Nice Houses

My parents have a big, beautiful house. It is filled with gorgeous things arranged in pleasing color schemes. It’s really nice being there. I like that house. A lot.

We have a pretty nice house. It’s nothing fancy–in fact, parts of it are kind of gross (*cough* our garage *cough*)–but it gets the job done. It’s old and it wasn’t build very well, so the overall quality isn’t great. The cabinets in the kitchen are thin and flimsy and look like they belong in a (cheap) cabin in the woods. The middle cabinets don’t even match the ones around them. The fridge is old and dirty (no matter how many times I clean it), but the dishwasher and stove are new. The bathroom tile is cool but the sink is the kind you buy at Home Depot (I’ve seen my exact sink there many times) and the layout is strange and it makes the already small space even more cramped than it needs to be.

It has two bedrooms and we sleep in the living room so it’s almost like it has three. Each of us has our own space to retreat to and the living room is central, providing us a space to share. The hallway is wide and the skylight keeps it bright. The floors are shiny and ceilings are high. The windows are new. The doors are hollow and thin and usher sound through them with a kind of urgency. Most of them can be opened without turning the knobs.

There is an ample entry way which helps keep the mess at bay, but the ceiling is so low in that space that I hit my hands when I take off my sweatshirt.

It really is a nice enough house and the fact that we own it in this insane city is more than I can believe most days. We are so lucky to have the security of a home we own in a place where rents skyrocket and tenants are pushed out of their homes with no where to go.

Yes, it’s a nice enough house, but it’s not beautiful. It’s not filled with beautiful things. All our furniture is from IKEA or was handed down to us from our parents. There is no expensive artwork on our walls, only photographs that I’ve taken. We don’t have any nice dishes to bring out when we entertain, and we don’t have anywhere people could hang out if we wanted to entertain them.

In St. Louis we had dinner at my aunt’s house. She put an addition on at some point in the last two years that almost doubled her downstairs. At one point I remarked that my entire house could probably fit in her first floor and she said, yeah, that is how I was living when I was your age.

What I didn’t say was that I expect to be living the same way when I’m her age.

This house, our first house, is no starter home for us. We plan to live here for the rest of our days. There will be no trading it in for something nicer down the road. This is our home, hopefully forever. If we leave here it will most likely be because one of us lost our job and we can’t afford our mortgage.

I notice it a lot, my dueling perspectives. There is the envy of those who have bigger, newer, nicer homes than our own fighting with the firm assurance that we have more than we need. Most days I sit in my living room and think, it’s so big, the ceilings are so high, there is so much space and light and I’m so happy here. This house is a million times better than the apartment we lived in for almost a decade. Other times, I run my hands over the granite or marble countertops of homes much nicer than mine and lament the fact that I’ll never have anything like that to call my own.

It’s hard, not to compare. It’s hard not to see people write about their third bedroom, or fourth, or even fifth and think, imagine what I could do with all that space! Their home must be three or four times bigger than mine! And yet most of the time I recognize that we don’t even need the extra 400 square feet I dream of some day calling my own. That I can live even without that second bathroom I so intensely covet.

We are so fortunate to make enough to afford this house, in this city where real estate is so insane. I know this. I embrace that gratitude every single day. But somehow that gratitude leaves room for me to sometimes want more.

My husband works for the city and I work at a public school. We’ll only ever make about $10,000 more a month (before taxes) than we’re making right now and part of that won’t be for another 10 years. We’re budgeting to add some inside stairs to the back of the house so we can maybe move downstairs some day, but there will never be money to renovate our kitchen or bathroom. This is it. And the reality is, by the time we can afford to make even the modest changes we dream about, our daughter will already be 15 and set to leave home a short three years after. Is it even worth making our living space bigger when our family will soon be smaller?

I don’t know what the point of this post is. I guess I just wanted to get it down so maybe I’d stop thinking about it. I tire of these thoughts that circle, relentlessly, in my mind. I watched my dad’s envy of other’s financial good fortune blind him to the amazing house he already had and I’d never forgive myself if I did the same. I remind myself it’s okay to feel envy, that eventually it will pass. And it does. And then it pops up again.

I just asked my husband if he ever feels envious of other people’s homes or jobs or accomplishments and after thinking about it for a while he said that no, he does not. This surprised me. I thought that we all felt envy at some times. Maybe I was wrong about that.

I used to try to squelch these feelings but now I try to accept them without dwelling or berating myself for them. They have less of a hold of me when I do that, so I guess is something.

