Sherry’s post a few months ago about what furniture & decor we still own after downsizing was the first time I’d looked back at photos of our previous house in a while. It was a fun walk down memory lane (how has it been 2.5 years since we moved?!). It also jogged my memory about how much “extra house” we used to have. As in, full rooms that were so under-utilized that I’d almost forgotten about them!
Don’t get me wrong: we loved that house. But, as you know, it was a much bigger house than we realized we needed (spending an entire summer in our smaller pink beach house really clarified that for us – more on that here), and we were excited & relieved to downsize to our current home in Florida. We went from 3,150 square feet in Virginia to 1,400 square feet here – which is less than half the space, for the math nerds out there.
Some rooms here are just smaller than their Virginia counterparts, but we also have full rooms that are just totally missing (we went from 3 bathrooms to 1, and no longer have things like a garage, a home office, a dining room, etc). And over the past 2.5 years of living here in our smaller home (through a global pandemic, which resulted in an entire year of at-home learning in our smaller space!) we’ve definitely put having fewer rooms to the test. And since it has been a few years, and we’ve gotten along so well without them, I thought it’d be interesting to see which ones we don’t miss (and the ones that we do miss).
6 Rooms Versus 14 Rooms
Simply put, our current home has six rooms. A multifunctional room downstairs that has a kitchen on one side and a sitting area on the other, three bedrooms, a bathroom, and a multi-functional family room upstairs that serves as a TV room/office/crafting area/playspace. Here they are:
If you want to read more about those rooms and see more photos of each one, I’ve linked them below for you:
- The Kitchen/Sitting Area
- Our Bedroom
- The Bathroom
- Our Daughter’s Bedroom
- Our Son’s Bedroom
- The Upstairs Family Room
We’re lucky to also have a large upstairs deck, two porches, a pool area, and other outdoor spaces that give us a lot more room to spread out (and thanks to it being nice outside nearly year-round here, they get a lot of use!). But as for conditioned indoor rooms, those six spaces are it! We do have a laundry closet in the kitchen and a small hallway that joins some of the rooms, but those don’t count as actual rooms by any standard I’ve ever heard of.
Note: a grand hallway with actual furniture in it – like an entry foyer, can definitely count as a room (for example, our last house’s foyer had an entry table, a chandelier, and two of its own closets within that approximately 12′ x 12′ room – so the real estate listing for that house listed it as a room and included its measurements).
Speaking of our last house, let’s compare the FOURTEEN rooms we had there:
- The Kitchen
- The Family Room
- The Dining Room
- The Office
- The Downstairs Bathroom
- The Foyer
- Our Bedroom
- Our Bathroom / Walk-In Closet
- Our Daughter’s Room
- Our Son’s Room
- The Hall Bathroom
- The Art / Homework Room
- The Laundry Room
- The Bonus Room
That’s a difference of 8 rooms – not including unconditioned spaces – so there’s definitely a noticeable difference between the two houses. A funny side note is that our Richmond house also had a GIANT walk-up attic (as large as the entire first floor of the house), a two-car garage, and a large outdoor shed, which are 3 other spaces that we don’t have in our current house.
Those three spots could hold a ton of stuff, so along with going down by 8 rooms, we also downsized those extra storage spaces! That’s actually something I’m really proud that we could accomplish. We used to have SO MUCH CRAP in the attic and the garage felt like we constantly needed to clean it out.
The Rooms We *Don’t* Missing Having
First, a quick disclaimer: different people obviously have different needs and wants from their homes. People often ask us about “our downsizing journey” (please say that with drama and emotion like every person on Love Island says “our relationship journey”) and we’re happy to talk about how things have gone for us, but we’re the first to admit that every human on earth will have different experiences, opinions, and outcomes.
The point of this list is just to share our thought process, which might help you determine what your “must have” spaces are if you’re house hunting, renovating, or maybe just rethinking the function of a spare room in your house. And if you’re thinking about downsizing, this might give you some hope that you’ll be fine without a [insert room you’ve always had here].
Also, we’re not writing this to suggest that you demolish a certain room or feel bad about having it. Lots of these rooms are vital in certain homes and households and, even if not, there’s nothing wrong with a room simply being “nice to have” either. Heck, we lived in our too-big-for-us house for 7 years before we made the move here! So maybe your spare bedroom is good for resale, that extra powder room was fun to decorate, or that basement gym is great for storing fifty-two boxes of holiday decorations. We definitely filled our attic TO THE GILLS. We have been there and we get it.
When we finally got to the place where we were excited (and then extremely relieved) to downsize, we also knew it would involve some sacrifices and compromises compared to our previous home. Honestly what this list showed us upon further reflection is how many of them haven’t felt like sacrifices in the long run! That really was the surprise from this hindsight analysis.
