The Sweet Spot

Simple and comfortable.

When we moved to Hawai’i in 2014, we shipped 4500 pounds of household goods over with us, 8,000 pounds less than what we moved from Japan when Brett retired in 1992. We were ready for a simpler life in Hawaii, and during the first four years we lived on Kaua’i we added just five small pieces of furniture and a washer/dryer combo to what we brought. We put 1500 pounds into storage and sold everything else in 2018, but when we left Kaua’i again earlier this year the only items we kept fit into 32 boxes that were mailed to the mainland. The contents of those boxes weighed less than 300 pounds. Five of those items were broken during shipment, so we ended with even less.

Brett and I used to frequently ask each other during our first four years in Hawaii if we could do with less, and that made selling our things before we set out to travel not to be as difficult as we thought it might be. We still had many possessions we were not ready to part with though and we paid dearly to have them packed and shipped to the mainland for storage. We lived minimally during our travels and discovered we enjoyed being responsible for so little. Although we ultimately ended up owning less than we had before when we returned to Kaua’i in 2020, we continued asking ourselves the same question – do we really need or want all this stuff?

We’re discovering this go-round the answer is still no. Our current home, an apartment smaller than our one on Kauai, has limited storage and space. There’s little room to accumulate . . . anything. Furniture purchases were minimal out of necessity.

We initially worried when we arrived that we might have given away or sold too much of our stuff, especially the antiques from Japan. We know now it was the right amount. I told Brett the other day that it had apparently been time to let those things go because I don’t miss any of the things we sold and had hauled around with us for years and thought we couldn’t live without. There is no room for them here anyway. The few items from our time in Japan that we have kept are the most meaningful to us, and we take joy in seeing and using them daily.

I also didn’t think a kitchen could be smaller than the one in our Kaua’i apartment, but our current kitchen, although fully outfitted, has a smaller amount of space for dishes, cookware, and pantry items. It’s taken a little over a month to figure out how and where to fit everything in, and get ourselves adjusted to less counter space and such, but it’s working for us now. We’ve been able to cut our food expenses not just because prices are lower here but because we only buy what can fit in the limited storage we have, which thankfully has meant no more bulk buying at Costco.

We have long dreamed of living in a location where a car wasn’t required, but this is not that place, and truth be told, we are enjoying our car. But, gas is affordable here, we only drive when we have to, and we combine errands whenever possible. One car is enough for the two of us and we still strive to have at least one day a week where it isn’t driven.

I never thought I would say this about Tennessee after coming from Hawaii, but we are happy here and so glad we said yes to our son’s request. We are getting to live the minimalist life we have dreamed of. Having family nearby is the icing on the cake. We love how free and satisfying it feels living with the least amount of stuff we’ve had since we were first married. There is no clutter (other than dog toys all over the floor) or even a way to create clutter here. Our few pieces of furniture fit all our needs. We have a smaller amount of kitchen gear than we did in Hawaii but enough that we can usually get away with running the dishwasher every other day. We produce less trash. Any purchase, clothing included, is made with purpose and only after thought and discussion.

Other than caring for our granddaughter after school, or when our daughter-in-law has to go out of town, we are also not tied down with obligations. Our days and our time are our own to fill, with the freedom to decide what to do each day or even if we want to do anything at all.

Ten years ago, if you’d told me we’d be living like we do now I would have thought you certifiable, but minimalism is about living with enough, and we’ve hit our sweet spot. The changes we’ve experienced over the past eight years have been good for us and will see us well into our later years. The only thing we have left to accomplish will be our last move, but we’ve got another couple of years to prepare for that.

10 thoughts on “The Sweet Spot

  1. I love it. I aspire to that level of minimalism, but I don’t know if I will ever get there. We have more cupboard space in this kitchen than we need, and I’m sure I could empty several of them. As well, I have cookware and dishes I don’t use anymore, but I haven’t taken the time to sell or donate them. Some day….

    That credenza is really lovely and your living room looks really cozy. As for the dog toys, we have the same clutter. When I round them up and put them in her crate, she immediately goes in and takes them all out again, one by one. It’s hilarious and one of the things we love about having a dog again. She makes us laugh — a lot.

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    1. From time to time I still think we could get rid of a few things, but when I look around I’m not sure what those things would be which is why I feel like we’ve hit the sweet spot, with just enough. Ten years ago I could not have imagined living with this little amount of stuff. We are deeply in love with the credenza – love the mid-century look.

      The dog toys are something. Our little guy has definitely decided on his favorites and if I try to pick them up he drags them right back out again. I moved his toy basket last night and Brett said he was quite upset this morning when it wasn’t in its usual spot. But once he found the new location, all was well. He makes us laugh a lot as well – hard to sometimes remember that he’s still a puppy and will only be seven months old next week.

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  2. I see a credenza…it seems like the lost box has finally arrived! Your living space looks cozy and serene. When we lived in Bucharest (Romania) for 2 years, our apartment was just about 1000sqft and the kitchen had only 3 drawers and a half-size dishwasher. We lived the happiest days there, and we had everything we needed.
    I am trying to get rid of some stuff, but haven’t been too successful so far. Your post inspires me to try harder.

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    1. Our apartment is only 723 sq. feet, so it’s small, and some of that space is taken up by a laundry room at the side of the kitchen. Also, all the counter space in the kitchen is chopped into smaller sections, with the stove between two small sections on one side and the sink between another two sections opposite that (at least we have a full sink this time!) I just rearranged the living room furniture last night after I felt the credenza made things feel cramped – the new arrangement is the one in the picture, and is open and inviting.

      The credenza was worth waiting for. It’s a beautiful, well-made piece, and is just the size and style we wanted! So happy it’s here because now we finally feel settled!

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  3. Your living room looks very inviting and with room for the new pup to play. We have a 7 month old Cavapoo who we got when he was 4 months. Lots of fun and relearning how to live with and train a puppy.

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    1. Thank you, Juhli! The sofa and loveseat are so comfortable – we’re very happy we chose them.

      Our puppy was totally disoriented by the rearrangement of the furniture even though it gives him more room to play. Everything smelled the same but it was in the wrong place – we could just sense his frustration today.

      Your Cavapoo is the same age as our Shihpoo! Fun age – they seem grown up but are definitely still puppies!

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  4. My retirement/weekend house is only 720 sq ft but I do have a basement almost equal to that to store things. It is so large with plumbing and a separate outdoor entrance, I am thinking of installing a bathroom and renting it out. But yes, I like smaller living.

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      1. The picture is how the LR looks after being rearranged, more open and welcoming than the way we had it before. We will eventually acquire a rug (when our puppy is older), a few throw pillows, and probably an armchair at some point but otherwise we like it the way it is now. The picture was taken at night and it looks sort of gloomy – it’s brighter and cheerier during the day.

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    1. Our apartment is 720 sq. feet, and it’s perfect for us . . . but without any extra storage so we have to be careful about what we acquire here. Everything fits for now. We love living small and this is pretty much just the right size for us.

      Great idea about upgrading the basement for a rental!

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