...because home doesn't happen overnight.

Q – Hi Dana,

I first want to say how much I love your blog. It’s one of the few I read regularly. I’ve been a loyal reader for several years watching you decorate and your transitions in life. I must say – I was really keeping my fingers crossed for that girl ;) We have two boys, ages 9 & 7, and the third is a girl. At age four now, she can draw a dragon and wield a light saber like it’s nobody’s business. In a tutu, of course! 

I digress. My question to you is do you ever have regrets or doubts about downsizing? If not the whole process, are there things you “miss?” Surprised you miss? What have you unexpectedly gained? What gains have been the most significant? Is there anything you would do differently such as buy smaller but not needing a total overhaul or was the demolition/ renovation worthwhile? – Ellen

front of house

{our previous house}

A – Great question, Ellen. And one that I get quite often. Before I delve into my thoughts on downsizing, I’d like to give you a little background on our decision to downsize.

When HH and I first discussed downsizing, it was mainly for financial reasons. I was working as a pharmacist and HH is an engineer. From a budget standpoint, we were completely comfortable paying for the big, new spec home that we were living in but we always had this elusive dream to own our home outright {no mortgage} by the time we were 40. We probably could have paid off our previous house in that time frame by following a strict budget that would have left us with little to no money to do much of anything else…like pay for extracurricular activities for our kids, pay for a good preschool for Everett, take trips, eat out sometimes, make upgrades to the builder basic finishes that we detested, etc. And we realized this. To make our no-mortage-at-40 dream come true, we would have been tied to a big house that had blah finishes {carpet, vinyl, standard tub/shower enclosures, etc.} and way more space than we needed. There were several rooms in the house that we didn’t use on a regular basis and they felt like such a waste. There was nothing wrong with the house per se but we’re house people and we get a lot from living in a home that we enjoy.

Also, I had become very unhappy with my job. I was good at it; I made good money; I worked with good people. To most people, that would be enough to keep them satisfied. But I was craving something else, something creative. My heart wasn’t in it and I was becoming more and more turned off by the entire pharmaceutical industry and what it stood for. At the same time, I was becoming more and more interested in decorating, designing and blogging. Downsizing could be just the break I was looking for to make a career switch in the future once our mortgage was paid off.

In the midst of the real estate fallout, most people saw an opportunity to “super size” their house {i.e., buy more house than they had or needed}. We saw it as a chance to downsize {i.e., buy less house than we had or needed}. In fact, I think downsizing has such a negative connotation associated with it. Like you’re giving something up or settling for subpar. Why not call it “right sizing?” That’s how we looked at it. Sure, we would be moving from a big house to a relatively smaller house but we didn’t need all the space or mortgage tied to a larger house. Together HH and I made the decision to downsize. We didn’t arrive at that decision overnight. HH was more reluctant to move than I was but, in the end, it was a collective choice to do what was best for our family.

baby bump 1

Oh, family. That’s another thing. Up until a week before we officially sold our previous home by owner, we were a family of four and thought we would remain that way. We were done having kids. Or so we thought. Then we discovered we were unexpectedly expecting and initially it threw a wrench into our plans.

Oh no! Maybe we need a big house after all? Will a three bedroom, two bath house be enough for our growing family? Is this a sign? Should we call off the whole thing? 

But after taking everything in, we quickly realized that downsizing was the perfect solution to our surprise addition. Our childcare costs were going to go through the roof with a newborn in the picture and me working nearly full-time. HH and I did the math and decided the money I would bring home after paying for daycare wasn’t worth the hassle of shuffling three young kids around. I was tired of missing their class parties and school activities too. After baby #3 arrived, I would quit my job and stay at home to care for the kids full time. Here’s the funny part. Just as HH was the one reluctant to downsize, I was the one reluctant to quit my job and stay home {even though I hated my job}. I knew it wouldn’t be easy but deep down I also knew it was the best decision for our kids and our family.

windows 1

{our house on inspection day}

So now that we’ve survived downsizing, do we regret it? NOT AT ALL. Even with me not working, we are on schedule to pay off our house in 4-5 years – a year or two before we turn 40. I’ve said it before. This house is not our dream house but it’s the house in which we are pursuing our dreams.

What don’t we miss about our previous house? We don’t miss living in a big house. That may have something to do with the fact that we lived in a 900 sq ft apartment for nine months in between living in our previous house and our downsized house. When we moved from our apartment to this house, we almost forgot we were downsizing! Cleaning our previous house was a day-long task that I dreaded every week. I can clean this entire house in one morning. While there are times that we {I’m talking adults as well as kids} need our own space, we make it work. Sometimes Layne hangs out on our bed reading while Everett plays in their shared bedroom to get away from each other. Other times, HH will wrestle with the boys in their room while Mabrey and I take part in more refined girly things…like playing peekaboo in her room. Haha. I don’t even miss having separate sinks in our master bathroom!

We don’t miss having carpet. We have only engineered wood and tile in this house. It is such a breeze to clean. Makes me wonder what disgusting things were living in our carpet at our previous house. HH and I have both said that if we ever have another house, there will be no carpet.

We don’t miss living in a newer, developing neighborhood with construction going on all the time. We like our established neighborhood with its mature trees and roomy lots. We like that the houses aren’t cookie cutter clones.

We don’t miss our old location. Here, we’re closer to HH’s work so we get to spend more time with him in the mornings and evenings during the week. He still leaves early and gets home late but we’ll take what we can get! We like the fact that we are in a quiet neighborhood nestled within city limits. We are close to everything. Layne can even walk to and from school if he wants.