What sparks your envy? How easily does it coexist with gratitude?

47 Comments

  1. OK, I’m going to play the “advanced years” card. You’re not comparing like with like, you’re comparing across generations. You’re upsetting yourself because you think you know what it’s going to be like in ten or twenty years, and then upsetting yourself more by beating yourself up for your feelings. But the truth is, you don’t know what your circumstances will be. Maybe they’ll be as you expect. Maybe not. Promotions, career changes, and inflation and things we can’t even imagine all have an impact on our financial fortunes. Not expecting fame and fortune is one thing – it’s being realistic. But allow yourself to think it can and will get better.

    Besides, a smaller house is a better choice for the planet!

    1. I realize after reading your comment that the two examples I gave are from people in a different generation, but most of the houses I see that seem bigger or nicer than ours are from people in my generation, although the couples are generally about five years older than we are (but sometimes are the same age). There is another aspect that makes them less comparable though, and that is location. Many times I’m comparing what we have to what people in other parts of the country have and the reality is you can buy so much more for your money in pretty much every part of the country than you can here. I try to remember that because it does make comparison pretty futile. But there are people here in SF that I know, who have insanely gorgeous houses (and many of them are SAHMs!) and that is when my green glasses come out in full force. I can’t even imagine how much their husbands much make that they can afford the places they live in… We’re talking $350K+.

      But you’re absolutely right that a smaller house is better for the environment, and that means more to me than I can say (I’m not sure why I didn’t mention that in my post). We don’t NEED a bigger house and bigger houses aren’t good for the environment, nor are they a sustainable way to live in a planet with such a rapidly growing population. Suburban life in general is not sustainable as far as our planet’s environmental health is concerned and I believe deeply in urban living for that reason, along with many others. So that is also a big part of it. I was realizing talking to my husband that I don’t really want more space, but I’d love for our house to be nicer. Corners were cut in pretty much every aspect of construction and it bums me out at times. But maybe we will be able to afford to renovate at some point. You’re right that I shouldn’t make assumptions about the future, even if our financial prospects seem limited.

  2. Your husband is lying

    The thing I can tell you with 100% certainty is that it’s all relative. We have a huge house by your standards, and yes, it’s big by Iowa standards too, but it’s not at all unusual here. Houses keep going up and they keep getting bigger and bigger because we have the land to expand. I guarantee you my mortgage is probably similar to, or less than, yours. I remember when you were house hunting and your price range made me nervous (for me, because we are conservative and being in Iowa, we can afford to be… Lots of housing options). What people pay for a beautiful house where you are… Yeah…. Wouldn’t be happening for us! Even though we would be approved by the bank to mortgage ourselves way too far (our banks approve a much lower debt to income ratio because housing is so adorable here), there’s no way we could do it. Our house is the sole reason we don’t move to a more highly desired city. We don’t want to pay the process and are depressed by what the same money would buy us.

    We give up a lot to live here, we just give up different things. We give up outstanding restaurants, a lively downtown, true cultural diversity (3 black kids in one junior high grade does not make us diverse!!!), museums, great zoos, etc. to be able to afford nice houses and live lives with Midwestern values (that is a real thing, and it is invaluable to me). Our fifth bedroom (which is sort of joke because it’s so incredibly unfunctional as a bedroom) is worth what we give up to have it. Some day, it may not be. (Side note, our 4th bedroom is hotties office, so our house is like all the new, normal houses going up here with 4 bedrooms and an office.)

    I feel envy too. I saw a kitchen on a blog today that was stunning, and a beautifully appointed living room that I could never pull together. And then there are clothes others spend money on that I wish I had. And I envy my friend’s nanny (she’s a SAHM who works 10 hours a week but has a nanny for 20 hours. It’s ridiculous to me, but I also wish I had a nanny 5-8 hours a week!). I envy your city and all the things you guys do every weekend. Every time I see a picture of your kids at the beach, or at an outdoor event, or at a festival, I feel intense envy. There is very little to do here.

    You’re husband is lying to himself!

