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I have wanted to move out of our 1500 square foot, 1960s ranch house for years. You know how they say, “The grass is always greener…”? Well, from my view, those beautiful, large, brand new homes had Emerald freaking grass. Only like, two feet of it–because the yards were so tiny–but I digress.
With 4 kids, three pets and my husband’s side business, and our homesteading hobby, we were feeling squeezed.
Life had been demanding and as we coped and focused on our changing family, home projects slipped through the cracks. Remnants from previous home upgrades were stashed throughout the garage, shed and yard, minor repairs, still undone, were adding up. We were running out of space despite our laundry room and family room additions, and I was sure that moving would solve all of my problems. We were told from almost everyone in our family, anyway.
“Your house is too small to host Holiday Dinner.”
“You can’t raise four kids in 2 bedrooms–they need their own space.”
“I wish you had a basement so you could have more rom for toys and stuff.”
“You guys really just need to move.”
While I’ve been interested in minimalism for a while and had embraced the idea of simple living, we hadn’t really taken there the plunge and drastically reduced our belongings and there was a growing part of me that wanted a big, stately home that still felt “new,” with a basement or loft where my kids could play with their toys, a separate office for my husband and extra bedrooms for guests. I wanted what it seemed like everyone else had.
The median home size in America today is a almost 2450 square feet, and almost everyone in our inner circle–our friends and relatives–live in homes close to that or larger with toy rooms in their basements and (mostly) uncluttered and beautifully decorated living rooms and kitchens. Meanwhile, I struggled every day to keep my own house organized and cleaned. As I scrolled through professionally photographed images of the available homes in our area, I just knew that, “If we could only buy a home like that all our problems would be solved.”
I stopped seeing the beauty in our own home, because blocking my view was clutter, the unfinished projects, kids toys and those well-intentioned comments about lack of adequate space for our growing girls. I was growing frustrated and feeling trapped.
Finally, my husband agreed that we could started looking for a new home and I excitedly told everyone, “We are moving!”
We started packing up our belongings. We hired movers to come take excess furniture and everything in boxes to a storage unit and I finally made the repairs and touch up painting that had been needed to be done for months. We scheduled a realtor to come over to the house and we started house hunting. It was a dream come true.
And then, reality hit. House hunting was a disaster. We had two big non-negotiables: staying in our same school district (we love our Spanish immersion school) and having at least a third of an acre, preferably with no HOA so we could keep our gardening hobby–although my husband was willing to give up the chickens if we found something great in an HOA.
There were few houses on the market that fit our criteria, and the ones that did were unimpressive to say the least. As I looked at houses, a couple of which I had been pining over online for weeks, I realized that they really weren’t as great as I had imagined them to be when I was drooling over the pictures.
Tiny or ugly kitchens, laundry closets, horrible flooring, no office space, matchbox sized yards, houses that would require years of DIY rehab that I knew we just didn’t have the time or energy for at this stage of our lives…
The house that offered the most possibility–a huge house with a full basement and main floor den, was also just over the top of our price range and we realized, well, I realized–my husband already knew–we wouldn’t be comfortable with that high a house payment.
Meanwhile, I found that that without all that extra stuff, our house felt much larger.
Fresh paint and repairs done, the rooms felt bright and welcoming. All of the things I love about my house suddenly popped out to me again: my big front porch where I sit in the mornings with a hot cup of coffee, staring out at our big, woodsy front yard with fruit trees blossoming and maple trees tapped to make our own maple syrup; my beautiful kitchen, redone from floor to ceiling in just my style, the chickens, scratching around their yard out back, the deep warmth of our wood stove, in our bright family room.
I realized that I didn’t really want to give those things up, even if it meant living in a larger home. I started to suspect that I wouldn’t be more content in any of the homes I had looked at if just filled it with all our stuff from our current house, and when I really thought about what that extra mortgage payment would mean for our other financial and family goals, I became even more convinced.
My husband sweetly assured me that, no, I hadn’t just waited a few hundred dollars to move stuff for nothing and happily agreed to a major clean out to make better use of the space we have and we–albeit, more slowly than I’d like–are minimizing our stuff to better fit the space we have.
For the first time in years, I’ve stopped feeling trapped.
I had the chance to move, to give up this countercultural lifestyle and live like everyone else, and geesh, was I tempted.
But in the end, I chose this, I still choose the life we created here. Our cozy house, in this quiet neighborhood, where our crowing rooster reminds our neighbors of childhood memories long forgotten, and our family works together harvesting grapes, apples and vegetables from our garden, our young children popping more berries into their mouths than into their bowl.
I’ve long said that I wouldn’t change this life for anything. Turns out, I wouldn’t. And all it took was paying movers to move all our stuff, announcing to family and friends we were moving and preparing our house to sell to realize it.