Going small? The post is sure long....

kailuamomMay 7, 2012

Hi everyone....

I have spent the last couple of days perusing the gw forums as I consider embarking on a new journey. Is it a solid plan or mr. Toad's wild ride? I will start with a little background, then pose my hair brained idea.....

About us, I will be 45 later this month, DH will be 61 in July. I work full time at a well paying job DH has a job that in his younger years was fun and exciting, now is exhausting he is on the road close to 200 days per year.

We have two boys, 17 and 12. The 12 year old has some special needs which cause me to believe he will be with us for a long while. 17 year old would move out tomorrow if he could, but he's a practical sort of guy, so we may have him at home through at least some of college, as it just doesn't make sense to go into big debt just for the "college dorm experience".

We are currently in a 3100 sq ft suburban tract. It is a lovely home, in a very nice neighborhood. It's a little Stepford if you ask me. We have never really fit in to the community of stay at home moms, with perfect children and husbands who come home every night. We are different, as we were figuring out DS disabilities, he would have loud and scary meltdowns, that caused the neighbors to talk. Unfortunately, DS has no friends close by and the other kids playing, just make him feel more isolated.

I like my house, DH loves it. Where we live is very windy - I HATE the wind. It drives me inside all summer long. I want to be outside and can only do so in the spring and fall when it's warm enough. We can afford our payment today, but when DH stops working we will not be able to afford it. I want DH to quit the minute he can get social security. He is literally killing himself with this job.

Since I met DH in 1987, he has always talked about having some land. Whenever we are in the country, he wishes, hopes and dreams about having some property.

I found the cutest little house (1450 sq ft) on five acres in the country - out of the wind. It's cheap enough to easily afford once DH stops working. It's in great shape, except the kitchen is old. Everything else has been updated, new roof, windows, heater and paint. There's a detached little studio with bathroom too. The eldest would probably like that a lot.

I have some ideas for this little house about an addition to enlarge the kitchen / eating space, and add a master bedroom (I have done a kitchen remodel in the past, so have some experience there). Not sure if we would end up with the money to do it, so for now need to consider.....can we move into 1/2 the space we are used to?

One thing that worries me is DH really likes his stuff..... If he didn't have me editing what is allowed in the shared spaces, he might eventually have a segment on a reality tv show...I on the other hand, can think of a dozen thing in this house that matter to me - would happily leave the rest.

Because the property is large, DH could conceivably build as much storage as he wants. So long as he does it in a way that doesn't mess with me or the house, I don't care - so long as we can afford it.

Anyway - I have written way too much.....what do you think? Who has cut their space in half and been happy? Am I out of my mind? I love the idea of being able to happily say, just stay home, it will be all right.

Thanks for your thought on living small.

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kirkhall

Other than wind, what kind of climate are you in? 4 seasons? 2 seasons? bitter cold/long winters?

Temperate area where you can be outside some of the year; 14-1500 sq feet should be very livable for 3 people.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2012 at 12:04PM
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kailuamom

We are in No California, both houses. The current big house gets crazy wind in the summer, with chilly nights and mornings. The new house has the same winter, spring and fall but has a hot summer (which I would prefer).

I think my main question is....has anyone cut their square footage in half and been happy with it? For folks who have always lived small, this should be a piece of cake since the house is darling! I'm more worried about the adjustment.....

    Bookmark   May 7, 2012 at 12:28PM
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marti8a

I know it's possible, and have several friends who have sold everything and moved into a permanent motor home so they can travel. One even at a younger age with a 7 year old child.

I am attached to my stuff too, but after a long break from it, like a vacation, I decided I didn't miss any of it, and could easily leave it all behind if I had to.

