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May 30, 2012

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Living with Less

“My life is just plain better than yours.  We have a 5 bedroom house with a yard and you live in a 1 bedroom apartment. Our monthly budget is $9,000 plus vacations and extras.”

Can you imagine someone saying that to you?  Comparing who has the better life because of housing size and how much money they make?  Do you compare yourself to others based on these things?

Longtime readers will know that our family
of 4 lives in an 800 sq ft one-bedroom NYC apartment.  Some of you (no doubt, many of you) probably think we are crazy.  Perhaps.  I can understand that.
It does sound a little crazy and admittedly, I never saw us happily living in such a small space.
When I was pregnant we looked at many larger apartments and found that bigger did not equal better.
We consciously made the decision to stay put.
My family is learning the art of living with less, acquiring only what we really need, living not just within our means but below it.
I wouldn’t call myself a minimalist by any means, but here we are, doing it and it’s working out quite well.

So I was shocked this past week when a ‘friend’ (and I use that term rather lightly as we were never really friends, haven’t truly spoken much in almost a decade and simply follow each other on FB) compared his (wife’s) salary and their suburban 5 bedroom home with a yard to my one bedroom NYC apartment.  He basically trashed the way we live and insinuated how much better his life was than mine–because of MONEY and his large house/yard (and it’s not like he even owns the house–it’s a rental–but urgh, never mind).
That’s when it occurred to me that there were probably many others out there judging me for how we are choosing to live.  He was trying to knock me down, to embarrass me.  (Why?  I don’t know.  He’s a crazy drunk.  I guess he was on a rampage and I got in his way).  Whatever his motives–it didn’t work.  I’ve never found my home to be embarrassing or depressive.  I love where we live.
We could move.  We could also afford to rent a 5 bedroom home if we chose (not in NYC).
If we really wanted to, we could get a 2 bedroom right around the corner or maybe even next door.

Instead we’ve chosen to focus on what really matters.  For me this is all about comfort and ease of living.  I don’t care not having a big house to clean or a yard to maintain.  I like how our small space forces me to (mostly) get rid of clutter and keep things organized.  We have everything we need within the walls of our small space.  I believe that if you have so much ‘stuff’ you need a storage unit, then you have too much that you really don’t need at all.  I love being in the center of a vibrant, walking city with a multitude of parks, museums, markets and restaurants all around me.  There are so many options for my kids each and every day and we never run out of fun things to do.

Our biggest goal is focusing on how to live with less in order to travel.  Not just a vacation here and there, but to really get away and travel.  We have been doing this before the twins were born and we wanted to keep on going with the boys.
For us, having a big house, the latest gadgets, an expensive wardrobe, a new car–is not where we find happiness.
Stuff and money is not going to buy me happiness.  In fact, since having kids we have downsized more than ever and I find myself constantly purging items and selling things we don’t really need/use.  Every time we come home from traveling, I take a look around and think “we have too much crap!”  My wife loves these moments!
Spending time with my wife and kids, experiencing the world together–that’s worth far more to me than any of the material ‘stuff’.

We all make our choices in life based on priorities.  For us, our priority is the ability to travel.
And so we choose to live with less in order to live fuller lives through travel.  I’m willing to sacrifice a bedroom for that.

If you want to get inspired to live with less, take a look at this TED talk, “Less Stuff, More Happiness”.  I love his vision!