Facing hostility

With the response I had to my much earlier post on our house fire, I thought I would share with you one of my favorite posts from the very beginning.  After I moved into my studio apartment I began to receive a lot of hostile responses.  I realized that to some (family, and friends included) my choice to change the way I had been living threatened them.  They acted as if I were passing judgement on their lifestyle choices.  That was far from the truth. I don’t care how they live, the reason being that I am only responsible for my own happiness, not anyone elses.

So this post was my way of venting the feelings I was having, the answers I wanted to scream out.

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From January 10, 2012:

I am basically settled into my new space. I say basically because even though I took the time to get rid of what seemed like almost everything, I still have to figure out where to put what I do have, and in some situations I have to get rid of more.

Meeting people who understand

Being here has been wonderful. I’ve met several people living here who in some way share views of mine. For example, even though a couple apartments are much larger than the others, the tenants still believe in organic gardening and we have a group who are working to put in a community garden. Others live in the smaller ( 300 sq ft) apartments and believe in smaller footprints. Those who live in the larger apartments are very open minded about those of us who prefer the smaller spaces.  But by moving here, I have set myself apart from others who aren’t so open-minded.

Isn’t this country the great melting pot? Why can’t I be different?

What I didn’t expect was the backlash from friends and family.  It’s those people I’ve known for years who seem some how threatened by what I’ve done.

Why should that be? If I’m happy shouldn’t they be happy for me?  I would have thought so, but am finding there is so much more to it than that.

By moving to such a small space I have rocked the status quo, and the expectations in society. I am challenging, in some minds, the  norm.  Never mind that the norm didn’t make me happy.

For some, my move has been a slap in the face.  They are busy working to pay for all the things they need, taking care of the three bedroom house, finding the extra money from the pay check to update the kitchen or buy those new sectionals. Wait, bought the sectionals, now need new curtains…They must have adequate storage space for all those things they have and might need.  For example all those tools you need now since you own a home.

Let me answer your questions

For these people, my decision puts them on the defensive, they try to explain to me why they could  never do what I’m doing as they roll their eyes while looking around my home.

The questions and responses I get from people when they learned I was moving  and once they have seen my space are, for me, too funny.  I some times wish they could listen to themselves with an open mind and answer their own questions. Here are just a few:

  1. But don’t you want to be able to get away to another room when you are too tired to clean and this room looks messy? Where can you go?
  2. But people are supposed to  have a living room, dining room, separate bedrooms, and what about a guest room?
  3. I need my extra bedroom, it’s my closet for all my clothes, where are the rest of your clothes kept?
  4. Where do you keep all the things you buy? You don’t have an attic, basement, or garage
  5. You got rid of too much, what are you going to do when  you need some thing you got rid of? You will spend more money buying things but have no where to put it.

Let me answer these one by one:

  1. As for a messy room and needing to get away. I will admit that in a very small space even a few things left out can make the whole place feel cluttered. Everything I kept has it’s place. when I’m done I put it back, works for me.  What these people don’t get is that unlike them I only have one room and a bath to keep clean. That really doesn’t take that much effort. Owning so much less makes it easier too. They are picturing their junk drawers and closets with your space constraints. This is the square peg trying to fit in a round hole.   By paring down to your necessities and not moving into a space too small for your current needs you will fit easily and still not  have to hide from a messy room.
  2. Okay, so this one makes me laugh. People are supposed to have ….what???  I  have never cared what “people are supposed” the word supposed should be eliminated from our vocabulary.  And by the way, who says?  Who gets to make the rules for everyone else. As for the guest space, well I have guest space.  It works just fine for my overnight guests so far.  When you were young did you ever have sleepovers? Did you worry about where your guests were going to sleep. I didn’t, still don’t.
  3. An extra bedroom for a closet? Are you kidding? Thanks I’ll stick to having less than that. I’m not about to pay for all those clothes then pay to heat an entire room to store them.
  4. Now this is an easy one. Where do I put all the things I buy?  Again this is the square peg and round hole question. These people are picturing their shopping habits and trying to envision where they would store it in my space.  Seriously, I  don’t shop much as I can’t think of anything I need. I have a couple pairs of shoes for different occasions, small wardrobe. If I have more than a weeks worth of clothes for any season I have too much. It would only mean that I can let the laundry go till I have too much to do in an afternoon. Think about clothes like dishes. If you went out and bought dishes every time you didn’t want to wash your dishes you still would need to wash them eventually, but now look at how many dishes you have to wash. Will it take an hour, couple hours or even all day? So the less I own the less I have to work at maintaining my “things”.
  5. And finally, about those things I will need to buy again? Well I’ve only needed one thing in the last six months and that was a drill. But I didn’t have a drill to begin with. So I did what people used to do, I borrowed it from my son!  Now I have loaned out things to others from items I’ve kept. They include an extension cord, sander, crock pot, and even my car when my son’s was in being repaired so he could get to work.  That’s what past generations did. They shared, they didn’t buy everything it would have been too costly.

