Gramz's Blog

Musings of a crazy quilter

November 2011 - Posts

It's much harder to downsize than I thought.

I had good intentions. I even had a good plan. But this is harder than I thought.

I have experience with moving. In 26 years of marriage, my husband and I have lived in eight homes. I did the math. I averaged a 3.71 year stay in each of the previous seven houses. As a result, I consider myself pretty much a pro at packing and moving. I also think I am pretty darn good at setting up a new household which means, more often than not, making do.

Moving a lot also means one learns a good deal about one's spouse. In my case, this specialized knowledge developed an extraordinary skill set and triggered some interesting behaviors. I learned to pack the most important items first since anything that doesn't fit might be left at the curb as the truck pulls away. I learned to fight for a place for any furniture which is designed for organization. I discovered a need to look over hubby's shoulder as he hauled boxes from sheds, attics, and basements to make sure they make it to my packing area or he might decide they are worthless and drop them in a dumpster. I found it is important to take the non-perishable foods as well as inexpensive and easily replaced items (even if he insists we can buy new ones after we relocate) because there is never enough money after the move to replace them right away. I learned some items are not so important after I had to move them so many times. I also became more organized and self-reliant because I learned first hand what a move is like when you live with someone who is not so organized and is seemingly disinterested in the process until the very last minute when it is time to gas up the vehicle and cram miscellaneous items wherever they might fit.

When we returned to Indiana last year, we had already significantly downsized the amount of things we had, keeping in mind that everything we were taking with us had to fit in a 26 foot moving truck and our two vehicles. Before the move we had a 2000+ square foot home with literally tons of stuff stored in the 2-1/2 car garage, attic, and huge crawl space. We left behind two grown daughters in Missouri and we passed many things on to them. We gave away stuff. We donated stuff. We sold stuff. We discarded stuff. And, ultimately, we rented a dumpster and had stuff hauled away. It was embarrassing, really. I hadn't realized we had accumulated so much. It was freeing to let all that stuff go.

We moved the remainder of our stuff into the little rental house in our new hometown. After we had lived in the rental for six months and had become familiar with our little town, I began the search for a house to purchase. We enjoy the fun and responsibility that comes with home ownership. Before the first anniversary of our return to Indiana we found our new home, a little bungalow. The difficulty was the house was in bad shape and our lease was up, so all our stuff went into storage.

We tried living in the roomy, finished basement of my husband's brother. The house was comfortable and we felt welcomed there; they even designated the basement bathroom for use only by the three of us. But it was inconvenient to get our son to and from school every day. Traveling between our town and my brother-in-law's town was getting old. Were quickly tired of eating out. And we missed our stuff. So we rushed to get one tiny bedroom and the closed in porch in livable condition. As soon as those two areas were clean and we had hot water for the new bathtub, we moved our beds, a loveseat, and a television into the bungalow.

It has been several months since we first made our bedroom on the enclosed porch. Thankfully, our bedroom was livable before the weather turned cold. Our little house is coming along nicely. Except for minor inconveniences, we are quite comfortable. But I still miss my stuff.

Except for the living room and my son's bedroom, every room has been organized, renovated, and reorganized until it contains all it can hold and still be attractive and functional. Yet, the storage unit is still full of stuff.

Each trip from the storage unit must be planned with great effort because there simply is no more room in the house. For example, I completely emptied the porch (which has become the staging area for every project) to make room for the Christmas decorations and my sewing things so I could make room for them in the house. To accomplish this I had to empty, paint, install flooring and shelving in the closet in my son's room so there would be room for our hanging clothes, add a cabinet and reorganize the pantry in the kitchen to make room for fabric, find a place for the box of autumn decorations, and donate another minivan full of stuff to the town resale shop. All this took a matter of weeks. You wouldn't think it would be such a big deal, but I have never lived in a house before that did not have usable space in a basement, attic, or garage: this house has none of those. So every item that comes in the house means that something else has to go out.

I do have plans for getting all our treasures out of the storage unit, but it is going to take much longer than I had planned. Since my husband has had periods of illness ans injury in recent months, he has been unable to assist with lifting heavy items. So the bookcases, for which I have big plans, remain in the storage unit along with the big dining table and chairs and the couch. So this week I came to the conclusion that our storage unit is going to serve as our attic/garage/basement storage until we can figure out a more permanent fix. And if that permanent fix means more stuff gets sold, tossed, or donated, then at least I will have more time to determine which stuff goes and which stuff stays.

You might think I sound like a hoarder; in fact, my husband called me that the other day and since I have seen those television shows about hoarders I'll admit I did not respond well to being called one. I am not a hoarder. In fact, it is more important to me that my home look attractive than that I keep all the stuff I have had in my possession over the years. I do hold tightly to some things, but only until I determine whether there is a need for it; f I decide we don't need it I am happy to see it go to another home, but I get pretty ticked off when perfectly good stuff gets thrown in the trash. Just the other day my husband decided there wasn't enough room in the closet so he threw ALL his dress clothes in the trash and said he only needs work clothes. I was horrified when I learned of it, but I try not to meddle when it is his stuff. I had made plenty of room in the closet for his belongings, but at the very least I thought they should have been given to someone who would use them rather than throwing them in the garbage. I think that is why it may seem I keep a death grip on my stuff.

Give me time to let it go, and I will. In the meantime, I'll keep sorting my stuff when I visit it at the storage unit. Eventually, I'll have only the best stuff and the most practical stuff that actually fits in this little space. And I'll make do until it all works out.


