The Downside of Downsizing

Tiny Home Plan

One of the truths about retirement is, if you are a homeowner, the maintenance on your house does not retire with you. After a week of cleaning out gutters, touching up paint, having our roof inspected after a neighbor had to replace theirs due to hale damage, we ended the week with a Friday night emergency electrician call. Our hard wired smoke alarm sounded for over three hours. Putting in fresh batteries didn’t silence it. Neither did turning off the breakers. Martin and I were tempted to pull the detectors out of the ceiling. The sound was deafening.

Fortunately, our roof will last another seven to twelve years barring another hale storm. Who knew smoke detectors are only good for seven to ten years? Ours were thirteen so no surprise they failed, but did they have to malfunction on Friday night? After the electrician pulled them out of the ceiling, he’ll be back on Monday to replace them.

Tired of what seems like a constant repair or replace at the house and just plain curious, coming back from a shopping trip on Saturday, we swung into Lake Walk, a tiny home community. As a rule, we don’t shop on Saturdays. That’s the kind of week we’d had. Between the regular homeowner chores like mowing the field, picking blueberries, deadheading spent flowers and the additional maintenance on the house, a tiny home situated on a local lake with walking trails was tempting. We’d at least take a look to see what this growing trend was all about.

Martin and I were greeted by Randy, the developer and owner of the project. He explained that the residents would buy a tiny home and rent the lot from him for $450 a month. There would be forty-three tiny homes in all on four acres, with an additional eleven acres of trails and a central gathering place for residents to enjoy an evening visiting neighbors on a deck or around an outdoor fire. Set among towering oaks and other hardwoods, it all looked and sounded appealing. He had already sold three tiny homes, including two singles selling their larger houses to move to Lake Walk.

The largest home at 350 square feet plus a, yes, tiny loft, was inviting. Complete with hardwood floors, granite countertops, a fireplace fed by propane and lots of windows providing natural light, I envisioned myself living there — if I had to.

With just about everything built in, gone would be all of our furniture, some of which I’m admittedly attached to. The two bedroom closets would hold my clothes. I didn’t know where Martin would put his. And where would we do our art projects? Keep our art supplies? I suppose we could rent a studio someplace. Ditto for the exercise equipment —gone — to be replaced with a gym membership.

And where would I garden? As if reading my mind, Randy told us there would be community gardens for anyone wanting a space to grow vegetables or flowers. Hmmm…that sweetened the idea. However, there are no garages with tiny homes. Our tools, cars, Martin’s motorcycle and, oh, his bicycle, all outside waiting for hale storm damage in addition to the roof. Ugh! I didn’t like that picture at all.

Although the tiny homes were pretty, the woodsy setting beside the lake serene, I’d seen enough to know this was not for me, not yet. I didn’t even bother to ask if pets were welcome. As someone with seven cats, I thought that would be an issue just because of the numbers. Where would I house four litter boxes in 350 square feet? What about the three that are semi-feral cats used to being outside? The cats, like me, would probably be bored before long in such a tiny space. Then, Martin and I would be complaining about paying rent, neighbors too close for comfort, driving to the gym, paying rent, instead of walking through a door at our house, paying rent for an art studio and me without landscaping opportunities.

Everything has its pluses and minuses. Life is never without a downside and an upside. While caring for a large property and a not so large house takes work and money, where I am right now is where I want to be right now. The tiny home will have to wait.

13 comments on “The Downside of Downsizing

  1. Oh please. I live in a 911 square foot condo and I am very much looking forward to upsizing! Our new retirement home in Arizona is a glorious 1275 square feet! I can’t wait to spread out! 350 square feet. No. Way. Jose.


  2. I greatly appreciated your honest and thoughtful reflection on some of the pros and cons of downsizing. Thank you for sharing these, Kathy.


  3. Hi Kathy,

    Just returned from the Hub City Writing in Place conference. Great time. You might enjoy it one summer. Now here I’m resting and reading your blog. As usual I can relate to every word. Write on, Kathy, write on.


  4. Mrs. Freaky Frugal and I downsized from 2,100 square ft. home with an oversized 2-car garage to an 1,150 square ft. apartment. It was alot of work, but now it’s great!

    I’m fascinated with HGTV, DIY shows about Tiny Homes. But like you it just seems like a Tiny Home would be too small. I do think we could downsize into a slightly smaller apartment – 800 or 900 square ft.


  5. Kathy, This is very timely; just this week, two friends and I visited two nearby retirement communities. I am thinking ahead to the time when the anxieties and the physical work of bearing sole responsibility for the upkeep of my rural home become too much for me. I think visiting these communities helps to clarify what’s important to us, what we could tolerate, and what would be unbearable.


  6. 350?? Can not imagine it. We are downsizing – from 3800 sq ft (yes, way too much space) to 2100 sq ft and are having a challenge with things like fitting in hubby’s toys and tools, where do the Christmas decorations get stored, and getting rid of the sentimental and sometimes-used items – from boxes of pictures to bookcases of books to wedding gifts we never use to different sizes of luggage for travels. I know we will at some time in the future downsize even more, but this space is the right space for us at this time. Someday I won’t want a garden of my own or space for working/writing/trying new art. But not yet. And at that time, just like this time, I know it will be tough to get through it, but at the end, it will be great. You’ll know similarly if/when its right… but maybe never to 350 sq ft!


  7. Hi Kathy! I’m another Kathy who blogs about positive aging, semi-retirement and the process of downsizing –but I call it rightsizing instead. I so agree that downsizing to a tiny house just isn’t realistic for most of us nearing retirement. My first thought about the loft bedroom was, “Can you imagine getting up at night to use the bathroom????” So no, living in a tiny house doesn’t appeal. Instead, my husband and I moved to a smaller home that has the amenities that we really want and need and let go of the big house with all the maintenance and costs. So many advantages came from that move that the term “rightsizing” is so much better–and yeah, I write a lot about that on the blog and even wrote a book on it! Enjoy your bigger home as long as it serves you but don’t discount all the other alternatives (besides a tiny house) that are out there. ~Kathy


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