I actually think it would be a relief not to have so much stuff. If I could find a good home for some of my heirlooms, I'd dump them in a minute.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2012 at 1:50PM
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ellendi

The most important thing that stands out to me is your comfort level. Other than the beautiful house, your overall life style there does not seem happy.
Point 1: Youngest DS has special needs and has no friends in the neighborhood.
Point 2: In order to stay in this beautiful house, your DH has to work unbearable hours and is never home.
Point 3: You work and live in a community of SHM's. Who are your friends and where is support system here?
Point 4: Oldest DH will be off to college and will be making all new friends there. Will it matter to him if he moves?
Yes, you can get used to paring down with less stuff. DH can build a storage unit to his heart's content.
You don't even really have to justifye this move by mentioning the wind factor. Non issue.
IMHO you have an older husband who will be winding down as far as working goes. Why not make the transisition now when you have the extra income to fix up the new smaller house?
When we moved to our house 18 years ago it was a neighborhood of small split levels. Slowly these are being replaced with homes triple the size. Many of those who moved in to these houses are selling and moving out now that the kids are finsihed with college. Guess what? We don't have to as I am already in my "downsized" house!
I am not sure if the house you are looking at right now is THE house, but it is going in the right direction. You need to list your prorites and see if this one fits the bill.
Keep us posted.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2012 at 2:52PM
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jakabedy

I think ellendi hit all the salient points. One other thing to consider is the school system for the country house. If your younger son is on an IEP, make sure that the new school system is well-equipped to work with him. Rural schools often don't have the resources of a suburban system. Depending on his disability and your state, it might be possible that he will stay enrolled beyond age 18 to learn life skills, and you want that to happen in a good system. That being said, if you foresee him staying on with you as a young adult or even longer, I think the studio might be ideal for him once your older son moves on. It will give the younger son a sense of independence and detachment, but you will be nearby.

We live on three acres and I love it. We don't have a basement or garage for DH's "stuff", but we do have a 20' x 20' barn/workshop that more than makes up for it. I think your husband would love having a workshop/man space that is all his and not subject to the requisite neatening and clearing out that would happen with a room in the house. And it would leave any carport/garage area to the vehicles -- no car vs. table saw conversations!

Do realize, though, that a lot of people move to the country for the privacy. We have lived here almost five years and I have met three -- THREE neighbors in a neighborhood of about 50-60 homes. One is across the street with his mailbox in our yard, one is our back neighbor (who has since moved) and another happened to be outside and I stopped to chat with her. Long driveways, gates, woods -- it doesn't make it wasy to get to know the neighbors, or for them to get to know you. So your neighborliness quotient may not be much better than it is in the subdivision.

We are similar to you in life stages. My DH will turn 60 this month, and I am 46. But we don't have kids (his three kids are grown and on their own). We moved into this house five years ago with the idea that we can age in place here. It is one-story, and can be made handicapped accessible if needed. It gave us room to spread out (we went from 2,600 square feet to about 2,000), but not a lot of rooms we felt we had to furnish and care for. And as an MCM house, it calls out for spare furnishings. While DH loved all our wood antiques, we knew they wouldn't work here and sold them. He was a little sad seeing them go, but has enjoyed a simplified lifestyle.

One thing about my DH -- he HATES yard work. So I knew that the bulk of the yard work would be on me. So far that has been fine with me. A riding mower does a lot of work, and I haven't bothered with many special plantings, beds, etc. It's mostly (scruffy) lawn and woods.(*Pro Tip - buy a house that can't bee seen from the road and you won't feel pressed to have perfect beds and hedges at all times!)

    Bookmark   May 7, 2012 at 3:39PM
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lavender_lass

Yes! My mom cut back from a 1200 square foot house (with full basement...so more like 2400 square feet) to a 1800 square foot home...to a 1000 square foot home. Knowing what you plan to keep and how you want to store it, is key. With 5 acres, you could easily build a storage barn/building for DH's stuff.

As for the kitchen/bedroom remodel, you might want to live with the house, before you change too much. You might be surprised about what you like, decide to keep and what you completely need to change. Also, make sure any changes you make meet universal living codes, so you can continue to enjoy your home for many decades!