Are there things we’re surprised we miss about our previous home? Yes. One thing. Our previous house had a neighborhood pool. This past summer we longed for a pool nearby to splash in. It’s one of those things that we probably wouldn’t think about if we hadn’t had it before. This year, we’re seriously considering a membership to a local pool just a few minutes away.

There are things we miss that aren’t surprising too. We miss the neighbors in our old neighborhood whom we had become close friends with. We knew we’d miss them. We keep in touch but, obviously, we don’t see them as much as we used to. The twist is we’ve made some really good friends here.

front door 3

surround sound 2

We miss living in a house that’s “finished.” Our lil’ Underdog has come a long way but there’s still a fair amount of work to be done. When we look around, it’s difficult not to see all the unfinished projects. The guest/kid bath is gutted. The driveway is in bad repair. There’s no landscaping whatsoever. Our unusable front door doesn’t exactly scream “Welcome!” The garage and attic are in desperate need of organizing. And then there are the little decorating tweaks that we’ve barely even started. I remind myself that it will all happen in good time. So, I’m trying to enjoy each step we take that gets us closer to home.

after 13

I miss living in a well-oiled machine. I had our old house organized and decorated for the way we live. Everything had a place and it was really functional. But it took me nearly four years to get it that way, so I need to give myself a break.

Are there things we’ve unexpectedly gained from downsizing? You bet. The schools in our new city are outstanding. We can’t say enough good things about our experience with them. It’s not that we had a particularly awful experience with our previous school district but the schools here offer our kids so much more and have been a huge help in tapping into our kids’ potential. If anything, we’d do it all over again just for the schools.

We’ve been surprised by how little space we really do need. Editing and purging our belongings are ongoing tasks that are necessary for keeping a small house clutter-free. But they’re pretty damn fulfilling as well. We have no room anymore for “what if”, “maybe” or “someday” items. Which reminds me. I need to get on the attic and garage organization soon.


We were genuinely surprised when several companies contacted us about partnerships pertaining to renovation, home improvement and home decor. We weren’t buying a new old house to feed the blog. Collaborating with some of the companies resulted in forging a few symbiotic relationships. Very cool.

We didn’t realize how much we would enjoy living within 10 minutes of three grocery stores that focus on healthy foods for a healthy lifestyle. I am cooking, people. And I’m actually starting to enjoy it. Surprise! I know, right? HH has noticed a difference as well although I think he’d say, “I love it!” to just about any dish I make if it meant I kept cooking. This may have more to do with me staying home than downsizing but, whatever the cause, we’re eating better.


We’re surprised that living in a smaller house has made us more affectionate towards one another. Our modest house forces us to be together. And that’s what family is all about, right? In our previous home, there were days where we would all be home together but rarely see each other because we’d be off in different parts of the house doing our own things. Here, we touch each other more. You know what I mean. Spontaneous hugs or little squeezes just because we’re close. It’s nice.

Parks! There are numerous parks and playgrounds within walking distance from our house. It seems we discover a new one every couple of months. We switch it up and frequent them when the weather allows. Our previous home had nearby parks but nothing that you could walk to {other than the small, usually overcrowded neighborhood playground}. We’d have to load everyone and everything in the car to visit the nearest park and that step alone was usually enough to make us say, “Ugh. Let’s stay home.”


On a more abstract level, we’ve gained confidence. The confidence to try something new and scary, to act on big plans, to live more simply, to prove all those people who think we’re crazy wrong, to bring an old neglected house to life, to pursue whatever dreams we may dream up, to make any house our home, to change career paths, to make new friends, to walk off the beaten path, to become completely debt free.

Of course, there are pros to downsizing that we expected. We’re well on our way to becoming mortgage-free. HH has a shorter commute. With a smaller home, we’re able to focus on higher quality materials and finishes that we couldn’t afford if we were installing them in larger quantities in a bigger house. We use every single square inch of our house on a regular basis and I love that. We’re able to send Everett to an excellent pre-K program. We’re able to let Layne participate on a competing gymnastics team. We have less space to take care of. We are discovering a new city.

Would we do anything differently? We’re not ones to focus on the past. However, HH and I keep bringing up one property we looked at during our downsizing adventure. It was a duplex in a highly sought after area. Each unit was ~1,000 sq ft and had its own kitchen, three bedrooms, one bathroom and a laundry room in the basement. It needed some work but was livable as is. When we were looking to buy, we had two kids and I was working. We had no idea we’d be expecting a third child and that I would quit my job to stay home with the kids. Looking back, the duplex would have been a sound financial investment. We could have lived in one side of the duplex and rented out the other side to cover the mortgage. Knowing what we know now, I think we may have jumped on that duplex. But bygones are bygones.

Could we have gone even smaller? Probably. But I’m really looking forward to having a second full bathroom this year.

demo from previous dining room

As for the sheer amount of work that we’ve put into our home, we don’t regret it. Every big project we’ve tackled – from removing interior walls to vaulting the ceilings to adding skylights – has been a huge learning experience and helped make our house work and feel like ours.

plank ceiling 6

Would less demolition and less renovations have been nice? YES! And easier. But we wouldn’t have found that house in our price range in this neighborhood. We had to make it.

happy mama and mabrey

Has it been easy? NO! Throw a new SAHM and baby into the mix and, well, things get complicated. And sometimes yelly.

Would I recommend downsizing and renovating to everyone? NO! You have to do what’s right for you and your family.

