Sunday, July 11, 2010

A simple living update

I started this blog about a year ago because my husband, Ryan, and I were starting to make some major life changes and I wanted to document them. In October, we sold our house in Groton, Massachusetts, and half our stuff, then packed up the rest and moved into a newly renovated 1,000-square-foot loft in an old mill city, Lowell.

Now, 10 months later, I'm doing a little check in. For starters, we are so happy about the choices we've made. Leaving homeownership and Groton behind was absolutely the right thing to do.

As I write this, I'm sitting in my apartment and looking out over the Merrimack River.

I see trees and rocks and men wading out into the water with fishing rods. I hear the river as it moves at a lazy pace. I love the sound of moving water.

We gave up a beautiful little New England town with rivers and meadows, but got this gorgeous river view and walk in exchange. We exchanged beauty for beauty. By moving to Lowell, we also got easy walking access to the restaurants and venues downtown which includes sense of community that we didn't feel in the suburbs.

I frequently walk into Lowell and hang at a local coffee shop or stop at my favorite wine store or grab a glass of sangria at the Italian cafe. With these trips comes great conversations with my neighbors and with the store owners - there's a real sense of community here. Not to mention, when we need to go to the "big" city, we can get there in just over 40 minutes.

One of the nicest things about our new lifestyle is that we have more time for each other and to do the things we love.

We haven't added the time savings up, but owning a house meant that every weekend in the summer there was something that we needed to do. Ryan was regularly mowing an acre of land and driving to the dump to unload the grass. In the winter, he was shoveling or snow-blowing a long driveway over and over. We had a house that was two times the size of our living space which meant more to make dirty and more to clean. Now, we can knock out in a deep cleaning of our new places in just a few hours.

Then there's the money savings...

I'll admit, we haven't saved as much as we had planned to. That was part of the motivation for moving was to do a better job saving. The temptation when you have more disposable income is to spend it. But we are on track now. Everything is in place to have a great year of saving - and that includes a mindset about money that we are working on.

If you look at our fixed expenses, they've come way down. Our rent is about $800 less than our mortgage + taxes were. Our electric bill is very modest. We don't have to pay for any upgrades or repairs to our place. It's painful to think how much we spent on our house, including a new furnace our last winter there (ouch!).

The area of food is one we are looking at now. We spend SO MUCH on food. And I don't just mean eating out. We try to be careful with that (could be more, I'm sure). It's also the cost of the way we are eating these days - mostly fruits and veggies - and we try to go organic as much as possible. We've got more work to do in that area, but we are on it!

We do spend money on travel. We like to take trips. We been staying super local since our trip to France last summer. We just went away for July 4th and have a trip to coming up next weekend. We are very conservative and always look for good deals. We also eat cheaper meals and do whatever we can to save while still having a great time. This area is a priority for us, but strive to do it responsibly.

We are driving a lot less these days too, which means more savings of money and time. I did work a 5-minute walk up the road until I was laid off in June. From October to June, I only drove on the weekends. Fortunately, I immediately got a new job and it's only a 12 minute drive away, so that still keeps driving to a minimum. We do pay more than two times as much for car insurance. Ouch!

We still have too much stuff.

For all we got rid of, we still have too much. I'm reading a book on living simply that I will blog on soon. It got me motivated to get rid of more stuff and even be more focused on NOT bringing in more stuff. I did a sweep yesterday and found several boxes worth of stuff that we do not use and do not need. It's all going to the Lowell Wish Project. The items are in great shape, we just don't need them and they are taking up space. They include pairs of shoes, a down comforter, a volleyball, an extra place setting of our dishes, and a huge bag of clothes.

The fact that we are getting rid of a bunch of perfectly good stuff challenges us to think hard about what we bring into the house going forward (another blog post, I suspect!).

Living simply is a great challenge and one that feels very worthwhile. 

I find that as I clear away the clutter, what I have left is what's most important. Life is short, I don't want to waste the time I have on things that don't really matter to me.