As for the warmer summers...do you garden? With five acres (and retirement somewhere in your future, too) you could start small and enlarge the gardens as you get more time. I've found cottage gardens are the easiest to take care of, because a few weeds just blend right in...and you can plant vegetables and herbs, right next to the flowers :)

    Bookmark   May 7, 2012 at 3:40PM
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lavender_lass

Jakabedy- LOL! We only have one neighbor, but they're great people! The kind you know you can depend on, when the well goes out or a truck hits your house. They showed up both times, the last one at 12:30 in the morning!

We live on 80 acres and I love it! You do have to plan your shopping trips, but my mom lives nearby and we often go together. Especially fun, this time of year, when we encourage each other to buy plants, for our gardens! :)

    Bookmark   May 7, 2012 at 3:46PM
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kailuamom

Thanks so much for the feedback - everything you bring up, is what I was thinking...

I love the increased privacy, I don't feel the need to be in everyone's business or have a tight neighborhood, what I dislike is being the odd man out, and how awkward it is. The constant scrutiny and judgement is wearing on the spirit. I would prefer everyone live their own lives.

School....that's tricky. Because our current district's program was literally causing DS and I PTSD, I pulled him about a year ago and he's been homeschooling. The whole family has never been happier. I'm sure that DS is missing some of the opportunities he would have in the pricier school districts. But he's doing pretty well, and now we see a potential future for him. it was questionable for a while.

The new area has a tiny school and district. I would imagine that once we move full time, he would continue homeschooling. The only way to solve this while considering school districts is to move into a much more expensive area, which I'm really trying to avoid. I don't want the mortgage or the lifestyle.

For DH - we will probably keep both houses while he's still working, as the new house and commute for me would be too much if he's not home pulling his weight. As it is now, I do everything associated with home, school and work 40+ hours per week, I can only do that with no commute. When he's home, he can do some of the home stuff so I can commute.

We love gardening, especially growing food. One thing we love about the property is the great mature fruit trees, with a ton of space to grow whatever we want. There is currently: orange, grapefruit, tangerine, lemon, persimmon, apricot, peach, almond....I think I'm leaving somethig out.

We can have a few chickens for fresh eggs.

In our offer, I asked for the riding mower, and they gave it to us! I'm very pleased about that.

I'm worried that I'm romanticizing it too much, but it just speaks to me like no home has since we started looking at houses in '93. We have owned three homes since then - all good, but this one tugs at my heart stings.

Allrighty then - thanks for your feedback. I will let you know wht
At we find during the inspection Wed.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2012 at 4:42PM
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Shades_of_idaho

OH I think you will do just fine in the smaller house. Especially if DH can build a nice storage workshop barn type building. Men love their space. My DH has a 30 by 30 shop with loft for me for storage and it also has a 12 by 30 carport on the side for his boat and Ranger. He spends lots of time out there puttering around. It really is a great space for him. There is even a little trash burner out there to warm things up if he wants to be out there at times it is cold.

When we down sized from 1850 to 1250 I totally freaked. THEN I got into it and cleared out crap like you would not believe. Now I only keep the things I love or use all the time.

I really enjoy the freedom of living leaner then I used to. I still have more than enough stuff. Always keeping an eye out for things to go away.

All the fruit trees sound wonderful. Chickens can be expensive to raise but so much fun. Just be sure to lock them in at night.

We used to live in Northern CA. You have pretty good growing seasons there.

I hope your inspection goes well. You keep coming back we will hold your hand through the moving trauma.

Chris

    Bookmark   May 7, 2012 at 5:31PM
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lavender_lass

It sounds like your son might be much happier, in the country, too. One of my best friends had a similar situation with her little brother. He was so happy, in the garden, with the chickens, helping out with the chores. It was a much better situation, for the entire family.

Another thing I've noticed about living 'out in the country' is that it really simplifies everything...including your relationship with your neighbors. We're all just so glad, when the well/septic are working, we have power and heat, the animals are all in the fences and the weather cooperates...who has time for silly things? The car you drive, what you wear and how big your house might be, really don't matter. Knowing you're a 'good' neighbor, who can be relied on if there's a crisis, is really all we care about!

