Downsizing Life

“Geeze we have alot of stuff”

If you’ve ever moved, you know that it’s a “considerable undertaking” (I originally had a much more profane term), and is usually punctuated with aches, pains, a mountain of boxes, a lot of moving parts, and intermittently questioning one’s sanity (ok, and not a small amount of gin).

The statement at the top of the blog is one that Rachel and I have said back and forth to each other over the preceding year as we began downsizing, and ever increasingly over the last few months. It’s usually accompanied by some sort of verbalization of discomfort (grunt, groan, sigh) as another box is hefted, along with a breathy cuss-word either before or after (I’ll let you fill that one in).

On this blog post, I’ve invited a sexy guest writer to help me unpack the moving adventure (all real blog authors should have sexy guest writers). My wife, published author, and Life-Adventure-Sidekick Rachel is going to help me on this one. She was, after all, the first one to speak the foreboding message: “I think we should sell the house,” so this is all kinda her fault (I try to do a pretty good job of reminding her of that when we’re lifting heavy things and making aforementioned cuss word noises).

Rachel serves as the Middle Age Mark blog editor already, and I’ve asked her to go through and add her thoughts in italics. We’re not so much conversing back and forth as we are just sharing our thoughts. I have no idea what she’s going to write, and have agreed to not edit or revise (like a blogger trust fall. Lord).

Thank you for the invite to be a guest blogger. This is another first in my life, Mr. Plummer. 

It’s one week ago today that the movers came and removed all of the furniture we were keeping from the House of Wales and delivered it to the 4th floor Condo.

Really? Just one week ago?

Even though we’ve been in reduction mode for a year, it’s been surprising how much stuff we still have. But now (thank God) we’re almost out of the House of Wales and it’s on like Donkey Kong.

What does that phrase even mean?

We’re getting everything ready for the new owners, and we naturally want them to be proud of and thankful for their new home.

Ah, the House of Wales. We’ve made some wonderful memories there.

I’ve lost count of the number of trips, boxes, and times we’ve eaten awful fast food in order to keep on the move (how do people eat like that?).

Right?

We’ve been through appointments with A/C guys and furnace guys, a hot water tank guy, a stager, two home inspectors, a handyman, a window guy, and one CT scan team (I SO can move this couch by myself. Watch this).

I’m pretty sure I remember asking if you wanted help. 😉  To be fair though, MP has been through a lot of appointments with all of those people, because at the same time we decided to sell the HofW, I started a brand new job…exact same week. So he has been the one to meet everyone and get the good and sometimes not so good news. Thanks Cowboy.

I came into the House of Wales kitchen last Saturday morning as we were emptying closets and found Rachel standing at the bar eating half a banana and a pickle.
At the same time.
I stopped. I stared.
She said it was all she could find.
Her face was pure rapture.

That was for sure a first. Pickles (think it was three actually) and a banana for breakfast. Minus the sodium, you can’t say it wasn’t healthy. And we had sh*t to do…no time for eggs and bacon. Chop chop….lets’ go!  

We’re selling, downsizing, living smaller, getting out of debt, and moving forward into what we’re calling “Cozy Minimalism.” When we started this debt free adventure last January we had no idea what it would become (probably a good thing), but I’m proud to say we’re still on track to be 100% debt free on October 1st 2020.

It’s been a fun undertaking. Deciding what’s really important shines a light on everything in your life. It gives clarity and appreciation for people and time and a clearer view of what’s not that important after all.

We’re making the hard decisions and erring on the side of frugality. We kept the bed, one recliner, two deck chairs, my work table, Rachel’s art table, and two bar stools. The rest went to a yard sale (gag) or to the Idaho Youth Ranch as a donation.

Much of the impetus has been that not only are we moving and downsizing (which is always a good time to evaluate possessions), but we’re also changing lifestyles. The myriad of possessions that were needed to maintain a home inside and out are no longer required. We’ve reduced our clothes to items that we wear at least twice a month with the exception of the essential seasonal stuff (like all my Tom Brady apparel).

And some incredibly comfy lounge pants.

We’ve also reduced kitchen ware and clothes by more than half (we increased the gin and wine though, so that’s a plus one).

This was a big one for me. I Love to cook. So really looking at what I used and how we eat was important. Just because it was a ‘cool’ kitchen gadget, didn’t mean I needed or used it. Time to donate! Maybe someone else has always wanted a zester.

I even took the side wings off my Man grill so that it would fit on the balcony.

