In February of this year we felt like God might be nudging us to sell our house. That might not sound like a big deal, or depending on your personality, it might sound like a VERY big deal.
In our 19 years of marriage we’ve moved 11 times. No, we are not in the military. Blame it on wanderlust or too much HGTV fueling our remodeling addiction: We like to take houses that everyone else thinks should be burned to the ground and make them into something beautiful, open and inviting. So, you’d think that this call from God to sell our house, just shy of 2 years after moving in, and mostly finishing a kick-ass remodel, wouldn’t cause us to pause. It did. This was THE house. The big, beautiful, century-old house I thought would be in the prom pictures—my two handsome, Colombian boys with their dates in outrageous dresses poised perfectly at the base of the grand staircase! When we bought this one I told our kids to get comfy because we were staying here for a very long time. Famous. Last. Words: “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.” (Looking back, we never should have bought this house, but that’s a lesson for another day.)
Through a series of previous adventures—a defunct small business, a church plant, and a subsequent 7-week trek across the country in an RV—my love and I had accumulated a fair amount of debt. That debt gnawed at our souls, mocking us with each minimum payment. So this time when God nudged us to sell our house, the real invitation was “Get free!” We’d put in a sizeable down payment and added the sweat-equity, so selling would free us of the lingering debt once and for all.
So, we did what every good, obedient-to-the-call couple would do. We procrastinated. Have you ever listed and tried to sell a house with 3 small children? Imagine someone tells you to repair, purge, organize, deep clean and stage your entire place so it looks like a spread out of Decor Magazine. Then they tell you to keep it exactly like that so they can show it on a moment’s notice. But, you live with three wild
monkeys boys. Super fun. We didn’t want to do it, so for months we just didn’t. Finally though, our desire to be free won out and we listed our house at the beginning of July. It sold in 3 weeks.
“Yay, we sold our house!”
“Wait! What?! Where are we going to live?”
I had my heart set on staying in the same neighborhood. We had developed some meaningful relationships there, our house was across the street from my office, a 5-minute walk to the grocery store (and Chipotle!) and around the corner from the park. Staying within a mile of where we were was my consolation-prize for losing my beloved house.
We set out on a short, but intense search for a house that met our wish list, both practically and geographically. We looked at every possibility—buying, renting, living in community. We looked at too small and too big, but never just right. We looked at pretty and ugly, immaculate and so down-right disgusting that it made me want to soak in a tub of bleach after walking through it. Nothing.
Meanwhile, the tenants in the lower unit of a two-family we own in another part of town called to ask if they could get out of their lease. We’ve owned the house for the last 10 years and have lived in both the upper and lower units—2 of the 11 moves I mentioned earlier. Sometimes we’re efficient. The lower unit is a 3-bedroom apartment we remodeled five years ago and lived in for three years, back when we only had two very small children. It is small by American standards, about 1400 square feet. 3 bedrooms, 1 bath. A third of the size of the house we were leaving.
I was not interested. No way. Wrong part of town. Too small. I’m not going back. Me, one bathroom, four boys. Nope. Let’s keep looking.
But, the clock was ticking and we hadn’t found an alternative. Over time, my heart softened a little, the timing of the unit becoming available wasn’t lost on me. My husband’s desire to not only be debt-free but free from renovation projects, and my kids’ desire for the giant back yard that comes with the house pushed me to give it a try. I said yes, but silently I wanted to scream no. I cried to my friends over breakfast, “This feels like going backward, not forward.” I cried to myself at night, “What will people think? You’re suppose to get a bigger, better house, not move into your own basement.”
You know where this is going …
It’s actually kind of awesome. We came home. We gave up two-thirds of the space we never used and one-half of the crap we didn’t need. We gave up spending our weekends doing house projects and telling the kids to go find something to do, and instead, we are out living: experiencing the city, traveling, resting, connecting. We gave up spending hours cleaning rooms we never stepped foot in (now I vacuum the entire place without ever moving the vacuum to another outlet!). There’s this weird, comforting deja vu feeling. We put our things right back where they were three years ago; we already know the neighbors. We paid off the debt. We are FREE. Free to dream of what might be next. It’s not forever. One day I am sure we’ll buy another house and maybe, just maybe, it will need a little renovating (or not). But for now, we are learning that Less House = More Life.
Photo (Flickr CC) by Nicholas A. Tonelli