A Small House Should Cost You Less, Not More!

At the public library, I saw a book about small house living. It was full of very modern and expensive-looking new small houses with lofts, stone siding, high-end appliances and pricey floors. I felt like the author and publisher were missing the point.

One of the biggest benefits of small-house living is that it keeps your costs down, freeing up your money (so you can stay solvent) and time (so you can do other things instead of working like a dog to pay for an expensive house). Having a small house filled with expensive features requires a certain level of income that an increasing number of people don’t have anymore. So it seems silly to focus on so many showy small houses with inevitably large price tags.

Small houses were once very much in vogue, and can still be found all over the country. Now that small houses are making a comeback, people are realizing that an older, well-built small house in a good neighborhood makes more sense than anything else in the real estate market. Unlike condos, there are no HOA fees or rules. Unlike large homes, there are low utility bills and property taxes.

Some of the houses in that book I saw had fancy stairways with backless steps made of metal. Many existing small houses also have two stories, but I prefer a ranch. It’s a lot easier to move into a one-story house than a two-story house. Also, as I age, I can see that someday, steps will become my nemesis. Many other baby boomers are coming to the same conclusion, so I think ranches will be extremely desirable for the foreseeable future.

In any case, once you age out of the need or desire for a large house, small-house living becomes very attractive, whether you want a basic small house or one of the modern ones like I saw in the library book. It just makes so much sense in the times we live in now.

Collectibles Usually = Clutter

Recently, I was shopping in a thrift store when I happened to see a stack of Norman Rockwell collector plates. I remember seeing them advertised in magazines back in the 1970s and 1980s, and they weren’t cheap. In fact, I think people could pay for them in monthly installments. But now they’re only $3 each at the thrift store.

Then there are Hummel figurines. My elderly relatives think their Hummels are worth hundreds of dollars each, because they paid a lot for them back in the day and they assume that prices have only gone up since then. I don’t have the heart to tell them that most Hummel figurines sell for $15-30 on eBay nowadays.

And of course anyone over 20 remembers what happened with Beanie Babies. They became popular and people bought and sold them for outrageous prices. Now you see them for a buck each at garage sales.

The fact is that once-collectible items often become clutter that’s hard to get rid of, either because you paid so much for them or because you’re aware that they were once valuable and you feel guilty getting rid of them. Neither of these are good reasons for keeping this stuff, especially if it’s getting in your way.

Consider that any items that were once highly sought after are probably not worth as much now because there are so many of them in existence: their popularity doomed them to eventually become commonplace, just because of the sheer quantity of them that were created.

Nevertheless, it’s still hard to get rid of such things.

The key, I think, is to make a strict rule to only keep items that you truly love. They may have once been collectible, or they may be something no one else wants. But if you dearly love them, they can stay. And if you don’t love them, they need to go. You must be picky, picky, picky, if you want to live in a clean, uncluttered and lovely environment. It’s the only way.

Shrinking My Wardrobe

Today I shrank my wardrobe by about 33%.

I’ve kept many clothes over the years, partly out of sentimentality, and partly because most older clothes are better-made out of better fabrics than the clothes I find in stores today. I’m sure people are sick of seeing me in the same old things, because I’ve been wearing some outfits for years!

I do buy the occasional “new” thing here and there, usually at a thrift store a half-hour from here. There are plenty of thrift stores in my own town, but I seem to have particular luck at the store that’s further away, sometimes even finding actual “new” clothes (they might have been new ten or 15 years ago) that still have the tags on them.

I’ve had a bit too much fun at that store in recent months; as a result, my wardrobe no longer fit in my closet. There were too many things hanging in there, and the two large plastic boxes I keep for out-of-season clothes would no longer close tight; they were way overstuffed.

I took everything out and sorted it into piles by type: tops, sweaters, slacks, jeans, etc. I also went through my dresser drawers and took out anything I hadn’t worn yet this season. I did all this sorting on my bed, which is positioned conveniently between the closet and the dresser.

The first part was the easy and fun part: I found all the socks with large holes in them and pitched them. Ditto for the underwear that I’d be embarrassed to be seen in if I ended up in the hospital.

Then I started making a pile for donations to the local Goodwill, where I can just drive up and they’ll take my stuff before I can change my mind. At first that was easy, too: tops that I haven’t worn in ages, pants that no longer hang right on me, the sweaters that are perfectly fine but that I have far too many of…the result was a nice-sized pile. Some of those items came from the thrift store, so I had little guilt about giving them up because the price I paid for them was a donation to the religious charity that runs the thrift store.

It helped that I’d been planning to go through my clothes for a few weeks, so I’d already begun thinking about which specific pieces of clothing I’d give up. Those items went straight into the pile; I guess I’d already mentally wrestled with them.

But there were plenty of items that I’d forgotten about, so I now had to make decisions about each of them. As a result, despite the decent-sized pile of donations, there were still far more items stacked on my bed than could fit into those two boxes. And so the hard part began.

When you’re sentimental, it’s so easy to find an argument for why you should keep something:

  • I’ve had this forever.
  • I’ve had some good times in this outfit.
  • This was a gift from someone I love.
  • This is one of the few colors that look good on me.
  • I wore this top when my kids were still at home.
  • I’ve always loved this brand.
  • My husband used to compliment me when I wore this.

Yes, I said all those things in my head, and more. Suddenly I grew tired of all the arguments. I began grabbing favorite items and stacking them in the plastic boxes that would be stored in my closet. Once the boxes were full, I put the rest of the clothes in the donation pile before I could change my mind. Then I bagged it all, put the bags in the trunk of the car and slammed the lid.

Back in the bedroom, peace reigned. Two boxes, flat on top instead of bulging, were put back in my closet. There was space between the clothes hanging there. My drawers had plenty in them, but were not overstuffed. Oh….it feels so good to be done with this task for a while!

In a week or two, when I think of some piece of clothing I used to wear, and I realize that I gave it away, I’ll probably feel bad for a second. But then I’ll remember that it served me well and that it was time to let it go. Believe it or not, that always makes me feel better, and then I can move on.

I wish I was one of those people who aren’t sentimental, and can swiftly grab up piles of clothes and get rid of them without a second thought. But that’s just not me, and I know I’m not alone.

(If you’re sentimental like me, you’re going to love my new book, The Sentimental Person’s Guide to Decluttering. Check it out HERE.)