    1. I wonder if my husband is lying. I was really surprised when he said he doesn’t feel envy. I believe him that he doesn’t feel it about material things like houses, but jobs and accomplishments? That doesn’t seem likely to me…

      (Updated: I don’t think he is intentionally lying, but I wonder if he’s lying to himself and doesn’t realize it…)

      I wrote back to Mali that while most of the people I compare to aren’t in older generations, they are in different parts of the country, and that makes comparison just as futile. And I try to remember that (and am surprised I didn’t mention it in my post). I think daily about all the things we have here, all the reasons we pay so much to live in this city, which is intensely beautiful and teaming with cultural diversity. Our parents are close, the weather is amazing, we live in a city, which is more sustainable for the environment, we utilize public transportation a lot, we go to tons of fun things, there are so many amazing places we can visit within a four-hour driving radius. It really is an incredible place to live–there are reasons people pay such exorbitant amounts to do so (the tech boom isn’t helping, but yeah…). So you’re absolutely right. And I wouldn’t trade most of it for a nicer house, I really don’t think I would. We could move even 30-45 minutes away from the city (in some, less desirable directions) and get more for our money but I doubt I’d ever want to do even that (and my husband would NEVER agree to it). So that is important to remember too. But as you said, I can’t seem to stop the envy from popping up, even though I try to keep all these things in mind when I make comparisons.

      1. I moved back to Iowa from Chicago because I saw too many friends move to the Chicago suburbs, saying they’d come to the city every weekend, and then they came once a month or two. I knew that jobs were in the suburbs and I didn’t want to live that far from the city, so I moved away entirely. Never move away from your fine city unless you’re moving states!

        1. Ha, Courtney this is exactly what we said! When we thought of Chicago suburbs we thought we might as well be living in Indiana where I grew up and plus it’s cheaper there! But then we picked a place we found ideal because Indiana wasn’t it 😉

    2. It should also be noted that the thought of cleaning a house as big as yours terrifies me. I can’t even keep 1200 square feet picked up, let alone clean. I can’t imagine the work that goes into keeping that much space looking nice.

      (And, on a related note, I know that if I had more space and I’d end up having more things to fill it, and that is not something I want. That is another thing I remind myself of when I see other people’s bigger houses.)

      1. These are very true points. And I don’t clean the house, we have cleaners. When Hottie wanted so much square feet, I said that was the only way I’d agree to it. I wanted a much smaller, more manageable house.

        Oh and the stuff…. You’ve seen what I’ve gone through to get rid of it. Ugh

        1. I will say, the fact that you guys can afford your space on one salary is mind boggling to me. I know it’s cheaper there, but my salary is so necessary to us–I almost make half of our income. Not only can we not afford our life with me not working, we can’t afford our life with me making any less than I make. It’s so restrictive, especially now that I realize a move to another position would require at least a few years of making less money. I’m realizing that the fact that so many people I know with way nicer houses than ours have that and are able to be SAHMs is definitely part of it for me. I guess it’s just another part of the trade off with where we live…

          1. Yeah, a rough trade-off. If we moved to Seattle, I’d have to work. That’s just a fact and one of the reasons we’re not doing that right now. And I know that my husband has an unusually great job. We got very lucky. We bought the house when I was making half of the income, then this job found him. If he ever left it, I’d be back to work!

        2. I’ve been thinking hard about fitting a once-a-month clean into our budget. I’d need to move a significant amount of cash from other areas but I think it would be worth it. I want to have that conversation with my husband soon. Maybe on Mother’s Day. 😉

  3. I think its pretty normal to envy what other people have. That being said, its very important to not let that fester and take over your life too. What helps me is looking at the big picture in our life, we have been blessed so much and often take it for granted. We have extra money to vacation, a nice house w/ low mortgage, and paid off vehicles. Recently, we almost bought a bigger house, but changed our minds last minute. Not that we couldn’t financially afford it, but that we are in a good place now. Raising our mortgage would mean we need to cut back in other areas and we decided it just isn’t worth it right now.
    Ultimately, finding ways to be happy and content in our current situations/lives is a must. I know I don’t want to spend my days comparing myself to others and feeling bad when I don’t measure up. Instead, I want to be content and teach my kids the same.
    I will say that where you live SHOCKED me when we vacationed there not long ago. We were blown away by housing prices, commutes to get places, gas and food prices. We once considered moving and teaching there when we were fresh from college, but after seeing things now, I can’t imagine how financially we would have made it there! Lol
    The fact that you own a home there amazes me and I have no doubt that in time, you guys will be able to do some upgrades to your home! Sometimes, just painting kitchen cabinets and walls, picking a color scheme/theme for each room, and slowing fixing up one room is just what you need to improve your outlook on the bouse! This weekend we spent a ton of time putting down mulch, new plants, and organizing our backyard. It looks awesome and I am ready to tackle summer! Its a huge stress reliever too, organzing and improving your home too!

