Downsizing into a bigger life


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         window box photo

“Life was meant to be lived, and curiosity must be kept alive. One must never, for whatever reason, turn his back on life.”— Eleanor Roosevelt

 (Part 1 of a 2-part series on Reinventing a Home)

When our children are small and our families are growing, no house seems large enough for all the belongings and activities gathered under one roof.

I cherished my “family” home and all the memories of country living in a cozy cape on an idyllic setting with an in ground swimming pool and my dream studio overlooking a beautiful, three-acre conservation field.

It was the “right” home in which to raise a family.  I hired a local YWCA instructor to teach backyard swim classes to my kids and their friends, and hosted many prom photo shoots on our Vermont-like setting.  Kids played football on our front lawn, and I loved coaching clients in the old garden shed that I converted into a workspace to look like a small Nantucket cottage with a warm spa-like ambiance.  I even completed my first book in the studio, glancing out the windows frequently at my plush perennial gardens or the deer prancing by.

Life changes.  I had to sell that house to help foot my daughter’s college tuition bill and move to another smaller transition home for awhile.  I never looked back, except with great love for the foundation I gave my children and the studio I manifested from a dream one night when I awoke with these words:  “Build it and they will come.”  Clients loved the space as much as I did.  Some would travel a great distance to experience the pastoral setting.

As my children continued to spread their wings, the next house suddenly seemed way too empty and big. It was time to officially downsize and claim a new life for myself.

The empty nest is yet another life transition.  Sitting alone crying one night, missing my children, I made a decision to stop feeling sad.  Instead, I would take flight as well and move to a smaller home in a completely new community, more connected with people in a similar life situation.  I went on Craig’s list, a classified advertisement website, and that night found 20 possibilities to explore.

In the end, I chose a small condo, with a few quirks, but perfect for its location and sunny, warm feel.

Downsizing can feel like an overwhelming ordeal initially when you try to sort through a lifetime of belongings and memories, and choose which will stay with you.

If you are also changing lifestyles (like getting married, becoming single again or retiring), you are absorbing and integrating a new identity as well.  Some say it takes at least a full year to feel acclimated after moving.

Empty nesters, for example, have a new set of challenges for finding their own unique place in the world (or their marriages) apart from childrearing responsibilities.  There can be a sense of void before we start inviting life to fill us up again in new ways.

I intuitively worked through the process, feeling all my emotions.  Practically, had I downsized in a more organized, planned way, I may have read books such as the highly praised Moving On: A practical guide to downsizing the family home.

Despite the stress of moving (and yes, moving is one of the greatest stressors in life) and changing lifestyles — I have not met anyone in my mid-life circles of friends who regrets the choice to downsize to live more simply, with less clutter and more free time.

With no landscaping to maintain and fewer rooms to clean, the gains continue as I experience more free time within walking distance of my home to:

  • play tennis
  • see movies at the quaint old-time downtown theatre
  • dance
  • attend yoga classes
  • hear authors speak and musicians perform
  • dine with friends
  • shop at the local Farmer’s Market on Sundays

The square footage is small, but my life is large.

The next blog, “I came here to LIVE…with no regrets,” which is Part 2 of my Reinventing a Home series, will be posted next Tuesday, February 25th.



 1.    I allow myself to embrace the fullness of a simpler life.

2.    I allow myself to “ move” with change as it appears.

3.  I allow myself to gently accept the ways I reinvent myself and my surroundings, allowing the new ‘me’ to unfold at a comfortable pace.

Beth Shedd captured the colorful photo above on a beautiful summer morning in Nantucket. The vivid colors of the window box highlight the simple beauty of the gray shingles…reminding us that sometimes it takes simplicity to make the highlights brighter in our lives.



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  • Linda says:

    A beautiful expression of moving on in life as life requires us to.
    And this is stated perfectly:
    The square footage is small but my life is large.
    Just love that, Gail!

    • Gail Kauranen Jones says:

      Thanks, Linda: And glad you appreciate that line “the square footage is small but my life is large.” Miracles seem to happen when we simplify and get very clear on what makes us happy. Time is “wealth.” Gail

  • Diana says:

    That was so lovely! I could completely imagine how it felt to be in a new community, a new smaller house, through your words. I’m looking forward to Part 2.

  • Gail,

    I have forwarded this to a friend and a client who are
    both living this transition in different circumstances.
    I know this will help them embrace the change and the challenges with hope and perhaps even a little exhilaration from your honest experience.

    You are a true “Wordsmith”…

    • Gail Kauranen Jones says:

      Ann Marie: I appreciate your sharing my transition expertise with your friends and clients. So often people think a new home (or new life event) is “the change.” However, transitions are not about the external happening. Rather, they are an internal process of letting go of one way of being to embrace another. A move takes time to integrate. In transition, a new identity is often formed or an unexpressed part of ourselves has a chance to come forth. Transitions are a time to be very gentle and patient with ourselves. Thank you also for appreciating my “wordsmith” skills. I love to use the written word to teach and share. Gail

  • Sandra says:

    When our son chose a private school in MA we moved from our NH home which we loved. It was a difficult decision. We loved our home for 13 years and we knew that after our son graduated high school he would move on. We bought a smaller house in MA and worked hard to make it warm and special. We’re still in that home and now looking forward to our retirement home wherever that takes us.

    • Gail Kauranen Jones says:

      Sandra: You have a knack for making each home right for your life stage, as difficult as it is to let go of one “house” to make room for another. How exciting that you can be so open to see where your retirement will take you. I am sure that new home will be “warm and special” too. Gail

  • Flo says:

    Yes indeedy! Transitioning from Mom to empty nester is tough. One wonders if anything could possibly fill the painful void & you face the existential question “who am I when I’m not a mother?” The answer comes slowly from within your soul and from outside yourself too, like spring crocuses peeking through the cold blanket of winter snow. Little by little a new life is built as a single woman, different yet full, rich, interesting, exciting sometimes, with new challenges and sometimes painful growth edges……….. and blessed. Trusting that life will take us where we need to go, one step at a time.

    • Gail Kauranen Jones says:

      Beautifully said, Flo. Thanks for sharing…and giving hope to others in transition (not just Moms) that life WILL take us where we need to go, one step at time if we stay open and allow in the “new.” All transitions are a step into the unknown–and from such uncertainty, we get to create or recreate our lives again. We need to trust and be patient as our new lives unfold. Gail

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