CapeWomenOnline - Where Cape Women Shine

Your local venue for the women of Cape Cod to share their ideas, experiences and resources while inspiring each other in their life's journey

Inspire . Encourage . Network . Share

Creative Women banner
  • Facebook icon
  • Share

Embracing The Art of Downsizing

by Nancy Nicol

Monthly payments, home improvement loans, septic pump-outs, water bills, taxes and upkeep have shadowed me for the fifty years I've owned properties on Cape Cod. Even though I stayed on good terms with banks and lenders, I worried, kept a mental list of what-ifs? I thought the tight feeling in my stomach was normal. Didn't everybody triage their bills in piles of must, maybe, ignore?

Working as a psychotherapist since the 80's, I've had the luxury of planning appointments around painting mornings. But I was facing big challenges - aging and retirement - and a new set of priorities moving forward. Would I focus full-time on my art? Could I manage a self-supporting, independent and abundant lifestyle on Social Security and art sales?

Last year, I made a conscious decision to get out from under. I would sell my home, pay-off the mortgage and live debt-free. Financial necessity combined with my "keep it simple" philosophy. I had built up substantial equity in the property. It would mean closing Gallery 5, a home occupation business started after I bought the house, thirteen years ago.

If I gave up my location, in the heart of downtown Wellfleet, would I lose my connection to community? How would people judge me? I didn't want to be a survivor…

I wanted to have it all - the complete studio, as much paint as I could possibly use, endless surfaces primed for brushstrokes. I wanted to set funds aside for my grandson's college expenses, have money in the bank. I wanted to finish my novel, start a new book, take trips every year.

My house went on the market. Time line: listed mid-May; four showings, and by June a serious offer; a closing August 23, 2013. I experienced some sadness but had no regrets. It was humbling and ego-busting, yet remarkably freeing.

Both my kids, initially skeptical, were supportive. That was a motivating force. I stayed with my daughter during the first month. I wrote checks and closed accounts except, for a charge card with no balance. I bought a Subaru outright.

I was sure of one thing - I was going to stay in Wellfleet. I could always rent. A very different option was Massasoit Hills, a mobile home park behind the drive-in, next to the Audubon Sanctuary.

This is a year-round community of business folks, musicians, artists, authors, retired school teachers and assorted working professionals. A few residents come for the summer.

The park's owner maintains high standards. I drove around the alphabetically named streets: Arrowhead, Bayberry, Cranberry, Deer and Eagle. There was potential, but the units were seldom available. I kept looking.

Things fell into place quickly after I noticed a "For Sale" sign in B-12's window. A few days later, I paid the owner $30,000 cash for a 14x40' one bedroom mobile home in as-is condition. This gave me 560 square feet of living space with high ceilings, closet space and a huge deck.

I hired local carpenters to gut, remodel and paint my new home. I didn't scrimp. Had the bathroom and kitchen tiled, bought all new appliances and heating system, installed Harvey windows and put down new floors throughout. Total transformation!

Renovations tallied up an additional $25,000. After I moved in, I added an 8x10' pine shed, an arbor and started gardening. There's even a picket fence. My very private backyard is a forest of songbirds and fireflies.

My monthly expenses are $450/month to lease the land, which includes snow removal, tree work and a dumpster. The park has a brand new septic system. My electric bill is $25/month, down from $250.

I maintain a part-time clinical practice because I want to, not because I have to. I paint every day, show my work locally and enter juried shows nationally.

I've drastically reduced expenditures. All superfluous 'stuff' is in storage. If the novelty wears thin, and I start to isolate, I can pick up the phone, drive five miles into town, get my mail and meet friends for coffee. The flex bus will pick me up at my door. I can even walk to the movie theater!

I am now a member of the small house movement. I'm a Tiny House blogger. Check it out. There are people who believe more is better and still put big footprints on this fragile glacial moraine.

Living in a mobile park is not to everyone's taste. But it works for me. There is no trailer trash here. It's pure joy to live debt-free. Downsizing has opened an enormous space in my life where there's always time to do exactly what I want.

Photographs published courtesy of Nancy Nicol

Nancy Nicol
The Works Gallery
Briar Lane, Wellfleet

508 776 1149

Nancy Nicol is an established painter working in oils and hot wax. She is an exhibiting member of The Works Gallery, 85 Briar Lane, in Wellfleet.

Member, Arts Foundation of Cape Cod, Provincetown Art Association and Museum, Cotuit Art Center, the Organization of Independent Artists, New York, the Cape Cod Writers Center and a regular contributor to Cape Women Onine Magazine.

To view Nancy's artwork visit Check out her blog at