    1. I definitely do not wallow in my envy of what other people have. Most of the time I’m totally blown away by what I have. I’m actually totally blown away by what I have even when I do feel envious of others. We have SO SO MUCH. I have EVERYTHING I’ve ever wanted. And more! It’s incredible. And the fact that now I’m tasked with finding joy and gratitude in each day is such a privilege, one I try really hard not take for granted (though I’m sure I do, and I’m sure this post makes it sound like I do most of the time).

      I think you’re right that if I work toward making a few upgrades I would feel a lot better about my house. And the reality is, I need to get MUCH better at making the space we do have clean and neat before I can ever justify making that space inherently nicer. Just keeping my space neat and organized and (goshforbid clean!) would go a long way in me enjoying my house more. 😉

      1. I too am blown away by what we have. Esp being able to do as well as we are on my hubbys teaching salary and my small daycare income. I didn’t mean for it to come across that I thought you were wallowing, just more “you” meaning me too. Lol
        We have 1800 sq ft and sometimes I feel the walls closing in on us. That usually means its organize/throw away time. I go on a rampage and throw out stuff then feel better! I will echo Courtney’s comment about a house cleaner. We had one before kids and it was incredible! I am going to start having one again once a month to do things like the baseboards, shelves, etc.
        Side question: What is the cost of full time daycare there? Here in WY its about $400-500 a month.

        1. Childcare for under two years old is around $2,500 a month and over two is between $1,500 and $2,000 a month, depending on where you are in the city. We’re spending $1,500 a month for our daughter and my in-laws watch our son. Next year our daughter will be in Kindergarten, which will require after school care (about $150 a month) and my son will be in daycare/preschool ($1,500 a month). In four years we’ll only be paying after care for both of them and that will free up a huge amount of money. Maybe then we can start saving. But by then our daughter will be 9! So if it takes 3-4 years after that to save enough to do work, she’ll be 12 or 13! That just seems to long from now.

          I’m definitely thinking hard about a house cleaner. I think it would be awesome to have one. I just need to free up $200 a month to afford it!

          1. Holy shit!!!!!!!!! That is an insane amount of money for childcare. OMG. Seriously, wow. I can totally see how in a few years, more money will open up each month for you guys.
            It amazes me how different salaries and prices of things can vary around the United States. We seriously pay $750 a month in mortgage here in WY for an updated 4 bedroom, 2 bath house with big backyard.
            This totally makes sense now and I understand your previous posts about money now! Before, I just couldn’t comprehend why you were trying to tighten things up and stick to your budget. Now, I totally get it.
            You live in an expensive part of the country, where everything just costs more in general. Knowing that now, I think you really are doing a great job managing your money, and paying off debt. You also are building equity in your house just by owning it! Imagine the huge investment you have just from owning a home. I bet if you ever get ready to move or sell, you will be able to make a nice profit if housing prices continue to go up there! 🙂

            1. Our mortgage is kind of tricky because my parents “gifted” us $100K that we’re paying back in 15 years, while the rest of our $500K loan is on a 30 year mortgage. Our monthly payment is $3700 ($3000 to the bank, $700 to my parents) which includes a payment into an escrow account at that bank that pays our property taxes. Our tenant pays us $1100 a month, so we need $2600 a month just to pay for where we live. This is a lot of money, but not for SF. Right now a house of this size (1600 sq ft total–we live in 1200 sq ft) in our neighborhood rents for $4000. It’s absolutely nuts here right now. Thanks FB, Twitter and Google!

              So yeah, almost 50% (43% to be exact) of our monthly (after taxes) income goes to rent and childcare. That is pretty crazy. And you’re right that everything here costs more, gas, food, eating out, everything! It’s hard to make it work here. It really, really is. But staying is so important to my husband and I can’t imagine living anywhere else, so I guess we have to make it work.

              In four years we’ll have some money left over every month. Originally we were hoping make the tenant’s unit part of our house at that point (since losing the childcare bill would allow us to absorb not getting a rent check) but now I think we’ll have to keep renting that unit for a while after to save some money. I guess we’ll see in 4-5 years!

              It does cost a lot to live here, and I often wonder if our salaries are bigger enough to cover the discrepancy. Like, if it’s three times more expensive to buy a house here than somewhere else, am I making three times more than teachers in that area make? While I’m sure I make significantly more than teachers in cheaper areas, I doubt it makes up for how much more stuff costs here. In the end, I think we get less for our money in the Bay Area than people in less expensive areas get.