Don’t Miss: A Foyer
Longtime followers might be surprised by this because we sometimes bemoaned the lack of a foyer in our first two homes. Both were small brick ranches where the front door opened right into the living room. So having a proper entryway in our last house had felt like we’d FINALLY MADE IT. We were fancy people with a foyer!
But looking back on it, that room feels like wasted square footage because we basically never used the front door (we always came through the garage) so the foyer was just extra space to pass through on our way to other rooms. And even though we’re back to that door-swings-right-into-living-area scenario here, it honestly hasn’t bothered us. It’s like you always long for something, finally get it, and realize it’s fine but not a deal-breaker if it went away again.
It definitely took some time to figure out a furniture layout that works around the front door, but we’re really happy with how it’s turned out. We even have some nice functional storage for coats and backpacks right when you walk in, thanks to the adjacent laundry closet (the kids were at school when we took this photo, but their backpacks hang on those lower hooks on the laundry closet door).
Ultimately, while we still see the value of a foyer in some homes – even just for the “fancy factor” of having one for a nice dramatic first impression – we’ve learned that we’d personally prioritize a functional entryway with storage. For example, if given the choice between a grand open foyer or a basic front door with room for a small mudroom closet or backpack dropzone behind a door, we’d choose the latter. In our case, we chose a super hardworking laundry closet and a nice open feeling in the living area instead of boxing out a formal foyer.
Don’t Miss: A Laundry Room
Again, this might come as a surprise considering we worked very hard to create a laundry room from scratch in our last house (we stole space from our unfinished attic). We even went all out with a marble backsplash and under-cabinet lighting to make it the most tricked-out laundry space we’ve ever owned.
In retrospect, it was definitely more laundry space than we needed. Going into it, we pictured LOVING the option to throw haphazard piles of to-be-washed items on the floor, shut the door, and let it be our little dirty secret. Or maybe enjoying some peace-and-quiet while we folded or ironed clothes in here.
But none of that ever really happened. Clothes never made a pit stop in here, apart from time spent in the actual washer or dryer (they were in our hampers before – and folded on the bed in our room after). Maybe if we had more kids, busier sports schedules, or bigger wardrobes (you know Sherry loves a minimal closet) we’d have found ourselves needing this spacious secluded laundry zone at the end of a long upstairs hallway. But for our family, having the laundry so out-of-sight actually ended up being a sticking point. We were constantly forgetting we had any laundry running because it was at the very end of this long hallway tucked behind a door (in both former houses it was a lot closer to more bustling areas of our home like the kitchen and we rarely forgot laundry thanks to that proximity).
In many ways, our new laundry setup is ideal for our habits. It’s right in the middle of the house in a closet within our kitchen/downstairs living area, which makes it extremely convenient to everyone’s bedrooms and it greatly cuts down on forgotten loads. But it’s still roomy enough that we have a counter for pre-treating stains, a basket for wrangling too-be-washed items that might be on deck for the next load, and floor space for standing without being totally in the way.
And because it’s still behind closed doors, it doesn’t have to be kept pristine AND it cuts down on the laundry noise remarkably well. It’s funny also to realize that in our first two houses, we only ever had laundry closets or nooks with a stackable washer/dryer – and never really had a big dedicated room with cabinetry and tile and all that jazz like we had in our last house. But once again, I think it was a case of “eh, we had it and it was nice, but we’re just fine without it.” Basically when you downsize you choose your priorities and your house can’t have everything because then it would just be huge.
Don’t Miss: The Dining Room
This probably comes as no surprise to most people, considering how much “formal” dining rooms have fallen out of favor with many families. We also spoke often about how rarely we used this room. We usually ate family dinners at our kitchen island, so this was mostly just a dumping ground for packages and to-be-dealt-with boxes that we occasionally cleaned up if guests were coming over.
Now we only have one indoor dining spot: the table in our kitchen (which can seat as many as 8 people if we pull it out, which we’ve done quite a few times). As a family, we have learned that we MUCH prefer eating at a table facing each other, so this is a big improvement from sitting on higher stools all staring out in a line at our old kitchen island.
One obvious downside to this is that it’s a far cry from a “formal” setup, so if you love hosting dinner parties, this might not suffice. We’ve never been big formal entertainers (we like a casual set-out-the-chips-and-salsa game night or an order-pizza-or-BBQ-burgers dinner party), so it wasn’t a concern to ditch our dining room. These days if we have people over, we tend to gather outside anyways. We often eat out by the pool, where we have a nice big table with an umbrella that also seats 8.
