Down Sizing for a Bigger Life

Take a moment and imagine…

Imagine cutting your bills in half.
Imagine making significant changes; affording yourself the opportunity for choices.
Imagine clearing out the mounds of clutter in your closets, cabinets, and drawers.
Imagine having a home that is well organized, appealing to each of your senses.
Imagine starting new; creating a life that is manageable, a personal space that brings peace.
Imagine clearing out all crap in your head; living an existence in harmony with your desires.

That’s what I imagined. Then, I made it happen.

Took my first step and began with a post on Facebook:

Anyone know a woman who is looking for a couch? Someone who is sitting on the floor; someone who cannot afford to buy a couch of her own. A person in NEED of a place to sit.

I owned seven couches in all, scattered throughout my 4,000 square foot home. SEVEN! The first didn’t take any time at all to place. My friends are always aware of someone in need.

Alerted quickly to a young mother just out of recovery. Kids in foster care. Had nothing. Required everything. With help, she secured an apartment. Needed to furnish it. Loaded up the bed of my friend’s truck twice with furniture, books, games, lamps, dishes, linens, area rugs, backpacks, school supplies, artwork, etc.—all items she could use. All in good condition. Stuff we no longer used held no sentimental value, or we were simply ready to pass along.

Stuff that lightened my load by giving—lightened her load by receiving.

My new rule for what should STAY or GO?

Asked myself one question: Does it bring me peace?

Took forty-eight months of purging, packing and preparing for this huge change.

Four long years of anxiety, tears, and self-doubt. Four long years of listing my home and pulling it off the market, only to relist. Four years of believing I’d have to live in a shack, just to get my ex off my back. Four years of excruciating guilt my children might have to do the same. Four years of trying to explain to both, what I was doing when I wasn’t even certain myself.

But not one tear was shed over the material items I watched being carried out my front door.

Confirmation: I was ready to let go.

Four years ago, almost to the day, I filed for separation from my children’s father.

Twenty-three years of marriage.

We had the big house, big company, big cars, big vacations, big life.
We were the proud parents of two amazing overachieving teens (one boy, one girl).
Compassionate and kind.
Good people. Could not be prouder.
So like their mom and dad, only better.

In the eyes of the world, we were a family; tight.

But we had become busy strangers. With no hope of reconnecting. Took years to admit that gut-wrenching reality.

Broke our twin fourteen-year-olds collective hearts. Shattered their seemingly impenetrable bubble of safety, security; any recognizable semblance of normalcy with a sudden sharp dagger of divorcement.

I hated myself.
I believe my children hated me too.
It wasn’t only about the house.
It was about what the house represented: our life together.

Christmas parties, birthday celebrations, sleepovers, pool parties, chocolate cupcakes, hoops on the driveway, video games marathons in the play room, skateboarding and go karts, lemonade stands with neighborhood friends, chalk drawings that covered the sidewalk, family snuggles in the bonus room, doggies, hamsters, and fish…

That structure held the memories of their childhood within; a symbol of success on all levels.

And I had failed all of them.

My son was furious. Never invited change into his life. Loved his family, his life just as it was.
My daughter grew quiet with heartache. Angry. Their father’s wrath ignited into a full on war.

Fell into a complete and total nervous breakdown. I was overwhelmed. Useless.

The world I had worked so hard to give my children was the world I could no longer support. Never wanted to kill myself, but I did long to be held by God. Pain was unbearable.

In the end, it was my need to survive; my absolute commitment to be a mother to my children, that ultimately saved my life.

My twins turned eighteen last November. I had made a promise to myself; I would stay in that house until they turned eighteen. One week after they became legal adults, we moved. I could now say my children spent their entire childhoods in one home. That meant something.

Cut my mortgage in half, cut my property taxes in half. Paid off the damn attorney, my car loan and all my friggin bills. Took an older home that was in need of renovation, put my mark on it.

Sold the big house, with the bigger mortgage and downsized to a bigger life. The weight on my chest lifted. I could now breathe again. Travel, write, support my children’s dreams without fear.

And the well-being of my children?

The two innocent bystanders I cared more about than anyone or anything in the world? Held them. Asked them to give me a chance. Make this new house a warm and inviting home.

Quietly, they watched as mom took the house down to the studs and started over.

One month later, my baby girl said,

“Feels like we fell into a fairy tale.” My teenage daughter was giddy.