  4. Wow, you have a house in SF? As a fellow Californian I find that amazing. We have a house in Monterey which is really expensive but SF, wow.

    I get envious too, reading blogs where people have these huge houses with huge nurseries (our house is 1292 SF). But mostly I’m appreciative and accepting, bc just like having kids we feel lucky to have a house at all. We didn’t buy it til I was 40 and only then were we able to do so bc of the recession and housing crash. And I grew up here and love it and know I’m lucky to live here and own a house.

    Yeah, we have mostly ikea furniture. New appliances bc everything died since we bought our 1984 built house with mostly original stuff, but not top of the line. And we have a Home Depot sink too. I’ve been a public employee most of my career too. I try not to get caught up in comparisons–on the one hand, I’m lucky to have a fulfilling decent paying law job–many law grads don’t. On the other hand considering my background (this is my second career) I sometimes think I should be more accomplished/making more/etc.

    1. I know it’s amazing to own a house in San Francisco. We are at the very southern edge, in a less desirable neighborhood, but it’s still a huge accomplishment (mostly it was luck) and we are so thankful that our place has an inlaw unit so we can rent to a tenant and make our mortgage payments every month. I am in awe of the fact that we own here every single day.

      I think what I’m realizing is that it’s not so much about our house or the space but what we have inside it. I think I’m coming out of that 20’s/early 30’s mentality of “as long as it get’s the job done” and into the, “well, I really appreciate quality” phase of my life. When we bought our house a couple years ago I was very much okay with “it get’s the job done” and loved everything about our place. Now I’m noticing that a lot of areas don’t look very nice and I wish we had better quality things.

      The reality is I don’t take well enough care of what I do have to warrant getting anything nicer. I think I’ll tell myself that if I can start really taking care of our current space, I can work towards making real improvements. 😉

      1. Oh and I’m jealous you have IKEA furniture! Our closest one is 7 hours away. I totally have a pinterest board of crafts and projects from IKEA I want to do!

        1. Ditto! We don’t have one anywhere near us and I really want some of their book shelves. When we go on vacation near an IKEA I get so excited!

        2. IKEA furniture is amazing. I do appreciate how little it costs and how well it’s made. But I’m SOOOOO sick of putting it together. I’m glad I don’t have to buy any more for a long time.

          How annoyed would you be to know we have two within 30 minutes of our house? It’s crazy, I know. 😉

  5. Envy is normal. We’re renters and plan to stay renters, which has great parts (live in a city, great rent, never worry about the cost of the foundation cracking, a pipe leaking, and replacing the driveway [my landlord had a bad year]) and bad parts (shower curtain instead of doors, small bedrooms, stupid bathroom set-up), and I definitely get jealous of some people with big houses and huge yards and bedrooms that fit a king size bed, but not enough for the cost or the extra work.

    I don’t know what you pay for childcare, but just think of all the money you’ll have when that ends. We pay about 10k a year, which would afford a lot of renovations some day.

    You also never know how under water people are with mortgages & home equity loans for those big houses. A lot of people live well outside their means, even though they look impressive from the outside.

    1. I never realized how awesome it was to not worry about things breaking down until I had to start worrying about things breaking down! This past winter one of our main heating ducts fell down and we were too cheap/lazy to get it fixed. There was a really cold (for here) month during that time and I kept bitching about not having heat and everyone said I had to make my landlord fix it, and I had to say, oh no, we’re our own negligent landlords, it’s on us. We never did fix it and I honestly don’t know if we will again next year. Those stresses and costs are very real. We’ve spent many thousands of dollars on fixing things in our house. It’s a huge cost.

      On the other hand, I can dream about putting solar panels on our roof one day, which would be amazing. It would ultimately save us money, and make us feel better about the energy we use. So there are good things too. Mostly we’re just happy we can’t be evicted, which is a huge problem in our city right now. And rents are so crazy, we’d be spending more than we are to rent a house of this size in this neighborhood. It’s truly nuts. That’s why we ended up buying.

  6. You actually sound quite normal and even handed and also appreciative of what you have. Sometimes the outer trappings of other people look really lovely … but we do not see other people’s inner trappings and compromises and worries. You acknowledge the joys of your children, husband, location, and all the rest … but like everyone else the idea of a unicorn horn full of magic potions sounds good to you. What I can tell you is that even though at this time you would like some upgrades and it looks like they can never be afforded, over time A) your desired upgrades will change and B) what can be achieved will also change in ways unforeseeable right now.
    Unicorn horns of magical powers and potions do not happen but remember when you did not think you could have ANY child…. and yet through perseverance, hard work, sacrifice and pure amazing luck that changed. This will happen again in other areas of your world. You are normal in your desires … and outstanding in counting your joys.

