Going from Apartment to House to Apartment to House as my ideals have shifted from consumerism to minimalism has given me a unique perspective on housing and how it fits into a minimalist philosophy.
My ideal living arrangement at this point in my life would be a rented apartment. That’s not to say it’s ideal for everyone, but for me it is. My wife is also beginning to lean back in that direction as well.
As you may recall, we left our first house after living in it for 10 years. I felt like the house was limiting what we could do with our lives. My wife felt that to an extent, but she also had grown tired of living in that particular house in that particular location. Whereas I had grown tired of living in any house… period.
After selling the house, we moved to a rented apartment, lived there for a year, moved to a different apartment and lived there for two years. After three years in apartments, my wife found her dream house and convinced me to give home ownership another try. I argued strongly against it, but in the end we went ahead with the purchase.
It was fun at first. A huge new house, lots of space, a yard, a screened in pool, and some extra bedrooms to use as offices and playrooms. We spent quite a bit of our savings on necessary renovations, including a new roof and repiping all the plumbing. Our renovation budget dried up, and we have a few less-urgent renovations left to go — things like resurfacing the pool, repairing a rotted door frame in the garage, and doing something about the mix-matched grass and weeds that permeate the yard.
I was disgruntled about the purchase and the expense, and I was really not very nice to my wife on a number of occasions. It might even be said that I acted like a big baby fussing about this and that. I wish I could have been more supportive, but I really struggled with this upsizing after dedicating a large part of my life to doing the opposite.
After a few months I made more of an effort to like the house, but I still didn’t feel it. Even so, I attempted to express my frustration less. My wife knew how I felt and it didn’t help to keep bringing it up.
In early July my wife lost a few clients. This put a huge dent in our income, and since we depend on two incomes to afford this new house, we started to struggle financially. She moved as quickly as she could to add new clients, but it’s a slow process. It took a couple of months to get new clients added, but she’s still not quite where she wants to be.
When compared to how we lived in the apartment, it’s been a big change. In the apartment we could live on my income and use hers for entertainment and savings. Now we need both incomes just to get by. In the apartment, I paid bills whenever they arrived. Now we are living paycheck to paycheck and I’m having to schedule bill payments for paydays.
In the apartment, we were well off financially, but apartment living made it look like we had no money. To illustrate this — We often took one of our daughter’s friends with us anytime we did anything fun. We paid for everything and refused money when the friend’s parents or grandparents offered. Her friend came with us to movies, concerts, dinners out, and we even took him with us on a cruise. But because of the apartment, the grandparents were concerned. I had to explain to them that I had a good job at a well known company to ease their worries.
Now, in the house, we look like we are well off financially, but we really have very little left over. People see our nice house and expect that we have lots of money, but most of that money is tied up in the house and related expenses.
It’s an odd paradigm, that when we lived “rich” we looked “poor”, and when we lived “poor” we looked “rich”.
Another thing that I’ve noticed since we’ve been in the house is that we are basically using the same amount of space that we used in the apartment. The extra space in the house is nice, but it’s really underutilized. We spend most of our time in the living room, kitchen, nook (for eating), and the master bedroom and bathroom. Our daughter spends most of her time in her bedroom, and even though she has a playroom, she spends little time in there unless she has a friend over to play. Even then, she often plays in her room or downstairs in the living room or family room.
Here’s a difference I totally did not expect. We spend less time outside since moving to a house. In the apartment we often walked to dinner, since we were walking distance to a number of restaurants. We also walked to a playground that was nearby, sometimes did nature hikes on a nearby trail that runs along a nearby river. Our daughter rode her bike more often, using an empty parking lot across the street. We also went swimming at the pool more often.
In the house, we spend most of our time inside. There are no restaurants within walking distance, we rarely visit the playground that is within walking distance, and our daughter rarely rides her bike. We have a pool attached to the back of the house and we use it much less than we did the apartment pool.
Perhaps by living in a larger space, we feel less need to “get out”. In the smaller space of the apartment, we often felt the desire to get outside and have some space to move around. Now we have plenty of space indoors to move about, but I’m not sure that’s such a good thing.
After my realization that I was no longer living up to my ideals, I sat down for a heart-to-heart with my wife. She was hesitant at first because I had resorted to belittling her out of anger due to our home purchase. I had to assure her that I wanted a real talk.
We talked for a bit and she admitted that life in the new house is not what she thought it would be. She likes the house, but not what it has meant for our ability to do fun things, and for what it has meant in the number of hours she needs to work. She likes her work, but doesn’t like being forced to keep a full caseload in order to get by.
I think her ideal situation would be to have the house, live in our current neighborhood, and also have enough money to do fun stuff. Realistically though, that would mean a really high income in the $200k range.
We discussed our future and what our next move should be. We both want to return to renting an apartment. Ideally we’d just sell our house and move back, but it would mean quite a financial loss at this point, having just put a bunch of money into renovations.
We decided to shoot for two years as the target for our return to renting. In that time we should be able to complete fixing the last little bits that need fixing, so that we can sell the house for top dollar. Given that most homes in our neighborhood are hitting the 25 year mark, most are in need of repairs, so if we have ours all fixed up, that should make it more desirable.
Additionally, in two years our daughter will be entering middle school, and her school will be right across the street from the apartments we like (the same that we just moved out of). That will allow her to walk to school, whereas from our current house it would be a very long bike ride.
If we happen to get a sudden spike in real estate values, we’ll jump on that, otherwise we’ll wait it out and shoot for two years.
We brought up the topic with our daughter also and shared our potential plans to get her input. I think it’s important to keep an open dialogue with kids, and we always ask for her input. If she loved the house and hated the apartment we might consider staying. She said that she likes the house, but she liked the apartment too. She misses some of the things we were able to do while in the apartment, and she’d be ok with moving back to the apartment. Basically she’s happy with either choice, which makes it easier for us to move ahead with our plan.
Plans are always subject to change, so I’ll keep you posted from time to time if anything changes, and hopefully I can get out of my funk and get back to posting blog posts on a more regular schedule.