Glanced down the street, let out a deep sigh, gave the universe a silent, heartfelt hug of gratitude and watched as our new neighbors set up a mistletoe stand. It grows wild in our little community and every year the dad next door picks bunches so his kids (now high schoolers) can sell it to raise money for the local animal shelter. Thought to myself, “Seriously?” Giggled.

Holiday lights reflected off our slick street we had only moved onto a month before.

Moms, young children spent hours earlier that morning lining our street with luminaries; white paper lunch sacks, each filled with a spot of sand and one white votive. Red wagons, trailed children, as they deposited their noble efforts along the sidewalks. Sunset sparked the older offspring to take handheld lighters and ignite each and every wick.

Hundreds of bags, six inches apart, lining the three connecting streets of our quaint little neighborhood, setting our storybook neighborhood aglow. Christmas lights; red, green, orange and blue, hung from the eaves of many of the houses, white highlighted the others. Blow ups and snowmen formed a theme throughout. Every single home was lighted and ready for the Neighborhood Holiday Decorating Contest.

This was new to my kids and I. Our former neighborhood, nice in its own way, never came together the way this one had done. It was like a movie set. How did we even get here?

And my son? The tenderest heart I’ve ever know? The child who wanted nothing to do with a new home, a new room, a new anything? Reclined on his bed, and said,

“I like this room.”

Treading lightly I asked,

“You miss the old house?”

“Surprisingly, no. Don’t even think about it.”

“You like this house?” My heart raced.

“I do. I love it, mom. I’m glad you like it. It’s perfect.”

It’s true, you know, we parents are only as happy as our saddest child. My children were processing and healing. Road to recovery.

I sighed. A release of love, growth, understanding; life is a process of ups and downs.

For everyone. Even us moms. I regret the path, but I am grateful for the growth. For us all.

And downsizing for a bigger life?

Single, married, or divorced—just imagine!

Photo Credit: Flickr via Compfight cc

Categories: Emotional HealthFeaturedWomen's Issues + Awareness

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Renee DeMont

Renee DeMont is a SURVIVOR. She was born into poverty; spent much of her childhood homeless, living on the streets of Los Angeles, and in foster care. Renee learned early on: life is about adapting to adversity. The greatest gift she ever received? No one expected anything from her. By 18, she was ready to experience life on her own terms. First one in her family to attend college. After college, her focus and determination earned her a spot working at Paramount Studios, on the #1 show in television, "Cheers". At 29, Renee gave entrepreneurship a go and began a Biomedical engineering business out of her garage. Twenty years later, that risky venture grew into 8,000 square feet of success. She broke the cycle of poverty that plagued her family for generations. Recently, Renee turned fifty, filed for divorce (he declared WAR), and trudged through a debilitating nervous breakdown. Through therapy and writing, she reclaimed her sanity. Sold her half of the business to the ex, and now she has clarity and choices. Renee is personally and financially independent. With her new found freedom, she chooses to write in a sincere effort to reconcile her past with her present. Hopefully, through this cathartic process, the second half of her life will be led by her soul's desire, rather than by the fears and doubts of her first half. Currently, she lives in South Orange County with her teenage son and daughter, and her high maintenance yet lovable dog, Joe. Soon to be an empty nester, she plans to downsize the big house in the OC bubble, for a bigger life in the real world. Her days are spent gently launching her almost grown children into adulthood, and passionately penning her memoir. In the mean time, you can find her essays on pain, positivity, and empowerment at:

  1. What a great read Renee. Shed a tear. I too was married for 19 years. Waited tell my kid was leaving for college. Left that same day.
    Went from a four bedroom to renting a room. We as parents sacrifice so much for are kids wouldn’t have done it any other way.
    Looking forward to reading your memoir.

  2. Hi William, thank you for the comment, I had no idea you went something similar to I. Took four years to get to any kind of finesse at all. Still not sure if you were inside my head you would have seen it. But I thank God and you for seeing the light when for so long there was darkness. Nice hearing from you! And thanks again for reading my bits and pieces, 🙂

  3. Great article Renee. So many similarities to my situation, except you handled yours with so much more finesse. Oh well, God blessed me anyways, his grace still poured onto me in spite of my lack of wisdom. For that I’m grateful. Keep up your great writing, always love reading it!

  4. Someday, I’d like to live in a small, two bedroom home. Less cleaning, less stuff. This piece speaks to me!

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