t2

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Move That Almost Was, But Wasn't

The past few weeks have been a little stressful for me. My current lease is up July 1st, and my landlord wanted us to let him know already (by next week) if we were planning on staying in the apartment or moving to another place, and if not, he was going to advertise that the place was for rent and look for new tenants.
Our rent is going up, and for a teeny tiny apartment like ours, was it worth it to stay?
We seriously were considering moving out, and started looking for apartments available in the area. We saw something, almost signed a contract on that place, then decided that we're not moving; we're staying in our apartment, at least for another year, perhaps two.
Friends of mine who knew about our apartment search wanted to know why the sudden change of mind, why we decided in the end not to move. At first I thought to keep that information to myself, because it involves my husband as well, and I only share his personal info with his permission, but I got his blessing to write about our choice, so decided to make this post. Perhaps it'll inspire you, or at the very least, satisfy your curiosity...


The biggest challenges in making a move is that we wanted to stay in our neighborhood, we had a set price range, and there were not very many options available. In fact, there were only 2 apartments advertised that were any bigger than what we currently have that were in our budget; the next time there would be any apartment listings available is in 2 weeks, and or landlord needed a final answer from us whether we're staying or leaving by no later than next week.
Essentially, if we wanted to move, there were only 2 apartments available.

One of the apartments was a nice 3 bedroom place with a large living room and dining room, next door to a good friend of mine. The only problem with it was that there were 2 other families who were "on the waiting list" for that apartment, and they weren't telling any family which one of us would get it, or even when date it would be available.

The other apartment available was a 2 bedroom apartment with a big porch, somewhat bigger than our "one and a half" bedroom apartment. (To see what I mean by "half a bedroom", see this post about my kids' bedroom.)
The thing is that though the square feet of the apartment is bigger than our current one, our apartment is laid out in a very funny/novel/interesting way- on three separate floors/levels. I made a graphic to give the general idea of what my home looks like, but its not to scale. (My kids bedroom isn't smaller than the bathroom.)
Because of the layout of my home, because its divided into 3 separate floors/levels, you can't see the whole house in one glance, which makes it feel bigger. On top of that, because the living room/dining room/kitchen is long and narrow, its kind of divided into two separate halves- the "kitchen half", and the living room/dining room half, so it feels bigger. There's also the added dimension of privacy that the kids' bedroom is upstairs, while ours is downstairs, which isn't common in a small apartment.

The apartment that we checked out, though, had bedrooms much larger than what we have now, but the living room was approximately the same size. The difference in the apartment is that we checked out is that the living room was squarish, so you couldn't have two different ends of the room for different purposes- the couch and dining room table and oven and fridge would be all on top of each other, and therefore would feel even more cramped than the house we currently have. Yes, the bedrooms are bigger, but we do most of our "living" and entertaining in the main room of the house, so a larger bedroom wouldn't be worth the extra money paid, especially if the main room felt more cramped and crowded.
On top of that, all the rooms are off the main room, so it feels smaller. And the bathroom is smaller as well...

But even so, we were considering moving.
I mean- big bedrooms! Enough room for normal beds for the kids! Enough room for real beds so that we could actually host sleep over guests occasionally and not have them sleep on a mattress on the floor!
Room for a couch! (We currently have no couch, only a recliner, and even that is relatively new.)
A big porch! (We currently share a tiny porch with another family.)

On top of that, the landlord who lived downstairs had a huuuuuuuge yard. And I'm not exagerating when I say huge. His yard is filled with many, many, many different types of fruit trees, from which we'd be able to pick  and eat. Lots of space for the kids to run around. And we'd be able to grow our own vegetable garden! I've really missed being able to have a garden; my window boxes don't allow for growing most vegetables; I have to make do with a few greens and herbs growing on my window sills...
You have no idea how much I was looking forward to that...

But then we were unsure.
Because of the kids.

My kids are at home all day- they're not in daycare as is standard of kids in this country. I will be homeschooling them as well. (I consider myself to already be homeschooling, but legally will only be considered homeschooling once Lee is kindergarten aged next year.) When people ask me what about socialization for my kids, I have the perfect answer- my kids may not be in school, but they play with friends an awful lot. Next door to my house, there are 5 kids (from two different families) that my kids play with every single afternoon for hours on end, either in our house or theirs. They're inseparable. On top of that, a big plus is that these kids are children of American ex-pats, so they speak English and share a common culture with us.
If we move, not only would we be moving away from my kids' best friends, the block that we were considering moving to has only 2 other families with young children. The youngest children on the block are five year old twins, the next older than that is 2 8 year old girls, and everyone else there is teenagers or adult. On the other hand, my current block is mostly families of young children, with most of the residents ranging from the ages of 0 to 10 years old. Yes, my kids can play with kids that don't just live on our block, but that would mean me making the effort to arrange a playdate and walking them over, versus just bringing them next door as I do now. Not only would moving mean not being next door to their best friends, it would also mean playing with kids from other families only very infrequently, knowing myself...

