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 We moved about 10 miles away to a one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment with no washer and dryer, outdated appliances, and just one walk-in closet and one linen closet to house all our stuff.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?