Living with credit

Downsizing isn’t cheap — or easy

Julie Sherrier

Even my toaster has to go. It’s one of those fancy, stainless steel, four-slicer monstrosities. It won’t fit on the limited counter space in my new kitchen.

I’m in the midst of downsizing, and it isn’t pretty. I woke up one morning a couple of weeks ago and decided it was time to take the plunge and sell my house. What I was not prepared for was not only would I have to sell my house, but almost everything else I had accumulated over the past 20 years. Plus, I would have to buy a new home, which while less expensive, isn’t a cheap process.

For the past two years, I’ve been fixing up stuff around the house (painting, new sod, bathroom updating, etc.) and trying to get rid of excess belongings. I didn’t go on any cool vacations this year because any extra cash was spent on getting the house ready to sell. It hasn’t been
much fun, needless to say.Downsizing home

Why would I sell in a down market, you ask? Well, my son is a high school senior and in the midst of applying to colleges. We live in a very nice neighborhood in a roomy four-bedroom home. Property taxes in Austin aren’t cheap and are projected to rise yet again in 2012; utility bills have been running several hundred dollars a month (thanks to a drought and an
all-time record heat wave this past summer); and college tuition and expenses loom.

For months I thought refinancing would do the trick, but after doing the math over and over again, my savings would only amount to a couple hundred dollars. I needed more than that, so onto the Web my house went. And it sold in two days. For more than the asking price. Competing bids. Don’t hate me, but this is Austin. The word “recession” draws raised eyebrows and question marks here.

Luckily, I found a new home (as in brand new) a few miles from my old house the following week. It’s closer to downtown (and to my favorite swimming hole and yoga studio), totally energy efficient, several hundred square feet smaller and more than $100,000 cheaper than the asking price on my old house. The yard is much more manageable (think weed-eater, not lawnmower; think one rake, not three). Life is good, I thought, but wait.

Not only have I had to write a huge check for earnest money on the new house, but money for repairs to the old home, movers, boxes, inspections, appraisals, surveys and real estate agent fees, is flying out of my hands faster than paint pours out of a can. I’m no stranger to moving, but when the whole purpose of what I’m doing is about saving money, it seems that in
the short term, I’m going through cash like it was drain cleaner.

Add this to the top of the stress heap: All my furniture is too big for the new house. My kitchen table, my dining room table (no formal dining!), my favorite couch, several antique hutches, rugs, cast-iron fireplace set (no fireplace!), various kitchen appliances (including that stupid toaster), TV stands, bookshelves, well, you get the picture — it all has to go.  Plus,
my old white refrigerator does not match the new stainless steel stove and dishwasher, but I can live with that for a while — at least it fits in its allotted space in the kitchen.

The student desk, the side tables, the library tables, the artwork, the extra bowls and Tupperware, board games, lawn equipment, table linens, bowls, vases, it all has to go. Between Craigslist, Goodwill and a well-advertised yard sale, maybe I can get things whittled down in time to move. If not, I can always rent a storage unit, my sister suggested — but isn’t that the antithesis to the whole downsizing and saving money argument?

In the end (although I cannot see the light at the end of that tunnel right now), it will be worth it, right? At least, that is what I keep telling myself.  My house payment will be cut in half, along with utility costs and yard maintenance and house upkeep. Cash will flow again. I can go on vacation again. I hope.

But in my quest to simplify, I find that things have become very, very complicated, and expensive. Anyone need a toaster?

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