***So, this is funny. I sat down to write about why we’re taking our house off of the market and how we’re going to approach moving back into a house we felt so called to leave. Then, in the draft archives, I found this post I wrote over the summer but never published. It is about why we finally decided to sell and is an interesting read considering we’re moving back in THIS WEEK.
“I love the house we built. I’m not loving the home we’re making in it.”
And there it is. The truth, the catalyst, and the crux of our whole move. I just blurted it out one day and, as they say, you can’t put toothpaste back into the tube.
One evening my husband and I were chatting, mostly about the mundane stuff couples must talk about – bills, schedules, blah de blah – and this little bomb unceremoniously plopped out into the conversation. I love the house we built. I’m not loving the home we’re making in it. Even as my mouth formed the words my brain tried to reel them back in but my heart wouldn’t allow it. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. I didn’t know if I could really explain what I meant.
But I didn’t need to.
He felt the same way.
We’re lucky, quite blessed, to live in this house. We know that. It is big. It is beautiful. It has all the fancy trends like hardwood floors, granite countertops and stainless steel appliances. My husband built it (mostly) with his own two hands and what he wasn’t qualified to do we hired out to friends and family. My uncle from Florida designed our HVAC system. Friends from high school did our electrical and plumbing. A friend’s husband framed the entire house. A personal touch, a story, attaches to every nail, outlet, fixture, and faucet. Keith tied my ring to the house key and proposed on the front porch.
We’ve been lucky to live here. We don’t deserve it.
Quite frankly, it is too nice for us. It may not be a fancy McMansion but it is still too nice for us.
I freak out when the floor gets scratched.
I have a conniption when the walls are smudged.
Streaks, stains, and dust are blaring eyesores that stress me out.
Who is this person?
I want to paint and distress the cabinets but won’t allow myself because they are solid oak, custom installed only five years ago.
We’ve been in project mode since we moved in – garage out back, third floor completion, playhouse with chicken coop attached, grassy backyard, and the list goes on. With each upgrade we realize even more that this place is not “us”. I insisted on hardie plank for the playhouse because it matches the house. The garage too, in my mind, required the upgraded exterior because the backyard aesthetic needed cohesion. NEEDED, I tell ya. My husband put his foot down when I suggested hardie planking the old shed.
Who is this person I’ve become?
Would I behave differently in, say, an old farmhouse?
Would I expend energy more constructively in a house that doesn’t require so much attention?
Let me clarify – having a nice house, nice things, and being design conscious are not bad things. (And I’m definitely not preaching a prosperity gospel here, I just mean that these things alone are not inherently wrong pursuits.) It is when these become an idol, a priority, and when they block your vision and eclipse your constructive energy that they become problematic.
I spend a great deal of resources – time, energy, money – maintaing this house.
I’m just wondering if it’s worth it.
I don’t want to portray as petty, narcissistic, or ungrateful because, yes, I do realize that we have nothing to complain about in terms of wants. But I cannot deny the genuine angst that shadows my heart when I survey our time and how we’ve been spending it. Home improvements are great but they have become all-consuming and we are possibly harmfully addicted to projects.
Most of our time, energy, and money are dedicated to our house. It just feels icky after awhile.
It’s not just the more-more-more that concerns us either. We are also poor stewards of our blessing.
I complain, pretty much non-stop, about cleaning this place. I’m in an all out frenzy whenever we host and people are on their way. Suddenly the baseboards I’ve neglected for months are a priority and I’m in fear that someone will turn on a ceiling fan and be showered in dust. Once I stayed up until 5am cleaning for weekend guests. Who was I trying to impress?! Why was I so worried about the house sparkling? And why don’t I just keep up with the cleaning in the first place?
My husband is no better. Our yard is landscaped but the only time it receives upkeep is in the few hours before company arrives. I’m usually holding my breath as the guys are escaping the back yard with leaf blowers in hand as the first guests roll up the driveway.
We are more worried about additions than maintenance. This is a problem.
Hosting, incidentally, is one of the things we suspect we’ll miss the most about leaving. We love being able to volunteer our house for parties, gatherings, and holidays. We’ve especially enjoyed hosting overnight guests and we’ve even had family in town for an entire month! We adore being surrounded by loved ones. We just hope to soon do it in a way that feels less showy.
Am I making any sense?
Recently, we tried to explain ourselves and why we hope to move to a friend who replied, “Um. Your house isn’t that nice.” Another friend suggested, “Just stop doing projects.”
We’re apparently not very good at explaining our hearts. But it makes sense to us.
Too nice for us.
Less time on us/our house.
More land – this is a big hope for us. We would love a tiny house on an enormous piece of property. We would love to be forced outdoors and freely explore without trespassing. We’d love to have animals and crops to grow our own food. A self-sufficient homestead, maybe. Obviously this would require an enormous amount of work but since we are apparently addicted to projects, at least these efforts seem more constructive.