Have you run into situations in life where you found yourself being judged and realized it wasn’t really about you?

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55 comments

  1. This made me laugh, how people are so strange. Yes, I’ve had people judge me all the time, and it was more them then me. My family still does it. they don’t understand me at all! My clothes takes up half of a half a closet! I own two pairs of shoes and that includes one pair of sandals. I own one coat. I might not live in a 300 ft apartment but I live pretty frugal. I do need a bit more room. but that is just me 🙂

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    • I’m sorry you have to deal with that. My family has never understood me either and I have given up and just avoid them now. You are more frugal than I am. I have three pairs of shoes and a pair of winter boots, I also own more coats. One for fall or chilly spring days, two for winter the one being a very old denim barn coat and a cape I received as a gift. I think our only big difference comes in the space we need, I am just more comfortable in small spaces and like the feeling of being cocooned by my home.

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  2. Oh how I can sympathize with this! When I started living smaller the fallout started and for some it hasn’t stopped. When I mention that I’m glad I can stay at home with my kid because of my lifestyle choices I get treated like I’m a horrible, lazy excuse of a human being. Needless to say I’ve had to eliminate a lot of my old friends.

    I finally realized that a lot of them are tired and jealous because they don’t have the courage to buck the status quo but at times it is tiresome. Kudos for living life on your own terms! I’m so thankful I found your blog!

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    • Annie, I so relate to this. I lost my best friend of 20 years over my move. I’m sorry you too lost friends along the way to finding the life that works for you. Kudos for being able to stay home with your child. I was very surprised to see how many reacted to a simple move I made. It shouldn’t have as I lost friends before with choices I made. When I began home schooling my boys I wasn’t anywhere ready for the reactions I received. To me that decision was a parenting decision between my boys and myself, but all of a sudden people were asking my boys how long they were going to let their mother ruin their life before they stood up and said they wanted to go back to school. I even had people telling me they needed to be in school to have men in their lives because their father wasn’t, even knowing they never had a male teacher to this point!

      While the reactions to moving here are from a different place than the reactions to home schooling, they are very closely related. The person doing the judging can’t stand to see some one else happier than they are, imo.

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  3. The things some people think it’s okay to say to others really amazes me sometimes. What rude questions you’ve had asked of you! No wonder you felt upset. People are at different stages in their lives and need different things, there is no need to judge others. Perhaps your way of living has pricked some consciences? Many of us are so wasteful of the earth’s limited resources. Your way of living is uncluttered and sounds peaceful and organised to me.

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    • It amazed me too. I never thought what I was doing affected any one but my immediate family and myself. I say my immediate family because my youngest and his wife come up to visit and need to stay over night. I worried a little if they would have a problem not having a separate space to sleep in. Fortunately, they couldn’t care less where they sleep. The only problem we have encountered is when his father joins us for a visit, he snores so loudly no one else can sleep. 🙂 The grand kids love it here as well, they love the open spaces, helping to garden, and the beach access. My grand son tells everyone (happily) that the loveseat is his bed and likes sharing a room when he’s here. I am so fortunate to have such loving and supportive children.

