Our house was perfect for us. Large and spacious, it was in a leafy suburb with good local schools.

But through the years, we started to evolve. First with keeping Shabbat each week, then joining an Orthodox synagogue. When it came time to choose our children’s schools, we opted for Jewish day schools. Soon, most of our kids’ friends weren’t in our leafy neighborhood, but a hefty drive away.

Driving home from playdates, I used to look out for “For Sale” signs from my car. Dropping off my kids at their friends’ homes, I’d glance around and wonder if I’d be happy living there, too. It wasn’t a simple calculation. The more religious areas we found ourselves visiting were often more urban: they lacked the leafy greenery – and lower prices – of our further-flung suburb.

In time, though, I began to wonder if our house – and all our possessions in it – weren’t holding us back. Once I even dreamed that our house burned down and I was happy, glad to be free to start over somewhere else.

I decided to go through our many closets and cupboards, donating what we no longer needed. Soon my husband and kids joined in, and together we filled up dozens of bags. We were amazed at the sheer amount of stuff we’d managed to accumulate. (We were hardly unique: a BBC report at the time noted that the average British woman today has fully twice as many clothes as women in 1980.)

When we called a charity to pick up our bags and boxes, a neighbor passing by asked if we were moving. I answered no, but wondered if perhaps we might.

Soon, we embarked on an even more radical experiment in lighter living: moving to Israel for the summer, living in a tiny rented apartment. We had lots of amazing experiences there, but one unexpected revelation was how easy we found it to live with less. With only a few toys and books apiece, my kids seemed to value their few possessions more than they had when surrounded by plenty back at home. And with fewer distractions, we found that we spent more time together – playing games, taking walks, even just talking.

The thought of leaving our big lovely house no longer seemed so frightening.

Our turning point came on a cold winter Saturday night. A teacher at my kids’ school had a baby and invited the entire community to her home to celebrate. Their house wasn’t nearly as large or decorated as our sprawling suburban home. It was crammed full of scores of people. But as we walked in, we were enveloped in a warm atmosphere of happiness and comradery. Nobody cared that the house was small or not professionally decorated.

We had a marvelous time. As we walked to our car, my husband turned to me, “Call a realtor, let’s do it.”

The day we sold our house, my husband handed me a card. On the front, he’d written a note: “We’re home free!” We’d said goodbye to our house, to its spaciousness, its large yard, its leafy environs. We could finally start focusing on mattered more to us – our family, our friends, choosing a community where we felt at home instead.