10.12.2012

financial mistakes and our last cottage





lately i've been getting a lot of emails asking me about downsizing.  apparently quite a few of you are considering it these days. while i don't consider myself and expert on the subject i can share my own personal story and hopefully you can avoid making the same mistakes i did.


before we moved out of our large tract home and moved here to redlands we renovated another small cottage in a nearby city first.

that's it up above.  isn't it cute?

i fell in love with this little cottage at a particularly vulnerable time in my life.  the perfect storm for making big financial mistakes was brewing deep inside me.  i was peri-menopausal, i was experiencing really difficult problems with my youngest son and i felt i would jump out of my skin if i didn't make a big change.

i had been reading about simplifying/downsizing my life for many years and the time just seemed right to me.

so we began looking for a small house and we came upon this one and that was that.

 there were many reasons why this particular cottage was not right for us.  i overlooked all of them, even while knowing deep down inside me that i was making a mistake.  there were obvious drawbacks that i didn't fully think through before we went ahead with the purchase.  i made tremendous mistakes in judgement, mostly b/c i just wanted a change.  downsizing was a dream for both of us but i rushed through the decision making process and made a complete mess of things.

things i didn't fully consider...

there was only one bathroom.  after cleaning 3 bathrooms for so many years, one sounded like heaven!    but the truth is, we really needed two.  i know that's not a big deal for a lot of people but for us it didn't work.

  also there was the issue of how close this house was to the neighbors.
we could hear their tv and radio on all the time.  we could hear their normal conversations and it really bothered me.  again, maybe this wouldn't bother someone else but it really did bother me.

looking back the house was never the problem, i was...







































i was an emotional mess and we suffered a lot financially b/c along with me being a mess, the biggest housing crises since the great depression was looming overhead.

in the end, we survived.
the little cottage eventually sold but we lost a lot of money.

and i really do believe that everything happens for a reason in our lives.
we wound up here and this is a better fit for us.

like i said, i learned a lot about myself and i think the whole thing made me a great deal more frugal.  now our only debt we promise ourselves we will ever have will be this one mortgage and we're doing our best to pay this one off as quickly as possible.

so that is that and i'm happy to share these pictures and my story with you.
if you have any questions i'd be happy to answer them in the comments.

xo






65 comments:

  1. The cottage is adorable, I can see why it lured you in. We've gone through similar trials and tribulations...I love how open and honest you are in this blog, it's really refreshing. I am continually inspired by your downsizing mentality, I am in that mode myself and I take great comfort in the fact that I'm not alone, and that, actually, downsizing can be a very freeing and positive experience.

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  2. It makes sense to just have a mortgage and one less than you need in case of hard times. I get the occasional comment about being "lucky" to own a house in Florida and here in Canada. We actually stayed in the first house we ever bought (1400 sq feet). While everyone else was moving up, we stayed put and paid down the mortgage quicker than required. When that was done we bought a second property, also not large or lavish and we spend on it as the money comes in.

    You are right in saying don;t make decisions at difficult times...they always turn out wrong because the reasons weren't right.

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  4. Your honesty and insight are refreshing, and an inspiration to us all to keep it simple, a lesson I needed today.

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  5. I love this honest post and agree that everything happens for a reason.

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  6. Hi Janet,

    Your little cottage was really cute. The kitchen reminds me so much of ours.

    We downsized in 2009 and love our new 1,100 sq. ft. house. We have a basement stored full of furniture that needs to be delt with.

    S
    xo

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  7. Hi Janet:
    What a cute cottage!!: The kitchen is adorable: Thanks for sharing. Yep, smaller is better. Sheree

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  8. I do think that it is easy to make a wrong house purchase when you are vulnerable. I once bought a home that I only lived in for 6 months and never unpacked. I cried every night. I think that I looked at it and fantasized about the life I wanted thinking that moving there would fix what I was unhappy about. Instead everything just got worse and I got very depressed. It took a lot of therapy to help me admit what was really wrong. Luckily I was able to rent the home out for a few years to a man that I eventually married and moved to my present home, a little craftsmen that needed a lot of work. Luckily my renter was very handy ;)

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  9. We are now in our fourth house - it is only slightly bigger than our first house. We might have wasted a lot of time and money in those interim houses, but this is my 'Goldilocks' house - not too small or too big and it feels just right ♥ Things happen for a reason. Happy weekend xo

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  10. Thank you for the interesting and very real post! Always a joy to read what you have to say. I wonder if you know what an impact you have!!!