Is it worth it to us? YES! There’s still so much that needs to happen to make this house our home but we try to be patient with ourselves and the journey. Let’s be honest. We’ll probably get bored when/if everything is done.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking



I loved this post, Dana. I think you made an awesome decision for your family, and your new house is (in my unsolicited opinion) better than the last one. Can’t wait to see what else you come up with.


We are in our “starter home” (as everyone else liked to call it). We never saw it that way but I think it is hard for people to imagine being happy in 1,000 square feet. It has taught me to purge what is not needed and not to buy things that we really don’t need. I’m still figuring it all out (three kids has made it more challenging) but I get tons of inspiration from your blog. Every once in a while, I find myself wishing for about 500 more square feet for a little breathing room but things are working the way they are right now. Plus, I hate cleaning. It isn’t perfect but we are cozy and close and we are not over-extended, which I am so thankful for.


Loved this post–thanks for sharing! I’m still in the rental phase of life but know once I buy, I want something that I can pay off fast. You are proof that you can make a modest house high-style, and that’s my plan as well!

You mentioned having the mortgage paid off by 40 but didn’t really discuss what you hope to do once you guys reach that point. Are you planning any big trips? Paying for kids’ college? Starting your own circus business? The possibilities are endless and I’m just nosy. Feel free to ignore me. :)


Hi Dana,

Thank you so much for this post. We recently bought a house in which I have second thoughts on occasionally. Just for the fact that it is not my dream home. It is affordable for my family and in a great school district with lots of friends for my children. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it, but I seem to think I need that dream house. I just wanted to thank you for your reminder, “This house is not our dream house but it’s the house in which we are pursuing our dreams.”


Cool post! Soooo refreshing. We have made similar choices for our family in the recent years and its been overall completely wonderful and freeing. It was interesting to read about your duplex option too as the property we bought also has a small guesthouse which we rent out to help with the mortgage. Thanks for sharing and I’m glad to hear your family is reaping the benefits of “seemingly” difficult choices!


I love the idea of rightsizing. I’m hoping that we’ll be able to do that too! It’s taken my husband a little while to come around to the idea but I think that we’re finally there! We don’t mention it to a lot of people because they think we’re crazy.


Love this post! Thanks, Dana!


I have a follow-up question to add to this post:

If HH wasn’t as handy/skilled/qualified as he is — in terms of tackling a vast majority of the renovation projects (trim, tile, floors, etc.) — would it still have been worth it to downsize? How would “hiring out” have changed your decision to buy a fixer-upper?



Downside to downsizing…moving away from top chef neighbors who fed you =)


I love this post Dana! thanks for sharing so much with us, i liked your blog before but i LOVE the sahm version of you because you over-share now :)

Love this post. We are considering doing the same thing (downsizing). You are inspiring to so many. Do you mind sharing how many sq ft your new house is and how many your old one was? I’m curious how many sq ft you cut out. Your new house is big enough for my family so I’m curious how big it really is.

Allison @ House of Hepworths


This was a great post – super informative, fun, and a nice reminder of what’s important (particularly cuddling with your cuties more often).


I love this post! I admire what you guys did. I think that so often people get caught up in having bigger homes simply because they can afford it. When in actuality they are not even using that space. I think that your decision to downsize says wonderful things about the type of people that you are and the way that your want your family to live.


I love this post! So many times we think we just have to have that big dream house. You have done an amazing job showing me that a house doesn’t have to be big to be home. I love the way you all are thinking long term and about finances and how that will affect your family. We have 3 kids and live in a small house as well. I know what you mean about purging often. =) Just a quick question. . .what do you use to clean your wood floors with?

Dana, this is a great post! Not to poo-poo people who upsize, (that’s up to them to decide) my husband and I share the same philosophy as you guys. We see so much more potential and freeing of finances living in a more modest home. We too live in a 3 br ranch that we are making over room by room. I understand living in several different stages of remodeling ;) Knowing we can pay this house off quickly and still make it a wonderful place to be is the icing on the cake. Thanks for sharing your experience and God bless! xo Kristin


I thoroughly enjoyed this post. I love your blog & this post is why you are inspirational! You took a leap of faith for your dreams that is unconventional and its so refreshing! We bought modestly & live frugally but sometimes feel looked down upon b/c we don’t drive newer cars or live in a more exclusive neighborhood but it will get us closer to a mortgage free existance it will be worth it! Thanks again.

Dana, I really really appreciated/needed this post. Like so many of the commenters above me, it seems. :) I just forwarded it to my husband. We are at a major fork in our path and while everything in our minds is telling us to go big or go home (err…with our next home), my heart is fearful of what that might mean for our future dreams financially. I, too, love your thought, “This house is not our dream house but it’s the house in which we are pursuing our dreams.” We are not quite 30 yet and your advice is perfect. I want to share it with everyone I know!


We moved from our 3600 s.f. home into our “downsized 1100 s.f. home” last April. And I wouldn’t have it any other way! It’s been perfect for us and I can relate to the closeness of the family too!! I will caution one thing to those attempting a re-model… It goes a lot quicker if you aren’t living in it!! I feel as though things have come to a grinding halt since we moved in. Not that the projects have stopped but it seems to be a slower process for sure! HH still has a list and we will probably ALWAYS have on-going projects. But also, like you, I think we’d be terribly bored if it was done! Enjoy :)

I loved this post and your honesty. It makes me wish that for our first house we went smaller. But I was so concerned about it not being large enough for a future family [that I now think will happen after we move]. I think our society should think about “right-sizing” more often…

We only use our downstairs living areas and main bedroom for the most part. I think we would’ve done fine in something smaller. I love every single improvement you’ve made in this house and I think it fits you guys to a tee. Can’t wait to see where it takes you.


