Downsizing

We’ve lived in our current home for 5 years now, a mid-sized two story built around twenty years ago. My wife and I upgraded from our 700 square-foot two-bedroom after our first child was born. The first house was great while we were dating, but was too small for our expanded family, and definitely too small for the second child for which we were planning. We were able to save up a sizable down payment over a year, set a budged and began looking at houses. We looked at a dozen or so, none of which really spoke to us, then my wife found our current home, which had been listed just outside of our budget.

The owners at the time had only been there for two years. The husband was Air Force, and had been redeployed, so they were short-selling. Three bedrooms, plus a finished room over the garage (FROG) which I immediately claimed as a man-cave. The downstairs: den, living room, dining room, kitchen; back deck, two-car garage, detached shed, back yard with tress. And the best part was that it was at the end of a cul-de-sac, far away from the first home, where there had been shootings, murders, house fires, animal attacks, and drugs. So we made an offer and got the house within our budget.

So now, half a decade later, and the rest of the costs have become apparent. The interest on the mortgage here is still more than what we paid at the first house. We just finished paying off a new HVAC system. The roof needs replacing. We’re just a 100-year-storm away from flooding. Cutting the grass; trimming the hedges. Power-spraying the siding. I was just told by an inspector that we have 60%+ humidity under the crawlspace. The insulation has fallen down and the whole thing will probably need encapsulation. Then there was the time that the upstairs shower drain leaked, causing damage to the beautiful scalloped ceiling in the dining room. We tried to save money and have someone matching the original work after the plumbers destroyed the ceiling, and I’ve never been happy with the result. The entry door in the garage is rotted from moisture. Et cetera, et cetera.

And then there’s the damage from the two little gremlins that are my children. The younger one, who’s known this house her entire life has been the worst. Markers on the walls, the doors. The CONSTANT cleaning, the clutter. I don’t know when the decision was made, but between work life, home life, and the side hustles, at some point in the past six months my wife and I decided enough is enough. We often tell each other the refrain “burn it all to the ground” during moments of frustration, just wanting to wash our hands of the whole situation. There are things that we’d rather be doing, places we’d rather be, than dealing with these benefits of home ownership. We hired a housekeeper to come by every two weeks to help out, but there’s still so much else to be done. And we’re done.

I think a lot of these feelings — both on mine and my wife’s part — stem from general dissatisfaction with our jobs. As a tech worker I’m at home mostly and am getting to the point where I could pretty much work from anywhere. My wife is determined to retire at her civil service position, but as a Federal employee can go anywhere. One of the arguments for staying put is that we have a few family members nearby, so we don’t want to lose that, so we’re still undecided as to where to go, but we’re sure that we want to go.

So while I’m waiting for the bank to process my home-equity loan so we can go back another $25k in debt to finance the roof and other repairs, we’ve decided to taking the first steps toward freedom: getting rid of our stuff. Step one, and the most important part of this plan: stop buying more stuff. It’s been hard, but we’ve been able to clamp down on this part so far. Our Prime membership has been unused for months and is bound for non-renewal. We’ve stayed away from yard sales completely this summer, and the only trips to the thrift store has been to drop stuff off. My one exception: books and magazines. I have subscriptions to several periodicals, and I am obsessed with the twenty-five cent shelf at the local library which usually has some gems.

Step two: get rid of your stuff. This is the hardest one for me, I’ve got closets with computer gear, flight sticks, racing sim equipment, motherboard boxes, cables, music equipment, et cetera, et cetera. I’ve got at least 5 computers for various roles, two laptops, seven monitors. Guitars, PA and other gear. I’ve got over a dozen board, card and RPG games that I haven’t touched in over a year. I do not have the emotional capacity to even think about sorting through any of this stuff. So right now I’m doing what’s easy: getting rid of the kids’ stuff.

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