We have definitely sold or donated more than we have kept. The process of downsizing has at times been an emotional journey. I’ve been encouraged along the way by The Minimalists and their view on “things” and how they affect our lives. Listening to their story/podcast most mornings on my drive to work has aided in the processing of how and what to let go of, including photos, family heirlooms, and 45 purses/bags.

We each have our own Baby Garage (his and hers splurge) so that’s kinda fun. The Man Rig just fits (I’ve only run into the back wall twice).

I share my baby garage with the motorcycle. We both agreed it was a must keep. It provides fun rides to the gym for MP, and incredibly enjoyable date night outings.

She meant to say Man-Cycle but that’s ok. Through it all we’ve had no fights, and not really even any bad moods.

He’s being very kind here… I’ve had a couple of cranky moments. One night I got held up late at work, and when he suggested salad for dinner, I snipped something like, ‘Unless I don’t want salad!’. He just smiled. I took a deep breath, apologized for being cranky and we went to dinner. I had a French dip. 

We’ve been very careful to check with each other about arrangements of our new spaces. Since our new home is much smaller, we’re going to be sharing every room. We got good practice doing this in the Mesa Baby House, so now our Condo seems spacious.

I think this might be one of the biggest things to consider when minimizing. Do you like the other person enough to share almost all your space with them? Lucky for us we do. Things like MP’s office was a big consideration as we made this transition. He is VERY tidy and likes his space neat and organized. His office is his domain. I like my space neat too…mostly. Ok, kind of. I am an artist. I make things and create. Scraps of paper on the floor and a little paint on the table make me feel like I’m free and open to create anything that comes to mind. I don’t want to worry about making a mess along the way.

It’s a “growth opportunity” for me. (Lord teach me patience). It is kind of true though; I take 10 minutes every morning to make the bed and fold all the towels and blankets so the tags don’t show.

So, we have a plan to make the space sharable, and an open forum for discussion if either of us isn’t feeling comfortable. We’ll be fine, and good to know we can talk about it if we need to.

As you can tell, we’ve decided to have fun and make it a successful adventure. It does take a lot of communication, allowing for your spouse’s desires, compromising and remembering what’s important, and wanting your spouse to be just as happy to come home as you are.

Smaller life is good. We still end each day on the 4th floor balcony, overlooking the pool, with an adult beverage, and have even ended a few of the late August warmer days with a float in our new pool (and accompanying adult thermos martini beverage) and then a short repose in the new 30-person hot tub.

And here’s the best part: I don’t have to take care of either one of them.              

Debt Free Update

At the time of this writing, the For Sale sign in the front yard got a spanking new upgrade: Sale Pending! (Ok, it doesn’t really have an exclamation point, but it should!) We’re very excited! Our latest adventure is proving to be every bit as exciting as we thought it would be.

The graphic above isn’t really the date that either Rachel or I are considering retiring (we are both blessed with jobs that we love), but we couldn’t find a debt free countdown app so we borrowed a retirement app. It’s fun to watch the date get closer and anticipate the feeling of being debt free.

When we originally decided to get out of debt, our intent was to be debt free minus the mortgage, and continue to use the home as an investment. We started last January with monthly financial goals and took aim at the smallest debts first; furniture, credit cards. We held monthly goal meetings and knocked them out in a few months.

Then we focused on the first school loan, which was about 8K at the time, and this coming Saturday night we have a Student Loan Victory Party date planned! (I might get a gladiator costume and drink from a bronze challis). Death to student loan #1! (Exclamation points everywhere – masses cheering) That will be a very good celebration!

Next in the cross hairs will be the second student loan, which will take us out to September 1st of 2020. One added month to finish the car loans off, and if all goes as planned, we’ll have no debt as of October 1st 2020 and begin a cash-only lifestyle.

Zero financial drag.
Lots of possibilities start coming into focus.
Lots of fun possibilities.
I think I might want to catch a swordfish.
On Jimmy Johnson’s boat.

Throughout this process we’ve kept talking, dreaming, reading, sharing, learning. As we continued to talk about our goals and dreams, we started to really drill down into what we wanted our life to look like and who we wanted to be. Our version of being debt free changed to include the House of Wales as well. We decided it was time to make the decision, do the hard thing (pack / move 713,000x boxes, yard sale (gag)), take our earned equity, and begin investing in earnest.

It’s a life rule: You have to do the hard thing before you get the good thing.

