"Getting rid of everything that doesn’t matter allows you to remember who you are. Simplicity doesn’t change who you are, it brings you back to who you are."

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

And You May Find Yourself...

You may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself in another part of the world
And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
You may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife
You may ask yourself, "Well, how did I get here?"

Letting the days go by, let the water hold me down
Letting the days go by, water flowing underground
Into the blue again, after the money's gone
Once in a lifetime, water flowing underground

Once In A Lifetime - Talking Heads

"I think 2012 is going to be the year we invest in the house." SM declares. "I really love this neighborhood." He says as he looks out the window.

"So we're staying put?" I ask, already knowing the answer.

To those of you who might not know (or didn't read my post a few days ago), SM and I have had discussions on the idea of ditching the suburbs in favor of a country lifestyle for years now. And I do mean years.

Why country? It's how we grew up.

We both lived in small towns in Ohio and when we graduated from school, we found there was no work to be had. SM could have worked in the coal mines like he did after high school. I could have found work as a waitress in my hometown but the pickings were very slim.  It was the early 80's and the US was in a recession.  Like many of our generation, we migrated to the jobs and lifestyles that the big city had to offer. We chose our career paths.  And we chose to incur the debts that go along with modern living.

With age comes wisdom. Everyone middle aged or older hits a moment in their life when they realize that the simple life is best and you try to adapt to a more "down-sized" lifestyle.

Unfortunately when you change your mind midway, you discover that the umbilical cord that ties you to the cash you need, that provides you with your chosen lifestyle...Well, that cord can only be stretched so far. Money rules.

You must feed the beast that you created.

Since becoming self employed 5 years ago, SM can work from anywhere. I'm the problem now. I work in an "elective" medical field. Patients choose to have the work done.  So I need to be where my peeps are. And my income matters to our household survival, so ditching my chosen field would be financial suicide.

If we were younger we'd be more likely to take the chance on a major upheaval in our careers. Not so much now that we're in our 50's.  SM chose self employment because of age discrimination.  (Please don't tell me that anyone still believes that potential employers don't consider how old a new employee is. Hard to prove legally, but we know it happens all the time.)  He has good months and bad months financially.  Nothing consistent.  But overall, I think we're both happy with the arrangement.  SM depends on himself.  He can work or not work, it's up to him.  But the groundwork is there.  As he gets older, I would think that this would be quite liberating and allow for a lot of flexibility. 

As for me, while I do love what I do, I've placed a 1 hour drive time limit (one way) on how far I'm willing to travel to work.  We live at the 45 minute mark right now.  As the big city grows, the suburbs expand and country life gets farther and farther away.

When we moved here 14 years ago, we were in the country. Cows mooing and roosters crowing. We're on the edge of the burbs now. They're planning a shopping center a mile away. Another big subdivision has been in the works for the past few years just waiting for the economy to turn around. But we both acknowledge that our neighborhood, with it's 1/2 acre lots and wide streets, is a far cry from true city living. Our neighborhood is a bit special.  So we're staying.  Granted, it could be better.  But it could also be a hellva lot worse. 

Now living in the burbs is not all bad. I don't need to list the conveniences, they're obvious. Thankfully, we don't have an HOA. We have a bit of privacy along with a good sized patch of land.  I'm not the only one in the neighborhood slowly converting my back yard into my own local farm.

Why the garden?  It's pretty simple.  It's because we know we face a future of limited funds. Believe it or not, the government now categorizes us as low income. Our house is now our biggest investment, our savings account.  Any Social Security we get in the future will be eaten up by the high cost living. 

And I'm not blind.  Food is getting more and more expensive.  But that is the one expenditure that I have some control over.  If you want quality, grow it yourself.  And I have some land. So make it produce something, will ya?

So if we're going to stay here, then it's time we make some improvements and invest in our home.

With money being tight the past few years we've opted to only do what has HAD to be done. Looking around the house now, I'm sorry to say that it's seen better days. Toss in the damage that 3 dogs, 1 cat and 2 adults can do day in and day out, and the house is looking like I do first thing in the morning when I roll out of bed.  Just a little rough.

So we're hoping to unstick ourselves from our habit of pinching every freakin penny and "Suck It Up", the house needs work.  So $pend it.

We need to:

Replace windows and flooring.  The windows we hope to do ourselves, with some help from a hired handyman.  The carpet and vinyl flooring (no tile for us) we'll need to hire out.  (*We tiled our guest bathroom and while it came out nice enough, we both don't like how cold the tile is.  Seriously folks, does every house have to have hardwood or tile floors and granite counter tops?  Here's a hint...HGTV is selling you a bill of goods that you can never pay.  Practical is my new middle name.  If it's not functional, than "Goodbye!"  I've heard from friends that granite counters and tile floors are both a big PIA.)  

Update our master bathroom.  Our shower stall is broke down and busted.  Pretty nasty if you ask me.  We have a fiberglass tub that we never use.  We'd like to rip out the tub and create a large walk-in shower area.  Re-surface (or replace) the cabinet and replace the counter top with a recycled glass composite material that's durable enough that I can't hurt it.  New lighting.  Replace the toilet and paint.

Expand and hard-top the back deck.  One of my favorite places is our back deck.  I love hanging out there when the weather permits.  It's an awkward space though.  There's no room for a table and chairs and the seating areas are split up.  We want to expand it out a bit more and SM wants a lower "sundeck" area that's not covered.  When we moved here, I had an awning fit over the deck as our intense summer sun heated the house up something awful.  SM has never liked the fabric awning though and has wanted to hard-top it for years.  We've replaced the deck wood a few times since we've lived here (the sun is THAT bad).  I told SM that I'm done with that.  I hate to buy the "artificial" wood but if that's what can survive the elements than that's what we're putting in.

Backyard / Landscaping  We're expanding the garden yet again.  (Does it ever stop?)  There are some areas around the garden that I just don't want to mow anymore.  So we'll be laying out the landscape fabric/plastic to kill the grass and toss lots of pine bark mulch over those areas.  Towards the back shed there's a long strip of grass that runs along the back fence line.  I discovered that the shed (that SM moved last year) creates a wonderful shaded private oasis that's nice and cool in the late summer afternoon.  I told SM that I'd like to salvage the wood from the back deck and build a "floating platform back there.  I'm thinking of a "secret garden".  You know it's back there but you can't really see it.  I could plant more perennial flowers and make it quite lovely.  Maybe toss a hammock back there.

I'm sure most of this will shift and change as we get into it. I'm also sure that I'll be dragging my feet when the reality of the cost to do these projects hits me in the face.  I just have to remind myself that it's OK to spend the money.  It's our best investment.  And we really DO love it here.


  1. Your plans sound exciting as well as challenging. The 'secret garden' sounds lovely - you'll appreciate some downtime back there.

    My home, too, has become my savings account. I'm increasing gardens (veg & flower) every year and making do with less all the time. But when the chips are down, I pony up for good materials (whining all the way)as I plan to be here until they haul me out feet first.

    I'll be watching for updates on your projects. Stay positive. And Happy New Year.

  2. Sounds like good plans if you're gonna stay put. I'm with you on the granite. So over it.

    Best wishes in the new year. Can't wait to see the garden expand!