Would You Ever Downsize?
Several months ago, Ashley Le Blanc posted about her and her husband’s decision to downsize. Ashley is a native Californian who, after spending some time in Ireland and Israel, got married to her high school sweetheart and settled in Joplin, MO. She is the executive director of Art Feeds Joplin, a unique and inspiring non-profit that works with kids through the powerful medium of art. Her husband Connor is the high school youth minister at Hope City Church.
I couldn’t stop thinking about their decision, and asked if she’d be willing to sit down with me over a cup of coffee and tell me more about moving into a smaller home ::
I was so intrigued when you posted about downsizing. Personally, it’s something I’d already been thinking about, but I also find it interesting because it’s just not something that people do. So what was behind that move?
Part of it comes from A) not having a lot of money and B) not having a lot of time. We’re really busy and when we were looking at our life, we realized we didn’t have a lot of time to give or a lot of money to spend and if we weren’t being careful with those things, we were going to waste our time and money on things that aren’t important to us. So I think it just came from this idea that we needed to be really intentional with our lives.
We lived in an apartment for the first couple years of marriage, which was awesome, but then we got a dog. We started looking at houses and only had a month to move. So we quickly found a house and it was awesome. But even though it wasn’t the biggest house in the world (three bedrooms, two bath, big backyard), after a few months of living there we realized, “We’re not using all this space!” and that meant we were wasting our money.
So I thought, “What if we went with a place that was a lot smaller?” We ended up finding a house that was just down the street from us—literally just a few blocks away. It was a tough decision, but since we’ve moved there we’ve had an overwhelming sense of peace and happiness.
Tell us about your new house.
It’s really cramped. It has three bedrooms, one bath, but the three bedrooms combined are about the size of one of the bedrooms in our old house. They’re super tiny.
We had to make one of the rooms our closet. It sounds crazy, but there was only one small closet in our bedroom and with Connor’s clothes, my clothes, plus shoes and hats, there was just no way. So now one of the extra bedrooms has a small guest bed in it and the other bedroom just has our clothes. Our master bedroom has enough room for our bed and the nightstands packed into both sides. But it’s so awesome because I feel like I use every part of our house every single day.
In our old house, we never went into our two extra bedrooms and the extra bath. So we were renting a whole house but only using half of it. I think the easy thing would’ve been to just buy more stuff to fill those rooms—to turn one into an office or to have two guest bedrooms. It would’ve cost us a lot of money that we didn’t need to spend. Instead we just moved into a smaller house that fits all our stuff.
In the new house, our living room space didn’t change a lot. And we still have a backyard. And these are the things we care about. Because when we are at home, we want people to be with us. But that’s a hard thing, right, when you say you want to move into a smaller space? This house worked out perfectly because it will still house people really well and having the backyard is so great because we can be in the backyard with people. We have a table out there where we can have friends for dinner. But all we do in our bedrooms is sleep, so we didn’t need our bedrooms to be large. Our bedroom literally just has a bed.
Do you think that this lifestyle is something that originated with you or did inspiration come elsewhere?
I don’t know if it comes from any person or thing. Jesus? Haha! Connor and I became Christians later in life and something we really wrestled with through all of that was being intentional—intentional in our conversations and our friendships and where we go—and this was just the next phase of it all. There has just been a sequence of making intentional decision and this was the next step.
Besides the inconvenience of living in a smaller place and trying to troubleshoot that, are there any challenges in making the decision to downsize?
I think the hardest part is that it forces you to live in tighter quarters with another human. Growing up, pretty much every child has his or her own room. Your room is your place to retreat and be alone. In the old house, I had a room—it was the spare room—but it had all my art stuff in it and I could go in there and be alone. Sometimes that was good, but it could also be an easy answer when I wanted to avoid a problem. But when you’re living with your spouse in a tiny place—unless you want to leave the house—there’s nowhere for you to go! There’s no escaping confrontation or conflict. It has to be dealt with because you’re in a smaller space. That will be something we continue to wrestle and struggle with.
I also think it can be a pride check, because sometimes you can use your possessions to see how you measure up to other people. As a young married couple, a lot of our friends are buying houses and decorating and making them look cool, and I think it’s really easy to get swept up in that. A year ago I really loved saying, “Come to our big, huge house!” but in the end that wasn’t what I wanted. It’s not necessary and it’s silly. But at times it hurts my pride and I have to tell myself, “This doesn’t matter.”
What are some of the advantages?
It’s been really nice to not have to clean all those rooms in the old house. I have more time to hang out with people. With how busy we are, it would take us a whole day to clean our house and mow the yard. We only have one day off a week, so we were spending it cleaning our house! So we would either choose to let the house go so we could hang out with people or we would stay home and clean. But now we can easily keep up with the cleaning during the week so that on our day off we have more time to hang out with people.
And we just have more money. It’s just been nice. With Connor working at the church and me working for a nonprofit, we don’t have huge salaries. It’s definitely enough to get by, but with our old house we didn’t have money to help out someone who needed help. Or if an emergency had happened, there was no flexibility there. And now, with the rent in the new house and the lower utilities, it’s just going to allow for us for us to travel more, give more, and provide for ourselves in case of emergency. And we can save because not every dollar is going toward the house.
I just love hearing about someone taking control of their lifestyle and making sure they’re using their time and money the way that makes sense for them. Thank you so much, Ashley, for sharing with us!
What about you? Would you ever downsize? Have you ever thought about it? What would be the advantages? The disadvantages? What are your thoughts?