I tend to read a lot. I read books and lately I’ve been reading more blogs and eBooks. I like the personal, real life examples that blogs and eBooks offer. I’ve been reading about personal development, minimalism, and travel. I’ve been reading these things because they are things I am lean towards in my own life.
My story is that of a family. A husband, a wife, and a daughter. We live in a house, have three vehicles, three computers, two big screen TVs, and a swimming pool. We don’t try to compete or keep up with our neighbors, although many in our neighborhood do. We like to have nice things and we’ve done all we can to achieve our dreams.
There are no blogs about living this life. This life is normal. This life eats up every bit of our income and that is normal. We have a mortgage, and that is normal. We pay exorbitant rates to water our lawn, and this is normal. We make monthly or weekly trips to the home improvement stores, and this is normal. We spend hours each week maintaining our manicured lawn. It is normal to do this or to pay someone else to do it. We pay astronomical rates for power to cool our house and to filter and chlorinate our pool water, and this is normal.
I’m beginning to feel that normal is sucking the soul from our existence.
We have a house full of junk we don’t really need. We don’t have car payments, yet we’ll likely need to replace our aging vehicles soon. We have more vehicles than we really need, just because we wanted a fun vehicle, a mommy vehicle, and a practical vehicle. Vehicle and home maintenance seem to creep in whenever it’s most inconvenient.
Normal takes that discretionary income, washes the floor with it, and then flushes it down the toilet.
I’m tired of normal.
The American Dream
The American Dream is that of home ownership. At least that’s how it seems to be defined in the times we live in. It wasn’t always that way, but now it is. All through my twenties, while working at a decent job, people always talked about and dreamed about buying a house. Owning a house was the ultimate goal once full time employment had been achieved.
I’ve done it, I’ve lived it, and it’s not living up to the expectations that were set. I love my house, yet my house doesn’t always love me back. The cost of home ownership didn’t stop at the mortgage. The move from apartment living to house living came with some unwelcome attachments.
- Higher electric bill.
- Higher water bill.
- Home improvement costs.
- Home maintenance costs.
- Time and money in lawn maintenance.
- New or improved landscaping every spring.
- We’ve had broken A/C, broken heat, and cracked floor tiles.
- The dishwasher doesn’t work like it used to and should probably be replaced.
That’s just a small peak at the list. I’m sure it goes on and on and on.
If that’s not enough, we can barely afford (in time and money) to take a vacation. We want to travel more. We want to see more of the United State and more of the world. We want to experience new things, eat new foods, and meet new people.
We feel like our house is holding us back from living our lives.
Time for Change
We have decided to make a change. The straw that broke the camel’s back came to me as I thought about the money we’ve spent to maintain our house. My thoughts drifted to a scene a couple years back. We had a bad year of chinch bugs, and they loved eating our grass. We sprayed and sprayed yet they kept creeping back. They ended up doing quite a number on our yard, and we decided to replace the dead patches with some new sod. By the time we finished, we had spent about $800 for new sod.
The thought that drifted to my head is this, “We spent $800 for grass.”
Grass… we paid for grass. It seems ridiculous to me that we paid a large sum of money for grass. It’s something that covers much of this entire planet, yet we have to have a particular kind of grass to meet the requirements of the home owners association, and to generally fit in with those around us. So… we paid for grass.
For $800 we could have spent several days at the beach in a nice hotel. We could have purchased season passes for a local theme park. We could have attended concerts, plays, or shows. We could have enhanced our life through experience. We paid for grass.
An idea entered my head that maybe this home ownership thing isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I had an idea to look into apartment living to compare the costs. I won’t go into detail on that right now, but I quickly put together a spreadsheet and found that we could reap $1000 per month by leaving our house in favor of apartment living.
That’s $12,000 every year. That’s a cruise ship vacation, a trip to Paris, and money left over to save for the future.
Finding Others in our Situation
As I considered this, I wanted to find others that had abandoned home ownership for apartment living, so they could spend more on life experience and less on simply getting by. All I could find were bits and pieces. A forum post here, a blog comment there. Nothing concrete. No good examples. How could this be? Is it a ludicrous idea? Is it just not considered in our hyper consumer filled society?
I found plenty of examples of people living a minimalist lifestyle. Most were single. Many were just out of college with nothing to lose, so to speak. Many simply had little income and were minimalists out of necessity. There were very few families, with good income, that chose to lead a life with fewer possessions so they could lead a life with more experiences.
So, I decided to start this blog. I wanted to get it going quickly so we could document our progress. We have already begun a massive purge of unused belongings that have been littering our house with no real purpose.
Our first goal is to reduce the “stuff” in our 4 bedroom, 3 bath house, to a level where it will comfortably fit in a 2 bedroom, 2 bath apartment.
Once the purge is complete and we’ve had some time to consider the consequences and benefits of giving up the house for an apartment, we’ll consider actually making the move.
Follow our Progress
What you’ll be following here is our progress, our hurdles, our joys, and our emotions. I feel that much of this process will be emotional, as we give up attachments and memories to the house we’ve made a home over the last 10 years. We also have our daughters needs and emotions to consider as she leaves the only place she’s ever lived.
There’s even a chance that after the purge, we’ll change completely change our mind and give up on this whole load of nonsense. I don’t feel that is the case, but it is a possibility, and even if that does happen, this blog will still be a place where others like us can turn for information.
We’re treading new ground here and documenting it as we do. I hope you’ll join us, at least in spirit, as we attempt to Rethink the American Dream.