    1. “Unicorn horns of magical powers and potions do not happen but remember when you did not think you could have ANY child…. and yet through perseverance, hard work, sacrifice and pure amazing luck that changed.” Thank you for reminding me of this. It’s true I thought I might never have a child, and I was sure I would never have a second, and yet look at my family now! I am so, so lucky. And it’s true, we don’t know what might happen. Things really could change, for the better or the worse.

  7. I was going to bring up Mali’s point—and kind of Courtney’s too—I don’t feel envious much about ginormous houses in the ‘burbs because that’s not the lifestyle we want to live. I’m proud of how we make it work in our small house in the city, using public transportation & walking everywhere. I sometimes wish someone would help me decorate my house, but I don’t want expensive art or knick knacks (more STUFF)—my husband takes really cool photos, and we had our kids do some “modern art” and its our style. I DO get envious, a lot, about other things though. Those that can afford a nanny instead of having to drag the kids through 0 degree weather to daycare across town on the bus, people going on frequent fancy vacations with their family (this was especially key when I saw the FB pictures of families in tropical locations in the winter), regular (weekly!) sitters for date nights, getting hair colored professionally (I hate doing it at home, I always ruin my bathroom, but I also hate my grays), etc… etc… LIke you, it comes and goes, but I mostly keep it at bay by focusing on the positive stuff and reminding myself that we spend on our values and are overall doing pretty well of ourselves.
    And yes, you never know what the future holds. 10 years from now is a LONG time and a lot can happen—remember the last 10 years? Did you ever imagine you’d be where you are now? I bet not.

  8. House envy is my major envy. It isn’t that I want a huge space, I just want enough room for hosting an extended family gathering (indoors or out, I’d take either). Actually we have that outdoors now but not really the parking… I’m hopeful someday we have a space that we can make our own, even if it isn’t fabulous. That said, I find a lot of gratitude in it too. I walk around in the neighborhood and see the foreclosed and falling apart houses and I’m incredibly grateful that we have somehow managed to have this lovely place to live. We can walk to a park and a pharmacy and a little shop and school. It’s lovely. It’s enough. It’s amazing.

    1. I would also like enough room to host. I think we would have it if we moved downstairs and added our room to the common spaces (as it’s meant to be).

      That said, I too find much gratitude it what we have. It’s a nice house, with so much light. Our old apartment was so dark and dank and depressing. I’m so glad we live in a house that gets so much light now. It makes a huge difference in my overall well being.

  9. I am delurking to say I feel your pain. I live in London and house prices have gone insane in the last decade. We are lucky in that we own our place but it was meant to be a starter home and we barely have room for anything. Now we can’t ever trade up without leaving the city.

    In other respects we’re well off and otherwise have a nice lifestyle. Most of the mom friends I made have husbands who work in financial services and have lovely, large houses. I worry that as my daughter grows up she’ll start comparing and envying like myself and my husband.

    If we’d just bought earlier – and tried to have kids earlier – then both of those things would have been a lot easier. But only have myself to blame for that.

    1. Wow, London is one of the few places that has crazier real estate that we do. I feel you, I really, really do. I’m sorry you feel like you missed your window. If we had looked about two years earlier, during the bottom of the recession, we’d be in a bigger place, in a better neighborhood, but such is life, right? At least we’re not underwater, at least that is what I keep telling myself.

      I hope you can find more joy in the house you have. That is what I’m going to try to do. I’ll let you know how much success I have. 😉

  10. We live in a neighborhood that other people envy. But then we envy their larger lots and bigger houses in the suburbs while simultaneously recognizing that we love living in the city, and our house is big enough. Still, I’d like larger bedrooms and closets!

    It’s typical to be envious, I’m sure. When we moved in I still thought we would eventually be able to upgrade within our neighborhood or a similar one. Now it’s clear that will never happen and we better be happy with what we got. It’s an interesting shift to go through and I’m starting to get excited about the work that we can put into the house to make it the house we want vs a house we will sell.

    1. Closets! My kingdom for an actual closet. I’ve never had one in all the houses I’ve lived in since I moved out of my parents’ place. A closet would be so amazing.

