I was thinking about my life as I sat on my patio looking at the desert (right next to my spa). For once, I was thinking “outside the spa.”
When I think of the mainstream media sharing the “good life” stories, I think of their portrayal of mansions and 100k cars. But, could there be another “good life” picture? Could others be living in a manner that enriches their soul every day? So far over the past seven years, I can say, yes.
We own a pretty small (main) home. It’s 1026 sq ft. It’s probably one of the smallest starter homes available. We’ve owned it since 1991. I considered the options of moving to a larger home in the late 90s as our careers (incomes) progressed and most everyone we knew upgraded their homes.
Luckily, location, location, location mattered more to me than size. We live three houses from a 10,000-acre desert mountain preserve with a wash behind us. We get privacy as well as access to a giant recreation/exercise area that I use throughout the week.
I’ve written about “same spouse, same house, and same cars” before, and we live(d) that lifestyle to the core. Yet, as we’ve progressed in our lives together (grown older) we’ve been able to expand somewhat for strategic or qualitative purposes.
Let’s start with using timing. We own the little house next to us—another 1026 sq ft of “space.” When the housing market was in disaster in 2009 we worked with our realtor to grab the house when it went into foreclosure (REO). The plan was to have a place for my mom to live if she was no longer safe in her home (1 mile away).
Over the years we have let a family member live there at a low-rent amount to help them get more financially sound. We have used the garage for storage. We have used the inside for storage. We even use the yard/shed for some storage. Sounds dumb, but our 1000 sq ft house or small yard doesn’t have much space for “stuff.”
Here’s where the story takes a sharp left turn…Covid-19. With the onset of the pandemic coming, we staged the extra house as a quarantine home for emergencies. We bought a fridge, freezer, set up the nice blow-up bed, set up a wifi extension (next door is close enough to share our service), put an older TV with a roku in the living room, and stocked some extra food and household supplies for the family if needed. Not like a warehouse, but just some cushion of supplies.
But wait, it gets even better. The true amazingness, especially during a pandemic, was that we already had some exercise equipment and weights that we collected over the years as people and businesses were getting rid of it. They were nice enough items at LOW prices. Turned out to be lucky purchases as it was almost impossible to buy home exercise equipment once the gyms were closed.
Side note: the neighbors found it strange when they watched us walk out our front gate and into the opening garage door next door… (perceptions? not stealth wealth?)
Now, after 10+ years of owning the house next door, we decided to spend a chunk of money (only $1100) to remove a small section of our block fence and install a gate between the backyards. This 1) eliminated the side note above, and 2) allowed super easy access to the spare house. It was SO nice not to have to open an old garage door and listen to the squealing as it went up to access the 2nd home. We actually use the extra/spare house two to three times more than we used to because of the gate. It’s like having an east wing to our small home. Now we kind of have a 2100 sq foot home—crazy.
The smart money option is that we can always sell the other house if we need an influx of money. Just as we can sell the extra cars we own. We can sell one asset at a time without impacting our main home or main vehicles.
There’s a saying that if you are house-rich and your home is your main asset, that you cannot sell some roof shingles or one of the rooms to buy food.
In our case, owning a few extra (small) assets (small living) allows options for incremental sales and plenty of life flexibility. In a way, we live a HUGE life on a small scale. (is that a “big fish” or “small fish” in what sized pond?)
*** Nothing in this article is to be construed as financial advice. I am not a financial planner, nor do I pretend to be. You should always consult your own professional when seeking advice. This post is not a piece of literary mastery, just a random thought I had.