It’s true, we made a pretty dramatic change. For most people. including close friends, family, and underwriters at the bank, it was hard to understand. Honestly, from an outsider’s perspective, I totally see the confusion. We had achieved the American dream. We had two children, a beautiful home, wooded acreage, were close to the Lake Michigan shore, and our jobs. It was truly wonderful.
Kitchen Before: Kitchen After:
A big house and property is an investment in more than just money. For me, the housekeeping, alone, was daunting, and then came the annual West Michigan snowfall. Maintenance of an especially long (but beautiful) driveway, and roof that needed regular raking and shoveling of snow, left us feeling hardy, but exhausted.
Winter, 2014 (from the roof): Winter, 2015:
Although we were SO lucky, I had to continually remind myself how lucky we were to have such a beautiful place. We had raised our kids in a wonderful, wooded play land. However, time spent enjoying that place had been taken over with busy lives, leaving us feeling like bees continually leaving the hive, returning to the hive, leaving the hive… never around long enough to enjoy it.
When the kids were younger, we were home all the time.
This was all on my mind when, three things happened: First, I went on a home tour of second floor apartments over the adorable and vibrant downtown, in nearby Holland, Michigan. The apartments were small, but close to cool stuff like restaurants and micro breweries that we love. There were no yards to mow, or roofs to rake. By living in town, we could walk to meet friends and enjoy all these fun places.
Second, we took a much needed family vacation to the beautiful island of Eleuthera. It was the catalyst to the change we needed. Usually, when visiting a place we love, we’ll check out real estate listings, just for fun. Holy smokes. There were homes here, much more affordable than similar homes in Michigan. Owning waterfront property was not out of the question.
Third, we visited my husband’s sister and her husband in Harlem, New York. They gave up a beautiful Hastings, New York home with woods, and great neighbors for the convenience and excitement of city living. Walking everywhere, and for everything was awesome. Witnessing the payoff of giving up stuff you love for a life you love, was inspiring.
Within a week from returning from Harlem, over a beer at a favorite brewery, I had my husband on board for selling our house, and moving to a smaller, less expensive place in town. This would allow us walk to shops and restaurants, be part of a community, and (hopefully) the financial independence to own a small home on the island of our dreams.
Within months of this conversation, we were moving into a new (to us) home in town and readying our home of 15 years, the only home we had ever purchased, for the market. Our new home was more than half the living space of our previous place, and down to one bathroom, a drastic reduction from the three we had before.
Even more of a surprise to everyone, including us, is that we purchased an owner occupied rental. So, along with adjusting to town life, and living in a smaller space, we were learning how to be property managers. While this is not what we set out to do, keeping our minds open to this may have lead us to the very component of this move that will help make our dream a reality.
For many reasons, having a person we like and trust in the flat upstairs, has been one of the best parts of our move. Not only is it a financial help, we now have someone around when we travel. We love new experiences, and meeting new people, so this was the unexpected twist that might prove to be the best decision of all, no matter what path our future plans take.
Home Before: Home After: