As our fair Emerald City grows, so do our housing concerns. How are we going to house all the workers that our vibrant community will need in the years to come? How will newcomers be able to afford a home in the hottest housing market in the U.S.? Will Seattleites need to sacrifice time for space as they move further away from the city and jobs? Last week, we paid a visit to David and Janice at their 793-square foot condo on Terry Street in the heart of the city (See the listing here). We weren’t sure what to expect. It isn’t that unusual for a couple to live in a one-bedroom condo, but this couple has three young boys. What we found was enchanting: a happy family that was engaged with their community, tidy and well organized, with three boys who got along well and collaborated in all things. The decision for this family to live a minimalist lifestyle in a small space was intentional. To follow up with them, we asked them about the advantages of their space and setting. Keep reading and decide if this new way of living might work well for you and your family.
1. You can walk to work
By living within walking distance of work, David has been able avoid sitting in traffic and he can spend more time with his family. “I enjoy walking to work, as I see things I wouldn’t see if I was in a car. When walking, I run into people I know and I meet new people along the way. I feel better because of the exercise, and it is a very grounding experience.”
2. Built-in community
Our population seems to be moving from one household to the next at breakneck speed. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that the average American will move 11.4 times in their lifetime, or about once every five years. Many of these moves are for employment, which often means moving away from a family support system. Another family we interviewed said they loved the multi-generational component of condo living. Younger people and older people all live in the same building, which makes for many surrogate aunts, uncles, and grandparents. “Our kids have met so many wonderful people in our building who have taken a real interest in them and watched them grow. It’s like having an extended family.”
3. Walk to Parks
Living in a condo means no yard to care for (translation: more free time). Seattle is full of beautiful parks and open spaces for our residents to share. And don’t forget all the lovely little “pocket parks” and dog parks, which also make for fun outings. These parks are paid for by your taxes. It is only right that we should all get out and enjoy and appreciate our city parks.
4. Sharing common spaces
Minimalist living usually comes with shared spaces. Want to host a movie night or have your 20 closest friends over for the big game? Most condos in Seattle have party rooms, theater rooms, and many even have a spare condo for overnight guests. When we asked David and Janice about the Meridian, the condo building that they live in, they were thrilled with the offerings. “We love these amenities. We don’t need a guest bedroom or a theater room all the time, so sharing these resources just makes sense”. Another couple we interviewed enjoys a craft beer brewing club in their building that the condo association made space for.
5. Free up financial assets
Living in a smaller home frees up assets because owners don’t spend as much on things like maintenance, heat, property taxes, and furnishings. Many families that we talked to enjoy travel, and by living a smaller lifestyle, financial resources are freed up for use on amazing adventures and trips. Want to retire early? Squirrel away some of the money you would have spent on your mortgage in your retirement fund. Whether you have children or not, you can start an educational fund for your kids, nieces or nephews, grandchildren, or yourself (see your tax professional for more information). According to the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics survey, Americans spend twice as much on housing than they do on anything else. Housing expenditures average 34% of take-home pay. And if you live in a major metro area, such as San Francisco, New York, or Seattle, your percentage may be even more.
6. Less space means less stuff
For some, this may not seem like an advantage, but David and Janice believe that smaller is an advantage. When you have less space, you have fewer places to put things. “Each family member has a special storage cubby. You must carefully consider every possession and decide if you have room for it, how important it is to you, and how you are going to organize things. If something new comes into the house, what can you donate to make space for it? In the end, having less space keeps you from making unnecessary purchases, once again saving you money, and teaching our boys to organize and acquire things judiciously.”
One of our team members had this to say about minimalist living: “When I think back to one of my happiest times, it was living in a one-
bedroom, one-bathroom apartment in Europe with my family of four. The 600-square meter flat took about an hour to clean from top to bottom. Then we could go out to enjoy our village, get on a train, and make an adventure. The small kitchen meant that we went to the farmer’s market about every other day, and we became very close as there was no place to retreat to be alone. Some nights we all read books together, played games, or watched a movie on a laptop, sitting close together, side by side. We didn’t buy anything that we didn’t need because there simply wasn’t the space.”
Time is an equal playing field. We all have the same amount of time. How we spend it is a very individual decision. Living in the heart of the city in smaller digs just might give you and your family more of this precious commodity for doing things that you love. Now, let’s walk to that dog park down the street and make some new friends!