On top of that, while my kids can pick up the local language and make friends who aren't Anglos, I prefer to socialize with Anglos, and with people at a similar stage in life to myself, both of which I have plenty in my current location, but are sorely lacking in the potential new one... I could always socialize with people not on my block, but I am a very lazy socializer and unless someone is right next door, I don't usually socialize (unless facebook counts). Moving would make it harder for me socially as well.
[ETA: A reader emailed me about my use of the word "Anglo", that it was racist, or perceived as such. I looked it up in the dictionary and was sad to discover that one of its definitions- "a white American of non-Hispanic descent"- could appear to be racist if used in the aforementioned sentence,  but I was using Anglo as in definition number 2- "an English-speaking person in a place where English is not the language of the majority". Basically, I prefer socializing with people who share a common mother tongue with me- English. I couldn't care less about someone's race.]

My best friend lives next door to me, and my kids are good friends with her kids. Even though we live in a small apartment, I am there so often and she is here so often that we feel each others' homes are extensions of our own living space, like a home away from home. Even if I moved to a home that was bigger than my current one, I'd have less "living space", because I'd be within my own four wall all the time instead of back and forth to my friend's house, and my kids would also be cooped up more in our four walls...

Mike and I were trying to figure out what to do.
So, so torn.
Move? Not move? Stay? Go?
The stress of deciding whether or not to move was making us crazy...

I made a list of pluses and minuses of moving versus staying, and surprisingly, the list of cons for moving was much higher than the pros of moving...

Once I had it in front of me in black and white, it was settled. We're staying.
My kids are happy here. They have friends here. My husband and I are willing to sacrifice extra space for our kids to be happy.    Happy kids, after all, are easier to handle, are more fun to be around. Grumpy, lonely kids are not. And since I don't ship my kids off to school, whatever their mood is, I get to experience it all the time, so a grumpy kid would make me quite grumpy as well...

We're staying.
Because space isn't everything.

Even if that other cheap 3 bedroom, large kitchen/living room/dining room home becomes available.
We like it here.
Yes, our home is small, but who said small is a bad thing?
Small is cozy.
A small home means that we have less mess to clean.
Less junk filling our home (as we have to declutter fairly often.)
More time spent together as a family, because we can't all go off to our own "private spaces" to "do our own thing".
Yes, a big home would be nice, but there's something nice and special about living in a small house that you just don't get from living in a bigger place.
A sense of togetherness.
A sense that you don't really need so many physical things.
A feeling that there are more important things in life than how many square feet your home is.

My husband and I decided that we appreciate our home. We like it here.
Other people look at us funny when they hear we have 5 people living in 484 square feet. How do we have room to breathe?
Simple- we have the whole world outdoors to breathe. We go out, we run around, we take walks, we go to the park, we visit friends.
Yes, there are "better" homes than what we have.
There are "bigger and prettier" homes than what we have.
Yes, most of my friends live in houses bigger than mine.
But who cares?
Circumstances are what you make of it.
I can choose to be grumpy and miserable about living in a small home, or I can be appreciative of all the space we have here, especially in comparison to how people used to live, and in comparison to how many people still live in many cultures around the world.
We live in luxury compared to so many.
There will always be people with better things, with more space, with nicer stuff. And there will always be the opposite.
Happiness is a choice we make.
My husband and I decided that we're going to focus on the amazing goodness that we do have instead of pining away after what others have that we don't. We made the choice to be appreciative of our apartment and current life situation.
The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. You think you'll be moving to a new home where things will be better- but that's an unknown. You don't know for sure that it will be better- perhaps you'll be miserable in the new situation.
My husband and I decided that instead of trying to get to the green grass on the other side of the fence, we'd stop and admire the beautiful roses growing on our side of the fence.

Our home may be tiny, but its wonderful.

Just because there is something better available doesn't mean that you should try to get it. Because better in one way doesn't guarantee that it'll be better all around; you may regret making your decision, but then it might be too late...

Once my husband and I decided that we don't need better than what we already have, that we're content to stay in our apartment here, you know what happened?
So many good things started happening to us. Almost like "the universe" was happy with our decision and is sending good things our way as a reward.
Life is good.
Our home is tiny.
There is no contradiction.
Perhaps its our tiny home that makes our life so good.
Who knows?

Have you ever almost moved, but made a decision at the last second not to? What was the reason for the move to be canceled?
Have you ever regretted moving? Why?
Would you stay in a smaller place if it meant your kids would be happier, or do you need space?

Linking up to Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways

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