Thoughts on Returning to Home Ownership

house

You may have noticed I haven’t been writing much lately.  I guess I haven’t been in the mood.  One of the main themes in this blog is the chronicling of my journey as my dreams changed and I assessed what direction I really wanted my life to be heading.  I want to document some of my feelings at this point.  This is not to complain or seek sympathy, rather it’s to document how I’m feeling after returning to home ownership after renting for a few years.

I generally had my direction figured out for a while.  I wanted a more minimal lifestyle.  I wanted less stuff and more free time to do the things I enjoy.  I really enjoyed renting as it lended itself to the lifestyle I desired.

Now I find myself in the role of home-owner again and doing all the little maintenance projects that I had hoped to escape.  For those that are new here, my family and I sold our first house in 2012 and moved to an apartment.  We rented for three years, all the while my wife was never completely satisfied with renting.  She found a house that she really liked and we left the apartment to become home owners once again.  That was five months ago.

In that span of time we have spent a large chunk of our savings fixing up the house.  It needed a new roof and needed to be repiped, projects we had done in the fist month after buying the house.  The trim was a hideous mustard color, so we had it repainted to white.  We recently added a pool heater so that we could start using the pool.  We still have a few things on the list, like renovations to the pool including resurfacing, repainting the pool deck, and repairing tiles.  We may also need to put down some new sod if the grass doesn’t start winning out over the weeds in the front yard.

In addition to those expensive projects, I’ve also had my share of less expensive projects that I’ve tackled on my own rather than paying someone else to do them.  Things like a new garage door opener; new faucets in the master bathroom; new drawer slides in the master bathroom; landscaping items including cutting down many overgrown bushes, putting in some more appropriate shrubs, pulling weeds, and putting in a lot of mulch; unclogging the A/C drain line; removing a portion of a bar on the back patio to make it more usable as a counter space for outdoor eating; spraying for weeds in the driveway and sidewalk; and I’m now neck deep in fighting a flea problem since our cats now spend some time outside in the screened in pool area.

One side of me knows that is just typical homeowner stuff, but the other side of me says we wouldn’t have to do any of that stuff if we were renting.

I recognize that there are some benefits to our house, most of which are reasons that my wife wanted to return to home ownership.  The kids (our daughter and her friends or cousins) can swim in the pool multiple times per day without us having to trek down to a community pool; my  wife has an office space where she can work and study; our daughter has a playroom dedicated to toys; the kids can make as much noise as they want without worrying about neighbors on the other side of thin walls; the kids can ride bikes and scooters and play outside more easily than in an apartment; we have a family room right off the main entrance that stays clean and clutter free.

We also have some compromise areas where we spend a little more money to free up time. These include lawn service, pool service, and pest control.  We hired people to do these tasks so that we can focus on some of the fun things we like to do.

My wife is, for the most part, enjoying home ownership.  She has occasional bouts of regret, asking me if I like our house.  I find it hard to say yes, because I don’t like all the baggage that comes with the house.  She gets frustrated when I answer because I don’t give an emphatic yes.  The fact is, I do like the house itself, and that’s the answer she is looking for.  It’s a very nice house.  It’s a house that I’m sure many people dream of owning, and one I would have dreamed of not long ago.

I just don’t find myself attached to it like I was in our first house.  In a sense, my journey towards minimalism and the selling of our first house has broken my attachment to homes (whether rented or owned).  I feel like I could pretty much live in any house or apartment, as the idea of a house in my mind has returned to the basic need for shelter.  Anything more is nice to have but not necessary.

I can’t help but think of the epic vacations we could have taken with the money we’ve spent on the renovation and maintenance of our house.  The new roof cost $18,000.  That is several years worth of great vacations.

Until recently, pretty much every weekend has been spent at home.  (More on the ‘recently’ part in a minute.)  We haven’t gone to the movies, have rarely been to theme parks to which we hold season passes, and generally haven’t been doing much of anything on the weekends.  That is where I feel the biggest loss.  When renting, we had more time and money to do fun things, and we usually did something fun every weekend.  Now it seems like either money is tight or we are busy with home maintenance tasks.

Also, my wife started working again.  She is a Behavior Therapist, and since she works with kids, much of that work is done in the evenings, when kids are not in school.  That takes her away from time we often had together.  She’d likely have to do that, even if we lived in an apartment as she’ll need the work hours to apply to her next level of certification.  But once that is complete, she would have been able to cut back on hours.  Now, with the house, she will have to continue working indefinitely.  Being homeowners, most of her extra income is funneled into house stuff.  If we were still renting that income could be funneled into savings or fun stuff.