Oh...and your fruit trees sound wonderful! We have a big apple tree and some smaller Italian plum trees, but it's too cold in the winter, for much else. We do have beautiful summers, though. Short, but beautiful! :)

    Bookmark   May 7, 2012 at 6:43PM
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kitykat

Summer Wind??? Sounds like the top of the hill in Pacifica, Daly City, or the Oakland/Berkeley/El Cerrito area. I grew up there... in the City. In Kansas a long time now.

Your new opportunity sounds perfect, but like mentioned, if you move there, please give yourself time to acclimate before serious remodeling.

Your son... my daughter home schools her oldest. He's brilliant, but ADHD. 14 now, so sweet but unable to focus. She pulled him out after 5th grade. He was in the 'gifted' program (read - give him MORE work), and with an IEP for that and the ADHD, she was going nuts. They, the supposed education professionals, just did not get it... his needs, their legal responsibilities, etc.

She is part of a great home school group. The kids get together for activities, special interest classes and such. Several of the high-schooler's do 'virtual school' through local school districts. That way they can get their basics in without all the wasted time in the school day, and still have time for special interests. Also can participate in post school sports, band etc... since they are 'enrolled'. This works well for self-directed children, unfortunately not my DGS.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2012 at 2:44PM
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kailuamom

Hey KittyKat - thanks so much!

We are actually in Fairfield, right where hwy 80 and 680 meet. I'd you ever drive that area, you will see all of the leaning trees, and you will know...that's us!

Unfortunately for us, this area is pretty backwards - so we have had trouble finding the right homeschool group. In addition, I work during the day, so most homeschoolers get together during the day. It's been challenging but a million times better than actual school.

My so has the attention span of a gnat, is super smart but has a slow processing speed. So even with the accommodation of "give more time" if it takes him 3x as long as someone else, then the same workload literally would take him 3x longer. He doesn't need 3x as much work as a typical kid, especially if a bunch of the time is wasted on busywork. he also doesn't need it dumbed down. In fact, it needs to be deeper level learning - not a good match for a teacher trying to teach 34 kids.

So far we have been really happy with homeschooling, it's not what I had expected. We call ourselves accidental homeschoolers, as this was definitely not the plan!

    Bookmark   May 8, 2012 at 7:36PM
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lavender_lass

I saw your post, over on the Remodeling forum. Although I left a response, I just wanted to say that many of the people, who visit that forum are also on the Building a Home forum. There is often a sentiment that remodeling is a bad idea and it makes more sense to tear down and build new. Sometimes that is the case...but not in every situation. It is often overlooked that new houses need new foundations (expensive!) well and septic hookups might be 'grandfathered in' and won't transfer to the new house. You might need a new septic field, system...or even a new well.

I am someone, who is taking on a remodel that probably doesn't make as much sense as yours. It's a much older home and needs a lot of work...but it's what we want to do and if possible, we will. Your remodel doesn't seem that difficult, but again...do your research and have some contractors give you bids on adding on (where you have the roof versus an all new wing) and what if might cost to do what you want/need for your home :)

    Bookmark   May 8, 2012 at 8:54PM
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kailuamom

Thanks lavender lass.

That forum sure surprised me since over in kitchens, they are all about helping you figure out how to do it, not about telling you not to do it.

I'm sure they just want to help people be realistic, but it sure seemed like there weren't any posts helping people figure out how to get it done.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2012 at 10:16PM
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lavender_lass

Other forums where I've had some luck...the old house forum (they do believe in fixing up their homes), surprisingly the building a home forum has been helpful...and here, of course :)

If you do want to add on under the existing roof...I'd ask over on the old house forum. They love a good challenge and they're very interested in keeping the right style/feel to match the rest of the house.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2012 at 10:07AM
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kailuamom

Thanks for the tip - I didn't think of old house forums. Since 50 is the new 30, I didn't think of the 50 year house as old :-)

    Bookmark   May 9, 2012 at 10:44AM
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marti8a

I think LL has some good points. In our area, if we were to tear down or even add a new bathroom, we'd have to replace our current septic system with an aerobic. People who have aerobic gripe about them all the time, the cost and the hassle. Even the septic cleanout people told us that we are lucky to have the old kind. Something to consider.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2012 at 12:27PM
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kitykat

Fairfield... yes, I was thinking east bay, but not north east. I lived in Walnut Creek and Concord, among many other cities. Must say, the ONLY thing I miss about my home state is the weather...

