What if, right now, you could make one decision that would catapult you right out of half your stress?

That’s right. One decision can make all the difference, my friends. You simply identify your greatest stressor and then boldly move to cut it out.

“That’s impossible,” you say. “It can’t possibly be that easy.”

Easy, no. Possible, yes. The real question is this– do you have the guts to make the decision and then follow through?

Because that’s where most of us actually run into trouble– we’re gutless. We know what needs to be changed, but we don’t have the strength to do it.

Today, for your encouragement and inspiration, I have a real, live case study. Mark and Becky just summoned all the guts they had in their bodies and climbed onto the catapult. Ziiiiiing! They launched themselves out of half their stress by selling their seven-year old house and buying an older one. A smaller house. A cheaper house. A house much, much closer to Mark’s job. A house that let Becky quit her stressful job and stay home with their boys, making daycare an obsolete item on the budget.


I couldn't be the mom I wanted to be and keep that houseOf course, if doing the right thing was easy, we wouldn’t need this blog post. We’d all be doing the right things and making nothing but good decisions. We’d be living on clouds and riding rainbow-colored unicorns, tra-la-la.

Mark and Becky aren’t riding unicorns or strumming harps. They’re bumping elbows in a kitchen that’s a tiny, inefficient box compared to their old kitchen. They’re getting used to an old basement that smells musty if the dehumidifier doesn’t run around the clock. They’re all sharing one bathroom and don’t have room for their beautiful dining room table. There have been snake sightings on the porch. Yikes.

Saturday we spent the afternoon at their house, and after the burgers were gobbled up I pulled out my interview questions. I asked about the blessings, and I asked about the challenges. Here’s what they had to say:

Q: Why? Why did you do this thing?
Becky: “Family was more important than stuff, and I couldn’t be the mom I wanted to be and have that house. We were chasing our tails, trying to keep up with daycare and the other expenses.”
Mark: “I told her, ‘I’m not married to the house. I can let it go.'”

Q: So how much have you cut your mortgage?
Mark: “In half. We cut it in half.”
Grandpa (who was sitting at the table and listening in. Did I mention Mark is my brother-in-law? He is.): “And they’ve cut their taxes by a third!”

Q: You’ve not only cut the mortgage, but your driving costs as well. How much did you drive before?
Mark: “I was driving 30 miles each way to work, five days a week.”
Becky: “I drove about 25 miles each way, five days a week.”

Q: And how much do you drive now?
Mark: “It depends on if I take the short cut or not. If I do, it’s 1.3 miles to work. And I come home for lunch, so that doubles it. If I go the long way it’s 1.5 miles.” (Insert his snicker here.)
Becky: “I don’t have to drive to work anymore, but I do still drive the boys to school in Portage. But I take the little, gas efficient car.” (Blogger’s note: the boys go to a charter school and haven’t had to change schools.)

Q: How much money are you saving in gas alone?
Mark: “Almost $350 a month! I put gas in the van every two months, whether it needs it or not.”


Q: What other benefits are you finding?
Mark: “I’m eating healthier because I come home for lunch, where we actually have fruits and vegetables and stuff. No more Little Debbie treats from the vending machine. During the summer we eat lunch as a family, but now the boys are in school Becky and I have a little lunch date every day. Also, we love our new property. We have a lot more trees and shade.”
Becky: “Quitting my job means I don’t have to worry about finding day care all summer, which cost almost as much as I made working full-time. I have time to get organized now, so that’s what I’m working on now that the boys are back in school.”

Q: What about the challenges? 
Mark: “We cut our square footage from 1500 square feet to 800, and I really miss having an extra bathroom. This house is older and I’ve had to fix things already, like the faucets. The appliances are older, too.”
Becky: “Well, our pride has taken a hit.” (She smiled.) “But also, we have so little closet space here, and the kitchen really is a challenge.” (Blogger’s note: the kitchen really is a challenge. Designed by a someone who must not have cooked at all.) “And I had to get rid of my piano.”

So there you have the bare facts of their situation. They summoned their courage and made the hard decision, come good or bad. But reading their answers doesn’t give you the full experience of their story. You can’t see how much more relaxed they are, sitting on their small side porch grilling hamburgers and swinging on their porch swing. You can’t feel how Becky’s a totally different person now, much more like she was years ago when I first met her. You can’t hear the kids, running around and climbing trees and playing hide and seek all over their new property.

Yes, the hard decisions might mean four people have to share a bathroom and, quite frankly, that’s never fun. But peace of mind supersedes bathroom issues, right?

I hope you’re encouraged and inspired to sit down tonight and figure out what your stress is. Is there anything, and I mean anything, you can do about it? There might not be. You might be dealing with something far more difficult than a big house payment.

But if you do have the ability to make the hard decision for change, I hope you’ll do it! Then let me know and I’ll interview you next.


