Hard Choices

It never would have occurred to me 2 years ago that I would be considering a move. Again. This was supposed to be my “forever home” where my boys would grow into adulthood. (Or until I ran off to Mexico to retire early.)

It’s worth noting if I hadn’t had my ass handed to me repeatedly throughout the past year and a half, I’d be staying put. In short, I love this house. Nevertheless, its location and our various challenges have beaten me to a pulp. I am nothing if not the most stubborn kind of loyal, and at times blinded by dedication when I see value and goodness; in people and in homes. Call me an optimist, it fits- because I do so love me a fixer upper! However, there are some things you just can’t foresee, people who don’t want you or your help, and situations that just don’t work, no matter how much you wish they would. Those are the lessons we usually learn the hard way.

I read somewhere that 30% of all people surveyed that made “Covid moves” regret it. I certainly don’t regret moving in 2020. Quite the opposite, it was a huge step for me and I learned so many lessons in the process. When we arrived in our beautiful little neighborhood in September 2020 my parents moved in with my boys and I. My Dad had been laid off, mom could work from anywhere, so my parents decided to make the move from Wisconsin to lend a hand and help me wrangle my semi-feral children. They helped with grocery shopping and cooking meals and they even took the reins with school as my kids struggled with the shit show that was “remote learning.” My dad made himself the live-in general contractor, fashioning a fence for the dogs and putting in baseboards where there weren’t any. For the first time since becoming a single parent, I could leave the house for work and not be worried. I had no idea how much mental load and general anxiety I’d become accustomed to carrying around until my parents swooped in and willingly took some of that load off of my shoulders. When “in-person learning” started back up again, they jumped in the driver’s seat and helped with drop offs and pickups, so I could plug away and focus on my busy career. It wasn’t easy for any of us, but I am so thankful for that time and their generosity.

In June 2021, the ‘rents moved out of state to a more affordable place where they could retire and live well. I was excited for their new chapter and happy for the time we had together, but also gutted to find myself very much on my own again-doing the work it had been taking 3 people to do comfortably. (BTW: The Single Mom thing? Not for sissies.) In August 2021, I had the brilliant idea of taking advantage of the rates at the time, to cash out some of the home equity I’d gained that year to make this house what we needed it to be. I mean, because WHY NOT, right? Our home would be more functional, even more beautiful, and better suited for our needs. Nearly one year later, and with considerably more money spent than my measly HELOC was going to cover, we are just now wrapping things up. And yes, we’ll be looking to sell. Sigh.

Here are some of the tips I can share with people considering a move- now or at any point.

1. Know your ‘hood. Learn as much as you can about the area around your home. If you have children, research the schools they will attend and think long and hard about what YOUR kids needs are. Children are unique, and just as with learning, one school one size, does not fit all. Should you fail to do this, you could potentially be adding lots o’ driving to your life.

2. Check the demographics. If you have kids, make damn well sure there are plenty of kids in your neighborhood. Why? In the absence of other children, your children will be on you to play with them like white on rice. You think going to the bathroom alone is a problem right now? If you’re a single parent, your children only having you to play with will just add to your guilt list. Because you are not omnipresent. You cannot be throwing a football to the wannabe-wide-receiver and be cooking the dinner he’ll want immediately afterwards at the same time. If COVID taught us anything, it is that kids are social creatures and they need interaction with their people, and they need to play (don’t we all).

3. Choose your neighborhood wisely. Remember how you grew up? Probably on bikes in a pack, wild as animals and out until you had to come in for dinner. Pacific Northwest is weird for housing. They value lots of trees and privacy. So many trees, why??? Think big properties, stretched far apart. Massive developments with identical houses all in a row isn’t a a very common thing here. Good luck trick-or-treating or making new friends if you find yourself in a more “spread out” kind of place. It will be lonely for you and lonely for your kids.

4. Don’t bite off more than you can chew when it comes to renovating or updating. When budgeting, plan to spend about twice the money, twice the time you think you’ll spend. I don’t care what estimates you get, I said double that ISH. No one knows the future, the issues hidden behind your walls, if there will be a war, or supply chain breakdown, or if people will stop working entirely just because they can.

5. You don’t control anything. Read that again. I’ll wait.

You think you can. You think you do, but NOPE. The only thing you can control is how you manage your stress, and you will have stress in spades, folks. I’m not just talking layouts and tile and fixtures. Even the fun of finishes will wear off when the reality of washing your dishes in your bathroom sink, sinks in. Or sharing one toilet with your disgusting aforementioned children. If you cannot afford to live elsewhere during a massive entire floor renovation, think long and hard about the effects it will have on your family unit, your sanity and your inner peace. This is not an attack on the industry or contractors. It is what it is and you should be prepared for it: a long and messy process. It will take up space in your brain, you will be forced to consider things you will not have the energy to consider. You will essentially be living in a construction zone. Start yoga or rage running right now. I hope you like meditating in dust, sucka!

6. Watch for the inevitable land mines. You cannot predict every potential issue you will face as a homeowner, wherever you are. And if you find yourself depleted more often than not, maybe you done did f*ck up. That’s okay! To err is human, and perhaps you just need to simplify. No home, no stunning location, no mortgage is worth your peace. Simplifying can mean many things; it might be downsizing, or it could mean another move you weren’t planning on.

The moral of the story is that sometimes what we think we want or need just isn’t. Perhaps it’s delayed for “right now” and maybe it’s a case of no, not ever…and that’s okay. Grant yourself some grace, and know you can choose to change your circumstances. We’re only stuck when we choose to be.

I’ve found it’s best to lean into the school of hard knocks (for the chronically hard-headed, of course) and had to make some difficult choices as a result to course-correct. The obvious has been beating me up for quite some time, and now it’s time to embrace it, and move on. If you’re anything like me do your best to learn what you can, cry if you need to, laugh about it a little, and try again.

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