Don’t Miss: The Bonus Room
As the name implies, this room was “extra” space in our last house that we created by finishing the attic over our garage. After our kitchen, it was the biggest room in the house and it acted as a movie/TV room + playroom + crafting space. So it’s funny to think such a multifunctional room falls into the “don’t miss” category. But wait – there is a clear reason why we don’t miss it that we’ll get to in a second.
Converting this unfinished space on our second floor into conditioned usable square footage was partly because it just made sense for the house (it already had HVAC set up, so all it really needed was drywall to be a functional room – plus we still had a full unfinished walk-up attic on the 3rd floor for storage). And making this a bonus room appealed to us because we thought a secondary living space that was designed with the kids in mind would be nice. You know, a fun space to corral everyone’s kids when we had people over, a room that could be messy upstairs but you just ignore it downstairs, and a spot for cozy family movie nights.
Funnily enough, the reasons we liked that bonus room are the very same reasons we love our family room in this smaller house! It’s an upstairs secondary living space that’s designed with our kids in mind, so they can leave it messy, hang out with their friends while the adults hang out downstairs, and we can all pile in for a family movie night. Note: we count our small downstairs sitting area & kitchen as our primary living space because we all spend even more time in that eating/cooking/hangout zone downstairs than we do up here, but it’s pretty close. Six rooms = you use them all, a lot.
Layout tip: in a small house, having two large living spaces that aren’t right next to each other is really what makes this house feel like it lives LARGE. We routinely have a ton of kids up here hanging out and all of the adults downstairs relaxing in the kitchen/sitting area, and thanks to one being an entire floor above the other, the kids don’t hear every convo we have downstairs, and we don’t hear whatever movie they’re watching or game they’re playing. It is great.
Just like our last house’s bonus room, our upstairs family room here has a TV, an art desk, and open floor space for games & crafts. Things have changed a bit now that our kids are older (we added that bonus room 6 years ago), so we don’t experience blocks and stuffed animals all over the floor like before. But this room still sees its fair share of messes in the form of crafting explosions or board game marathons – all of which end up on the floor – which is another reason we’re glad it’s upstairs and out of sight. Just like our former bonus room!
So in the end, the reason we don’t miss the “bonus room” room is that we still sort of have it, just by another name. And ours works even harder here because it also has an office space tucked into it. Speaking of which…
Missed It At First: The Office
As two people who work from home, one concern when buying this house was not having a dedicated room for a home office. In our last house we had converted the formal living room into a large workspace for both of us, so we knew that downsizing to a room without a dedicated home office was going to be a big change.
The difference felt especially challenging right after we moved, thanks to COVID throwing virtual learning onto our plates. For an entire year, all four of us ate almost every meal at home, worked & did school five days a week from this house, etc. I mean: nothing puts a house to the test like that. And I’m happy to report that we made it work, but it definitely wasn’t the most productive time of our lives (I’m sure lots of people would say the same thing). This was the setup right after we moved. It was… not ideal.
The funny thing is that it wasn’t all that different from what we had going on in our last house’s home office (those two tiny chairs were the kids desk and the floating desk about four feet away was Sherry’s).
… but with kids at home all day long trying to do school while we attempted to work. Yeah, you guys know what that’s like. Thankfully, that wasn’t the setup for long – and many days actually looked like me in the bedroom on a work call with the kids upstairs doing school (or one/both of them in their own rooms so they could focus a little more on something), and Sherry working down at the kitchen table or locked in our bedroom for a differently timed zoom meeting or conference call.
Things got much better as the room evolved and the kids went back to school, and the desk space we carved out is hands down my favorite “home office” I’ve ever worked from (I’m typing from here right now and I have the whole room to myself!). You just can’t beat all that natural light and the view out of that big window.
I’ve also switched back to a laptop so I can work outside on the upstairs deck (which I do often) or even on the kitchen porch, like you see below.
Meanwhile, Sherry typically works downstairs at the kitchen table or even outside by the pool with her laptop, so in 2.5 years we definitely have figured out what works for us and love having such a flexible setup. It is occasionally inconvenient not having a dedicated, quiet space for work (like during the summer when the kids are home), but we never had a door on our old office, so we’re no strangers to being interrupted by kids or visitors. And just like we did in our last house – if we need a fully quiet space we just take the laptop into our bedroom and close the door. We even have a table in there by the fireplace, so it’s not a bad setup.
Do Not Miss: The Garage
Sherry and I debated where to put the garage on this list because every once in a while I think of a garage fondly, just due to how convenient it was, but I’ll explain why we ultimately both voted: don’t miss. Sherry has an actual hatred for our last garage and is so glad we don’t have one anymore just due to how much time we spent cleaning it out and dealing with it being full of crap all the time, so it wasn’t a surprise that she voted that way. But my feelings were a bit more layered.