Oh yes, projects have slowed down quite a bit since we moved in too! But after renovating non-stop for 9 months and having a baby we needed a break. We’re starting to get the DIY itch again though.


At first, I was embarrassed to tell new people we met that we live in a small, unfinished house. We know several people who are wanting to add on to their homes, buy bigger, have more land or upgrade to premier neighborhoods. Those aren’t bad things just not things that are priorities to us at this stage in our lives. We also drive older cars. HH drives the truck he had in college. It has nearly 200,000 miles on it! I drive the car we bought before Layne was born. It’s nine years old with 100K+ on it. Our cars are still ticking and serve the purpose and, best of all, they’re paid off.




Our previous home had 2,700 sq ft of finished living space with another ~1,000 sq ft in the unfinished basement that we were planning on finishing at some point. Just because. This house is about ~1,700 sq ft total and that includes the two-car garage. So, we’re living in roughly 1,300 sq ft. Contrary to popular belief, there is no basement in the Underdog.


YES! A total con to downsizing!!!!


Once the mortgage is paid off, we’ll definitely be able to put away more money for kids’ college and our retirement. Those will be our priorities. We’d also like to travel more. We’ve tossed around the idea of acquiring rental properties, fixing them up and having tenants. Other than those things, we haven’t discussed much.


Dana, I couldn’t agree with you more. I’m a HUGE fan of downsizing, er rightsizing. It makes complete sense. Unless absolutely necessary, a larger house means a pricier mortgage, higher bills to heat/cool the place, more $ to fill it with “things”, and also more opportunity for things to go wrong. I love the idea of living a simpler life and having money (and time!) leftover for experiences and making memories! And to think that you get all that…and get to be home with your littles!!


Just thought of another big one – DONATE MORE!

I am smiling through tears reading this. I can relate on so many levels. My husband and I never had a big, fancy house, but we did have a well appointed townhouse in a nice neighborhood. We moved from there to our current house purchased from my husband’s grandparents. It is a 1960’s ranch with a full basement – a full UNFINISHED basement, so it essentially only a 1400 sf home.

We moved from a decorated, fully finished 1600 sf home as a family of three and now live in the smaller space (although a single family home with a huge yard in a nice neighborhood) as a family of five. I echo many of your feelings towards living in a modest home. Our family is close, we do take account of everything we have, and we feel better about not wasting resources that go into a much larger, fancier home that many of our family members and peers (also families of five, or less) have. It just feels right. I whine about no room and an unfinished basement a lot, but in the end, I have a work in progress that is all our own.
You struck a chord with me when you stated, “This house is not our dream house but it’s the house in which we are pursuing our dreams.” This is a beautifully written post. It is from the heart and it shows. You must be so proud of your family and your home. You should be. I’ll be following your every step and maybe taking a few pointers for my own little underdog.


Thank you so much for this post. My husband and I are planning on downsizing in July and this is just the encouragement we need!


i’ve been following along for quite some time {years, now} and this post was such a great summary of your amazing path. you & HH are so thoughtful, good at curveballs, and wise beyond your years. after witnessing all you have accomplished these years and months, this post feels like “the dust has settled,” in a very good and satisfying way. this was a pleasure to read. you inspire me ♥


My husband is handy. He is HH after all. But he’s handy not because of his experience and qualifications; he’s handy because if there’s a project to be done that he’s never attempted before, he’s not afraid to research it and try it himself. Before revamping this house, we had never removed interior walls, built a kitchen from scratch, laid wood floors, vaulted ceilings, installed a heat pump, upgraded electrical work, etc. That being said, once the research is done, if we feel a project is way over our heads then we are more than happy to hire out…like we did for the ridge beam in our vaulted great room and our metal roof with skylights included. Sometimes we’ll hire out for things that we do know how to do but just don’t want to do again…ahem, drywalling.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that buying a fixer-upper was a huge challenge for us. No matter how handy my HH comes across on this blog. But it was an experience we were willing to try. And it was scary. If you’re looking to downsize and a fixer-upper is on your radar, definitely consider projects that can be DIY’d and projects that will be hired out for in your budget. If we didn’t think we could learn to DIY some new things, then this house and the things we had planned for it would have been out of our price range. If tackling DIY gives you panic attacks and you just don’t see yourself doing it, then don’t buy a house that needs a ton of work. Maybe compromise and buy something livable that could be hugely improved just by removing wallpaper, painting paneling/cabinetry, or replacing the flooring. I think those are good projects to get the DIY ball rolling if that’s what you want to do.

Like I said, downsizing and renovating isn’t for everyone. And that’s okay! I think the main thing is that you find a house within your budget that you can make your home – a place you feel good in. How you get to “home” is – and should be! – an individual choice.


Hi Dana,
Another great post. We too “rightsized”. I am a flesh eating bacteria survivor and there is nothing like nearly dying that will make you question what’s important and what’s not. We moved from our “dream home” 3600sq ft to roughly 1800 which we “tweaked” into 2200, and are working on a kitchen reno now. But overall I wanted less. Less to care for, less to pay for less to clean so that I could have more. More of my kiddos, more of my husband, more of my life. You have to wrap your head around it a bit, and you nailed it, it’s odd going against the grain. To have what lots of people wish for and to walk away. Sometimes I see our BIG house (we actually still have it, we rent it out) and I miss it , I loved it, and loved living there but I love my life so much more without the responsibility of it. Thanks for sharing this post with us, keep up the great work.


