The ‘Right Size’ Movement – Talbot Style
In today’s social climate, there is an inspiring movement growing and challenging our ideas around home and the ‘stuff’ we put in it. While battling the bulge of ‘stuff’ feels good, we are still missing an opportunity to discuss the actual space where that stuff lives, and more importantly where we live. Cost, location, flow, square footage, functionality, storage, maintenance, light, and many more elements are the building blocks of the ‘right’ home. Arguably the home is your most important space on a daily basis; a space that should be supportive of the life and lifestyle you want to live.
My thesis is called ‘Right Sizing’ and it challenges our preconceived ideas about the home we live in, (and the place where the stuff lives). I have been sharing this idea publicly for a few years now…before Marie Kondo started trending on Netflix, or the launch of ‘The Minimalist Home’ by Joshua Becker. The response has been inspiring. The thing I love about Marie Kondo and the ‘stuff’ conversation is that it shows a growing appetite in Western culture to shift perspective from unconscious accumulation to purposeful and conscious consumption. A shift toward dwelling in happiness and away from chasing after it. While they focus on stuff I’m focused on the space. And closely tied to it all, the elephant in the room, the amount of money needed to feed the obsession with big houses and conversely big amounts of stuff. See how it all ties together?
That’s not to say that I don’t struggle with our space and excess. What I realize is it’s a constant battle to catch that default impulse to buy more, have more, or upgrade…compete on Instagram and with those ‘Joneses’. This is a game I’ve learned you cannot win.
I’m not a ‘stuff’ expert, I don’t fold things in tidy little standing squares but I know from spending close to 3 years now examining what we are buying, what we have in our space, and for me more importantly, examining the ‘space’ itself that there is another way different. And it can be exciting and rewarding for sure. As well as our personal journey I’ve also watched hundreds of families struggle with their space, the cost of living, the location they want to be in, and the disappointment of thinking they can’t have what they think they need. It turns out the formula is broken.
So what is ‘Right Sizing’?
Let me first say what it isn’t. It is NOT downsizing. All through the right space may be smaller for some it could actually mean more space for others. It’s not a tiny home nor is it meant to be something you have to give up. It’s about the right space that leads to a sense of wholeness and happiness and a way to lessen the constant financial pressure that stops people from living the life they want.
The right size is personal, authentic, and not influenced by someone else. It is sustainable because it’s tailored to you and your family. It’s an approach to analyze your current or future home using real criteria not fantasy ideas. It is designed to be a practical and useful model for families and others living in very expensive cities.
Let me ask you a few questions…
- Can we live in a smaller space and actually be happier. What does that mean? What would that look like?
As some of you know we decided to put our money where our mouth is and sell our large house in Lions Bay and then renovate and move into a 1200 sq ft house in East Vancouver. It’s almost a year and a half into that move and while it had it’s challenges, at the end of the day it has turned out to be the best decision. The space works with our kids at the age they are but will likely need to change in a few years. That’s one of the elements of right sizing, to identify where you are at NOW not trying to find a space that will work forever…I’m very much against the idea of a “forever home”. Life is fluid and constantly changing and the space we live in should adapt too.
- Are we addicted to square footage? How do we value houses? Does space and size trump quality and design?
If you understand how the real estate industry assigns value to a property, the number one criteria is size. There are adjustments made for updates, views, age, exposure, etc but the primary focus is on square footage of building and lot. It’s disproportional and doesn’t properly weigh in quality and design. This is a big problem because when it’s about size, builders and homeowners tend to max out the allowable area and sacrifice quality which leads to houses that don’t perform the way they should over time.
- Is there a way to take control of the affordability crisis?
I watch so many people struggle to find a way to buy in the area they want, and if they do, struggle with a huge mortgage. Right Sizing isn’t the solution to the affordability issue but it’s a step in the right direction to re-shape the conversation so that you don’t feel like you’ve failed or sacrificed by buying a smaller home or one with less yard or having your kids share a room. There is an incredibly strong pull to show off a large home with the picket fence; a dream home. I even find myself rationalizing, when people come over, why we live in a smaller house on a small lot and then I catch myself…it’s a TRAP!
I wrote a blog called the Wake Up Call (click to read) that really represented the beginning of this journey. I had no idea how or where this impulse would take us. We aren’t finished, we are really just beginning but I can say whole heartedly that the changes we have made have been incredibly positive for Rebecca and I personally, in our relationship, with our kids, and have impacted positively our time, finances, stress, and so much more.
This conversation is far from over but to finish with a little Marie Kondo inspiration. I believe that each space in your house should spark joy and more importantly that space needs to work to it’s greatest potential. If you are paying for space that isn’t being fully utilized or that you aren’t happy with then maybe it’s time to consider if it’s the ‘Right Size’ for you at this point in your life.