We’re behind in investing. Although I have one federal pension that I’m currently receiving (Coast Guard), and at some point I’ll have the state of Idaho pension (two lifetime pensions = dream), we have some really big plans for our future (have a I mentioned a week on a Cat cruising the Bahamas or the fifth wheel and monster truck with the train horn?) so we want to make sure we’re funding our dreams.

And we’re doing just that.

We’re learning all we can about investment options so that we can add more revenue streams for retirement. There are lots of ideas and choices, and we’re learning about liquid assets and index funds. The equity will be a really nice lump sum investment to get us started. If all goes as planned, we should do very well.

I know the planet suffers the occasional naysayer and joy-sucker. To them I say we’re using all the information we have to do the very best we can with what God has given us. The rest is up to Him. In the meantime we’re on the adventure of our lives.

Becoming non-homeowners is not for everyone, but it’s right for us at this point. Although it’s true I may miss getting tangled up in the rose bush (pokey F’er) or attacking the wood pile bees, the fact is we’re becoming more mobile. We have the Baby House in Mesa and we like being there as much as we can, especially during the Idaho winters. I’ve also reacquired my love for Naples Florida and Vermont cabins. It’ll be nice to know that we can turn down the condo heat, close the door, and go get some real maple syrup sans worries.

Our rent, even with all of the amenities, will be similar to what our mortgage was, and since we’re investing all of the profit, we’ll still be leveraging the compounding effect of our money in much the same way (8% annually?) a home might appreciate.

That’s exciting.

At 58 and I-robbed-the-cradle, Rachel and I are looking forward to being a little more unburdened. Without the duties of keeping a beautiful home beautiful, discretionary time will come back. There’s a mountain bike in the garage that’s been missing me, and a drum kit as well (get the band back together?). There are books I’m waiting to read, places I want to volunteer, side hustles that need hustling, and good non-bottom-shelf gin that needs ‘scrutinizing.’

Moving is hard (!) and funny (!), and there’s another blog coming about that with a guest author (!).

Lord the things we get ourselves into. What a ride!

It’s hard to imagine a better and more optimistic life.
Let’s gooooo!

Changing Dreams

It’s been awhile since I’ve written. It’s been awhile since I’ve had the discretionary time. Life has been a bit nuts the last several weeks. There’s been some big changes to our lives. But more about that in a bit.

As I take ownership and firm grasp of Middle Age, it’s fair to say that some (ok, many) of my perspectives are changing. The way I exercise, the way I eat, the way I drink, my social perspectives and opinions, my approach to finances, my life plans and dreams; much of what was once an absolute is now blender ingredients as I reinvent and reevaluate.

I’m changing, and I’m aware I’m changing. This terra non-firma can be a source of anxious nervousness, discomfort, and sometimes late night panic (Just when I thought I would never eat quiche). Thus far I’ve only narrowly resisted the urge to run naked down the street waiving my arms over my head screaming “What’s happenaaang to maaaaay!!!” (You’re welcome, neighbors).

It can be twice as bad for others in our life. Many people enjoy perspective consistency and find limited value in reflection, change, or sifting one’s attitudes. Change can create insecurity if handled poorly. Assertions like I thought you said that or I never thought I’d hear you say that or I can’t believe that you’re thinking that are valid points.

But change is good, yes?
Growth is good.
At least that’s how it’s supposed to go.

On our last trip to the Baby House, while we were floating in one of the pools and enjoying Thermos Martinis (should be a giveaway right there), Rachel made a statement that created the impetus for Big Change. We’ve been talking about this change for years, and knew it was coming someday. It just so happened that Someday was actually Baby House Pool Floating and Thermos Martini Day (New Holiday!).

I think we should sell the house.”

In the oddest of ways, as soon as the words came to me across the cool pool water (I took a reflective sip right here), I knew that it was time. Right then. No more someday. Strap in. Here we go.

I’ve been kind of itching for a new adventure.

This is the first of what will probably be a multi-part blog on moving on from the House of Wales.

We’ve sort-of-kinda-always had the plan in the back of our minds. We’ve upgraded, worked hard, and made smart decisions. Of late, we’ve been evaluating loan rates, interest rates, the housing market, and Idaho growth rates and demographics. Our realtor close friend publishes a routine Boise area market report that we have been watching closely.

We’ve been on a steady march towards October 2020 when we’ll be debt free. Making extra payments, staying focused on our monthly goals (one school loan bites the big one in 2 weeks!), maintaining our giving, celebrating each success; I’m proud of us. Although we didn’t plan to be mortgage free by October 2020, it’s now been added to the plan. To us it’s a very exciting time.

