Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? That I’d like my 1,000 square foot apartment better than my 8,000 square foot dream home on 9.3 acres. When I lived in the dream house, I spent all my time taking care of things. Managing. Mowing. Sorting. Cleaning. Moving things Around. Bringing home more stuff to fill it up.
We mowed 4 acres, raised 3 kids, had 2 dogs, a cat, a horse and a 2,000 square foot barn. We had 7 garages and a 1/4 mile long driveway. The landscaping alone was so much to handle that one Sunday morning I freaked out and made everyone stay home from church to pull weeds.
We had it all. People envied us. I felt all alone. (For the entire story visit my LifeAfterDebtLessons.com blog)
We also had a $550,000 mortgage and a HUGE house payment, credit cards and personal loans. Oh, we had equity. But you can’t eat equity. And in the midst of being two self-employed people, I lost my biggest consulting client that I’d maintained quite nicely for 7 solid years. Our life was crashing. Literally.
The dream house had become a big burden. Beautifully designed, beautifully decorated, beautifully expensive to maintain. Beautifully burdensome.
The day the realtor put the “For Sale” sign in the front yard was a monumental day. The word failure entered my mind repeatedly. The sale price: $887,500. It took 6 months to sell (quite fast really for an upper bracket home). Our realtor was praying fervently and crossing his fingers that the buyers were going to close. By the time it sold, our funds (i.e. cash flow) were running on vapor.
We got set to downsize. Our financial future was on the line.
Bought a $296,000 house in a really nice neighborhood. Kept selling crap. 2 years later, still had more debt to clear.
Eighteen months later, traded houses with a young couple looking to upsize just 1.5 miles from us. (We found each other on Craigs list). Traded houses, ours worth a little over $300,000, theirs worth $164,000. Another debt reduction of almost $136,000 in the swap. Send our grand piano off to a dear friend’s to live where it will be loved and used.
Still not enough…another year and a half passes. (The part you’re not seeing right now is that we had a real estate development company that had also gone in the tubes at the same time. Debt was king.) We rent our house to a young doctor finishing her residency and her husband for 2 years. We set off on a year of vagabonding…4 months at my father and mother-in-law’s and 9 months in our daughter and son-in-laws’ house.
By this time, our pride had been trampled. Humility was something we were getting quite skilled at.
Finally, we decide to rent an apartment with a garage. We farm the animals out to the now grown kids who originally brought them home so we’re truly solo, just Dennis and I. We keep selling more crap (check out the blog Manvsdebt.com…they have an entire program on selling crap). We rent a small office for my business ($287.50 per month)and move all the office stuff there. We move our 2 trailers to our daughter’s business.
Now, all there is left is Dennis, myself, a 2-bedroom apartment with a garage and the things we love most, and that’s mostly each other.
One wall of the apartment is painted (taupe). The rest of the walls are stark white, but I don’t even care at this point because I’m exhausted. Mentally, physically, emotionally and maybe even a bit spiritually. I keep looking for the big lessons, taking it all in, trying to be present and real in the midst of our pain without letting it consume me.
And that’s when it hits me. Why I like my 1,000 square foot apartment better than my 8,000 square foot house on 9.3 acres.
This is living. Being together. Surrounded by a few nice things that you love. A view of the lake. A quilt on the bed and pink roses in an oversized mason jar on the bedside table. Good water pressure in the shower. A free car wash (yes, the apartment has a car wash!), fitness center and pool. 20 steps from the bedroom to the washer and dryer.
A 2nd bedroom for our son when he’s home on visits from college. New maple cabinets. Free wi-fi in the community center. Time to sit and watch TV together because we don’t have to mow the yard or lug junk around. A sense of well-being because for the first time I know where every single item I own is. Our water bill of $19.00.
The box of books and toys for my grandson Max. No cable TV and no bill to boot.
We found simplicity. Joy. Love. Comfort. We may have taken a very rocky, windy path getting there but it was worth it. The lessons we’ve learned have been priceless. We have each other and our tiny little piece of togetherness, all wrapped up in a 1,000 square foot apartment.