I’ve already commented, but was reading all of the amazing comments to this post. So happy to hear that so many people think this way. I often feel embarrassed to have my son’s friends and and their families to our home for fear that they will think we are living in squaller instead of smaller. My jaw dropped open when I read that your husband drives a older truck and you drive a car you purchased before your first child was born. That is that same case with my husband and I. He a 1991 Ford truck and I a 2006 Audi A3 (with two car seats and a booster seat) that are both paid for in full. Thanks for helping me remember why our family lives the way we live.


I liked your article and have been following your blog for a while now. we have moved to our new ~1600 square feet homje two and a half years ago and we are a family of three. Before that, we lived in a ~800 square feet rented home in an apartment house. I know if we had to go back, we could manage. We had a nice apartment. Nevertheless, more square feet is not the only advantage in our new home. We also have our own backyard which we didn’t have before. It’s cose to schools for our daughter. And I am aware that our old apartment as well as your “little” house are the complete indulgence that many families dream of and will never be able to achieve – even in the USA or Germany and although our two countries belong to the world’s richest countries! So whether a home is large or small is really a matter of perspective.


Dana, you and your family are an inspiration! My husband and I are soon to be empty nesters, and I’m chomping at the bit to downsize. Especially to get rid of so much STUFF! Our house is paid for, so I’m thankful for that. But it’s just too big.


Thanks for writing this, such a great story for everyone to read. I believe a lot of people get caught up in thinking bigger = better. No one should be a slave to their job or commute an hour to work to live in a big house. My husband and I live in a 2,200 square foot home, no kids yet but hopefully soon. I am in my early 30s and he is in his late 30s so the possibility of a really large family probably isn’t going to happen for us. So I started thinking the other day, do we really need a 2,200 square foot home? He works in the medical field and commutes about 30 miles one way, we live in Houston, and I believe once we have kids this commute is really going to have him with one foot on the banana peel. I grew up in a home that was 1,400 square feet and we were a family of 5. I have such fond memories of that home, playing with my sisters in the living room while my Mom or Dad cooked dinner, spending more time outside because really the house could get cramped at times. It really forced us to spend time together. There really isn’t a right way to live, but I think you made the best decision for your family because you made it for you. I’ve never commented on your blog before, but I had to today. Thanks for such a real and inspirational entry.


Do you have a recommendation for a versitle Flor rug style/color that could be a neutral LR rug? I hope this question makes sense.


As always – I think you guys have it right – love seeing all the support and people who think like us!


AMEN! There is something so liberating about living below your means. We have made several moves as a result of job transfers and, as a result, won’t have our mortgage paid off until we are closer to 50, but that is close enough to be exciting to us (the paid-off mortgage, not the being 50 part)! We did have enough cash to pay for something small outright when we moved here; however, the area where we live is a newer one and the smaller homes we looked at (that we could have paid for) were in areas that were being snatched up by investors as rental properties. At the end of the day we decided a small mortgage on a large home was better for our long-term investment in this area-where we may not stay forever. (Maybe not the case in an older, well-established area/city). Anyway, this house is much larger than we’ve ever owned and much larger than we need. At the risk of sounding ungrateful, I often fantasize about going back to one the size of our last home (1,800 square feet). It was so much easier to clean and maintain- love the “clean-it-all-on-a-Saturday-morning-size”, and I was much more adept at purging (because I had to); however with teenagers who are happy at school and have great friends, a move gets much more complicated! (I’m hoping we will soon be in the same boat as Peggy and I’ll be chomping to downsize when they kids are gone- we are staying not because they need the space, but because they are well-established where we live.) Anyway, I think you are so wise. We are edging up on college and I’m excited to think of money that will be freed up when we no longer have a mortgage; more money for retirement, college, and, yes, more for charity! PS- We too drive older cars. Our “new” one with 100k miles, and one with 230k that is older than our kids. Cars last much longer than people think & we love living without car payments too! Kudos to you for making the right decision for your family and your values! It’s such a great way to live! PSS- That duplex may have looked great, but speaking as a mom of teenagers, now that you’ve added a girl to the mix I think you’ll be much happier to have two bathrooms down the road.


I’ve never had to downsize, but I grew up in a 3BR ranch house with my parents and older brother. It was ideal growing up: we had a yard, 1.5 bathrooms, and the elementary school was a block away. Having a 4th bedroom (or basement, for that matter) would have been nice, but it just forced us to go outside to a friends house to play.

Now that my brother and I have grown up and moved out, it is the PERFECT home for my parents. They have more than enough room and it makes me feel better that they can’t fall down a flight of stairs and break a hip. They converted my brothers old room into the guest room and my old room into the office/den.

Dana, this was great! My husband and I did the opposite of many of our friends when we bought a 1700-square-foot, 14-year-old townhome two years ago. It needed TLC, and we’ve been doing the work ourselves and learning as we go. What a valuable experience it’s been! The only thing I wish we had that we don’t is a two-car garage. Our next place will have one, for sure, but I don’t want more square footage than we currently have. We live well with what we have, and goodness, I don’t want to clean any more than I have to!