Although we certainly made The House of Wales our home, there’s just the two of us here now, and as much as we enjoy the family-house-full holidays, three or four days a year is meager justification for 1,900 sq. ft. And while I used to truly enjoy yard work (good exercise), there are other areas of life that I’d like to invest in.

The House of Wales

We’re becoming aware that we want to travel more, and having the constant awareness (mostly me) that the Big House with a Big Yard and pool and hot tub is not being overseen while we’re away is unsettling (even more so in the Idaho winters).

We talked about the possibility of another house, but both of us are finding that moving sideways into the same situation again is not in keeping with who we’re becoming (and I hope we’re always becoming). We’ve been downsizing since we purchased the Baby House, and, as a matter of fact, we’re moving to the other end of that scale.

We’re going to rent.
A modern condo.
On the fourth floor.

Our 4th Floor Condo

A complete change of lifestyle for us. A complete change of dream for us. From owning to renting. From big to small. From Idaho lodge / farmhouse to sleek modern architecture, cozy minimalism, and Smart Home technology. From yard to no yard. From wood fireplace to gas fire. From stairs to elevators (leg days are the worst!).

It’s hard to even articulate how excited we are. Of course, we’re keeping access to a pool and hot tub (I’ll just probably have to wear more clothes. Ok, some clothes. Probably.)

I’ll write more about it in my next blog, but we’ve loved our life in the House of Wales. I’m sure these will have been some of the best years of our lives (Geeze did we make some good memories here). Nothing will ever change that. The House of Wales became bigger than life and so much more than just a house for us and our family. I already know that leaving will be a bit emotionally bumpy. There are things we’ll miss.

But you can’t grab the next rung if you don’t turn loose of the one you’re holding.

And missing is not a bad thing; it’s a good thing.

So, like most things we’ve ever done, we trusted God had us and jumped in. For four weeks, we’ve done little else except downsize, upgrade, paint, stage, and clean (Oh yeah, and buy and pack boxes). Lots. And Lots. Of Boxes.

There are alot of smart people that might say (C’mon, say it with me) renting is just throwing away money. There are variations on this theme (checks flying out of my butt?) and it’s true that home ownership is a foundational element of the great American dream, along with baseball, being a fanatic Patriot’s fan (Tom!), and illegal fireworks. Equity is a very cool and smart financial asset.

But we’ve weighed the pros and cons and run all the numbers. We’ve done the research. We’re still on our October 1st 2020 debt free timeline (!), only now when we reach it, we’ll be 100% debt free. As I sit here writing, Rachel is rechecking our dates, payments, and forecasts (She clacks a few keys, giggles, clacks a few more keys, giggles some more).

It’s our time.

We may have a little house (ok, two little houses), but we have big plans.

I’m proud that we’re brave enough to create big change. I’m really excited about the future. I’m already anticipating the Idaho fall season from the 4th floor balcony with the game on (Patriots over the Chiefs 42-13). I’m anxious to work from my new home office. I have some new hobbies I’m looking forward to starting or re-starting (returning to making live music?).

And honestly, it’s a little scary. I wake up at night with What If‘s. Some are valid. It’s uncomfortable. My back is sore from lifting 713,000 boxes (How do we have SO much stuff?). I lost my robe for 3 days. It was in a box marked Tools in the garage. Ugh.

But I found something the other day that I had posted on my Facebook timeline 5 years ago. We had just finished the pool. For that project (like we’re doing now), we had done all the research, read, asked, and learned all we could:

Never be afraid to just try. We knew nothing about excavation, pools, or construction. An amazing project, many great memories, never a cross word, several uh-ohs, do-overs and are-you-@$%¥!!-kidding-me’s, sore muscles, and sunburned body parts. I’m very much looking forward to creating life-memories from the willingness to risk and do something a little different. And…floating in your pool on a hot July night with a Martini really is quite something to experience.

And boy did we create Life-Memories. In the pool and out, without a doubt, I can honestly say our life in the House of Wales has really been quite something to experience.

Here’s what I’m really trying to say: Dreams can change. It’s ok when they do. It doesn’t mean there was wrong thinking before, or correct thinking after. It just means that as I grow older, my preferences are adapting to the change I’m experiencing. Call it aging, wisdom, boredom (getting sexier every day); I don’t want it to ever stop me from moving forward.

Our dreams have changed. And we’re acting on our new dreams.

One other really cool aspect: In buying our house, another family is changing their dreams and acting on them.
So cool.

We’re excited like little kids.

MP