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  11. As you know~I can so relate to this. I ask myself everyday if I'm wanting a change for the right reasons...if I think moving will automatically make everything else in my life better. When it's right it will happen.

    You've been such a huge help to me in so many ways...

    XO sarah

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  12. thanks for the interesting post. i have been wanting to downsize (4 bathrooms) but we are in the process of refinancing and we have decided to stay put until we are ready to retire. at that time we will sell and move back into our rental which is a small ranch style with a basement. part of the reason i wanted to downsize was due to my health. however, now my health has been restored and i have renewed energy and the size is no longer daunting. i find that "time' is the element i most appreciate. smaller and less "stuff" means less to clean, more time. so what i do now is focus less on acquiring things, give a reasonable amount of time to cleaning, and free up more time to do the things i like and enjoy.

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  13. As you say Janet, everything happens for a reason ... and now you have your gorgeous little cottage in Redlands which maybe you would not have found..... Have a happy weekend and I love what you packed for your trip to NY city... everything went with everything else and no dorks or lame girls in sight either ha ha!! Sarah X

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  14. I have lived in a bungalow for 30 years. I love this little home even though the neighborhood isn't ideal. We raised 3 sons here and, now, when they come home, I don't know how we all fit into the space. But it is ideal for my husband and I right now, compact and well-lived in with so many good memories. I am trying to simplify because we have collected so much stuff. It's an ongoing process that seems to have no end. Still I will persevere. I am still trying to get over the "I might need this someday," attitude that holds me back. I love your home, Janet. So uncluttered and serene. Just about perfect, I would think.

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  15. Looks a lot like your current home? Maybe its the decor? Two nice homes!

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  16. Well, let me first say that being peri-menopausal can be dangerous. I love that the cottage you reside in now reflects where you are now in your life. It must be fun to look at those old pics. Never a mistake, always a lesson.

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  17. you are a joy to know, janet. thank you for giving us such wonderful parts of you and your story. donna

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  18. Thank you for this thoughtful post. My husband and I are looking for our own cottage, the last house we'll probably buy. We are currently in a rental home, just biding our time and being patient until we find just the right thing. Our last home was huge, over 3,000 square feet, purchased when our older two kids were out on their own and the "baby" was in high school. That home was purchased at a horrible time...severe problems with our oldest child, our marriage was falling apart, our parents all got sick (we cared for them) and died (we were with them) in the previous 8 years, one after the other. When the last one, my mom, died of cancer in our home (she was living with us so we could care for her)I had to get out of that house, so we sold it for a great price, bought our "dream home" (6 months after my mom died), sinking all of our savings and inheritance into it. Then we were sued. Then the housing crisis hit Santa Barbara County hard. Then my husband was laid off. And the house of cards fell. We were able to sell (thankfully) but lost lots of money. Husband found another job very quickly and I still had mine. Somehow our marriage survived all of this. So now we live a very simple life and are looking for a very simple home. Your advice is good and I'll remember it.

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  19. Thank you for sharing your story. We also made a mistake downsizing. We didn't notice the lack of quiet and we needed one more bedroom. With the economy the way it is, we have to sit it out and wait to fix our hasty decision.

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  20. I really appreciate this post and wish that the idea that bigger is better could somehow be played down instead of always being played up. I just put down a magazine where the average homes featured were over 4,000 square feet. There is so much focus on people living beyond their means and somehow it is made to look acceptable. I cannot believe that there are that many people out there making that much money that they can afford these mcmansions that I see everywhere. We bought our first home 19 years ago and are still living in it. It isn't big but it is big enough. Like you say, it meets our needs...2 bathrooms, a little distance from our neighbours and enough space to create a warm and cozy space for our family. I have often suffered from the wanting of what I see around me but as I have gotten older it has struck me how little importance I place on size and how much I place on feeling.
    Good for you for sharing a lesson that many are still struggling to accept.