Thank you so much for this post! And this great response. I find it so inspiring. My husband and I are in the midst of finding ourselves a fixer-upper. My husband is pretty handy and/or willing to learn and don’t want to be saddled with a huge mortgage and NEED both of our jobs down the line if I decide I’d like to be home with future kids, etc. The furnace in our condo died last weekend and instead of paying the supreme price since it was a Sunday, Jay did some research, assessed the situation, figured out what needed to be replaced, and we went for it. And we now have heat! It was such a satisfying experience to know there are things we can tackle ourselves with some research. I have followed your transformation of the Underdog in awe and cannot wait to see how it all comes together! You’ve done such an amazing job already. Thank you again!


Great post – and yay for smaller houses! I am totally a fan of living in every square inch of your home and having less to clean!!!!!
Having fun following all of your projects, too.: )


Your honesty is what makes your blog my favorite!

I recently read a good quote on a blog (sorry can’t remember which one). It was “love the house you are in”, not your next house or your “dream” house. I was doing this with the house we live in currently, as well as our previous, instead of just simply making the best of it regardless.

We used to live in an affordable but not all that ideal house and up-sized to what we thought we needed. Like you, we can afford it but would prefer to live more comfortably and further “below” our means. I’m in the process of trying to convince the hubby to move back into a fixer upper. He’s very handy and enjoys having a project, he just doesn’t want to lose the equity we have invested in our current house due to the decrease in the market. He will get there, it will just take some time.

You & your journey have been an inspiration to me. I love that you are making decisions (house and blog included) for you and your family. Keep up the good work!


I agree! My hubby and I were starting to look at bigger homes and I looked around and realized the reason I wanted to get OUT was because our existing home was never clean. I thought to myself, “Why are we talking about buying a bigger place with more spaces and surfaces that will get dirty?” So we took the money we would have spent on a more expensive mortgage and hired a cleaning service to clean our house every 3 weeks! It wasn’t as expensive as I thought it would be, and it is making me fall in love with my home all over again. So I’d much rather have a smaller place that is clean and inviting, than a bigger place that would have gotten cluttered and dirty anyway!


Another thing I’ve thought about buying a bigger/fancier house is, “Will my design and decorating skills be up to the task?” Sometimes I like living in a boxy, boring old 70s ranch because I can decorate it in the eclectic, “thrift-store” style that I like on a dime and it doesn’t look odd. If we had the place on the golf course my shabby chic sensibilities would look a bit out of place. I wouldn’t want to feel like I ALWAYS have to buy the expensive stuff to match up to the style of the home when it’s WAY more fun to DIY and decorate on a dime!


Thanks Jason!


So true Jule!

This was such a wonderful post to read!! My hubby and I bought our ranch (4 bed, 2 bath…turned into 3 bed, 2 bath by our renovations), and we are so pleased with our decision to get the size home we did. When we started our search, we were looking in areas that weren’t as desirable for us, but living there would enable us to get the “bigger and better”, 4 bed, 2 1/2 bath colonial style home. After a very long and grueling search, we ended up on the other end of the spectrum, in a smaller, fixer-upper ranch, in a very desirable neighborhood. And honestly, we couldn’t be happier with where we are, and the decisions we made. Our home would certainly not be a “dream” house to many, but it is to us. :)



You have got it figured out! Nothing is more important than your husband and children. They will look back and remember that Mom was there for them. I know that it is difficult for most women to stay at home now, but I believe that if there is a will, there is a way. Once a person stops caring what other people think, then they are truly free!
Free is live the way that works best for them. I grew up in a 900 sq ft home, single mom with 5 kids. We didn’t know any different, and we were so happy. Good memories happen when family is happy. Keep doing what you’re doing. When this life is over, the only thing that will have mattered is your family. Everything else is just fluff.


“Right-sizing.” What a perfect term. My husband and I are very fortunate to both have great careers, and I will admit that it used to be tempting to dream about the huge house, but we went against the tide and purchased our little brick ranch. Your family’s perspective on finances and lifestyle is incredibly enlightening in this otherwise “keepin’ up with the Jones’ world.”


Loving your new style in the new house! Can’t wait to see more!


Hi, I have been following your blog for a while but have never commented. I absolutely love this post! Although we haven’t really downsized (our current home is actually 500 sq ft bigger than the last but it’s a bit deceptive about it’s size!), many people we know think we have. Due to a change in location of my husband’s job, we have recently moved from a rambling Colonial to a split entry in what is regarded as a slightly worse school district than the one we previously lived in. We LOVE our children’s new schools! They are so much more embracing of the differences between children rather than churning out cookie cutter kids solely for the grades. All my children are thriving and that makes me nothing but happy.

And we LOVE our house! My 4 are older (8-15) but like you, we find we congregate in the main living space much more here. We chat more and we definitely laugh more. And when you have a bunch of teens and pre-teens, that is never a bad thing! And I enjoying putting our own little stamp on our home.

Finally, I really like your blog!


Great post!! What school does your kids go to? What do you like about it better vs. Lebanon schools? We are thinking about moving closer to WSU and WPAFB and are looking into the schools around the area since G starts kindergarten next year. Thanks!!


Dana, it’s been so interesting to hear you articulate your thoughts on downsizing, because we did the same thing a couple of years ago and it was definitely the best decision we ever made. Our house is not spectacular or unusual; it couldn’t be more basic. But we are having fun making it special one DIY project at a time and LOVE not having a huge mortgage. Financial freedom is the trade off and so worth it. Your new home is coming together beautifully! Thank you for sharing it all with us!


Andrea, I’ll email you!


