Preface: Some of what follows is quite difficult for me to share. First, because I'm kind of ashamed of some aspects. Second, I'm worried about offending someone. To overcome the first, I need to just buck up and get over it. To overcome the second, I have to realize that someone who reads this may actually find encouragement and validation. That makes the risk worth it to me.
So, here we go.
While this whole “not caring about stuff and possessions” has developed gradually for me, I would never have described myself as very materialistic. Clothes – whatever. Cars – blah. Furniture, gadgets, toys – meh. But I am here to admit I've been an admirer of large(r) homes for quite some time. Not the stuff inside houses, but houses themselves. My husband will tell you I have spent countless hours poring over real estate websites. At times I've even thought I could or should have been a realtor.
Clearly, a big(ger) house doesn't really jive with the simple lifestyle to which we are now aspiring. Honestly, I’m still analyzing my own thoughts and working through my issues on the topic of houses. And once again, I must acknowledge that Pete is a few steps ahead of me; he's never wanted a big house. In fact, in one of my most recent purges I came across a college essay of his in which he clearly stated the fact that he didn't understand the need for large homes. It’s always been “my idea” to someday move into a not-huge-but-bigger house in a lovely neighborhood and “settle” there and raise our kids. Although Pete and I are so fortunate to be on the same page in most aspects of our lives, financial and otherwise, the “house thing” has never quite clicked between the two of us. I am pleased to say that we’re finally starting to inch closer together in our vision – but it’s really me that’s had to do the inching. I had always reasoned that I must be the partner who wanted a bigger/nicer home because I was the one who spent more of my time there as a stay-at-home mom. Kind of a nesting mentality, I suppose. I figured he must not care as much because he just wasn’t there as much. Now, I am more in tune with the overall life philosophy behind it all.
I still find myself quite envious of other people's homes at times. Yes, yes - I know it's all relative. I live in a huge, luxurious home to some, and a meager dwelling to others. The people whose homes I am envying at this moment are probably envying someone else's bigger/better home, while still other people are envying mine. I am flat-out fortunate to have a roof over my head, period. I get all that. However, this acknowledgment doesn't help much with my lingering inner struggle over the issue. But more on that later.
Meanwhile, here's an embarrassing fact that I can't believe I'm actually sharing on the internet. Once, I entered every single home address of my daughter’s preschool classmates into zillow.com (and if you don't know what that is, all the better!). My snooping session uncovered that our house was second from the bottom of the list in size and market value. Embarrassing as it is to admit that I looked at this (in my defense, I was up way too late and already in a bad headspace), I feel it does at least provide a frame of reference. Those preschool families are a cross section of our “peers," and you can observe that we are already on the smaller-house side of our peer group. It's one example, but I think it's pretty representative. And, the fact that I checked all this in the first place is some darn solid proof that I’ve got real issues to work through – and that maybe, I’m a lot more materialistic than I think! Dang those Joneses!
In addition to this snapshot comparison, as we look around us, houses are not getting any smaller. Over the years we've had many friends that have "upgraded" to a larger home, but we've known very few who have "downgraded" - and of those, most were by necessity (following something like an involuntary downgrade in employment status, if ya know what I mean.). We are still in the first house we bought - our "starter home," as they call it on those real estate websites.
Yet, I’m slowly realizing that I don’t actually need (or even want) to participate on the seemingly ubiquitous quest to upgrade. As we embarked on our journey toward simplicity, there were still a couple of lingering concerns I had about choosing to step out of world of house upgrades. I think I may share those concerns in future posts, and the ways in which I’m beginning to see paths around and through them. It’s a process, believe me, when you’ve spent so many years imagining a “dream home” and what that represents in your life. The house issue is definitely the last and most stubborn aspect of my life to begin the surrender to simplicity.
And for some reason, writing about it helps.