be close when the kids started yelling about something, as kids do.

So now that all of that is quarantined, we find ourselves in much closer quarters elsewhere. The dining room table starts out as classy breakfast space and then, quickly cleaned, turns into the kids’ new toy playground. Yesterday afternoon my husband and daughter played with her ponies on the couch while he also watched the Penn State game on mute and I read a magazine, all in the same room.  Last night our whole family was in the bathroom for 45 minutes, kids playing in the bath while my husband and I did dishes, our clothes-drying rack housing both swimsuits and plates (I knew there was a reason that bathroom is too big).

And with all of this what I’m noticing is not the heated jostle for space that I expected but a kindness, a consideration, even a rise in cuddliness and connection amongst our family (especially the guys).

My son, August, has never been the cuddly sort. Not even as a baby. But I have noticed in the past that he has a lot more patience with himself and is prone to laugh a lot more when he’s gotten some physical affection (hugs and kisses, hair ruffles and smiles) from me. He never initiates it like my daughter does, but, man, does he respond. And in close quarters, those things are happening much more.

I also suspect that without a third of our house to clean and travel through to get from one place to another we’re actually getting more time back, which is kind of funny to think about. If you have a bigger house you have to walk a lot more. It takes 15 steps to put something away instead of 3. Right now I can break down recycling boxes, boil water for tea, get juice from the fridge, and use the microwave by taking only one step in any direction. I’m saving so much time!

So, again, I look forward to the new stuff (a kitchen floor that’s not sinking into the ground, cabinets that aren’t falling apart, walls that don’t leak heat in the winter, and another toilet, THANK GOD for another toilet!) but I’m also enjoying the hidden blessings of togetherness amongst the mess.

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