You’ve won the lottery. But there’s a catch.
It’s not millions but enough say to buy yourself a home outright in a small town.
Here’s the catch: if you accept the winnings you have to move far away from your hometown and family. Not just a few suburbs away but a good six to twelve hour drive away and to a town a fraction of the size you’ve been living in. You likely won’t ever be able to move back to your hometown: once out of the explosive real estate market you would have great difficulty getting back in as home owners (and rents are very high).
You really love your hometown. Most of your family is here. It’s rated one of the most livable cities in the world and it’s beautiful. It has a lot of great things: beaches, a lovely seawall, ethnic and cultural diversity, an amazing public library, multi-modal transportation in the form of walking and bike paths, car sharing and bike sharing, really good and really inexpensive sushi. There are so many great parks for your kids and they’ve really started to enjoy the beach (and they’re all now out of the sand eating stage). You have friends here and a community. It’s not easy to leave.
Of course, the city you love isn’t perfect (no place is). The downsides are many. It’s expensive. Very expensive. Your family earns a good income but that income comes with long hours and a spouse that’s away a lot. Taking a local job would mean both parents would need to work outside the home and the hours in their industries are long. And what about the kids? You’ll never have enough money to help them get into the housing market and rents are incredibly high – what will they do here? Again, the work hours required to live here edge in on other parts of life like volunteering, family time, self-care, etc, etc. And people are leaving. Lots of people. They’re finding it too expensive or they’re lottery winners too and finally decided, hey, why am I working so much when I could just cash in and live somewhere else with a lot less financial and job stress?
Also, some of the upsides to your city are lost on you. You’re not cool (and never pretended to be). When you’re outside at nine o’clock in the evening – a rarity – you marvel at all the hip folk walking your neighbourhood visiting bars and restaurants. Sure you’re happy to get out for cheap tickets to the occasional Beck show and maybe once a year go to a cool new restaurant but it certainly isn’t part of your everyday or even occasional life. Besides, that stuff is really expensive! Nice coffees, $20 sushi for two and your Mobi membership are your splurges.
You also increasingly see that the biggest want in your life is time. One of your kids really needs a lot from you. You want to give him as much as you can while also being able to care for yourself and your other kids. That’s a hard thing for you to do with a spouse away most of the time. You want time to patiently teach your kids how to clean a bathroom or to spur of the moment go for a hike or to consistently tutor them in a literacy method that you took an intense two week course on. You want to NaNoWriMo before you turn 40 this year. Those things can’t happen (or happen consistently) with your current family dynamic of a spouse away three weeks of the month.
Do you take the money and the time or do you stay in that beautiful city that gets more expensive every day and that your children likely won’t be able to afford to live in?
We’ve been wrestling with this question for the last two years and recently decided it’s time for us to go. Packing (and culling) and preparing for the next adventure right now.
Embracing minimalism eight years ago, trying to live with less stuff and fewer wants, has lead us to another chapter and change: seeking more time for ourselves and our kids and to give to our community. More about the move, how the book I wrote this spring gave me more motivation to take this huge step, and what/where we are moving into/to in the coming weeks.
Thank you to all of you that have followed us on this ever changing journey to less stuff through all of our moves and growing our family. Your comments, advice and encouragement have been more helpful than you could possibly know. We’re often the weirdos: many years with no car, no gift birthday parties, happily living in small homes and completely out of touch with what the latest toy/clothing/gadgets are. Your stories of making the best choices for yourself – even if they defy conventional practices – have given me a community that I cherish. Thank you.
Tell me, has anyone else made a radical lifestyle change in the name of getting more time? Left a job? Moved somewhere with a lower cost of living so you could work less? Downsized home/lifestyle/stuff to reduce your costs and move closer to retirement?