We have spent the past few years downsizing. We got rid of a lot of our “stuff” because we seem to move around a lot, and it is a pain in the ass to pack and haul extra crap we don’t need. We also got rid of our stuff because we wanted to live in smaller places. Smaller apartments = less rent. Which meant we could also get rid of our jobs. Downsizing is awesome!
So we now lead what I like to call a “low income” lifestyle. We don’t buy as much stuff, so we don’t need as much money. We have been none the worse for wear. It hasn’t felt like a huge sacrifice. I don’t feel like we are “missing out,” because we don’t buy as many toys, or because we don’t shop recreationally, or because we don’t take lavish vacations. We never really had expensive taste to begin with.
Don’t get me wrong, I do like money. Having a lot of it would be nice. I just want to earn it working for myself. However long that may take. And preferably not while living under a bridge.
Over this past weekend, we were lucky to house sit for some friends who needed someone to look after their big yellow labs and their skittish little kitty. Our friends have a lovely home. It’s an older house with various additions and a baffling footprint. It was probably a very small, modest home that grew over the years. Our friends have spent countless hours fixing the landscaping and tending a huge vegetable garden in the summer. They updated the tiny kitchen and added usable space without disturbing the vintage charm. They have curated various antiques and have a vast library of books about Oregon history. This is our kind of place.
We spent the weekend curled up by the fireplace and petting the friendly dogs, who were never as happy as when they were piled on top of us, slathering our faces and hands with dog drool. There was no internet, so I read books. The whole house was decorated for Christmas, including presents under the tree. I needed to remind Dave not to open them.
Now, if I owned a house, I would want THIS house. I would want it with all the stuff in it. I would want it with the lovely yard and garden. However, I’d need to hire our friends to maintain it for me. This past weekend, I was lucky to breeze in, flop onto the couch, pet the doggies, put my feet up by the fire and drink their wine. I didn’t have to do any of the work to have such a lovely home. I didn’t see the countless hours and the money they have invested to create such a cozy oasis. I just got to enjoy the fruits of their labor.
I couldn’t help but wonder about our own choices. We downsized, move around a lot, and live in apartments. Houses are nice. Gardens are wonderful. Big happy dogs are fun, as long as they don’t eat their own poo. Even the work to create the home is appealing. Is there any work more satisfying than tinkering around your own home? Even hard, pain-in-the-ass work is rewarding when it’s over. When do you ever really relax if you don’t ever really work?
The risk, of course, is that house work never truly ends. Even as you put your feet up, there’s unfinished painting to do, or edging to do in the yard, or maybe electrical issues that might burn the house down. But all of those things are an ongoing act of creation. It’s land and shelter you pour yourself into. Your time, your money, etc. In the end, you really have something to show for it.
I’m not going to buy a house any time soon. But the allure of stability is powerful.