It’s clear that I have some level of dissatisfaction with our current situation.  It’s important to recognize, however, that my wife had some level of dissatisfaction while we were renting.  She felt it didn’t match what she wanted, just as I feel a house doesn’t match what I want.

We’ve reached a middle ground as best we could.  A huge part of marriage is compromise, and she compromised in a huge way when agreeing to sell our first house and try renting.  Now I’m compromising as we return to home ownership.  There is a certain amount of back and forth as we each try to find the experience we desire.

We have talked about the future.  The desires my wife has for our daughter played a big part in her wanting a house.  My wife wanted our daughter to have a house to grow up in, to invite friends over to play, and to have space to play freely.  She is 9 years old now, and in a short ten or so years she will be moving on with her own life.  When she moves out to live on her own, we may take that opportunity to downsize once again, possibly returning to renting.

We’re also keeping an eye on the housing market, and if it takes off again like it did a few years ago, we’ll jump on the opportunity to sell.  We regret not being at a point in life where we would have considered selling the first time the housing market took off.  We were too attached to our house and did not consider selling it even though we could have walked away with a tidy profit.

Another compromise that the house made a little easier was that my wife finally agreed to let me purchase a camper.  We recently bought a small 13 foot (3.9 meter) Scamp, which is a brand of camper trailer.  I have always wanted a camper as I have great memories of the family RV trips of my childhood.  RVing has changed since my childhood, mostly due to the cost of gas, so I kept putting that dream on hold.

Our new Scamp camper

Our new Scamp camper

I recently discovered the world of Scamps.  The benefits include: it can easily be towed by my Jeep, requires minimal maintenance, has just the features we need (beds, air conditioning, and a small refrigerator), and it’s small enough that it can be stored in our garage.  Being able to store it in the garage is huge as our HOA prevents it form being stored outside (as would many apartments) and it prevents us from having to pay storage fees.

This small camper is the essence of minimalist campers in a world often dominated by huge 40 foot (12 meter) motorhomes.  It allows me to fulfill one of my longtime dreams, while also resurrecting our joy of traveling that got dampened by the house purchase.  We can camp for less then half the price of hotel stays, even when adding in the extra gas needed to drive the Jeep vs. the car that gets better gas mileage. Plus we get to sleep in our own clean beds, which has always been a concern in the back of my mind, even at the nicer hotels.

We bought it about two weeks ago and have camped both weekends since.  We thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  We’re mostly using it as an alternative to a hotel, meaning we’re not sitting around the campground all day.  We use the campground as a base camp to head off and explore local attractions.

The first weekend we camped near Venice Beach, FL, one of our favorite beach areas.  One of the draws to this area is that fossilized shark teeth wash up on shore, and we found some good ones during our stay.

The following weekend we were able to snag a spot at Fort Desoto, which is a super popular campground on the gulf coast of Florida, just south of Tampa.  It was voted best beach a few years ago for it’s shallow waters, white sand beaches, and park amenities.  The camping area is really nice, one of the nicest I’ve visited.  We also met two other Scamp owners that were staying there, and I’m liking the club like feel of being a Scamp owner.  I’m finding that many Scamp owners are on board with minimalist ideals.  You almost have to be with such a small amount of living space.

Camping at Fort Desoto

Camping at Fort Desoto

As you can see, my emotions on our current situation are all over the place.  I’m adapting to my current situation, and I do enjoy seeing my wife and daughter enjoying our house.  Our new camper has opened up more possibilities for fun.  I’m also doing my best to keep everything minimal despite the larger space.

There has been compromise there as well.  My wife won the discussion of buying a dining room table, compromising on a smaller 4 person table versus the huge one we had in our prior home.  I wanted to leave the dining area empty, but my wife thought it needed a table even if we rarely use it.  (We have another table in a breakfast nook type of area that we use on a daily basis.)

We also compromised on the family room, which I also wanted to leave empty.  My mother-in-law had one of our old couches that she gave back to us, and my wife bought a couple of chairs to make the area good for sitting and chatting with friends or family.  I requested that we don’t add any end tables or coffee tables, and my wife agreed to that.  I find tables are magnets for clutter, often need dusting, and can interrupt the flow of the room since that room is used to access other parts of the house.

My family continues to chip away at downsizing possessions, with our most recent victory being in my daughter’s wardrobe.  Since she downsized, she has had a much easier time managing her clothes and choosing what to wear.

I think I’ll wrap up this post here.  I could probably go on and on, but I think this is sufficient to get a majority of my thoughts and experiences out there.  Again, this post is not a pity party and I’m not looking for sympathy in a ‘poor me’ sense.  I want to share this so that others that are going through similar situations can find someone to relate to.  It’s also a necessary post as I continue to document my journey and experiences with family style minimalism.

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