How Downsizing My Home Upleveled My Life
March 22, 2015
I was still in my pajamas, enjoying a quiet Sunday morning and a little church from the couch with Joel Osteen. I checked my email and had received a message from the property manager for my apartment. We were coming upon the two-year anniversary of my lease and they were looking to increase my rent. I immediately froze up.
Shit. Can they do this? Ummm…yeah.
I didn’t want to pay any more money. My apartment was top floor, 42, with views of Lake Michigan and the Chicago Skyline. I woke up every morning to the most gorgeous sunrises over the lake. I loved this apartment, even though it stretched on my monthly budget and I had to dip into my savings sometimes. I felt that I had earned it.
I was successful in my career and had two masters degrees. But, I was a teacher, so my salary did not equal what I had achieved. Even though I really could dip further into my savings, pick up extra income somewhere, and fill in the gap with the small salary increase I would be getting in the next few months, I didn’t want to pay more in rent. I knew I was already paying too much; my finances were not in balance and I certainly wasn’t saving each month like I knew I should be.
I had already been making some changes in my life, but I thought my apartment was a non-negotiable. This was a curveball. I had been single for a year and had also transitioned to a new job within the last year. Things still weren’t where I had wanted them and now I knew there was still more work to be done.
I started scouring the other rents in my building for comparison, making my case. I was certain I could convince them not to increase my rent as I was already paying one of the highest in my building for my size. While doing my research, I also was coming across purchased prices and units currently on the market. I came across a few that piqued my interest. One was in short sale that had just come on the market, similar unit as mine, but would be a bit of a stretch on my budget. Another was smaller than mine in my same building and without a view, but I would be saving close to $600 a month! I messaged a friend who was a real estate agent for more info on the properties. The first one was quickly taken off the list, as it went very fast being a short sale. We also discussed a few other nearby properties that could be options.
By the end of the week I had received great news—they would be willing to maintain my current rent. I was already on my way to condo shopping and I had already opened up to this new possibility that I had been so resistant to. As my agent had asked me why I was moving from such a great place again, the words just fell out:
“I’m tired of being house poor, I want to start living, traveling, experiencing life outside of my apartment.”
I hadn’t even realized that my tight budget left me missing out on life and that I was actually sad about it. My budget kept me from feeling joy and happiness that comes with experiencing life and getting out more.
Downsizing really has been one of the best decisions I have ever made. On top of all the money I was now saving, it also forced me to eliminate so many material items, especially clothes that I did not need or ever wear. I donated so much stuff and to be honest, I can hardly remember what it all was…which tells you I don’t miss it and didn’t need it anymore.
Sometimes you have to downsize to uplevel your life.
I ended up closing by the end of the month. The Saturday after my closing, I went to get my hair cut. As I was sitting in the chair, I had asked my stylist if she had been doing any traveling lately. And her response was she had actually just gotten back from a solo trip to Thailand. I was so intrigued; I sat in that chair eating up every bit she told me about her trip. She sparked something in me and as I sat there I told her, “I don’t know where I’m going but next time you see me, I will have been on some great trip.”
My brain was racing the whole walk home. I think I want to go to Bali. I don’t even know where Bali is?! Is Bali safe? Is Thailand safe? Where else can I go? What will I eat? How will I communicate? How do I backpack and move around? I spent plenty of time on Google researching and found that Bali was completely safe and many other females have solo traveled there. I decided I only needed my first hotel planned; I only needed to know where I was sleeping those first few nights; I only needed to know how I was getting to the hotel from the airport. The rest I would figure out when I got there. After all, part of the trip was to learn to allow myself to live in the moment and be guided and I couldn’t do that if I had every detail planned from halfway around the world.
It was early May and I was working in education at the time. I had the majority of my summer off and I still had time to figure it out. I spent the whole month of May wondering if I would really do it. Bali was a 28-hour trip with layovers…definitely a big trip. When June rolled around and I wrapped up all my obligations, I finally sat down again and booked a one-way ticket for 4 days later to Bali. I was no longer house poor and was finally on my way to living the way my heart was yearning to experience life.
Sometimes when we desire to stretch in one area of our life for something nice, we have to look at what it’s really costing us.