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  21. Janet, I live in an 1,800 sq. foot bungalow and have twin 3/12 year old boys. I've always lived in small spaces (lived in Europe), and felt this house was palatial when I moved back to the US. Now, however, frustrations mount with space, and how we will deal with space as my boys grow. Both my husband and I need office/creative space at home which we struggle with finding now. Any advice? I am always looking for other homes, but honestly, mine is so nice it is hard to beat.

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    1. it sounds like maybe you should just stay put and maybe try to declutter and simplify the space you have. it seems like the bigger the house, the more stuff we buy to fill it up. at least that is how it was for me.

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  22. You share yourself with us in such a graceful way...
    I admire you.

    It must have been a difficult experience but you are correct when you say things happen for a reason...I feel this too.
    I love your decorating style...

    We have only had one home, the one we live in now and we plan to stay here as long as we are able to.

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  23. Thank you for pointing out that your journey was comprised of both successes and failures (and that your path didn't happen overnight- that is very encouraging to me). Now that you have a smaller home, are there any tips you use to side-step the traps of the "want monster" (which makes me just fill up whatever available space-no matter how small)? Project 333 seems like it helped you realize what you actually wear vs what was just "nice, but not necessary to own", is that correct? Did you come across anything similar in philosophy/intent that helped you when you were downsizing from your larger home? As you downsized, did you find that your knowledge of your likes and dislikes sharpened? Thank you for letting us ask you questions!
    -Missone

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    1. having a small house is a lot like having a small wardrobe. you find out what works for you and stick with it. the "want" monster that you speak of rears its head now and again but when the space is so limited it really passes quickly. i always had an idea of how i wanted my small house to look. the way i'm living now is really a lot more cluttered than my dream house would look. when people comment on how simple it all looks i still think it looks cluttered. but overall i'm quite happy with everything b/c now i live with things that i truly do love, there is nothing here just filling up space. does this make sense?

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    2. Yes, that does make sense. Having a vision of what I want to achieve will help if I also remember to only keep what I love(not what both me and my fantasy self-with this whole other life-loves :)
      Thank you for your answer.

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  24. Well, this cottage is certainly cute. I can see why you like it but the one you have now is REALLY great. It is sooooo you! I guess I've avoided downsizing by never upsizing. It was not a plan...it just went that way. But hey! Look at all the money I saved.

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  25. My, take a few days off from blogging and come back to this. Now I remember why I love participating in this world.

    Thanks for sharing your strength,hope and experience with us.

    Passing it on. love it.

    jane

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  26. I'm glad you didn't stay in a house you weren't happy in. Life is too short to be unhappy and your "new" cottage is the cutest home ever.
    Your honesty is refreshing, thanks.
    Sky

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  27. You are such a caring person, Janet. Thank you for sharing. -Suzanne in Illinois

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  28. OMG! My comment got published! I'm back! :-)
    -Suz in Illinois

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  29. I made my 2 biggest financial mistakes because I was an emotional mess at the time ; I'm still paying the price for that now and I wish someone had told me then to just wait until I was feeling better before moving houses and buying a business. It's nice to be spontaneous and live by your instincts but not when it comes to such important things. I'm glad you came through it relatively unscathed. Great post as always !x

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  30. I love how open, honest, and candid you are in all your posts. Yes, one bathroom is a big problem for most people. Even if a couple shares one bathroom (which is the usual case), always nice to have at least a half bath for guests. We have downsized also, from two homes on opposite coasts into one here in LA. It brings me so much peace to have everything in one place and not be paying for a home we were in, for 3 months a year. We did lose money on our east coast home, but I believe we bought at the bottom of the market in LA, and expect to make up the losses in our new home. My guess is that you have too?

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  31. Janet I'm just catching up on your posts, it looks like NYC was a great time and yay for the Icon trench, what a great travel piece.
    I think your honesty is so refreshing and also helps many people, I love this post, thanks for sharing your previous cottage with us. xo

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  32. I, too, think your honesty is refreshing. We all have trials and struggles in life. Some seasons definitely are more challenging than others. Your insight is much appreciated. It seems strange to imagine you living any place other than a cottage. It certainly suits you!

