Transitions can be a real challenge, whether in writing: moving from one scene to the next, or life transitions: changing the place you call home.
My family is tackling that second challenge this week as we move from a large four-bedroom single-family house on nearly an acre to an apartment less than half the size.
The reaction that usually comes from sharing this news is one of great concern, and swings one of two ways: “Have you lost your mind?” or “Are you in financial trouble?” I’m happy to report that neither of these is the case. In fact, this deliberate decision to downsize has made us feel more in control of our lives and finances than any time in recent memory.
Since I finished my MFA at Vermont College in 2011, I have been itching to find a way to make writing my primary occupation. Don’t get me wrong, I have an incredibly interesting and stable job working for the Supreme Court of Oklahoma. That employment even led to publication of my first book, Art of the Oklahoma Judicial Center (more about that next week.) But being an administrative assistant is not my passion.
Yet, every time we crunched the numbers, there was just no way the unpredictable income of a freelance writer and my husband’s salary would stretch far enough to pay the mortgage and put food on our table. In discussing this with my husband, we came to the conclusion that food was one of those non-negotiable expenses.
The house, on the other hand, might be something we could give up. After college daughter got her own apartment, we were only using half the bedrooms on a regular basis. Weeks would go by without anyone but our dog visiting the second living area.
Once we made the decision to move, we spent another two years getting the house into sellable condition. Fixtures and finishes had changed significantly in the forty years since it was constructed. We dove into renovation with all the confidence of a family who has watched too much HGTV. Amazingly, for the most part things went well. I have to admit that my husband did the majority of the work, but I logged plenty of hours sanding and painting cabinets, doors and walls. Every interior room benefitted from some type of upgrade.
Those improvements did make it a harder to follow through with our plan. Especially the fantastic media center my husband built for the family room. It made the perfect spot for our Dr. Who premiere party last month and is the place we all gravitate to in the evenings. Yet, I wonder how many more years built-in shelves and a view will be a focal point for families?
We’ve spent the last month digitizing our DVD collection, so now instead of 10 shelves, those 300-plus movies fit in a unit of hard drives about the size of two shoe boxes. We’re also switching over to mostly digital books (although this is much less apparent because of the “special” books I just can’t bear to part with AND the growing collection of new releases signed by my writer friends.)
In the coming months, I’m looking forward to growing our nest egg as I spend more time on my writing and NO time on home renovation or yard work (additional perks of being an apartment dweller.)