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  4. When I lived in Dublin at the height of the boom times, I was regularly belittled by my colleagues because I didn’t own my own home. Here in Germany, it is not the norm to take a mortgage and therefore it is unthinkable to ridicule someone because they rent. I remember one time we were out at lunchtime looking in a department store and I remember being told “oh, you wouldn’t appreciate how nice this lamp is, (it wasn’t to my taste), until you own your own home”.

    It was a little hurtful at the time, but I can tell you I’m so happy that I stood firm and did not jump on the house-buying-mania bandwagon. I don’t owe anyone a single cent and could possibly return in a few years to buy a modest home – in cash. That is, if we choose to!

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    • How rude!! It doesn’t matter where you live, as long as you put your personal touch on that space to make it yours! I’m glad you stood by your guns and didn’t cave to pressure to buy a home if you weren’t ready to.

      I am always amazed at the differences between the cultures. I had no idea it’s not the norm to take out a mortgage in Germany. Here the pressure is to own a home, we are told constantly that it is an investment in our future, and yes mortgages are the way to obtain a home. Depending on where in the US you live the type of home will be a huge factor in whether or not you are accepted. I lived in an apartment when my boys were little, we had great schools and I wanted to stay in the area but couldn’t afford the rising costs of rent or home ownership. So I bought a mobile home and began renovating it. All of a sudden we began losing friends over where we lived. It’s sad really. In other parts of the country a mobile home is perfectly acceptable for a home.

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    • P, I hope I can speak for the majority of Irish people when I let you know that we’re not all that ignorant! Unfortunately I reckon what your colleagues said is because we Irish now have this mentality of owning everything because of how poor our ancestors were. We lived in old English tenements, were incredibly poor and could be kicked out at a moments notice so now it seems to have been bred into us to own as much as possible including our own homes so that we have security. In actual fact, the renters are now probably the ones better off in this country! Good on you for standing firm 🙂

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      • Hi Eimear,

        thank you for bringing that up, yes you’re so right, not all Irish people think that way (I’m also Irish 😉

        Combined with the cultural memory, in more recent times, home ownership in northern ireland until the 1970s meant entitlement to vote. In 2013, I think it is now simply just a traditional way to save for retirement.

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  5. Oh my. I think there are some advantages to having made my break from the “normal” world pretty much before I ever entered it. I do remember when, upon graduating from a very expensive private university, I told my mother that I was considering taking a job working for CO-PIRG (doing environmental work) at a salary of $12K/year. Her response was “But how are you going to…. (long pause) live?” So instead I took a job at a folk music school for $5K/year. I showed her! 🙂

    Seriously though, I feel very fortunate to have found a community of people who had been busy bucking the system for many, many years before I came along. In their eyes, I was the one with the “real job” because I was an actual employee! I have SOOOO much respect for people who were actually a part of “the system” and then made a break with it, because I think that would be much harder than having never entered it at all.

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    • You showed her alright! 🙂 When I graduated from college I was older and had two children, one in elementary school another close behind. When I began looking for work the economy had taken a swift change and the position I went to school for had been virtually eliminated in this area and the few positions left had more applicants than needed most with years of experience. I had to switch gears and find something else. Unfortunately, the reason I went to school was to enable myself to find more of a 9-5 job with benefits and I was being offered jobs with hours like noon to midnight and no benefits! It was hard working minimum wage jobs to support my children and turning down these positions that would keep me from being home with my boys when they were home. I stayed with the minimum wage job, no matter how upset my family was that I wasn’t “proving” my worth in the job market. There are some things more important than money, and knowing I was raising my boys myself was one of them.

      I too think you are fortunate to have found your way without having to leave the system to find it. I had a hard time doing what I felt was right with all the criticism. You would think I’d be used to it by now.

