Monday, July 18, 2011

Apartment Living: Downsizing

via

I’m 23 years old and 95% of my life has been spent living in apartments. Aside from a brief stint living with my grandparents when my mom left my dad and another three years renting a house from one of the worst landlords to ever walk to face of this earth, I have lived in apartments. Large apartments and shoebox apartments. Luxury apartments and ones with only the barebones appliances. Gated communities and scary communities. I have lived in just about every kind of apartment one can imagine.

Almost two years ago, my mom and I downsized from a beautiful, two-bedroom, two-bathroom luxury apartment in a gated community that included a full-size washer and dryer in the unit, as well as granite countertops, stainless-steel appliances, and more closets and counter space than we knew what to do with. We moved about 10 miles away to a one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment with no washer and dryer, outdated appliances, and just one walk-in closet and one linen closet to house all our stuff. Due to our current financial state, we had to make the tough decision to downsize. And cutting our rent bill by $400 made our decision that much easier.

Downsizing was tough. My mom lost a bedroom (hers is now the den of the apartment. Don’t ask me why she has the den while I have the master bedroom. Her decision.) We lost being able to wash our clothes whenever we wanted. We went from a glass-top stove to one that looks like it was made in 1975. (I still miss that stove.) We lost closet space and an extra bathroom. We lost square footage and a safe, gated community.

But what we gained was so much better than luxury. Downsizing was a step in gaining our financial freedom once again and realizing we can make a shoebox-sized apartment work for us.

How We Did It

Find the right apartment.

Obviously, the first step in the downsizing process is finding the right apartment. You want a place that will be worth the effort of moving and the right price for the right amenities. My mom and I knew we wanted to move closer to her work since I would need the car to get to work and to school. Luckily, on the opposite side of the street where she works is a whole slew of apartments. We knew we wanted to find something there so she could simply walk to work and I could have the car without causing any major difficulties. And there are tons of different websites to peruse when apartment hunting. We knew the area we wanted to move to so it wasn’t a big deal for us but we have used websites before - Duncanville Apartments, being an example. We knew we would need to downsize to a one-bedroom but we’re looking for something with a den, because that could be a second (albeit, much smaller) bedroom. And we also threw away any notions that we would have a full-size washer and dryer and up-to-date appliances. After touring 5-6 different apartments, we decided on the one we’re at currently. We would lose almost 300 square footage, but realistically, we don’t need all that space anyway. It was the perfect walking distance from my mom’s work (less than a mile) and the community seemed homey, inviting, and quiet.

Begin the process of downsizing before you step foot in your new apartment.

You’re losing out on a lot of space when you move to a smaller apartment. In our case, it meant we needed to take a firm look at what we had and what we really needed. We weren’t going to have an extra outside closet to house all our Christmas decorations. Or two walk-in closets to house all our clothes and junk. We had to start before we packed with getting rid of the waste. We are not packrats of any sort but there was still a lot we had to part with when we took a look at what we had and what we wanted to move over. I ended up getting rid of my desk (it was falling apart anyway), my dresser (ended up giving it to my mom and using closet space and a small nighttable to house my clothes), and a bookshelf. We also had to go through our clothes and only keep what we knew we would wear. Since we would be sharing one walk-in closet, we needed to make sure we could fit our clothes together without creating too much mess.

Make the small space work for you.

Once you move in, it’s time to reorganize and figure out how to make your new apartment work for you. Yes, you’re losing out on a lot of space and nicer appliances, in some cases, but my mom and I found it very easy to organize our life to suit our new space. Organizational systems like boxes and cute baskets help, as well as realizing how to plan a living room that doesn’t feel suffocating or make a den feel more like a bedroom than a small living area. Once we decided to downsize, my mom and I threw our entire attitudes into this concept and it helped us to see this apartment for what it is: an escape from living beyond our means. So we were excited to take a smaller space and make it our own!

Revel in the extra money you have every month.

My mom and I ended up with $400 extra a month and a few months after we moved in, she paid off her car, giving us an extra $200 a month. The smaller space is worth it to be able to breathe again financially. At the time we moved, I still had two years of college to make it through. I had a part-time job but couldn’t contribute significantly to our finances so this move was big for us. We finally realized that as much as we loved living in our luxury apartment, we needed to be smart and downsize. Realize that living within our means is better in the long run. Yes, hauling our clothes to the laundry room is a pain and I still miss that beautiful stove, but the financial freedom we received in the long run is worth more than any luxury.