Thanks! I appreciate you getting back to me. Looking forward to reading your reply. When looking around the area up by WSU and WPAFB I really like Oakwood. Did you look at any homes in Oakwood?

I wandered over here from the Homies. Your blog name really caught my eye. Too much Breaking Bad probably. I enjoyed this post. We down-sized too in order to live in a good neighborhood. We are very happy with our choice, but I am not as happy with my decorating early on. We slowly but surely re-do my early changes. It would be nice to start over again, but that is not to be.


I love your post! I can relate to it in so many ways. We upgraded during the boom to a beautiful 4 br home in a “fancy” area. Our plans were to have kids here and take advantage of the great schools. That did not happen. In the 3 years we were there, I was not able to get pregnant. So most of those rooms were left unused. We joked that we only LIVED on one side of the house and would never see the other. My husband lost his job as he worked in construction and with the downturn of the economy we were among many. This cut our income down drastically and eventually we had to foreclose on the property. I was so depressed we had to move into a small 2 br house. But after being there for a few months I realized how much I did not miss that huge house. We were wasting so much on the upkeep and lifestyle. We had a little girl during this time and our priorities changed. We decided to take advantage of this new opportunity by saving and putting our goals to purchase a home that we could pay off before we were 40. We purchased a foreclosure last July that needed a lot of work. But with the help of our savings, parents, and 401k loans we were able to purchase it cash. What an amazing feeling. We will be able to pay back our parents and 401k loan in 4 years and be mortgage free. We had to renovate the kitchen, garage and 2 bathrooms and the house still needs a new roof but we are so much happier. We vow that we will never get ourselves into a situation like that again. Once we pay off our parents my husband can be more flexible with his career and we will be able to travel and put our daughter in private school if we choose. She is only 2 now but we are so glad we will be able to provide her with so much more.

We live in a small but cozy house. It is perfect because it brings my family of five closer to each other. A few years back we lived in a bigger house when I was pregnant with our first yet, we felt somehow empty. It was the biggest decision we have made: we never considered downsizing the place because we had no money back then for renovation and interior decorating expenses. We found a beautiful place that’s just fit for a family of four or five so we moved there.

i love love love this post! great to keep in mind that just because a house is big – that it doesnt make it a home and you really have to be comfortable in something that you can make a home for your family. downsizing doesn’t mean giving things up and there are a lot of perks to living with less (square footage), especially since we see a lot of bloggers out there that have a big home and may not really reflect your every day reader’s home size!


So glad I found this post! We’re planning to move from PA to FL and we want to downsize from a 2700 tri level home to about a 1300 sq ft ranch. We’ve been purging our stuff for the past 3 years getting ready for the move and this year is the year we’re going to do it. We have no idea how we’re going to move the stuff that we have left plus a dog and 3 cats, but we’ll figure it out. Next month we start house hunting!


We downsized from 2000sqft new construction to 1000 sqft 90 year old bungalow right around the time you guys bought the underdog. We did it mostly for location – we wanted to live closer in to a more desirable city that could give us the quality of life we were seeking. We don’t miss the extra space one bit. We did finish our basement which means we’re back up to about 1600 sqft but there is no wasted space, we can walk to everything we do and our mortgage is much smaller. I wish more folks could have this mindset. I’m in real estate and though everyone has to follow the path they feel best for them, I think many people “trade up” because that’s what our culture and society has led us to believe brings happiness and satisfaction. My husband and I are very conservative financially, our cars have been paid off for years, we thrift a lot of our furniture, we prioritize spending. As a result, we’re able to enjoy travel, live off one salary (though we both work) and use our extra money to buy investment properties. One more investment and those investments will pay all our living expenses. It’s an awesome feeling to be financially independent. I wouldn’t trade that for anything! :)

[…] paid off before they hit 40 and decided to give up the big house and find a new lifestyle.  See the benefits that have resulted from this one […]


We have recently downsized massively, from a home with 2600 sf plus two sheds to a two-bedroom suite. The purging of stuff has been and continues to be very challenging, but the relief of stress is immense. Our house got caught in the popping of the real estate bubble and without emergency loans, we would have lost it to the bank. We sold PAST the nick of time! Now I would rather live in a hut as long as I can afford it, than the most wonderful dream house that’s beyond my means. This is my first time visiting your blog – I’m looking forward to reading about your adventures.

Hi Dana! Honestly this has to be like the 10th time I’ve read this post over the past year. It’s incredibly inspiring and I just love it. We’ve been giving a lot of thought into downsizing and living a simpler life, but my wife is apprehensive because we’ve only been in our current home
for 3 years. How long were you and your family in your larger home before you downsized? I honestly feel like there isn’t going to be a “perfect” time to do it. It’s one of those things where I feel like once we decide it’s the move we want to make for our family, we need to just do it.


We owned our larger builder home for three and a half years before we signed it over to the new owners. I can’t say it was the best time for us – unexpected pregnancy, market was bottomed out, etc. – but we have no regrets. We are on track to have our current home paid off in less than three years!


Great post, Dana! My husband & I are in the process of downsizing…moving tomorrow…from about 2000 sq ft to 1300 sq ft. I am in a total panic at the moment and your post and all of the thoughtful replies have given me new encouragement. We are retired & have no mortgage…downsizing so that we can spend more time traveling & making new experiences instead of maintaining our house, pool (which I will not miss at all) & lawn. Have spent the last year purging & still will have lots more of that to do, I’m afraid! We live on a canal in FL now & the hardest thing has been giving up boating as we are moving off water (in same town). We have always driven the wheels off of our cars, decorated with eclectic finds & done our own renovating (including installing a complete kitchen as you have done)…That is why we can now afford to pay cash for a home and travel…You are on a good path & as someone else commented, ‘wise beyond your years’…look forward to seeing more posts on your renovation…


Best of luck downsizing! I spent my childhood summers on a canal in FL. Small world! My grandparents live on the water in Weeki Wachee.

