Abode: Upside of a downsize

Stacey Smith with Maia, age 7 and Hall, age 4. Photo by John Robinson.

Upside of a downsize

Challenge: Moving to a smaller home and embracing the change

The sad state of our economy has forced many to downsize, adjust and rethink how they live. Stacey Smith of Charlottesville recently made the tough decision to take a job with a local nonprofit, Shelter for Help in Emergency. Leaving a more lucrative place of employ has forced Smith to relocate from her Ridge Crest townhouse to a smaller rental in Belmont. Her two children, Maia (7) and Hall (4), are adjusting to life sharing a room and a big back yard. By thoughtfully preparing for the change of location, Smith has smoothed the transition for all involved.

When asked what she liked about her new room, Maia answered, “Well, there’s one thing I don’t like about it, which is really annoying: Hall.” 

“Previously, Maia had all of her toys in her room and Hall had all of his toys in his room,” Smith explained. “There was an area with shared toys but for the most part, they were completely separate, and now they’re kind of intermingled, so there’s a lot of fighting over, ‘That’s my toy. No, that’s my toy’.” 

Ever the peace-keeper, Smith has purchased color-coded bins to delineate whose toys belong to who. (“I hate this, but I got pink for Maia and blue for Hall.”) 

Toy wars aside (and honestly, what siblings don’t have conflict over toys, move or no move?), there are some great attributes to the new digs. For one, the rent is affordable. “The mortgage at the old house was just too high,” says Smith. “I work for a non-profit; there’s no money in that, but it’s more rewarding.” 

Their Belmont home is also closer to the kids’ schools, the shelter and Downtown. And the best part, everyone agrees, is the big back yard. “[The townhouse], where we were before, there was a shared yard but it wasn’t like they could go outside and play,” explained Smith. Now, there is a large expanse of lush grass stretching from the back of the house to a thick edge of trees that creates a natural buffer from the sounds of traffic on busy Avon Street. “There’s one [new] rule,” said Maia, matter-of-factly. “You can’t go across our clothesline.”

Mom clarified, “Yes, they can’t go past our clothesline because that embankment [behind it] leads right to Avon. So, if they were to fall down it that would be super dangerous.”

“One thing I did, so as to lessen the change,” she explained, “was to get rid of things while they weren’t there. That made it easier because, I mean, they’re moving and [experiencing a lot of change] anyway, and it would have been really hard to [say], ‘Yeah, we’re moving all of your things and now we’re also going to get rid of a lot of your stuff, too.’”By thinking through the details and preparing for this big shift in lifestyle and location, Smith encouraged a very positive and easy transition for her kids. 

On moving day, the first thing she did was to set up Maia and Hall’s room. “Which is important,” she emphasized, “because no matter what the rest of the house looks like at least they have a place [of their own].”