December 5, 2015
Last month, I was speaking in Elmira, N.Y., when a reader posed the question I’ve been continually asked since July when I wrote about downsizing my life.

“Tell us how life in your mobile home is going.”

As the TV news anchors say, “If you’re just now joining this developing story …” you should know that my wife and I sold our five-bedroom McMansion and moved into a 40-year-old double-wide mobile home in south Sacramento.

Some of my readers thought our modest move was admirable, but most questioned why we’d trade a manicured subdivision for a manufactured home surrounded by industrial parks.

However, one reader in particular — let’s call her “Mrs. Chaplain” — thought my columns overstated the downside of our downsizing. Normally Becky’s my best editing voice, so I listened to her insistence that I write a retraction for exaggerating the negatives and understating the positives.

I told her it was hard to see those positive attributes during my morning fitness routine that crosses a dangerously busy street to join a running path along the southern side of an electronics plant. As I round the backside of their compound, I turn north along the railroad track where homeless folks rise from their camps in overgrown fields and from beneath creek bridges.

Nevertheless, Becky thinks that I should emphasize the upside of our downsize. For instance, the security in our gated park makes it quiet enough to be a golf course. The only noise comes from the Shar-Peis and poodles yapping through open porch doors as retired residents bid them to stop. Flags wave and wind chimes sing while bird feeders sway above cleanly swept porches.

She particularly likes the wildlife in the park, where some days she sees a gaggle of geese crossing the road. She’s fond of watching the covey of quail that scurry below the shrubs, and the nest of rabbits that scamper for their holes.

When I admit to her how I sometimes miss our cavernous two-story house, she pushes back.

“You don’t miss our house. You miss our neighbors.”

She’s right.

We miss our old cul-de-sac. We miss the fix-it advice we got from Melvin and the good food we got from Thomas and Lupe. I even miss sharing Neighborhood Watch stories with Michelle, the nurse across the street. I don’t really miss Mike’s practical jokes but I could use more of Les’ golf tips.

Gratefully, we’re staying in touch with old friends, but we’re also making new ones. My young neighbor, Taylor, built a gate for me to keep my yapper dog inside our patio. My other neighbor, Joe, attends church with me and also watches our home when I’m on speaking engagements.

“So,” you ask, “how are you are doing with your downsize?”

I think we’re doing well. That’s because we took with us those things that make our house into Norris and Becky’s home. We brought our beds, our art, our favorite chairs, our family photos, golf clubs and holiday decorations.

But, more important than furniture and mementos, we brought a sense of ourselves into our new home. We brought our adventurous spirit, our consciousness of togetherness and an understanding of what is essential in life. We brought our faith.

Maybe that’s what Proverbs 24:3-4 means: “By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.”

Hopefully, that answers the question and hopefully Mrs. Chaplain won’t think I downplayed the downside of downsizing. Couldn’t resist that one.

Send comments to or P.O. Box 247, Elk Grove, CA 95759. Twitter @chaplain. Leave your recorded comments at (843) 608-9715. Visit my website at where you can download a free chapter from my new book, “Hero’s Highway.”