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  6. It’s not difficult to see why bucking the system brings down a lot of negativity – the system relies on us all buying into it – literally! If we choose to live differently, it’s a challenge to the values society tells us from birth that we should have. It took me soooooo long to figure all this out for myself – my biggest regret is probably the waste of time and money I could have used differently if I’d worked it out sooner. I’m not sure you can ‘tell’ other people about it – I wonder if it’s one of those things you need to find for yourself. All I can say is, I’m a much happier person now and I’m meeting a lot of like minded, very authentic people on this journey, which is a rich reward in itself.

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    • So well put Anny, there is no way to tell people what it’s like to live differently. It’s like the alcoholic, you can’t get them to quit drinking until they are ready to see what life is like without the alcohol. I would love to have some of the money back that I spent on certain things, but I learned something from it that made me who I am today so I guess it was something I needed to experience. One of the family members most vocal about my new home was my sister. I will never be able to show her why this works for me or convince her that this is a choice she too could live with. Her shopping addiction comes from depression and heartbreak. She’s trying to love herself through her purchases, to the point that she is deeply in debt. Other reasons I’ve heard have included “but I sacrificed so much raising my children I want the best for me now”, “I never had nice things growing up” and probably the saddest is “I want to be like the rest of my family”

      A favorite cousin of mine committed suicide as the server was about to knock on his door to serve him papers that he’d lost his home. He couldn’t handle not measuring up to the expectations he felt being the poorest out of his siblings. It pains me still to think of what he did.

      I’m glad you have found your way and are happy with the way you live today, regardless of what others think of how you live.

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    • Bethany, I would love to think that, but I’m not sure it’s true of those I was closest to. They still continue to live the same way they were with no signs that it bothers them. I don’t see myself ever being close to them again, but I would love to see them find happiness in their own way.

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  7. I was just reading that the average size of a new home in Canada has dropped from 2300 sq ft to 1900 in the past 5 years. My house is 1600 sq ft and it feels huge for the two of us (empty nesters). Yet I have had several comments from relatives, such as “You should have a guest room” and “I bet you’ll be glad when the Christmas tree comes down because you have so little space.” It boggles my mind!

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    • 1,600 would be huge for me, but small for others. Wow your relatives must have very large homes to make such rude comments to you. What gets me is that people can’t just accept the differences between each other and the homes we live in. While I would never want to live in a “huge” house, seeing pictures of how they decorate for the holidays is enjoyable as the rooms are beautiful, but so is a smaller room that shows the personality of those that live in it. I wish we could just enjoy each experience as it is without passing judgement on it.

      Here in the US home sizes were falling when the economy first took a hit, but now home sizes are growing again, and bigger than ever. I wonder when people are going to see they don’t need the space they are buying. There was an article on a builder who used to build large homes 3,000 to 5,000 sq ft, who is now regularly being asked to build up to 7,000 sq ft. It was mentioned in the article that these homes aren’t being built for the super wealthy, but for people who are able to get enough financing to have them built. We as a nation still want to have the biggest, and are willing to finance it.

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  8. I envy the freedom you must feel by downsizing and living simpler. I have managed to severely downsize a lot of stuff as I pack up our household. There is still a lot of my in-laws stuff to pack up and ship off as well. As much as I complain about this process, it does feel good to finally sort through all of the stuff that had remained hidden for the past years. My goal is to keep life simpler. We really haven’t accumulated much stuff over the past 3 years, but have just never dealt with the old stuff. Now we will. I am about to take a vanload in to the charity store this morning, and should have another one ready by tomorrow. Almost half of our books will be donated to the library, old toys will be dealt with, unused furniture given away.. yay!

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    • I’m glad you are still staying positive about your move. A van load, you are downsizing! Is the home you are moving into smaller than the one you currently have? Moving often was a way of life for me growing up and into my early adult years (a habit, I guess). It never really bothered me to move, but the part I enjoyed was touching everything to decide if I still wanted it. I’m not sure if I would have enjoyed the process so much if I was moving two households in the same month. My wish for you is a few days off to just sit and relax when this is finished.