Have you ever needed to downsize? Are you living under, within, or above your means now?

22 comments:

  1. This is a really great post. My father lived in apartments for as long as I could remember when I was little, but I think I always lived in a house with my mom. We were lucky enough that even during really tough financial times, my grandmother had the sense to buy a house when I was little in a nice little neighborhood which is now my mom's. I remember at one point we were looking at moving in 3 people into a tiny apartment and it made me really nervous because I didn't know how we'd manage, but it never ended up happening. I think that if we didn't have this house to our own name, me and my mom would be living in an apartment now anyway- the house isn't BIG whatsoever, but it is too big for two people. Our entire basement is just storage! 

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm there right now!  I have a medium sized apartment that was a downsize from my last one that felt way too big for just me anyway.  The new one has all the aesthetics I wanted plus a washer and dryer, so that plus moving to a more expensive area means my downsize wasn't really a downsize at all and put me right at my means, but I definitely prefer to live under my means. 

    This post was perfectly timed because I have to tell them what I'm doing with my lease in one week and I need to be honest with myself about my finances and weigh the extra money I could have with the pain of moving and also giving up my pretty little apartment.  Thanks for giving me a new way to think about it and tips on making it work if I go that way!

    ReplyDelete
  3. girlwiththeredhair7/18/11, 2:50 PM

    Awesome post Stephany. Super informative! I had to downsize after I graduated college because without my parents helping me out anymore and with Eric not living with me (this ended up being only a few months but we THOUGHT he'd be gone much longer) I could not afford the big 2-bedroom apartment I was living in. I HATED my teeny tiny basement suite but looking back now the cheap rent allowed us to save for a year and easily afford our townhouse, definitely a good thing. We are living within our means right now with our townhouse and once Eric is done school and have a full-time job we will be living under them, which will be great! We might also look at getting a roommate at some point in the next couple of years to save us even more money! 

    ReplyDelete
  4. We just recently moved from our 1,000 sq foot, two bedroom, two bathroom house to a 400 square-foot one bedroom, one bathroom apartment. We didn't do it out of necessity, though. We really wanted to downsize. Our roommate had moved out, and we weren't using the extra bedroom and bathroom for anything but storage of junk we never used anyway. Moving saved us money and allowed us to get rid of junk and be purposeful about the things we own and buy. There's not much I miss about our old house except the washer and dryer (we have to go to the laundromat now). We had a big, beautiful gas stove, but now we have a tiny gas stove, so it's not a huge difference--it just takes a little more juggling to cook things. I love that it's so much easier to clean and there are so many fewer projects and house decoration things to waste my time with. And we're closer to campus, which will be great for this coming school year. 

    ReplyDelete
  5. Great post, Stephany! We just recently upsized (is this a word? ;)), because we've been living in a shoe box apartment for the last three years... but yes, that had definitely been a downsize from where we lived before. It was doable, we didn't have much stuff to begin with, but making it work in a small space (especially with two people) requires commitment, good ideas and compromise.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I love this post Stephany!  Us moving resulted in doubling our living space (I think there's 2,400 sq ft) and drastically shrinking our mortgage in the process (Yay!!!).  We were living within our means before, but now I'm able to take time off work comfortably to focus on school for a bit.  The extra space has me a bit worried though - I'm a bit of a packrat, and as much as I want to downsize my possessions, it's never an easy task.

    ReplyDelete
  7. KJHartenstein7/18/11, 5:31 PM

    I think you two are so smart for doing that. Truly we would not be living in the place that we are if not for my parents as our landlords.  We're lucky to have the cheap rent we do.  But honestly saving the extra money is nice!

    ReplyDelete
  8. I have always lived in about the same amount of space until recently when i actually upsized.  I feel very fortunate to be in the position to upsize, but I have worked hard to get to where I am at!  But I still have less space than many my age (and many friends) so I stiill live in a 'smallish' space to some extent. 

    And I definitley live within my means right now.  Before I moved, I would say I was living below my means. 