So how’d we end up in our house and current situation anyway? Maybe it’s time for a little backstory.
First of all, did you know our current house is the result of rebuilding after a housefire? Yep!
Grab a cup of coffee, I can be long winded… 😉
On Friday, March 13th, 2009 (spooky!) Keith returned from the gym to a driveway full of firefighters and a smoldering house. An electrical fire in the crawlspace wreaked havoc in the living room (nothing left but the Bibles, true story!) and the smoke and soot damage throughout the remainder was something I can barely describe. Everything was ruined. He called me at work and I’ll never forget the solemn disbelief in his voice when revealing, “the house burned down.” Just like that.
(It didn’t actually burn to the ground; I think he was just at a loss for words. The exterior suffered damage but remained intact, though the inside was beyond repair.)
The living room. The right corner was where the fire started. See that burst of color in the bottom left corner? That’s the shelf the Bibles were on. Wow!
The living room now, as shown staged in our real estate listing.
Five years prior, a young 21 year old Keith bought a 1000 sq ft 70’s rancher all by himself as a place to live and work out of. His hardscape business was growing and needed a place to store trucks, equipment, and serve as homebase for the crew. At the time, it made the most financial sense to couple a business property with his residence. So with his own gusto and hard earned money, he bought his first house. All by himself. On his own.
Sidenote – I’m feeling the need to flesh out details here because there’s a common misconception that Keith’s lifestyle fell into his lap after his parents died. That he took over his father’s business and acquired their house. That he inherited a sum of money and thus we can live as we do. No. Just NO. This false assumption irritates the piss out of me. (There I said it.) This man is one of the most self-made individuals you will ever meet. He started his own business as a teenager. It grew and continues to support our livelihood. He bought a house on his own as a young twenty-something. He and his brothers inherited exactly ZERO dollars when their parents died. In fact they had to pool their money together and accept donations for a completely unexpected and very expensive double funeral. All the more reason I get fired up when people assume that they somehow benefited from their parents’ tragic death. Big fat NO. I realize that some people just make innocent presumptions but it drives me crazy when people refuse to recognize the rewards of good ol’ fashioned sacrifice and hard work. He must have been handed some his success, right? Wrong. He reaps what he sows. He and all his brothers do. They were not handed a thing. That’s all there is to it.
*Ahem* Now that all THAT’S off my chest…
On Friday, March 13th 2009 Keith found himself homeless due to the house fire. A few weeks later, he found out he’d be a daddy.
2009 was quite a year. Let me tell ya.
So I’m not sure if you’ve ever had the luxury of dealing with an insurance company post major house damage. Oh, the formalities. Oh, the paperwork. Oh, the headache. I’ll save you the annoying details but trust me when I say “not fun”.
Here’s the thing: If you have a 1000 sq ft rancher before your house catches on fire, the insurance company expects you to have a 1000 sq ft rancher when you are done reconstructing.
Basically, insurance monies will bring you to the point of original state and anything beyond that is on your dime. The other caveat – you can build UPWARDS but not outwards. You can tear down every last beam and post but when you build back up you cannot deviate one inch from the original foundation. You also have the joy of submitting all of your quotes, materials, expenses, etc. to the insurance company for review which is really, really fun.
Down to the foundation!
So we used the existing foundation but built up two stories. Because it was basically a new build and we were already toying with the idea of selling the property, we decided to expense for as many upgraded features as we could afford at the time. We figured this would help its resale value. Lucky for us, in 2009 the economy was still tanked and contractors were hurting for work, so we were able to squeeze in more extras than would’ve been possible otherwise.
During the building process, we knew the house wasn’t “us” but couldn’t help going back and forth in our heads…
Should we just move in it? That room is so perfect for a nursery.
Should we just sell it? We really want more land.
Maybe we’ll just move in… It’s so shiny and new!
Maybe we’ll just sell it… It’s too shiny and new.
When the house was complete, our baby was 10 months old and the three of us had been living that long in a 700 sq ft apartment.
Current kitchen. It is quite the upgrade from our old one.
In the end, the new house and all its spacious shiny and new glory spoke loudest and we moved on in.
We’ve been here nearly five years.
We’ve been talking for five years about selling. We’re finally doing it.
The house has served us well. We are grateful for the blessings it has allowed but it is time to move on.
Our hearts are not here.
The very things that made us reluctant to move into it in the first place are the very reasons we’re moving out. I can tell you with confidence that I felt more “at home” in the tiny apartment than I ever did in our shiny new house. I am overwhelmed here, in many ways.
We are praying for the next owners of our house. We sincerely pray that they can make it their own and love it and care for it as it deserves. We pray they can create a home in it that they can be proud of, for all the right reasons. We pray that in our own next move we will be better stewards of our situation, whatever that may be, and that we dedicate and manage our time more constructively for the glory of His kingdom, instead of our own. Amen.
Thank you, dear reader, for letting me share my heart with you. I hope it made sense.