Slideshow: Downsizing offers more

Bend empty nesters find joy living in 970 square feet

Penny Nakamura / For The Bulletin /

Published Apr 2, 2013 at 05:00AM

 

Editor's note: The At Home section features a profile of a local home each month. To suggest a home, email athome@bendbulletin.com.

Kicking back on their wicker furniture on the front porch is one of the many things Michael and Rhonde Reeves embrace in their new downsized cottage — a one-bedroom, one-and-a-half-bath home on Bend's west side.

“We actually have more because we have less,” said Michael. “You see, when you have less, you actually have more time for the more important things in your life.”

Michael Reeves would know, because he literally wrote the book on it — the e-book “The Insidious Lies of More: The Courageous Path to Simplicity.”

The idea for the book came to Michael when he and his wife decided to downsize to this 970-square-foot, cute-as-a-button yellow cottage. Rhonde made the initial push to downsize.

“I had this ah-ha moment when I had cancer and prolonged health issues. It forces you to take stock of where your energy and money is going,” said Rhonde. “You look around and decide what's really important to you, and my ah-ha moment made me realize I could chose a different lifestyle.”

With a smaller home, the couple has more time to do the activities they really love.

“Because this is such a small home, we can wake up on Saturdays, do a thorough cleaning in a fraction of the time of a larger home, and then we have all this free time. For example, last Saturday morning, because we had all our chores done so early, we went skiing,” said Rhonde.

It's important to note that the couple downsized in steps. They once owned a larger 2,700-square-foot home when their daughters lived at home.

Once the children moved out, the Reeves went down to a 1,700-square-foot home in the NorthWest Crossing neighborhood.

“We thought we had downsized a lot when we moved into that 1,700-square-foot home,” said Rhonde.

Michael said they still rented a storage unit.

“Even though our garage was very large in NorthWest Crossing, we were renting this 5-by-10-foot storage unit for $69 a month. That's $750 a year for stuff that we rarely used,” said Michael. “For my book, I started to research storage units, and in the last 35 years the self-storage industry has been one of the fastest-growing sectors in the American commercial real estate industry, making $22 billion annually. In the U.S., it covers 78 square miles of storage units. That's more than three times the size of Manhattan Island.”

Eventually, the Reeveses got rid of the storage unit, which meant getting rid of what they had stored. Then they had to parse down again what they had in their home to fit in this cottage, which is nearly half the size.

“It was much harder to parse it all down a second time for this final move into this house. And it's work; it's not easy at all,” said Rhonde. “I had to think of it like I was packing for a vacation and you're only allowed to take one suitcase, so what do you pack? You only pack the things that really have a lot of meaning to you.”

The couple is very intentional about what they bring into their home.

“I call it the 80-20 rule. That means only 80 percent of the value in your life will come from 20 percent of things you own. How much time are you wasting on that worthless 80 percent?” asked Michael.

Though tiny, the cottage has not suffered any diminished design or styling, largely due to Rhonde's creative and artistic touches.

From the front porch, we enter the living room. A large bay window with a custom-made bench covered with decorative pillows includes storage cabinets underneath. This provides not only style, but also a place to hide the stereo. The tiny cottage has ample southern-facing windows that Michael says provide passive solar heat and plenty of natural lighting.

Above one of the sofas is a favorite piece of art — a painting by Michael's mother.

“When you downsize and you get rid of stuff, you don't have to get rid of everything. You can still keep the things that mean most to you, like my mother's painting,” said Michael. “But I realized I had been carrying around my track and field medals during our 35 years of marriage and some of those medals I won when I was in junior high. I didn't need those. Why do we hang onto those things?”

Separating the living room and dining room is a small, light green armoire that Rhonde found and refurbished.

“I love to repurpose things. So many things in our home have been repurposed,” said Rhonde. “This armoire serves as our pantry since our kitchen is so small, and the top of it serves as a buffet.”

The bright yellow dining area has built-in seating around a table and, though it's small, the couple say they can still hold a dinner party for eight by bringing in some seats from their porch.

To the left of the living room is the small but very functional kitchen, where shiny pots and pans are hanging over the sink. Every piece in the tight kitchen must have a purpose.

“When you're downsizing, you have to ask yourself, 'Do you own your stuff or does it own you?'” said Michael. “If you find yourself spending all of your free time taking care of your stuff, ask yourself if it's worth it. Your things should also be something you use daily or weekly.”

Down a small hall, there's a tiny office space with a built-in desk that looks out toward a small green space. In the corner where the ceiling line slopes slightly, Rhonde has a comfortable settee, where she likes to lounge and read. Another small desk refurbished by Rhonde neatly holds many of her arts and craft supplies.

“When you have a smaller home, you have to be organized, and everything has a place, and this saves time because you aren't constantly searching for something, which wastes a lot of time, too,” said Rhonde.

Across the small hall is the full-size bathroom. Rhonde points out her silver baby cup on the sink counter that she decided to keep for sentimental reasons. Now it serves a purpose as a stylish holder for her makeup brushes.

The medicine cabinet was painted with magnetic paint and then chalkboard paint so Rhonde could attach photos of her grandchildren and write on a space that is usually unused.

Rhonde points to the window, where she has hung an old scarf as a window treatment.

“Repurposing is often using a fresh eye and finding a new way to use things,” said Rhonde.

A few steps from this bathroom is the brightly lit master bedroom. Michael opens the door from the bedroom and walks out onto the little deck, which has just enough room for two chairs and a small table. It's these added touches to the cottage that sold the Reeveses on this home.

Just past the kitchen area is a small staircase and a double bonus room. This was another feature of this cottage that appealed to the Reeveses.

Ascending the stairs, we see another office space filled with natural light in a lofted area. The other bonus room is off this loft office, where an attic space has been finished and serves as a guest bedroom. A queen-size mattress lies on the carpeted floor of the attic space and, while one can't completely stand upright in this gabled roof area, it's a perfect play area and guest room for grandchildren. Where the roofline slants downwards toward the floor, Rhonde has designed and hung curtains that allow her additional storage space for her sewing projects. Near the half door of the attic space, Rhonde has her sewing machine set up for her designing projects.

“We do have friends that have kept their large family home for the one or two times their kids may come to visit. But you really have to wonder, how many guest bedrooms do you need for those occasional visits?” said Michael. “With a smaller home, we have a smaller carbon footprint. It requires less housework and upkeep and it requires you to live more intentionally because you can't buy things impulsively. Everything in a smaller home has a place and use. We're much happier in this home. It's actually liberating to have less, because we do have so much more.”

Read all about it

Michael Reeves' book, “The Insidious Lies of More: The Courageous Path to Simplicity” is available as a free download this month on amazon.com.