On selling our house: rethinking priorities

Our friends and family were shocked when we told them we’re selling our house only two years after buying it.

We moved from a two bedroom condo to a four+ bedroom house in the hopes of entertaining more, hosting out-of-town family, perhaps starting a family of our own – basically a full house, like a heartwarming montage you see in movies during the holidays. And two years later we’ve realized that none of those things for which we had planned were happening – at least not enough to justify the cost for us.

Instead, we had arrived at this unfamiliar stage in our lives where we spent a lot of time inside our house because we had to be much more conscious of how we spent our earnings. We didn’t go out as much to experience new cuisine, or frequent our hobby clubs, and we stopped our international travel. And fair enough, who doesn’t like a Netflix binge once in awhile, but we’re not really home bodies and we found ourselves morphing into people we no longer recognized.

Side note: on dining out

My husband is a foodie! When he’s not at work, he’s a hobby baker and chef and doesn’t leave the kitchen or the bbq’s side (Instagram). He’s constantly perusing YouTube and Instagram for recipes and videos for new inspiration and techniques. His idea of a great vacation is going to France and volunteering in a bakery to learn how to bake the perfect croissant and baguette.

Side note: on travel

I frequently travel for work both nationally and internationally. I enjoy meeting new people and experiencing cultures, I have a need to explore new places and learn new things everyday, whether it’s local or not. I’m a voracious reader of fiction, plays, social psychology, and of course urban forestry. Traveling stimulates my mind and broadens my perspective. And although the Type-A in me abhors chaos, the other aspects of my personality embrace discomfort and disruption; I love the moments when my biases are broken down because there’s nothing more stifling than finding yourself in Groundhog Day.

We realized our need to get better at living in the moment again (albeit with some future planning), but not to be paralyzed by planning and endless renovations. We realized that we had begun to lose touch with the things that we love most; for me, that which drives my passion for my work and my need to write and share stories; for my husband, that which inspires his creative side.

It’s easy to get sucked into routine and measure our success by achievements and productivity. It’s easy to fall into the trap of comparing yourself with others and being burdened by social constructs. We don’t want a life of “almosts” and “if onlys”, we want to spend time with our friends and family – even if it means that we need to get on a plane and go to them; we want to experience new foods and cultures and shake up the everyday with new perspectives and humour. For us, these are the things by which we measure our success: how fulfilling our relationships are with others and how open we can be to new experiences. These are the things that bring us happiness.

And so I’m sharing our story for others in our situation who are contemplating a change:

  1. Priorities: Think about the kind of life you want to have. Where you want to spend your energy, your time and your money. What does this look like? Make the list, let it rest for a few weeks and then go back to it and see if it still feels true.
  2. Communication is important: in close families like ours, everything we do impacts each member to some degree. And having support makes all the difference.
  3. It’s not about them. Despite what I said above; the decision was ultimately ours as it’s our quality of life that is impacted the most.
  4. Money: people are uncomfortable talking about money unless they’re complaining that they don’t have enough of it. But it helps to talk about money with people you trust and people you can learn from – in addition to your accountant.

So as our families sat (not so quietly) in initial judgement, I noticed the lines in their foreheads begin to disappear as we took the time to explain our rationale for selling. No one looks back on their life and wishes they had worked more; they reminisce on family, friends, lovers and time shared. At the end of my life I want to remember: the faces I laughed with; the music I danced to; the children I held in my arms; the students who inspired me; the friends who supported me; and the family who raised me.

These are all the things that my husband and I have contemplated over the past 8 months before making this decision. It’s not goodbye, it’s a new chapter.