    ReplyDelete
  9. Great post. You were so brave and smart to do this. Many let their pride get in the way of downsizing, but look at all the good it produced for you! 

    ReplyDelete
  10. I guess you can call what I've done downgrading, not downsizing.  I grew up with everything I ever needed.  I wasn't spoiled in my opinion, but I never wanted for any of the necessities of life.  My husband, however, grew up with very little.  They always had a place to live, but sometimes had no hot water.  Sometimes they went without food.  He won't admit to it, but I think he's still very insecure about his appearance because he had to wear very old clothes going to school.  His life here is very different from mine back home.  Since I'm here now, and since he grew up and got a job, bills are always paid and there is always food in the house, but it's still quite the downgrade.  The washer and dryer are pretty much on death's door (especially the dryer).  The burners on the stove don't work half the time, the carpet has all been torn out and the floors are an ugly concrete.  The furniture is pitiful and mismatched.  The house has holes in some of the walls.  And to top it all off, his mother (it's her house) owns at least 12 cats and none of them are fixed.  I detest pets, especially pets that don't obey litter box laws and climb up on counters.  So yeah.  Huge downgrade for me.  But downsizing?  Um... does buying discount groceries count?  Because we have to do that sometimes.  :/

    ReplyDelete
  11. I've luckily never had to downsize out of necessity. We moved from a house that we were renting to a townhouse that we bought, but it was under certain circumstances that I won't bore you with!

    I think that we're living well within our means. Sure, there's things that was really want to have, but we don't go out and get them just because we can afford them. I see way too many people living from paycheck to paycheck just because the "have to have" that $40,000 vehicle with the $300/mth insurance and a house big enough to fit all the Duggars! That's not to say that we're frugal - we're just a bit more sensible!

    ReplyDelete
  12. My kids and I went through a downsize last year: 3 bed, 2 living room, 2 garages house to a 2 bed apartment.  I loved it!  It is very liberating getting rid of stuff.  And it's usually just stuff too.  Now we are in the process again because next year both kids will be on their own and I want all my stuff to fit into a studio or 1 bed apt.  It's nice to have space but its possible to make that space sometimes by getting rid of junk.

    ReplyDelete
  13. When I was little, I always wanted to live in a house since everyone in every book I ever read seemed to live in one. And even though it would have been nice not to have to struggle so much before we downsized, I think it gave us a lot of financial sense and knowing what is in our means and what isn't.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Hey, the post was perfectly timed for me, too, since my mom and I were just given our new leasing terms and had to decide whether we wanted to move or not (to a more expensive place). I think writing this post helped me to see that living under my means is the perfect position because living above it? Horrible!

    ReplyDelete
  15. It seems like you guys are doing everything right, which is great! I know how easy it is to fall into living above your means, especially when you're fresh out of college and in the "real world" for the first time. 

    ReplyDelete
  16. Wow -- 1,000 to 400? We went from 1,000 to 700 so the difference wasn't as startling. But I'm glad you're making it work for you and liking it! I really wish we had more storage options (just my closet & a linen closet) but other than that, I love the smaller place and community. 

    ReplyDelete
  17. Your last sentence is spot on! It does take a LOT of good ideas and compromise. My walk-in closet is getting out of control lately so I need to go in there and figure it all out. 

    ReplyDelete
  18. That's awesome you get to put your full focus on school! I haven't found living in a smaller place to be all that helpful in easing packrat tendencies. :) We need to go through another serious organizational overhaul, though. Especially after living here for 2 years.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Having extra money is SO nice. We would never have been able to afford a cruise if we had been living someplace else - either above or even AT our means. And it makes it hard to even think about moving.

    ReplyDelete
  20. I hope to be in the position to upsize within the next year and I definitely think you deserved to move and find a place you loved! 

    ReplyDelete
  21. It took us a while to swallow our pride and look at other apartments much different than where we were living, but it was also the best decision we made. It's helped us SO much!

    ReplyDelete
  22. Exactly! Being sensible is key, it allows you to have room for indulgences but not go crazy with big purchases or monthly bills. I think what you guys are doing is great!

    ReplyDelete

Comments make me all giddy with excitement.

 
Design by Designer Blogs