How did the inspection go???

    Bookmark   May 10, 2012 at 9:37AM
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kailuamom

Inspection went well. We need to chane the electrical panel and probably upgrade since we'll be working on it. There are a few cracks in the foundation, but the contractor wasn't worried about them.

He told me there would be no problem with enclosing under the existing roofline, and it would be cheaper than starting fresh. The dimension under roof is 14'x 28' . It may make sense to just enclose that area and not add the master bedroom suite, as that will be the big $$ addition.

I asked about load bearing walls' because I would like to change the interior configuration somewhat. He was telling me that aside from the center supports, most of the walls are like privacy curtains, can totally be moved.

The heater works but is really inefficient. If we change out flooring, we should consider radiant heating, as there isn't sufficient ductwork nor good space for it. So, that will go for any new living space we would add.

Overall. He thought it was in great shape for the age. There are some things to think about but nothing major. He said he'd buy it.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2012 at 11:08AM
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marti8a

Great news! It always helps to get the opinion of someone who looks at house problems every day.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2012 at 12:06PM
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kailuamom

It was good because the inspector is a long time family friend who is not looking for repeat business from either realtor (as he's from out of their areas), so I know that he was really working for us. So many inspectors are working to close the deal for the agents rather than help the homeowner.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2012 at 12:49PM
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lavender_lass

Congrats on the good news! Sounds like this house has a lot of potential and is going to be a great home for you and your family :)

    Bookmark   May 10, 2012 at 1:44PM
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Shades_of_idaho

So Happy for you. I some how looked at several more pictures of your house and it is just as cute as can be. Love the yard too. Such a pretty setting.

No idea why the building forum went so wonky on your idea. I think it is a perfect idea. Since it is such a large space maybe you could make it a kids dorm. Two rooms in that area would be really nice size for the kids and use the smaller existing rooms for other like den office sewing whatever it is you do. Could not see floor plan but maybe two rooms could be opened to one to make master suite.

This looks like a house of opportunities for your family.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2012 at 12:25PM
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marti8a

Where did you see pictures Chris?

    Bookmark   May 11, 2012 at 2:46PM
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Shades_of_idaho

Marti see your email.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2012 at 7:52PM
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mary_ruth

My husband and I recently (2 yrs ago) downsized and moved to a more relaxed area in Florida. We had worked and lived in Virginia and sold our larger house there. We now live in an 1800 sq ft house and it is roomy enough for us. It is about 1/2 of what we had, and we got rid of so much stuff.

I am in the process of clearing out even more things as we do NOT need much in this house. We won't be entertaining workmates here (In Va we had networking parties) just friends and family so we are much more relaxed. We have a small yard, small garage and that means we downsize stuff to fit those areas.

Health reasons kept us from decorating the house for the first year and a half, so now we are starting to do small projects. We hope this is our last house. We have redone kitchens in our past so I want to customize our kitchen to suit us.

We are so much happier in THIS house than in our previous houses, we are settled and relaxed here, that to me makes the house so much more a home than the other houses we owned.

I wish we had done this move sooner!

Good luck on your move and lifestyle change to suit you better!

    Bookmark   May 11, 2012 at 8:41PM
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marti8a

Thank you Chris, I just saw your email. Kailuamom, I can't get over how clean and well kept that house and yards are. The house has a good layout too. I envy you.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2012 at 2:40PM
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ellendi

Can we see the house too?