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  33. Thanks for sharing all of this Janet!

    I'm with you, one bathroom does not work for me either. And the living too close thing...our neighbor on one side is far away but the other, it's awful. We hear them talking,(he is the loudest person I've ever heard) and just the other night they were arguing. They act like no one ever hears them. The worst is they have parties all the time. I love this house and most of my other neighbors are great, but I fantasize about the day I can move away from them!

    We have the same kitchen tile, only ours is a light yellow with burgundy trim. I would love to have the black and white! (better yet, a whole new kitchen)

    Linda
    xo

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    1. Prolonged exposure to noise can make people very sick and is one of the most frequently cited reasons for moving. See:

      The Florida League of Conservation Voters: Noise Pollution Drives Sprawl
      http://www.heraldtribune.com/article/20080624/COLUMNIST13/806240707

      The Deleterious Impact of Projecting Noise into the Home Environment
      http://www.barkingdogs.net/exposeindex.shtml

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    2. I just read recently that is the #1 reason people move. These neighbors have barking dogs as well, however that is not as much of a problem as it once was. Between speaking to them (waste of time) I ended up calling the authorities on numerous occasions regarding the party noise/dog issue. Luckily, I have another neighbor that got involved too, so all in all things have been a little better, at least for now. Thanks for your concern... :)

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    3. I would try fantasizing about the loud neighbors moving! ;-)

      J.

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  34. P.S. I LOVE Rosanne's last sentence of her comment...I'm going to write that one down!!!

    Linda

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  35. I can totally relate, especially to the jumping out of your skin part(!). We recently downsized and are having trouble with a son too (boys can be difficult, in my opinion.) And I feel as if I chose the wrong house, the wrong sofa, the wrong curtains, and it was my one and only chance at getting the home I wanted and I blew it. What to do!? It is comforting for me to know that your journey wasn't a straight line and there were bumps along the road as well. Finally to my questions, and these may seem trivial but, where do you find the space to store dishes, cookware and kitchen utensils? Do you find you have to edit these things as well? (I have a penchant for kitchen things.) Also, living a smaller, simpler life, do you avoid shopping at certain stores and looking at catalogs as well? (For some reason, that Pottery Barn catalog is dangerous for me.) And last but not least, do you have any tips for selling on ebay? Thanks!

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    1. so i guess there are no mistakes, just lessons. :) i know when you are going through it though it does feel like mistakes and that you are a failure. time has taught me to be kinder to myself. and as for my or your journey not being a straight line, yes the bumps are what we learn from and we should try to be more accepting of them. i know i try harder to embrace all the different aspects of my life now. it isn't easy but life is simpler for me when i do.

      if you have seen my kitchen then you have seen all my storage. i don't have a lot of pots and pans and utensils. i have the basics and believe me i had a lot of kitchen equipment before i moved here. i've just pared it down to the essentials.

      i still look at catalogs and lots of gorgeous blogs that are all about shopping. the fun now for me is to duplicate some of my favorite looks with thrift store finds. i find it much more challenging and fun. but i'm also finding that i'm just content sticking to my look and that is ok too.

      i wish i could offer more tips for selling on ebay. name brands sell the best. anything with a j. crew label sells automatically. but everything i've ever put on ebay has sold. you just have to take good pics and describe it well and then price it well. it's very time consuming but it's been a great way to make extra money.

      xo

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  36. hi janet--i loved the prior post on packing tips and seeing what you took to nyc.
    you nailed it girl.

    i also loved that eggless egg salad recipe. i will try!

    your former cottage was so very cute also !
    thanks for sharing your story....

    like someone posted--mistakes are really only "lessons".....right..??

    mistakes are a part of being human. appreciate your mistakes for what they are: precious life lessons-!
    nothing is for nothing and we learn from everything!

    thanks to you i have simplified my life a LOT this past year--which is a way of downsizing.....
    thanks to your inspiration, I finally got my pantry cleared out and re-organized..
    also thanks to you I stopped going to the salon for hair coloring-last december- and I let my gray hair grow in...
    gives me a new sense of freedom and i am embracing my gray hair!