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  9. Seven billion people on the planet and each one as different as the snowflakes. How boring if we were all the same with the same view. I learn so much from you and admire your tenacious spirit. We are all supposed to be different, that’s what keeps life interesting and fun. Don’t let them get you down. Just smile because you have the secret.

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    • Trust me I don’t let them any longer, it was truly surprise at the reactions that shocked me most. I agree, we are all different and should embrace those differences, how boring life would be if we were all the same!

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  10. I understand what you are saying about rude remarks. After my husband died I raised my son alone. He joined the
    Marines and gave his life in service to our country. I no longer needed a three bedroom home. About the same time
    my brother lost his wife. He also had a large home. He travels for his work 3-4 days per week. We talked about finding a small,older house and sharing it. A relative who owned an upper/lower flat home was ready to move to assisted living since he and his wife could no longer keep up with a renter and yard work. My brother and I sold our large homes and purchased the double flat. Each being a one bedroom. The house is small built in the late 1800’s.
    Its perfect for me since its easy living on a first floor. My brother doesn’t have to worry when he is traveling since
    I can check his flat while he is away. He loves landscaping its his hobby and he has been making improvements to the yard each season. We are both happy with the arrangement. However, friends and relatives thing we are crazy.
    I was told I needed more space at least a second bedroom. I was asked where guests would stay. and the comments continued in this manner. I just laugh and get on with my life. If anyone wants to stay I have a pullout sofa .
    I live in a rural area of Wisconsin and don’t have many visitors. I think many people believe bigger is better. I
    don’t understand that. I love smaller spaces,lower energy bills,and the beautiful yard we share. My brother’s plantings
    make it look like a small park.

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    • I am so sorry for your losses, it’s hard enough to lose a spouse, but your son, my heart goes out to you.

      As for your home that would be perfect! I love the idea of sharing a small home with someone you truly love and can share the chores around the property. This would be something I would consider if I got worse and needed more help with things than I do now.

      I would love to be able to put my finger on the exact time we decided we needed guest rooms. It was unheard of when I was growing up and seems to be something that only became a “must” during some point in my adult years, but not sure when exactly.

      Your home sounds lovely. I love the older homes, they have so much character in the details that is lost in today’s mass produced home. If all you need is a one bedroom why pay for more. I find it strange how the values change here in the US depending on where you live. In say New York City, people are thrilled to have a closet sized place they can call home and wouldn’t stress about where a guest might stay, then in areas that have less density we think we need huge homes to fill a property.

      Enjoy your space and the lovely yard your brother has given you and I hope you ignore the disparaging remarks from others.

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  11. I had to fight my mom on some things I wanted to get rid of. Like an iron and ironing board, or bulletin boards – I haven’t used them in over 6 months. Don’t need ’em. Just because she spends an hour ironing on Saturday doesn’t mean I have to.

    She also insisted I keep a few pairs of dress pants. I haven’t worn a pair in nearly a year! But I have a fancy meeting tomorrow, so who knows? But I’ll probably wear a dress instead, just to stick it to those dress pants I don’t need. 🙂

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    • I love your spunk! I have been holding on to my ironing board, but haven’t used it in just over two years so I am contemplating adding that to my growing pile of things leaving the apartment. I don’t iron clothes to wear, but in quilting or making things from fabric I sometimes need to do a little ironing. I usually put a towel down on the counter to do small things, it works and is faster than getting out the ironing board.

      Stick it to those pants:-)

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  12. Hi Lois, Friends and Family can say some really hurtful things, can’t they?
    Kudos to you to choosing to live your life according to your values.
    Thank goodness for the blogging community where you can connect with like-minded souls……

    And you sound so happy in the life that you have created for yourself with time to spend as you choose.

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    • Thank you, I am happy, unfortunately for those who are first to criticize my choices they aren’t all that happy and I feel badly for them. But we each need to find our own way to happiness. Yes!! The blogging community sure helped me to feel that I wasn’t alone in wanting less and I am so appreciative.