17 Comments on Mark and Becky Break Free: A Simple Living Case Study

  1. Sarah D.
    September 29, 2014 at 8:22 pm (3 years ago)

    My husband must have started following your blog. Imagine my surprise when I looked in our email and saw it, being a compulsive clearer of any notifications that is. However, God must have known what I needed today as I have been dealing with some serious stressors that require a God sized faith to remove from my life. I presently work two full time jobs and have started a furniture re-finishing business as well. Both jobs feel nearly impossible quit, as loyalty and frankly guilt keeps me doing both. My family does need the money desperately, and especially since I suffer from a degenerative neuro disorder my working days are numbered. Stress and anxiety are the biggest factors in symptom manifestations, and the two careers have both in spades. I want nothing more than to spend my days with the smell of paint and furniture wax. I actually find myself daydreaming about buffing end tables at work. A friend took me to lunch today and she said she feels strongly that I need to cut ties with the one and I should persue my dream. And then pulling out my iPad to clear all those numbers next to my email icon, I see this in a little used email account. Perhaps God is saying okay you can do this.

  2. Luanne
    September 29, 2014 at 8:24 pm (3 years ago)

    Growing up, we lived in a smaller house. I don’t actually know the square footage, because let’s face it, as a kid I really didn’t care and my parents have since sold it and now live somewhere else. However, our family of four did quite well in our smaller house…it was probably 1200 square feet or so (maybe). We played outside A L, we ate dinner together as a family most nights (at least until I started working), and everyone got along well enough. I will admit that there were a few fights over the single bathroom, but we all survived! Kudos to your brother-in-law and his wife!

  3. Jessie Clemence
    September 29, 2014 at 8:32 pm (3 years ago)

    We had one bathroom in our house too! I don’t know how my father stood to live with me and my sister when we were teens. We probably scarred him for the rest of his days.

  4. Jessie Clemence
    September 29, 2014 at 8:33 pm (3 years ago)

    I surely hope He speaks to you clearly, Sarah! I’ll be praying for you. 🙂

  5. Amelia
    September 29, 2014 at 8:34 pm (3 years ago)

    Very encouraging and inspiring! My husband has been following the tiny house movement. I’m not sure I could go down to 200 square feet…but 800 sounds do-able. Not to mention less cleaning! Thanks for sharing their story!

  6. Jessie Clemence
    September 29, 2014 at 9:19 pm (3 years ago)

    I love those tiny houses, but I just can’t figure out how we’d actually LIVE in one.

  7. Gabrielle
    September 30, 2014 at 12:04 am (3 years ago)

    I hadn’t realized how depressed and stressed i was until about two weeks after quitting my full time job. I miss working, but I have the rest of my life to work. I love that I have more time to serve my family in tons of big and small ways. Time to join and actually attend a bible study. Time to witness all of my kids’ milestones. I have more energy for my husband, which in turn takes stress off of him. Yes, money is tight, but all our needs are met and we are so blessed.

  8. Jessie Clemence
    September 30, 2014 at 6:37 am (3 years ago)

    Yay! I love to hear that.

  9. David
    September 30, 2014 at 7:09 am (3 years ago)

    We have small houses in the UK anyway! Our first house was three bedrooms and one bathroom and we managed up until the point Marilyn was talking about a fourth child (plus I was working from home from a corner of our bedroom). We do wonder if we could manage with one bathroom but with Beth left home now it is a possibility! We managed in Sweden for a week in that chalet without any serious problems.

  10. muddledmom
    September 30, 2014 at 8:16 am (3 years ago)

    What an inspiring story. So glad they were willing to share.

  11. Jessie Clemence
    September 30, 2014 at 12:27 pm (3 years ago)

    I sort of didn’t give them a choice. I said, “Guess what. You’re going to be on the blog.” And they didn’t argue. 🙂

  12. Jessie Clemence
    September 30, 2014 at 12:28 pm (3 years ago)

    We had some hilarious conversations about sharing one bathroom as I was interviewing them, but Mark told me I had to leave some of the sordid details out of the actual blog post. 🙂

  13. memyselfandkids.com
    October 1, 2014 at 11:21 pm (3 years ago)

    Wow, that is a tiny house.
    It’s clear that the decision is working for them. Like you said, it takes courage to make such a decision.
    Really enjoyed the post!

  14. Jessie Clemence
    October 2, 2014 at 12:35 pm (3 years ago)

    I’m glad you enjoyed it. You’re my next interview victim! The next two weeks are crazy, but then I’m going to sit down and write out some questions for you. 🙂

  15. memyselfandkids.com
    October 2, 2014 at 12:56 pm (3 years ago)

    Cool. Can we do it over the phone or Skype instead?

  16. Jessie Clemence
    October 4, 2014 at 11:26 am (3 years ago)

    I don’t see why not. Skype would be fun.

  17. memyselfandkids.com
    October 4, 2014 at 10:42 pm (3 years ago)

    Cool. Looking forward. Shoot me an email and we’ll set up a time.