If there is one thing I’ve learned over the last several years, it’s to always be prepared for change. I’m not just talking about the changes that happen to you (although there will be plenty of those), but the changes that happen because of you. The ones that come from the inside, working their way out and creating a chain of events that leads you to a totally different place from where you were or ever imagined you would be. Does doing something you never thought you’d do mean that you aren’t being true to who you are? Or does it mean recognizing and acknowledging that who you are now is different from who you were yesterday, or who you will be tomorrow, and that’s okay? Because you guys, we did it again. It started with an inkling, a teeny thought, or idea rather, way back in January. And now here we are, months later- that little seed has sprouted into something very large and full of life, and once again our lives look completely different.
Let me take you back to the beginning. It was January, we had just finished clearing away the Christmas decorations, Kevin was done traveling for a while, and we could finally sit back and breathe after the hectic holiday season. Life was good, we were happy. And yet I couldn’t stop thinking about the email we had recently received from our landlord, asking if we planned on renewing our lease in July. Kevin and I had assumed we would, had not even questioned it, really. Still, for some reason I found myself reluctant to reply.
I kept chewing it over in my head, and before I knew it I found myself secretly checking the Trulia app on my phone almost daily. I think it started out of curiosity. We were paying an exorbitant amount of money in rent each month (so much so that our meager eating out/entertainment budget made it almost pointless to live in the center of downtown), and I wondered how much money we would save by moving just a little further away. I found a couple options that were significantly more affordable and still in desirable, walk-able neighborhoods within 15 minutes of downtown, and when the timing felt right (meaning he had a nice cold beer in his hand and was in a chipper mood), I brought up the idea to Kevin.
He was understandably shocked that moving was even on my radar, having only lived in our dream place for 6 months. But as I started talking, a whole bunch of explanations spewed out before I could stop them, things I didn’t even realize I was feeling until I said them out loud: the amount of our budget being spent on rent each month, the isolation of being one of the only stay at home moms in the area, the feeling of dread when one of our neighbors in the building would have a noisy party that would surely keep the girls up late, the frequent texts from our downstairs neighbor complaining that the pitter-patter of the girls’ little feet as they played in their home was too noisy, having to walk the dog multiple times a day because we didn’t have a yard…you get the idea). Kevin pointed out that we knew about all of these issues going into it, and plenty of people all over the world survive without a yard and share walls with neighbors and are perfectly fine, and wasn’t it a small price to pay to be able to live in our dream location, and would it really be worth moving to a different area just to save a couple hundred dollars in rent… and not so very long ago, I would have agreed and said he was right. I had heard all of these things before- heck, I had said all of these things before (remember this post?). But it wasn’t about any one of these complaints that had slowly been festering in my head. It wasn’t even about the culmination of them. It was something about not feeling completely comfortable in our own home. Our own home. And that’s when it hit me.
“What if we bought a home instead?”
Now I know what you’re thinking. Weren’t we already homeowners once before? Weren’t we dying to get out of the suburbs, tired of the HOA complaints if our yard didn’t have the right kind of pine straw, sick of having the choice between Ruby Tuesdays and Applebees on a Friday night? Didn’t we love being able to call the landlord when something went wrong, spending our weekends enjoying our city rather than mowing our unruly lawn? It’s true, we had not been happy in our previous homeowner situation. It had never really felt right, not quite us. It was almost as though we had been playing house, doing the thing we thought we were supposed to do. Moving downtown was bold and risky, and surely everyone thought we were a little bit crazy, but at least we were listening to our hearts. It was exciting to be doing what we had always wanted to do, living out our fantasy. It felt more like us for sure. But was it a perfect fit? I still wasn’t convinced.
So we decided we would take what we had learned from two very different experiences and finally figure out what it was that we really wanted. There is no perfect situation, and you can argue both sides to every scenario, but the past couple of years had definitely given us a better idea of what was most important to us. Location was still number one, but downtown prices were completely off our radar, so we would have to look elsewhere. It would need to be a place with walk-ability, near shops and restaurants we actually liked to go to. It would need to have charm and character, a history. Our previous homes had been fairly new builds in newer neighborhoods, and although we had made changes to the insides to make them feel more like us, we never felt truly attached to them. Renting in historic downtown had taught us that old homes would forever have our hearts, so that’s what we would need to get. An older home in an older neighborhood full of character and friendly neighbors who had a pride in their community. And most importantly, it would have to be ours. A place where the girls could run freely, and Kevin and I would have plenty of projects to do to make it shine. Projects that we would be happy to do, because we would be caring for a home that we truly adored, that we wanted to lovingly restore and cultivate for our family. Soon, we had our answer.
We decided to look solely in Park Circle, a trendy up and coming neighborhood 15 minutes from downtown Charleston, full of cute old homes and its’ own downtown area with fantastic restaurants. We set up some showings for that week, and before we knew it we were once again house hunting!
The plan was to spend the next few months looking at homes in the area, find the perfect place, and still have a couple of months to do any necessary renovations before our lease was up in July. But when have we ever done things the way we planned to?
Instead, we fell in love with the 4th house we saw on our very first day of house hunting. It was a 1930s white colonial with old plaster walls, and a kitchen and two bathrooms in need of a complete overhaul. But it was perfect. 1400 square feet, not too big but not too small, since we knew from living downtown that we actually liked the minimal lifestyle of having less to take care of. 3 bedrooms, 1 and a half baths. Original wood floors with a gorgeous inlay detail. Crystal doorknobs with brass art deco plates. Arched doorways. Built ins in the living and dining rooms, and a cute little telephone nook in the entry. It was priced well, a steal in the neighborhood, with a ton of potential. When our realtor called the seller’s agent to find out the details, she discovered that there were multiple offers on the property, and we would have 3 days to come back with our best and final offer. My heart sank- I was already envisioning us there, covered in paint and knocking down walls, and now we were being forced to make some very big decisions very quickly.
We knew we had stumbled upon a gem, and we weren’t the only ones who had. The competition factor definitely upped the ante for us, so we decided to offer full asking price (which was also the maximum amount we were approved for), write the sellers a personal letter, and hope for the best. A very long day later, and we had our answer- we were about to be homeowners again!
We closed on our new home in mid February, spent several weeks renovating, and moved in at the end of March. Our landlord had agreed to let us out of our lease early (thank goodness for small miracles), and we had 7 weeks to scrape popcorn ceilings, repair and repaint very cracked and damaged walls, knock down other walls, and completely demolish and renovate the kitchen. Did I mention we were doing this ourselves, with the help of my amazing contractor father (as well as countless family and friends who either took a sledgehammer to a wall or watched the girls so I could help paint), all while Kevin continued to work 40 plus hours a week at his day job? The sheer amount of work that went into just getting the home move in ready for us in that short amount of time was insane.
But we did it! I still can’t believe we did it. Just days before we moved in, the floors still covered in paint splatters and a thick layer of dust quite literally everywhere, and I didn’t think it would be possible, yet here we are! Proof of what a little determination and hard work can do. And proof that you can think you want one thing, only to learn that what will really make you happy looks completely different. But this is life folks! It’s about evaluating what we have, what we need and what we want, whatever that may be at any given time, accepting the changes that happen both to us and within us, and finding a way to make it all work.
There are so many things I want to share with you, (so very much more than these grainy photos- although to be fair it was a construction site at the time and before photos are supposed to look bad), but this post is too long as it is, so I’m going to have to take it one day and one room at a time. I will just tell you that we are all completely smitten with our home and our neighborhood, the changes we have made and the exciting changes still to come. We are so very far from done, but one thing is certain- this feels like us. Dare I say we are finally home?