[…] “This house is not our dream house but it’s the house in which we are pursuing our dreams.” – Dana Miller […]


I wanted to thank you so much for this post. I realize it is an older one, but it is just what I needed to find today. We have a 3200 sq ft home (with finished basement about 3800) in the suburbs of Chicago. So, about $750K-800K. And we’re treading water financially. With three children 6,7 and 10 and everything that comes with them, I don’t think my husband could ever retire. There isn’t enough extra to put away…at least not the amount we would like to save. We want to have more vacations with the kids, more golfing, less stress, but not more house. Returning to work for me would be difficult in that two of our children are on the autism spectrum and finding appropriate before and after school care is beyond challenging. So I stay home and run the show here…a huge household that is wearing me down. We talked this weekend and decided that this albatross around our necks has to go. It’s hard, but only because our three kids only know this house – oldest daughter was 1.5 when we moved here – and I feel like I’m taking something precious away from them.

We are staying in the school district if possible, but with a different elementary school and will probably be getting something like a $400K 4beds, 2.5 bath home. I know to a lot of people that’s a dream home and I try to keep that in perspective. Unfortunately, in this suburb, $400K nets you a 1960 Garrison Colonial with an okay-sized yard and the decor of an 80-year-old hoarder, or a 1983 Saltbox-style with a small yard and no updates at all, but each around 2500 sq feet. It’s the nature of being remotely near a train line to the city. Personally, I’m up for a challenge of moderate renovating – new kitchen, hardwood upstairs, painting a “house of oak trim” white. Sorry oak lovers, I’m not a fan.

It’s tough to find people who actually choose to downsize and I searched the internet for anything to make me feel like I wasn’t doing something horrible for our family. I’m logical, but emotions can run deep when it comes to your home. So thank you. From reading your post and all of the comments, I am confident and not so hesitant that what we are doing is the right thing, right now.


Thank you for commenting! I wish you the best of luck if / when you make the transition to a more affordable home. I saw this phrase recently and it really hit home (sorry for the lame pun). Maybe you will find it inspiring as well.




Great post! I totally agree with you about this. I love your blog, keep up the good work here!


Thanks for this great post. I have been visiting this blog for a few week now as we are in a somewhat similar situation. Fair play to you sharing your home and design ideas, both of your homes are just lovely.
I was wondering did it take you a long time to sell your previous house? are you happy you used FSBO? did you take a big loss?
Also, what did you do with all the furniture? it looks like all furnishing in your new home is new.


My hubby and I just sold our HUD home fixer upper we had been working on for 2 years. It was so fun to see the transformation, make a little profit, and to see our single mom buyer giddy over the home. We relocated and are renting for the year, but cannot wait to get our hands on another fixer upper (smaller this time)! Sure, reno projects are messy and stressful with toddlers, but so worth it. We offloaded tons of things before moving and it was so freeing! We too are completely debt free (including student loans and cars) and also would love to have a mortgage free home in the next 5-6 years. Thanks for the inspiration!! I have loved following your blog! And for the record, I love your DIY art and am going to copy it for our apartment ;)


That’s awesome Bethany! Less house has been freeing for us in so many ways, too. We’ve realized we can live with kids in less space with less stuff. The lifestyle that our downsizing adventure has afforded us has been eye-opening and has really changed the way we think about our living space. I’m so grateful for it – even the crazy reno parts ;)


I wandered over here from Young House Love. I’ve lived in three houses — the first was small, the second was bigger, and the final is even bigger. I’ve had a reason for each change, but this last is the most life-changing, as I’ve moved into the house my parents built in the 70s. It’s huge — more than 2300 sq ft — and way too much for one middle-aged woman, but this house meant so much to my parents, especially my dad. They both grew up in mind-boggling poverty (caused both physical and emotional problems), and this house and the 36 acres it sits on represents an incredible journey of success for them. I had a lot of negative feelings about this house — my parents argued over building it for four years and then maintaining it for the next 35 — but when my dad passed away in 2014 from Alzheimer’s, I realized I had to take it over and continue what he and my mom had started. She moved into assisted living last year and turned the house and land over to me. It’s been a nightmare in some ways, because all the shortcuts and deferred maintenance and sorting through my parents’ extreme hoarding have fallen on me, and trying to get reliable contractors has been a nightmare. It’s taken up so much of my time, money, and energy that I haven’t had time to sell the house I lived in until last year. But I’m happy I’m repairing the house and eventually look forward to turning it into the house it was meant to be, and passing it on to my daughter, who’s in her mid-30s and owns a townhouse. I wanted very much to downsize, but I felt it was more important to carry on the family heritage. So here I am, living in a big two-story house by myself (and eight rescue chihuahuas). And when my previous home is sold, I’ll be mortgage-free.


Cute kids! I love your story and what you gained from this move, both in benefits and insights. Thanks for passing both along. I just read a good article at https://www.homelight.com/blog/downsizing-your-home-with-kids/ that has an overview for readers of your experience interested in the general process. It’s got some great advice for how to get kids involved in their own downsizing, if they’re old enough. Best of luck with your family!