    i stopped taking most of the vitamins i was taking thanks to you-!

    thanks to you I am doing more thrift store shopping now - instead of buying new....
    i stopped getting manicures every 2 weeks .. am saving time & $$ there-!
    i eat mostly simple foods now . . .
    i am using the library way more now - instead of buying so many books . . . . .
    xo
    shell

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  37. love your last home too, but it is very stressful living somewhere that hurst your heart and makes you anxious.

    love the blog and your honesty x

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  38. Janet, this post is conscious-raising, lots of introspection. Most of your readers are, by nature, nest builders and think it notable so many have shared very similar experiences and lessons. I've come to the same conclusions others have expressed here about what life brings and think you hit it when you used the word "content." It is huge progress when we can stop fighting with reality and accept what is. I have learned everything that comes is expansion.

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  39. Thank you for this post. It is very timely for me now, as we are looking to move. As I read your experience, I hear warning bells. My life could be a perfect storm too: I moved 75 miles to marry my husband, leaving my beautiful old house unsold in a terribly depressed town. We've spent 1 1/2 years sprucing up my house, then his, trying to prepare both for sale. We've had many delays with this one, and now we will have to wait till spring (thanks to midwest winters) to sell. We're both working fulltime to pay for improvements. And though you and I are the same age (my birthday is this month, yours in December if I recall), I'm STILL peri-menopausal. Add to that, aging parents and adult children. So yes, I feel as though I'm about to jump out of my skin too.

    Your post reminds me to step back and breathe, trusting that "everything happens for a reason," as a good friend always says. I will look at these delays as time to make a wiser choice about our next home. My heart says "house" and my brain says "condo," so we can be free of exterior maintenance, but maybe that's not the right decision. We have a lot to think about. Contentment is what I crave.

    p.s. The cottage is cute, but your Gardener's Cottage is still my favorite.

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  40. What a fascinating and honest post, my dear Juanita. That house was a beauty and I can totally understand you falling for it. I love how you backed away and admitted your mistakes instead of holding on and making yourself ill and unhappy for longer than necessary. What doesn't kill us can only makes us stronger. xxx

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  41. i am getting ready to buy a cottage- not much smaller where i am now but cuter- only one bath which needs to be totally redone- i am trying to decide how i can split up the toilet from the actual shower space - seems like this could be more flexible- then as i live there and maybe enlarge the house add another bath-

    john in nc

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    1. i think that is a good idea if you can make it work. that was impossible for us to do in the first cottage.

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  42. I think you can survive with only one bath - yes, but it is definitely nicer to have 2 full baths. Better for resale, too.

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  43. Hi Janet, I'm so glad you shared this story. I'm in a "peri-menopausal jump out of my skin" state of mind right now. Love to know how to get through it without selling the house :)

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  44. Hi Janet, I love your blog but was suprised to see a "Vote Yes on Measure W" plug. Both you and your husband seem to love the great outdoors with your camping, hiking, skiing, etc. Did you know that the Vote Yes on Measure W ad that appears on your blog is actually paid for by Chevron and Pac Sun homes who want to develop that wild parcel of land to build almost 800 homes on the largest,last remaining parcel of land in North Orange County? This has been a very controversial issue and the ad that you have, as well as very expensive written material that has been sent to all residents of Fullerton, falsely shows parks, wildlife, trails, when in fact, just a small portion of the land will be preserved and the rest will be typical upscale tract housing packed in and replacing beautiful open areas that can never return to their natural state, once developed. Those of us who want that land preserved as open, natural space will vote NO on Measure W. I urge you to look into the issue on your own and make sure you are not being swayed by what I believe is false advertising by the supporters of Measure W. Thanks for your wonderful writing. I will continue to be a fan regardless of your position on W. Regards, Patty psfhome92835@yahoo.com

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    1. if you saw an ad on my blog re measure w, it came "with" you. i don't choose my ads that you see. the ads follow the reader. because this issue is important to you and you have obviously read about it and clicked on sites re the measure, the ad is following you wherever you go.


      for instance, if i'm looking at a dress at j.crew, that exact dress from j.crew will follow me around the internet wherever i go. it's kinda scary that google is following us all so closely but that is the way it is.