Posted by Gramz Quilts | 6 comment(s)
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Maybe I should just do one more drive by. But I had driven by before and this house looked hideous. It looked tiny. It had a tarp nailed to the roof. Visitors would never be able to find us there. It is so UGLY. But our need for an affordable place overruled the cringing I felt at the idea of touching the dirty old place.

I had been glued to the Zillow website for weeks. We had relocated to NW Indiana when my DH had landed a job here. He had been working here for six months before we had enough cash to make the move. He found us a great little rental here in the town we had chosen for its proximity to his work and for it's stellar schools. Although we had a wonderful landlord, we prefer home ownership to renting and since we were only a few months from the end of our lease we were looking for a house to purchase. This is a great market if you are looking for a home and I had found several that met our criteria. We wanted to remain in our school district, we wanted to stay close to mid-town so we could ride our bikes on sidewalks, - and we wanted something cheap.

Like I said, I had been watching the listings for weeks. The beauty of the Zillow site is that it will notify you when a property's price is reduced. I found some amazing deals. I even dragged my DH to view a few of them. Two of them were perfect; they were big enough to accomodate his tools and my quilting studio and they had two car garages. The prices were amazingly affordable. I was so excited to have find such amazing buys, but both were sold before we could make an offer. I blame two people: my DH and my realtor. Neither of them could be available to make an offer in a timely manner.  By the time I could contact either of them another offer had been accepted on both properties. It was pretty frustrating.

So, here I was looking at the picture of the ugly house again. It was in a neighborhood close the the middle school my DS would be attending in the fall. It was close enough to town that we could ride our bikes to the library, town hall, the center of town where the European Market takes place on Saturdays from early spring through late fall, and it is only a coule of miles from the beach on Lake Michigan. It had a nice size yard with reasonable distance from neighboring properties. It was sheltered by a great old maple that must be at least a hundred years old. It even had a great price  - and the price had gone down the night before. The asking price was now around $30,000 - a huge deal in this town, even for a really ugly house.

So before I knew it, I was sitting in front of this sad, lonely, little house which was surrounded by a sea of chest-high grass and wondering if we could make it work for the three of us. We don't need, much, I thought to myself, just a place of our own. There was a huge board strapped to the clothes line post with the asking price and a phone number spray painted on it. I said a prayer and called my realtor. Of course he wasn't available, so I left a message with his assitant and I waited. And waited. I recalled the other two houses we had lost out on because of delays on the part of my DH and my realtor. I determined that would never happen again, so I picked up the phone and dialed the number myself. I was given the combination to the lock on the door and was given permission to enter.

Having been disappointed before when someone else snapped up good houses at bargain prices, I was afraid to get excited and I actually dreaded going in to this old place because it looked very small and pretty rough, but I was NOT going to miss out on another great deal. I waded through the swaying grass and hoped my allergies would not set off and that I wouldn't step on some living thing that might bite or scare me to death. I stepped onto the tiny porch and was surprised that it was in reasonably sturdy shape. The whole place smelled mouldy and birds fled from openings in the eaves and around the door as I worked the combination, opened the door, and peered inside.

I was immediately amazed at how much sunlight filled the decent sized kitchen as I stepped through the door. The 1970's era vinyl floor was missing in places and had been patched with checkerboard contact paper. The drop ceiling was missing some tiles and I could see the lath and plaster ceiling above it was sagging and missing huge chunks where the insulation hung down. I moved through an arched doorway to the dining room in which part of the ceiling was crumbling where there had been a leak in the roof. The celing looked dry, despite the recent spring rains. Huge sheets of paint and wallpaper were peeling from the ceiling and walls and the painted wood floor appeared to have buckled from the humidity. But there were lovely elements, too. The ceiling was 9 feet high, making the smallish room feel much larger. The double window appeared to be a good quality replacement which was true to the size of the original window and the around the window and baseboards was beefy; unlike the kitchen, this room had maintained the charm of the decade in which it was built.

The next room was in better condition. I looked through a wider arched door to the living room in which the ceiling and floors were intact. The window and the door which opened onto the big porch, although badly painted, appeared to be original to the house. I was beginning to get excited. Once I pried open the door to the porch, I knew I wanted a shot at this house. The porch had windows on three sides and the windows all appeared to be originals. It was horribly dirty, but the glass that survived was wonderfully wavy and slightly distored the view which was of lots of trees and grass. When I turned back into the house, I found two very tiny bedrooms and a really icky little bathroom. I was in love with the place already.

When I returned to my car, I got a call from the realtor's assistant who said she had the code to the house if I decided I wanted to look at it she would arrange it with the realtor. I didn't tell her I had already been in the house. As I thanked her I was thinking I would ignore the realtor this time and go for it myself. I called the owner/bank again and asked about terms for a cash purchase and was amazed that I could get this little house for a third less than the asking price!

I could not reach my DH by phone, and the hours until he got home from work really seemed to drag by in an unbearably slow manner. I dragged him over to see the house and I was so amazed that his reaction to the porch was similar to mine; this is nothing short of miraculous since this man hates old things and antiques.

So that is the beginning of the story of our adorable, ugly little Union Avenue house. I have included a copy of the picture on the Zillow listing so you can see why it took me so long to check out the house even at it's very affordable price. In the months since we acquired it, our ugly duckling is slowly changing into a swan.

This is so like our Savior's great love. He sees beyond the ugliness of our sinful souls and finds value in someone that has been abused and neglected. Through his saving grace He makes old things become new again and even appreciates the character of the individual. Under his care and attention our battered lives become worthwhile and we are warmed and begin to thrive in the sunlight of His love. Old scars may remain, but the healing of the Great Physician is deep and complete. Thank you, Lord, for Your loving compassion that sees beyond what the world sees and restores our souls.