Downsizing Was an Upper for Us – Moving to a Smaller Home
by Stacey Doyle
When we purchased our first house, it was a golden opportunity to cash in on a VA first-time homebuyer loan. With no money down, we could buy a house large enough to accommodate our growing family. After renting for decades, we were eager to own a piece of the rock my husband fought for. A decade and a half later, we were happy to let it go. We moved into a smaller home and downsizing proved to be an upper for us.
Buying Our Dream Home
After we each suffered through failed marriages, we both were left with the bills to prove it. The idea of owning our own home seemed out of reach. My husband and I pooled our resources to qualify for a V.A. Mortgage. It wasn't easy but we wanted a place our children and grandchildren could call home. When I married my husband, I became the proud stepmother to three adult children and what would eventually be nine grandchildren. We also had two children together, making our brood a large one.
We made a checklist of everything we wanted in a home. The bedrooms should be upstairs with a full bathroom. The living space needed to include a spacious kitchen, dining room, living room and playroom for the kids with another full bath. We also wanted an outdoor room, fireplace, laundry room and swimming pool with a large backyard. It almost seemed to be out of our reach but we finally found the right place after three years of searching. The house was a “handyman's special” but we figured we could handle it.
Living the American Dream
For more than a decade, we lived the dream. The house was a fixer-upper so we worked on it every chance we had. We also applied for all types of programs to get home improvement assistance. From new windows to insulation, we did it all. Family gatherings were a blast because there was space for everyone. The yard was like a park for the kids when we added a swing set and jungle gym. We even set up a smaller pool for the little ones. Everyone in the neighborhood came over for parties, campfires, food and fun. As a WAHM (work at home mom), I relished spending time with the family and volunteering for the community.
Smaller House in a Better Neighborhood
After ten years, the neighborhood started to decline along with our health. Already a disabled veteran, my husband was diagnosed with multiple cancers. I discovered I had an immune deficiency and went through many treatments until I found a good one. The house became an albatross rather than an asset. We were no longer able to keep up with all the work and it showed. We realized our first grandson was entering college and our son was going into middle school. Our adult children were settled into their own homes and lives. The time had come to move on to a better school district and appreciate a more carefree lifestyle. We decided to let go of our home, which was seriously underwater. Since we lost instead of profited, we decided to rent a smaller house in a quieter neighborhood.
Adjusting to a Smaller Home
Leaving our house and our memories behind was not easy. Several complications along the way made it even harder. We shopped around for a home to rent and finally decided on a cottage at a significantly lower price. The rooms were smaller and we would all have to let go of the luxury of having lots of space. It was a major change for the entire family. Could we all survive in this little cottage amidst the pines?
While we miss our big home, we do not miss all the work. Maintaining the house and yard had become stressful. Now we can simply call the landlord to make repairs. We are also pleased to be in a smaller neighborhood with a better school district and less crime. The degradation of our former neighborhood was disappointing and scary. Now we enjoy activities such as parades, sporting events and country fairs within walking distance from our home. The kids have more freedom and so do we. Instead of being strapped by a mortgage that continued to rise, we pay a reasonable rent. We realized there are many trade-offs in life and this one was a better choice.
Thinking about the Future
We want to be homeowners again but will choose our second house more carefully. After all, we learned a lot about choices from our first marriages. Likewise, our first home taught us a lot about what we really want and need. At this point, bigger is not necessarily better. We would prefer something smaller that is easier to maintain and afford. We also want to live in a neighborhood that brings back that old-time boomer feeling rather than being in a huge, hectic area.
Of course, I have always been jealous that my husband had an opportunity to tour the country after he returned from Vietnam. He went on a road trip with a few buddies and had a chance to experience all of the different states. Who knows, we might wind up getting an RV after the kids graduate and tour the country as a team. The bottom line is we've learned home is where your heart is!
Find out more about Stacey Doyle at Baby Boomer Media.
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