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  13. I can totally relate to this. No one could understand why we would downsize. Don’t you need your sewing room and your guest room and rooms for each child and a family room…. But, when they came to the house we said stand in this spot, look each direction, okay, now let’s hit the beach, they understood. All except my sister’s husband. He came once to our house, walked in and said it is too small and left. When my husband threw a party to celebrate my earning my Masters degree, he drove my sister to our house (1.5 hour drive) dropped her off and drove away. They live in a huge home with many unused rooms.

    And regarding the buying “things” – I love to shop, but by living smaller, I look at an item, think about where I would put it, do I have to store it? And I usually end up not buying it.

    I have just read a few posts, but I will return to browse some more.

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    • Thanks Carol. I have tried similar things, such as pointing out the open space I have right outside my door and the lake across the street, but for some, like your brother-in-law who is just rude in my opinion. congratulations btw on your Masters Degree, I stopped after my Bachelors, it was enough for me.

      Yes, even before moving here I never let myself buy anything unless I knew exactly how I would use it and where. You can love something without owning it.

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  14. This is a great post Lois. I have really enjoyed reading all the comments and would like to let you know a bit about my own experiences. Growing up in London in an old Victorian terraced house (my parents rented for many years and finally bought it when I was well and truly grown up). Mum and dad worked hard and didn’t believe in getting themselves into debt (no credit cards etc.) so I think a lot of that philosophy has stuck. After my dad died, I was amazed at how unsentimental mum was about all the accumulated “stuff” in her life. She couldn’t wait to move to a small unit in a retirement village. Now at 84 she is very happy in her one bed unit with a ready made community around her and is still very capable of cooking and cleaning for herself. Also when I visit from overseas, I am very happy to sleep on the pull out sofa. I often look at the house I live in and think “how did I end up living in such a big house with so much stuff”! I look forward to downsizing in the future and will continue to be inspired by your example.

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    • You have a little more Irish in you than I do, but it’s the Irish side that I am drawn to more, I think it has to do with all the fairies 🙂

      Your mother sounds amazing to be able to let it all go and move without a problem after so long in one home and neighborhood. My grandparents downsized right after their youngest left home, to a place that was under 1,000 sq ft, but in the end my grandfather wanted to die in his own home (his words,not mine). He enjoyed having his own home and didn’t want to give up the small yard and the neighborhood he loved.

      I don’t know what’s wrong with a pull out couch, that’s what people used to do! I hope you find the right place for you when you are ready to move. Until then, enjoy the place you do have, make it yours and comfortable.

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  15. Lois,
    I love your posts! They always bring me back to the basics, for some serious self reflection. You are such a role model to me! So many people your age have been treading the stuff path for so long that they can’t even begin to ask these questions seriously. It takes a lot of courage to live according to your values and to change your habits to make everything come in line. Ganbate Kudasai! (Keep going for it) and thanks for being my biggest fan too!

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    • You are more than welcome!! I’m so glad I can help other to reach for what they really want, I received so much support from everyone in blog land myself when I made my move, it helped not to feel discouraged by the responses I was receiving from my friends and family.

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  16. People’s reactions are so funny. We live in a 1200 square foot house (my husband, daughter and I) and sometimes it feels too big to me, but it’s small compared to most of the people we know. I’ve been asked if we will add on if we have another kid. My answer is always a chuckle and polite, “No”. If we have another kid they can share. We actually have another option, though. Our house was built in 1928 and had a formal dining room in the middle. We turned that into the living and room and use the actual living room as kind of an office/playroom. So, if we ever need another bedroom, we can turn the front room into one, and voila, we didn’t have to add on (too expensive) or increase our house size! A win, win scenario. : )

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    • Ah, the opinions of others. I am jealous I love the older homes with all their character. I’ve been fortunate to have lived in a few of the older homes, but not all have saved the details that give them the personality they should have. You have made good use of the rooms you have, there is no reason to have a formal dining room if it doesn’t fit your lifestyle. I can see the living room turned master bedroom, with a little distance from the children’s rooms, if you have another child. Definitely a win-win situation, and when the children grow you won’t be left with this huge home you no longer want.

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