Living Small

Everything in our lives had been planned to a tee… graduate high school, then college, then marriage, then work. Things got a bit, well, dull. We didn’t have a next then (we didn’t want kids, haha). So we decided to move to Washington on a whim in May 2006. Brian applied for a software developer job posted on Craigslist; a few days later they flew him up for an interview and he was offered the job that day. Three weeks later, we had resigned our jobs, packed up a moving truck, rented an apartment sight unseen, and made the drive north from San Luis Obispo.

We lucked out with the apartment. The bathroom could have been renovated (I still had Brian change out the toilet seat like we had in every rental) but it had a washer and dryer so it was a fair tradeoff. We arrived on a Thursday, Brian started the following Monday, and I flew back to California. My dad had died the month before so I was helping with things down there, and we had left our cat, dogs, and one of our cars that we needed to round up. Brian flew down two weeks later and we made our final drive up.

Everything fell into place. Brian liked his new job and the work he was doing; I enjoyed taking a few months off to explore our new area and find the right job. By October 2006 we were both working and enjoying living in Washington.

It was time for a next. We bought a place.

Our plan was to buy and build some equity, then sell and move back to California a few years later. Coming from the California Coast, we thought Washington was super cheap. Our limit was to spend what we could afford on one income—mine specifically since I made less than Brian. That left two types of places in our preferred location: houses that would need major renovations or a condo/townhouse that we could buy new. After looking around for a few weeks, we settled on a new townhouse. Maybe because I come from a buy new family but there’s something about knowing that all the dirt will be ours.

Our place is about 1200 sf with two bedrooms, two bathrooms. It’s three levels, first being the entrance and garage; second the main living space and kitchen; third the bedrooms, bathrooms, and laundry. It’s situated on a hill so our front door is on the first level (street level) but our back door on the second level opens to the ground. Which was the selling point of our particular place. There were a few available in our model when we bought but knowing we’d be taking the pups out, I wanted ground instead of a deck like the others had. That left two to choose from and we picked ours since the other has a mailbox in front.

It’s been almost seven years since we bought and we’re still here. The market dropped, we owe more than we paid… that aside, we really like it here. Here’s why:

We’re a close family. We have to spend time together. There’s no escaping without still being aware of what’s going on.

We talk often. When you’re always around each other your find new things to talk about (even after almost 18 years together).

It’s cheaper to live. Our mortgage to income ratio is small. We have the ability to max out our 401K, set aside money for college, purchase needs (and wants) without much hesitation. Our utilities are also cheap.

Less stuff. We just don’t have the space for excessive things. We have what we need with a few extras. Even the kiddos’ toys are minimized.

We maximize our space. We use every closet, shelf, cabinet we have. Our family room doubles as the play room; our kitchen table is the craft area; our garage is our home gym.

We’re obsessively organized. There isn’t a place to stick things and come back later to put them away. Everything has a place and it’s there now (I’m an organizational freak).

We waste less food. There just isn’t much space to store extra food. We use what we have, then restock.

Cleaning is quick and easy. There’s not much space to clean. And with kiddos, we clean often.

The kiddos roam free. The kiddos have free range to go anywhere and we still know what they’re up to.

We change things up often. With a smaller space, it’s relatively inexpensive to buy a new gallon of paint or new pillows each season (I have an interior decoration habit).

There’s no yard work. Rather, there’s no expense of hiring a landscaper. (Brian and a lawnmower don’t mix.) We do pay a monthly HOA fee that covers everything outside of our walls.

It feels safe. We can hear anything that goes on and there’s no place for a creepy burglar to hide.

We’ve talked about walking away or selling for a loss but each time we’ve discussed it, we’ve come to the conclusion we really love it here (and I don’t really want to ruin our credit rating). Even if we decided to pack up and move, we have no idea where we’d want to go. Our location is such a benefit to us. We’re right off the lake; along the trail; we can get to Redmond, Issaquah, the Plateau, or the 90 within minutes… it’s ideal. It’d be nice to have a coffee shop within walking distance but we’ve survived this long without one.

We’ll have to move eventually. The kiddos will outgrow sharing a room, we may add to the family (two or four feet), and we’ll want the house we send the kiddos out into the world from. Until then, we’ll continue to love our place, slowly watch our value go back up, and explore different areas until we find one that steals our hearts from here.

One comment

  1. kellyschnell

    Thanks for the positive spin on townhome living! I’ve been feeling frustrated by our lack of extra space as our family has recently grown, but you’re totally right: less space = less stuff = less hassle.

    Hope you’re well! It’s been fun pretend-staying-in-touch by reading your blog!

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