When Dixie and I got married (almost 20 years ago!) we lived where almost all newlyweds live – an apartment! It was a really nice area near the D/FW airport. Lots of trees, a park, a swimming pool. We walked and rode our bikes a lot. We shared the facilities with a lot of stewardesses too. And even through we were on the third floor, we truly enjoyed the location. We had one bedroom and one living area, and it was just about right.
Eventually the rent went up a little higher than our comfort zone and we moved to a small two-bedroom country home which we rented from the neighbors who owned it. It was probably 850 square feet or so, a little larger than the apartment. Over the next few years we managed to fill it with furniture and things. But then the landlords decided to cash in on their 20 acres in the middle of a fast-growing high-demand part of town (Southlake, TX) and sell their land.
Our next home was our first home to purchase together, a nice 50’s model in Hurst, TX. We spent seven years filling up the 1200 square feet of home and even built a large shed in the back for our motorcycles and other stuff. After a job change we started looking for a place to live that was closer to work and that’s how we bought our last house.
This time we went all out. Over 2000 square feet, three-car garage. In five years it was full too, although we never had to park the cars in the driveway. Our daily commuting round trip dropped from 90 miles to 25. Unfortunately during these last three years we decided that we had enough stuff. Actually, we decided we had WAY too much stuff! We decided that instead of working the rest of our lives to keep paying for our house so we could store all of our stuff that we would rather retire early and travel. As in, a small travel trailer.
Too bad we didn’t think about that before we bought all this stuff!
First we had to get out of debt and start saving. But once that was under way the enormity of the task at hand began to dawn on us. We had to sell all our crap! The motorcycles went first. We did some closet cleaning. Then we started digitizing everything. Memorabilia? You know, the stuff that is SO important that we can’t bear to throw it away? The stuff sitting in a box in the attic where no one ever sees it? Yeah that stuff. We started scanning and taking photos and then either tossing or selling the originals. Some things went to other family members (let THEM store this stuff!). We had a massive moving sale. We had another one. Then we started listing all of the remaining items on Craigslist and eBay. And then we started looking at getting rid of that one last big piece of stuff, our house. Things did not look good.
We appear to have bought this monstrosity near the peak of the real estate bubble and were now looking at selling it at the very depths of the market bottom. A $55,000 equity deficit and the world’s worst mortgage servicer (who took over from the world’s most fraudulent mortgage servicer) meant that even if we wanted to do a short sale we could not. So we talked to an attorney and did a lot of research and finally just decided to walk away. So far we have spent over $90,000 and the loan balance has only gone up by $5,000 while the home value has dropped. Time to stop the bleeding.
So we finally packed up and moved a few rooms’ worth of stuff into a nice little apartment in town. We live one-half of a mile from where I work, and one mile from where Dixie works. We’re saving a thousand dollars a month and don’t have to do any yard work! We are down to 700 square feet. It feels like we’ve come full circle to where we were twenty years ago when we first married!
Eventually we’ll have to do another round of sales, hopefully a year from now. Then we will be retiring and hitting the road in a 200 square foot trailer. Then we’ll try one of those “I own less than 100 things” lists…