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    2. Wow! Thanks, Janet. Always learning something new from you. all my best, Patty

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  45. wow! this post is so timely for me. We remodedled our home (total gut job) 3 years ago and I love all 1,100 sq ft of it .... everything is perfect except the neighborhood. Nobody takes care/pride in their house/yard. It's frustrating to live by neighbors who use their front yards to store spare mattresses. And I often find myself wondering if we made a mistake to remodel this place because it's SO small. But reading some of these comments is making me stop and rethink my desire to move. Maybe having a less than perfect street is okay when the neighborhood is as peaceful & quiet as it is. And maybe I really haven't downscaled as much as I could to make this space work for us. Maybe my restless spirit has nothing at all to do with my home & neighborhood ... lots for me to think about here.

    I love your blog for this very reason...it always makes me ponder. Thanks

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  46. Have been reading (and loving) your blog for ages but this is the first time I have commented Janet. We bought our first house 9 years ago after looking for 9 months with 2 small children in tow and ended up with a lovely house but one that needed major renovation (with only one teeny tiny bathroom). Even though we had looked for ages we still ended up buying "not the right house" but were too proud, and tired, to turn around and sell it. So now 9 years on we are almost at the end of the second year of renovating and I still ask my husband every now and then if he has bonded with the house yet, and the answer is still no. I wish we had had the courage to admit we had made a mistake and sell it years ago.

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  47. Hi Janet,

    Your story resonates and is quite timely. I am in the process of looking for a new house for reasons similar to the ones you mentioned. The house is great, but the location is not. We decided to move into it because we already owned the building (former law office) and were wanting to get some of our renovation dollars back in the resale once the market was back on track. It hasn't been a financial disaster, but I have felt heartsick due to the lack of yard, traffic noise, streetlights. The realtor's credo rings true-- location, location, location. As an office, it is ideal; as a residence, it is not. Thanks for the honesty, courage, time, and diligence you show your readers. You are a gem.

    xo,
    Anne

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  48. Sounds like this is a common problem. We also downsized at the beginning of this year and I was so proud of us for being able to make the shift from 3500 sq. ft to under 800. However, after a few months it became increasingly clear that we way over-shot the mark. We were tripping over each other and everything. Luckily we rented the suite we were living in so our loss was not too great. Actually I think we sort of lucked out because we sold our house at the high point and after we realized our mistake things had cooled off a bit and we were able to buy a house at a very reasonable price. Of course we are putting our own mark on the place and are now seeing the end of the renovation tunnel. My best advise for anyone wishing to downsize is to rent a smaller space for a while and see if it really suits your needs before buying.
    Renovations underway at www.pinkrosecottageknits@blogspot.ca

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  49. Hi Janet! What a "behind the scenes"-posting!
    May I ask if you have 2 bathrooms in your cottage today? It seems to be a small house, where is the 2nd bathroom? In the basement?

    And I am not sure if I understand you correctly: does bathroom mean with a toilett or just a shower and sink?! (I am not sure if you have the same bathroom in mind as I have)

    Did you change ever since? Do neightbour's voices still annoy you?

    We live in a very small apartment. The only thing I don't like is that you hear every door being opened and closed, no matter how careful you open is, since the distances in the apartment are so small. You have to love your partner to accept that you wake up as soon as the partner leaves the bed in the morning. :-)

    kind regards, Paula from Vienna

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    1. hi paula!

      we have one full bath (bathtub/shower/toilet/sink) and one 1/4 bath (toilet/sink).
      they are both inside. the 1/4 bath is in the laundry room.

      i think any annoying noise that i cannot control or get away from eventually bothers me still.:)

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  50. Hi Janet. I really enjoyed reading this post because it speaks to me. I'll take a small space over a large one any day. We've put off buying a house mostly because we don't want to stretch ourselves and we are quite happy as a family of four in a two bedroom. Like you, I like having a smaller space to clean.

    All that said, your last cottage really was cute! But I love your new place even more.
    Camille

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  51. Janet:
    Your readers who have downsized to smaller homes, have you thought about show casing their homes? It might be fun to see other small homes and what they look like.

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kindness is never out of style.