      We knew when we bought this place that we’d never be moving away, but three years ago I was really okay with the poor quality of so many aspects of this house. Now I feel less okay about it. Hopefully some day we’ll have a little more cash to make some changes so that not everything is so crappy. We shall see.

  11. We just bought our place less than a year ago and I still have house envy. It’s not as big or the style I hoped to buy, but we love the (slightly dodgy) location and it’s nicely redone and so I try to tell myself we don’t need any more. (Because we don’t need any more!) But yes, when I visit friends in the mid-west and think about how my whole house would fit in their basement and how they have closets for miles… you can’t help but compare.

    1. “But yes, when I visit friends in the mid-west and think about how my whole house would fit in their basement and how they have closets for miles… you can’t help but compare.” THIS! My whole house could fit in their basement. It’s hard not to feel kind of lame when I realize that… 😉

  12. I live in Vancouver, BC, Canada in a 3 bedroom rental within the city but family friendly and walking distance to grocery stores and transit. We moved here as my husband started a masters in creative writing. The third bedroom is an office/spare bedroom.

    During my mat leave I left my former, higher paying job, to 4 days a week with full benefits at a non-profit working as an employment counsellor for individuals with disabilities who are deemed unemployable.

    Most of our friends have nicer houses in nicer areas of the city and work in the private sector. I have really thought about where we fit. Neither one of us are focussed on income or having a house. We are focussed on careers where we are both satisfied and enjoy. I love working 4 days a week and developing a business on the side. I love being able to clean the house, take a nap, and still spend quality time of my daughter. My husband is an active co-parent, involved with every aspect of childcare and parenting. For now our daughter is growing up with what she needs and two parents who love their careers. I do struggle with what my daughter with have, especially as my parents had 7 children and were poor. However I am not envious of others. My husband and I have chosen a life where we will not make much money, but love their work (I don’t feel I am working when I am working (it’s a vacation) and he feels the same). We live frugally, but can still take our daughter to swimming lessons, afford quality daycare, and spend wonderful time with friends. Our daughter is exposed to art, books, music, and gardening daily. We might not have a mortgage on a condo, but day to day are doing okay. I never fell for the white picket fence and met a writer who has great talent (I am completely biased), and doesn’t “fit”.

    Moving into the summer, we can’t afford an awesome vacation, but both of us will be around for lots of time in the park, beach, and hanging out.

    That’s my rant. My parents aspired for higher education, creativity, and values, not stuff. I am looking forward to saving money, taking road trips down the coast to see cousins in California, going to Europe to spend time with grandparents, and loving our frugal life with our beautiful daughter.

    1. Your situation sounds really ideal. I wonder if I would feel differently if I felt like I were getting something really valuable for the choices we make. I guess I get summers and the longer breaks throughout the year. But I can’t work a 4 days/week schedule or have much flexibility with my hours. I guess I am home a little more with my kids. I guess I don’t realize how different it is than working a traditional 9-5 job as I’ve never really had one for any length of time. I guess I just don’t feel like we get a lot for making less (in an expensive area) but maybe I should focus on what I am getting and then I’d feel better about it.

  13. Oh… just to add. We struggled for four years, two ectopic pregnancies, and eventually IVF to have our daughter. We are debating about a second. Our biggest dilemma is based on what we are doing can we afford a second baby and the quality of life we want with a second. What could have been a condo down payment was over $12000 for IVF. I have no regrets.

    1. A second child really does compound the financial realities in ways I didn’t expect. It’s somehow more than x2, if that makes sense… At least in the first few years.

  14. Living in the Toronto area, where housing prices are in the same territory as Vancouver & SF, I feel your pain, both in terms of what your money can buy and what others seem to be able to afford. I think all those real estate/reno shows on HGTV contribute to house envy. They make it all look so easy, and there’s never any clutter or kids’ toys laying around — it all looks so pristine. I’d love to have the cameras come back six months later, no advance warning, & see what it looks like then. 😉

    Whenever I find myself envious about someone else’s house (usually larger & better decorated), I just tell myself that they’re probably drowning in debt & will still be paying off their mortgages when they’re 75. 😉 I love big houses, but really, dh & I hardly use all of the 1200 square feet (plus partly finished basement) we already have. I do sometimes feel like we could have done more with this house than we have, in terms of renovations & décor. Unfortunately, my husband is not very handy, so we have to hire people or ask relatives to pitch in (which he hates to do), & I am an eternal procrastinator/ditherer when it comes to choosing paint colours or buying new furniture. We’ve been talking about downsizing to a condo again lately, and I have to admit, the idea of starting over in new surroundings with a clean slate is tempting in some respects and terrifying in others. 😉

    1. I am pretty handy (I do all the improvements/fixing things at our house) but there is definitely a limit to what I can manage myself. And not all of what I attempt ends up working well. There are quite a few things I still need to fix from when we first moved in three years ago. I wish I (or my husband) were handier, that would be so helpful.

