I shared seven months ago (Part 1) that we downsized from a 4 bedroom home to a two bedroom apartment rental last August and the excitement, joy and shame that went along with it. We got our daughter into a better school and we cut down our monthly expenses significantly.
Here is the next 5 things I learned from downsizing our lives.
1] Stuff Matters Very Little- We threw out and gave away about 60% of our 'stuff.' Since moving, I haven't missed anything except I couldn't find my collection of 400 karaoke CD's and had to resort to Youtube karaoke singing to chase away the winter blues. Not bad, and free! All the things I collected and perhaps hoarded, it was liberating to toss and hold onto what is most important, art, photos, warm jackets, the hamster and each other.
2] It's Coooolllllldddd- So I idealized being a worker among workers and taking the Metro every day as we downsized to one car. I was wrong. In the Winter it was darn cold and I bundled up and learned the art of layers upon layers. I am pretty cold intolerant and it did not add joy to my life. I was pretty grumpy about it and fought with my husband over who would get the car when it was 10 degrees outside. Now, on the net positive I really did need the exercise and my left knee is a lot less stiff these days. I suspect somehow, somewhere I am adding years to my life with my 40+ minutes of walking a day and I force myself to climb 80 steps up the escalators. Yes, to our friends and family in Florida and Hawaii, for the 48th time we totally get why you moved there and we do envy your 80 degree weather in February. All I can say is Bienvenidos Spring!
3] Part of a Community- My husband and I are very social and now we have an array of new friends, neighbors who invite us to family parties, four-legged friends we see weekly on the elevators and fabulous common areas of our building. Each day I rush downstairs to walk with my friend Robin to the Metro and we gab so much I tend to almost miss my stop whenever I am with her. Living in an apartment might be good for us overall. Who would have thought! Not to isolate alone in a big house. We befriended the Ethiopian woman who owns the convenience store next door and she makes delicious homemade food from her country every Monday night and absolutely the best Cappucinos in town. She also watches out for my daughter and keeps an account for us so my daughter can by a non-sugary after school snack. I had to shift my perspective and not think of the loss of 1300 sq/ft. but the gain of a vibrant neighborhood as an extension of home life in Friendship Heights (Chevy Chase, MD).
4] Less to Do at Home and Less Time- We are Washingtonians. A city, region where 1:2 people is doing something to save the world, innovative, global or jumps on a soap box of deep seated beliefs, rants and perspective. It's addicting, it's fascinating, it's beltway life. So with new jobs, charities, boards, we find the extra time that we are not using to shovel snow in the driveway is easily FILLED with professional and personal pursuits. In a city like Washington you never know where you will end up in 48 hours and in the past 14 days I have attended a party at the Vice President's home, a trip to NYC for a Charity Gala (thanks Stacey!), a Cher/ Pat Benatar concert in box seats (thanks Marc), and watching my 11 year old chomp down Sushi before a girls night to see the movie Divergent. The apartment sometimes feels like the landing pad of life and we get launched daily into new adventures. But on weekends, we try to keep a very low profile and recharge with family time and catching up on the latest episodes of Scandal or Game of Thrones on Amazon Live and House of Cards on Netflix while not watering our plastic plants on the deck or pruning the hedges.
5] Who Would Have Thought! Celebration time. On December 21 realtor Mary M. called us and said an apartment in our building had opened up, the exact floor plan we were renting just on a higher floor. I had been on a multi- week campaign putting ads in the building to see if anyone was selling using a great family photo of the three of us holding Tracy the dolphin in wet suits to grab our neighbors attention. Once units came on the market, they would often go in less than a week if they were renovated. We had seen many apartments and decided we liked the building we were renting in best. It needed some updating but based on the lobby renovation and plans in the works we felt it was a great investment and that values would easily go up $50,000 to $100,000 in 12 - 24 months. The unit was a bit outdated but the price reflected that. We are now picking out tiles and cabinets and paint colors and move in early May!
These past 12 - 16 months have been filled with bumps and bruises, dashed dreams and pick me ups. We see a light at the end of the tunnel and now console many others making life choices on where to live and where to put their kids in school. As I fill up another trash bag of clothes from an overstuffed closets and a box of additional books to donate, I take a moment to relish that we have made it through the fire of change and the sun is coming out again after a long winter.
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