We’re generally very tidy, organized people. But for some reason, garages, sheds, attics, etc have always been our Kryptonite. Our Monica’s Closet, if you will. Every single time we spent days cleaning and organizing it and promised ourselves we wouldn’t let it get that bad again… it did. So the reason we don’t miss a garage is just that we’re extremely grateful we are no longer in that super frustrating loop of not keeping our promise to ourselves and spending yet another weekend cleaning the freaking garage.
Not having a garage or a garage-like space has actually forced us into much better habits. We deal with boxes and to-be-donated stuff right away (out to the car it goes). We don’t collect secondhand furniture with as much abandon (Sherry’s still a fan of the curbside find, but only if we immediately have a need/spot for it). And not having a garage has spared us from having to dedicate weekends to big garage clean-outs and, more importantly, the general shame we constantly felt about the state of our garage. It was an everyday sticking point that we never solved. And now, we’ve solved it by not having one.
The simple reason I very occasionally look back on a garage fondly is that it’s nice to have a covered enclosed space to store things like bikes and our car. Here I really just would like it for bike storage. Our car is out in the open and it’s completely fine, but we use bikes here much more than we did in Virginia, and having a wet seat from them sitting out isn’t amazing (weirdly, it’s how basically everyone stores their bikes here: all lined up outside). It would be simple enough to make a covered little alcove for our bikes somewhere in the yard with a big piece of tin on posts or something. Even easier, I just discovered these bike seat covers – and our seats aren’t wet anymore. So I think Sherry is 100% right. We cannot be trusted not to fill a garage with crap. We have unlocked entire weekends spent at the beach & our pool that otherwise would have been spent cleaning a garage if we had one. So I’m certain that in the long run it’s a win for us not to have one.
But lest you think we’re fully cured… we DO have a small shed on the side of our house that we use for tools, yard equipment, and other miscellaneous stuff. It’s about the size of a port-o-potty, so we can’t really stuff tons of things inside… but I’m only showing you the outside of it because – TRUE TO FORM! – it’s currently a mess inside.
Sometimes Miss: Our Ensuite Bathroom
This may come as a surprise since we’ve put our plans to add a second bathroom to this house on indefinite hold (we just don’t feel squeezed for one at all yet – and embarking on an expensive reno when the current setup has worked fine for years now just doesn’t feel like the best use of money or time). So while we actually don’t miss having an ensuite bathroom, we just sometimes miss THIS specific bathroom from our last house.
And I think that’s mostly because we didn’t have much time to enjoy the finished product before we moved. We gleefully finished the bathroom and only got to enjoy it for about 3 months before we had a Florida zip code.
The timing certainly wasn’t perfect, but it was a small casualty for making the more rewarding lifestyle change of downsizing to a warmer and more walkable home near the beach. Looking back at those photos, I think we just wish we had renovated the bathroom MUCH SOONER (we lived in this house for 7 years, almost all of which were spent with the unrenovated bathroom that you see in the before photos here).
The Trade-Offs Of Downsizing
Missing that grand bathroom of yore is a prime example of reminding ourselves that we made intentional trade-offs by downsizing. Yes, we no longer have a big fancy marble bathroom. Instead, we have this beautiful space to take an open-air shower in the sunlight (and an actual indoor shower too). True story: we all shower outside around 90% of the year – it’s our favorite spot with the sun streaming down and a whole lotta plants.
Actually, a ton of downsizing is just trading something for something else. We live a few blocks from the beach (we can walk there in 3 minutes!) but we all share a bathroom. We don’t have a garage, but we have a big second-floor deck up in the trees. Our kitchen is about 1/3 the size of the one at our last house, but there’s a grocery store, restaurants, and ice cream shops within walking distance. Our internet isn’t always reliable (seriously it’s sloth-slow sometimes) but we have a pool that we can swim in year-round and a firepit for s’mores. We have a lot less square footage than we used to, but it’s easier to clean and more affordable to heat & cool. You can read more about the entire process of downsizing (it wasn’t all roses!) and that whole tradeoff concept here on our about page.
And if you’d like to read other posts we’ve shared about downsizing over the last 2.5 years, these are packed with info:
- How we organized our much smaller kitchen
- What furniture & home items we still have 2.5 years after downsizing
- Seven smart storage pieces that we rely on every day
- The realities of downsizing: a full report after 6 months
- A podcast about exactly how we approached downsizing our stuff
- A post all about why we decided to downsize & move to a smaller house by the beach
- A podcast about our 2019 summer of living in our smaller pink beach house & how it changed us
- A podcast interview in 2018 with Shavonda about what it’s really like to downsize
- A podcast interview with Dana Miller about downsizing (our wheels were turning for years about this concept!)
Also, if you have any questions about wall colors or where we got certain items in the photos within this post, this post has all the source info for our current house, and this post has all the source info about our last house.