    Bookmark   May 16, 2012 at 6:58PM
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yayagal

The decision should be based on the quality of your lives so I think you know exactly what is right. Follow your bliss, it's soooo worth it.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2012 at 11:24PM
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marti8a

It took me a while to find it, so I'll link to her post on the other forum.

Click here for thread.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2012 at 11:47PM
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ellendi

Thanks marti

    Bookmark   May 17, 2012 at 8:43AM
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kailuamom

Soooooooo.... Love the house, love the property, am spending inordinate amounts of time dreaming about the changes I want to make.....

The inspections continue, Septic and well haven't turned out so good. the septic needs to be replaced as it has cracks and the well water has e-coli and coliform bacterias. Basically, not safe for consumption.

This is not the stuff I want to spend money on. Hopefully the seller will help us fix these issues, otherwise... It was a lovely dream.

Glad you like the pictures, isn't it darling?

    Bookmark   May 17, 2012 at 8:25PM
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marti8a

Bummer. I didn't know that septic cracks were a bad thing. Where do they think the stuff goes after it leaves the tanks? lol

    Bookmark   May 17, 2012 at 9:35PM
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marti8a

The danger is that it could break apart. I was just kidding.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2012 at 11:04PM
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lavender_lass

The well water is bad? Hmmm...that could be a deal breaker. Fixing the septic is one thing (although possibly expensive) but bad water...that could be a problem.

However, now that you're thinking about moving to the country, I think you should keep looking. It's well worth it...even if you do have to 'plan' all your shopping trips! LOL It is great to have a beautiful view from your back window...and a few friendly faces, too :) From Lavender's Garden

    Bookmark   May 18, 2012 at 12:31AM
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ellendi

Lav, those horses are beautiful. The one with the white face reminds me of my duaghter's childhood quarter horse.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2012 at 7:34AM
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kailuamom

What a lovely picture! Yeah, I am ready for our little house on the prairie.

We are new to septic and wells but here is my understanding....

"stuff" goes from the house to the tank and then out to the leach-field. The tank is actually fairly close to the house and the well. The leach-field is appropriate for where it needs to break down.

I have moved back from the ledge, and am not completely freaking out now. We have an estimate for the septic and I have looked into whole house UV water treatment systems. It looks to me like the whole problem is solvable for about $10K.

Of course, that is 10K I have planned for other things. So, I want to try to get the seller to contribute the $10K (since there is about $20K that needs to be done, but doesn't have to be done this minute).

We are paying 10K over asking, so hopefully, he will work with us.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2012 at 1:17PM
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marti8a

It seems like it should be completely on the seller. After all, without it being done, they won't be able to sell to anyone else either.

So the septic has cracks that are leaking into the well?

I have septic tanks but not a well. When we bought this house, septic inspection wasn't required and I wonder if ours will pass if they are required when we sell. We have a lot of ground movement. We just had our tanks emptied and the guy didn't mention any cracks.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2012 at 1:52PM
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kailuamom

None of these inspections are required, I'm just doing them as I need to know what I'm buying.

The seller's opinion has always been; you are buying a 1961 house, it is an "as is" sale.

That's why I'm willing to absorb the other 70 items on the inspection list. However, water and septic... Yeah - I want him to take care of those. Now that he knows about them, he would have to disclose them to any other buyer, so - hopefully he will comply.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2012 at 3:05PM
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lavender_lass

Wells are tricky...and you have options, but is the water bad due to the failed septic system or because the groundwater itself is contaminated? If your water is still good, then you may be able to clean the well or drill for a new one...I'm no expert, but what exactly is the whole house UV system?

    Bookmark   May 18, 2012 at 6:26PM
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kailuamom

A whole house uv system is like a filter that you put between the water source and the house. However, instead of filtering the water it radiates it with uv light, killing bacteria.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2012 at 8:28PM
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desertsteph

'I'm just doing them as I need to know what I'm buying. '

and a very smart move having those inspections! I 'spect the owner knew about the leak too. he won't get out of it now what he was asking anyway.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2012 at 11:25PM
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