In the last two years I have gone from my 3200 sqft dream home, to a 1600 sqft townhome, to a 700 sqft single bedroom apartment. The original point of this post was to show our new shoebox apartment and what I’ve done to make it feel cozy and comfortable. But as I start writing, I realize that there is a more important topic here that trumps interior design.
My husband and I, albeit unintentionally, have learned to live with less and less. We started pinching pennies about 3 years ago when we decided to move to Houston, Texas to buy a house (which was the beginning of this blog). We had done virtually nothing to save for a down payment so we needed to catch up, and fast. So for the first time in my life, I created a budget. It was hard. Since graduating college and earning a full-time salary, I had literally no limits on my spending. I ate out constantly, bought whatever I wanted, and “saving” was not in my vocabulary. But my husband and I were determined, because we had this shared dream of owning a big beautiful house with marble countertops and vaulted ceilings. We even started cash budgeting, because credit cards were too intangible. We saved less than we should have, but enough to make a modest down payment.
When we finally moved into our dream home, we then had a mortgage. The house payment including property taxes and interest was double what we had ever paid in rent. So the budget continued. We started to develop a lot of discipline. We ate out a lot less, we bought fewer things, we comfortably paid our bills every month, but “savings” was still a luxury concept.
Then my husband got a call that set our life in motion. He was called up for an amazing job in Austin, so off we went, leaving our dream home behind. Unfortunately we didn’t leave the dream home payment behind because the house sat on the market the entire year that we lived in Austin. Thanks to our dabbling in budgeting, the strict budgeting required to pay for two houses was a smoother transition. That’s right, even though we downsized to a two bedroom townhome, we were still PAYING more because we essentially had to pay our mortgage in Houston and our rent in Austin. It was a tough pill to swallow, but we did what we had to do.
Our life continued in motion as my husband got offered the biggest job yet in the Big Apple. So again, we set off. At this time, we finally sold the dream home in Houston. Our lease ended just in time in Austin, and now we reside in the lovely place you see pictured below.
We invested the extra money in securing a sizable terrace to make living in NYC with two dogs less of an ordeal. So this mini “mudroom” is both useful and adorable. The ladder is affordable and ships in two days from amazon. The towels are from Target. They work well for drying puppies’ paws and they are pretty too.
Pops of color brighten up the mainly monochromatic scheme. To be honest, I didn’t really do this on purpose. I did the color blocked books because I saw it done at a restaurant in the Heathrow Airport and thought it was whimsical. And the pillows were from the last house. The effect is quite good because I tend towards grey, white, metal, and wood. So the big pieces will always be very neutral. But small splashes of color make the place homey, lived-in.
I abhor the hanging wires. There I said it. But we live in a world with ugly electronics so what’re you gonna do. This vignette is one of my favorites because I purchased none of these things to be placed together. Plants (both real and fake) bring life to any space. The lanterns bring some height, the brass geometric sculpture brings balance. Then of course, the aesthetic is ruined by the necessities of real life: tv, playstation, apple tv, internet router.
Our living room functions as many things. One of which is my home office. I am lucky enough to be able to bring my job with me. So each time my husband’s sky-rocketing career has called us to new cities, my job has allowed us to answer that call with ease. Working from home is a blessing but it can also be a challenge. Making your workspace beautiful is a worthy effort. The desk was built by my father and his friend, so sorry you cannot buy it.
It’s definitely still a work-in-progress, but it’s home now. We relax on the couch in the evenings with our two dogs. It has a pull-out bed in case we ever do have guests who want to pack into the place like sardines. It also has storage under the chaise lounge. Storage is scarce so we have learned to live with fewer things.
We love our little apartment. We love living in New York. But this journey of downsizing really calls into question the value of material things. The next post in the series is going to be about how we paid off all our debt and why we’re happier because of it.