Fitting Into Your Smaller Austin Home

Sylvia and I recently installed new hardwood floors in our entire home. Bedrooms, closets, kitchen, hallway, etc. Everywhere except the laundry room and 2 bathrooms, which received new tile the month before. The process of doing this in an occupied home required a packing and moving of stuff not dissimilar to actually moving. Every part of the home had to be emptied out completely, just not all at once. So we migrated piles of stuff from one part of the house to the other as the new floors were installed. Meanwhile, we lived in a semi-construction zone for 10 days.

I learned a lot about wood flooring and the install process, but this article is about our stuff. I heard myself say at some point, while carting boxes out to the garage, and will now quote myself, “how is it possible that people who have gotten rid of so much stuff still have so much stuff?!”

No joke, our living space over the last 4 homes in 12 years looks like a bell curve. We’ve gone from 2,000 sqft to 3,700 to 3,300 and now down to 1,800 square feet. During each move, we’ve parted ways with what seemed like massive amounts of stuff. I’ve always enjoyed that aspect of moving. The cleansing and thinning out of the material barnacles that cling to us as we live life. We could fill a semi trailer with all the stuff we’ve given to Goodwill over the years. Especially on this last move going from 3,300 sqft down to 1,800.

Yet, here I am trying to move stuff out of the way for new floors and I just can’t believe we still have too much. How do people who’ve unloaded so much still have too much? By only getting rid of the easy stuff. Now it’s down to the emotional stuff, and that’s harder. Way harder.

aria-pro II precise bass 1977
Aria-pro II precise bass 1977

Today I sold my vintage 1977 Aria Pro II Precise Bass guitar. I don’t really even know how to play bass, but I’ve hauled this guitar around for over 15+ years. It’s a Fender copy, but a better made guitar than the original Fenders of that era. I kept thinking I’d take bass lessons and learn to play it. Yet it never happened and the bass actually survived 5 moves without getting let go. Today I did let it go.

We also let go of the piano. I’ve played it since I was about 5 years old – about 44 years. Mom gave it to me some years ago. I can bang out some old Beatles tunes and chop around on the keys, but with only one living room and the kids well beyond piano lesson years, that’s some pretty valuable living room space to have dedicated to a seldom used piano. We donated it to Sylvia’s 5-year old nephew.

I still have some vintage guitar amps and guitars. I may just keep the acoustic I bought when I was 16, and the Telecaster and 1 amp. The rest needs to go. Sylvia has a bunch of artwork and other knick knacks that could use thinning out. And we have boxes full of artifacts of our kid’s lives. Old school papers, art, drawings, etc. That stuff takes up a lot of space also, but will probably survive this latest culling.

Like many Americans, we’ve made the recent decision that we don’t want to live in a big home anymore. We value being in the urban core of Austin in a smaller house. The location is so wonderful. 6 minutes to down town. Austin feels small again when you don’t start every drive from 3 miles past the Y in Oak Hill. I can get most places I need to go in 15 minutes or less. I even walked to Zilker Park for the Shakespeare play one night last summer (though it took an hour).

The trend to smaller homes is not going to abate. People are downsizing. The corner has been turned and the Builders know it. But in order for the American Consumer to be happy living in a smaller home, some stuff is going to have to go – or not be bought in the first place. Theoretically, that’s easy to know and accept. But when you’re actually picking up your stuff and deciding whether it goes into the “keep”, “goodwill”, “sell” or “trash” pile, it’s not so easy.

I’m going to miss that bass. Even though it went untouched, unplayed for years at a time, I knew I still had it. I liked owning it. I’m sad it’s gone. But if we’re going to be “small house people”, we just don’t have the luxury of clinging to impractical sentimental possessions like that anymore.

10 thoughts on “Fitting Into Your Smaller Austin Home”

  1. Is there a return on investment on putting in wood floors for both floors (bedrooms upstairs) or just the living spaces (no bedrooms?)
    I am planning to get wood floors also and would like to hear your views about the options especially in kitchen area where it may get wet. Can you also say who installed it and if you would recommend them.

  2. OTOH, just try to find a storage space in Austin right noe, they’re pretty scarce and Public Storage can’t build them quickly enough to keep up. While a lot of us are downsizing I think some of us still can’t part with our hoardes!

  3. Hi Vi,

    Yes, I think it’s personal preference on the wood floors, as to where to put them. It definitely increases the value of a home. We just wanted to be carpet-free. Many people leave carpet in the bedrooms though.

    Pat: I have to admit I thought about getting a storage unit. Then quickly thought “no, I shall not go to the dark side”!


  4. Too much ‘stuff’ can be overwhelming. This article reminds me of a saying for those that tend to be collectors or hoarders: “Have you ever seen a hearse with a U-Haul behind it?” Think about it …. ‘less is better’. 🙂

  5. My in-laws just sold a house with 52 years worth of stuff. They were very good at getting rid of things. But what about others? It is so much work for them and the family just to get rid of the extras, but the semtimental things are another matter. Have you ever suggested photographing the sentemental stuff for a scrapbook–and then is it easier to let go of it? Or do you recommend boxing and renting storage space until the elderly get past the point of wanting to keep all that stuff?
    The boxing, I would assume, acts to help cull the marginally valuable if it is kept in mind that you will pay monthly to store it. But it might do the opposite.
    And can you put a price on the value of completely decluttering a 1971 ranch that still has harvest gold ovens and everyting else in good shape but original? Does it even matter that much? I would guess 5%-10% and 60 extra days on the market. Or is it the kiss of death?

  6. Hi DeeDee – that’s funny.

    Sara – I think, from a sales perspective, there is no such thing as a house that can’t benefit from de-cluttering. Even an older, dated home is more attractive if buyers can walk through and get a sense of the space, where their furniture might fit, etc.


  7. Steve, that’s a great post, with good insight. Congrats on letting go of the bass! I think it’s enlightening to observe how people perceive what used to be a sentimental treasure to someone, but when that person has passed on, the treasure often reverts to ‘stuff’ to be dealt with or disposed of. If I ever really get started, I hope to cull pretty furiously so my surviving family won’t be burdened with my *ahem* ‘treasures.’

  8. I can totally relate. It’s amazing how we “think” we’ve cleared out so much “stuff”, but then when we need to start moving things again, we once again realize how much “more” stuff still needs to be cleared.

  9. Save what you really need, love & cherish – give the rest away to charity or hold a garage sale. Keep in mind, if you give it to charity, you can write it off on your taxes next year! Dee Dee is right!

  10. Fitting into a smaller home from a bigger home is difficult, however, once you can get used to it and find it ideal the transformation is absolutely amazing.
    You end up realizing you really never needed all that space in the first place!


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