      I had no idea Toronto prices were so crazy. It’s insane how much stuff costs, isn’t it?

      My parents still live in their giant house and I think it’s so silly. They don’t need that much space. Both my sister and I live nearby so they don’t even need it for us to visit. They do like to entertain and have dinner parties a lot, but I think they could find a smaller space that is designed with company in mind (with a big kitchen/eating/mingling area and smaller bedroom(s)) that would work fine for them. My dad was unemployed for six years during the worst part of the recession and he was unable to even have a conversation about downsizing–his house is absolutely a symbol of his success and worth as a human being. It’s so sad. I wish he could get past that. It almost broke up my parents’ marriage.

  15. Such an interesting conversation – I’m late to the party and only have time to skim right now. I agree though, you sound appreciative of what you have, and it’s only natural to have wants (minimalism can make any ‘wanting’ something to beat yourself up about- it’s not). I smiled at your description of your kitchen cupboards – ours are exactly like that as well. I will always, always go for smaller space in a great walking neighbourhood in the city, but my husband – i know he wants the bigger space with a yard. We will have to make some tough decisions next year but thankfully we can stay in this place that marries both of those realms for another year (though it is costly!). Housing prices here are up there with SF – I think Boston is 3rd, after NY and SF. Not sure what we will do.

    1. I think you and your husband are the opposite of me and mine, although I’m drifting toward the smaller space/closer proximity to other things side as I get older. I don’t need much space, I don’t think, I just want to really enjoy that space in every possible way.

  16. Just catching up on blogging and reading this. VERY interesting discussions in the comments! I kind of love when ppl talk real numbers b/c I think it makes us realize how different incomes AND cost of living is in different parts of the country.

    My husband is a lot like yours in many ways, and I don’t believe he is jealous about other’s homes or jobs or whatever either. We WOULD love to have enough money to buy a second home someday (either in AZ for golfing or a MN lake to vacation by my family), but it’d be a small place, just like our current home.

    We just refinanced on a 15 yr loan for our home and pay $1900/month (home appraised at $313k and we had to finance $240k thanks to the equity we built up in the first 4.5 yrs of mortgage while the housing market started to rebound). Refinancing saved us $100k+ in interest and we will be paid off by the time Stella is a senior in high school, and I DREAM about what we will do with that money then.

    So yeah, we currently spend about $1900 on mortgage and $800 on childcare (just 3 days a week – our nanny gives us a 50% discount on the 2nd kid & my MIL helps us out beyond that), and that already feels massive on our current incomes (I make $18/hr and my husband’s is completely variable in the concrete business). It’s hard to realize I made more money ($20/hr) and had way better PTO and benefits 5 years ago…but then I remind myself that I was miserable at that job, and I’ll take quality of life and working 4 day work weeks (36hrs) over that any way. (oh, and most ppl i know here make $14-15/hr — it’s just a different world income-wise!)

    At any rate, it’s always good to take a step back and gain perspective on stuff, isn’t it?

    Oh – and I love our small house (1,400 sq. ft). Way less to clean! My brother moved in with us a couple of weeks ago and it still feels plenty big with 5 of us in it.

    1. I am very envious of your 15-year refinance. I was just asking my husband if he thought we could do that but I don’t think we could afford the mortgage payments. Still, when I think how much we could save! We’ll be spending $300K on interest in the 30 years it takes us to pay off our house. That is such an insane amount of money. Ugh. Maybe I should look into it. I think I’m not because I don’t want to hear that I definitely can’t do it, when I don’t ask there is still a chance? (Except if there isn’t that still isn’t–it’s Schrodinger’s box. 😉

      I have to say, I do love my 1,200 square foot house. I can’t imagine cleaning anything bigger. I already can’t keep this big of a house clean. I would love a second bathroom though. Do you guys have a second bathroom? I feel like that is going to be the deal breaker some day.

      1. Our mortgage payment went from $1600 to $1900 with the re-fi. It’s worth looking into at least!

        We do have a 2nd bathroom, and it was a game changer for us because the house we used to rent only had 1 and I hated it. It’s 3bed/2bath.

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