Years ago, Thom and I scaled back our living space and rightsized. That conscious choice was to sell our larger home and buy one nearly half the size. Our decision not only saved us a significant amount of money—more importantly, it gave us the peace of mind and freedom to live in a way far more aligned with what matters most to us. So even though we had fewer “rooms” in our house, in the end our new home offered us many more opportunities to create the lifestyle that we wanted. Taking things a step further, sometimes a home and the rooms inside offer a far more important analogy than simply a place where we dwell.
That insight came to me while listening to a podcast interview by a man named Brad Stulberg the author of the newly released Master of Change—How to excel when everything is changing—including you. Not only did he offer some ideas about how to navigate change—his metaphor about a house and its rooms helped me accept and appreciate the many changes in my life in the last few months.
What changes? Since the end of last year Thom (my husband) and I have been exploring what life is like living in an over-55 community, in a new city (Tucson) and in what most of you would call a “tiny house.” (Once again, our new “home” is less than half of the size of our previously “rightsized” home.) Of course, we haven’t given up our old lifestyle completely, but we made the commitment to be here for three months to see if it is a good fit for us.
Meanwhile, my intention during this time was to continue blogging at least as much as I had been recently. But what I’ve found is that this home continually calls me to make choices and navigate different activities. The first was to finish up on the remodeling of our tiny home which definitely needed updating. The second was to coordinate living in a smaller space with a husband who is now retired. Third was connecting to new friends and participating in the dozens of fun activities here in our new community. And last but not least, was getting out and exploring our new environment here in a new-to-us city.
How’s it going? Actually, very well. I’m fortunate that Thom is very handy with home-improvement projects so most of the elements of our new home have been updated. New blinds, new hardware on the cabinets, new furniture and rugs and dozens of little projects that needed attention. Our tiny home is now very comfortable and seems to provide all the space we need. We’ve even gotten used to having only one bathroom!
Thom’s retirement is also going very well. He says he has no regrets and so far he has managed to stay busy doing things he enjoys. For those of you who have gone through a similar adjustment, you know that it can go lots of different ways. But perhaps because he has only worked part time for several years and much of that at home, it hasn’t been an extreme shift for either of us. Of course, doing it in a 600 sq. foot home in a new city does require forming new compatible routines.
Then, one of the most enjoyable aspects has been exploring activities here at our new community. I have been enjoying line dancing and a new book club. Thom is taking a sign language class and joined the photography club. The large woodshop has been helpful with our remodeling and we are looking forward to more time in the huge heated pool and making time for pickle ball. We also started a monthly TED Talk discussion group with 30 attending our first time. In addition, there are regular concerts, wine tastings, a weekly farmer’s market, a couple of craft fairs, a walk-around yard sale, bocce ball and did I mention that right out the back gate there is 145-mile bike loop around the city? No, we haven’t participated in everything. But just a few activities plus a couple of happy hours and dinner parties have dominated my time. Who has the headspace to write???
Last but not least, are several opportunities we have taken to get out and explore our “new” city. Fortunately, there is great hiking nearby, so we’ve managed to squeeze in a couple of those in the last few weeks. Last week we took a 20-mile bike ride up the Loop and also went to a live concert in downtown Tucson at the Rialto Theater. Speaking of downtown, Tucson has an electric streetcar that runs for several miles through downtown and around that allows you to explore the area—and it’s free! And we have only sampled a few of the AMAZING restaurants here in the city.
So, what does any of this have to do with you? Well, remember Brad Stulberg and his metaphor of a home with many rooms? He mostly uses it in terms of how change relates to our sense of self. That self is what he calls our home. He says that if we only identify with one or maybe two rooms in our “home”, and something changes or goes deeply wrong in that room, then our lives can fall apart. Instead, when we cultivate and maintain several rooms at the same time, we always have different aspects of ourselves that can help us navigate change and overcome difficulties.
In other words, say you lose your house or worse, someone you love. If your entire identity is wrapped up in that one expression—what do you do when it changes? What if you spend your whole life focused only on being a mother, a certain professional, or an athlete and then your child moves away, you lose your job or you get extremely sick? How do we carry on if our entire sense of self is limited to one or two “rooms” or aspects of who we are?
At this point of my life, I am proud to call myself a writer. That identity is definitely one of my “rooms.” But I am also much more than that. So, although my “writing” room is important to me—I have several other rooms where I enjoy spending time—and have been doing so during the last few months. After all, the physical size of your house matters far less than how many (mental) rooms are available to you (and how equally balanced and important they are.)
Plus, I think it is easy for many of us to believe that we are defined only by the most obvious parts of ourselves. But each of us is much, much more. Recognizing those aspects and creating and/or “remodeling” those rooms if and when necessary—could just open up opportunities and growth that we never even realized in the past.
So, what about you? Do you have a number of rooms in your home that support and sustain you? Or have you let yourself be so focused on one part of your identity that you have nothing left if that one slips away? For me, recognizing that I have many “rooms” in my home that I can (and want to) spend time in, softens my conscience about not spending more time writing—or doing anything else I think I should. Instead I’m giving myself the freedom to pick and choose different rooms as I explore a new lifestyle.
One thing I’ve learned over the years is that the physical size of the house where we live isn’t nearly as important as the number of good quality rooms available in our mind. After all, the value and depth of what’s inside of us is far more important than what is visible on the outside. Plus, when change happens—and it will—it’s SMART to remember we have the option to find peace, satisfaction and yes fun, in our other rooms.