Selling Our House or How We Learned to Make Better Decisions

from Jan

It was a long and somewhat costly self-help course, but buying and selling our house has become one of the greatest learning experiences of my marriage.  In 2009, Jeremy and I reluctantly moved back to the DC area from Chicago. We rented an apartment for a year and as our lease expiration was approaching, we began to have the hankering for family life which, at the time, we thought meant an established (oh how that term makes Jeremy feel like an old man) life with a child, house, a backyard, a car, and a commute. We got all of that and there ended up being only one thing in that list that we ended up really valuing (just to be very clear…that was the child!).   

We bought the house in 2010 and sold it in 2014. If you are interested in the process and finances of it, check out Jeremy’s post, coming on Thursday.  But, I’ve done a lot of sharing and personal introspection the last two weeks and I’m exhausted!  So, let me get back to my roots, practical and straight-forward thinking. What did we get out of such a seemingly bad decision?   

A clear message to SLOW DOWN. These big life decisions need to be done thoughtfully, deliberately, and when at all possible, slowly. I do not necessarily mean to take a lot of time, but just to slow down your thinking and try (hard though it may be) not to jump from beginning to end without exploring all your options.   

Looking back, Jeremy and I can both point out numerous situations in which if we had not jumped before exploring, we would have saved ourselves a lot of angst.  But, we can’t regret those situations. What we can do is do our best to slow down now. Find our comfy pace. When we realized home ownership was not the role for us, we finally began to heed this advice. We prioritized what we liked and did not like about home ownership. We realistically planned on how we could achieve some of those goals through a change. We deliberately weighed cost and benefits (monetary and other).  We practically made a decision.   

Many big (and small) decisions in life feel as though they need to be made in a rush, right away, now, now, now!  But, in reality, even just 24 hours and some deliberate thinking can make a world of difference.  

When I need to slow down in a situation, here is what I try to do: 

1—Stop. Unless this is an emergency situation, I don’t need to do anything RIGHT NOW. 

2—Next, I take a moment to really define the situation/challenge. 

3—List my priorities. Decide how realistic those priorities are. 

4—Prioritize my priorities. What are the top one or two things I want to achieve? 

5—Explore my options. What can I do to meet these priorities? Is this a realistic action? How can I ameliorate missed priorities? 

6—Make a doable plan and implement my action(s). 

7—Within a realistic time frame, review my progress and decide if my actions are, in fact, meeting my priorities. 

For our house selling and proceeding actions, here is what happened: 

1—Stop.  It was not an emergency situation. We realized and took advantage of the time we had to make our choices. Realizing we were not rushed, really gave us the permission to take some time to think through some big items. 

2—The true challenge was that we did not like owning a house or the lifestyle our location dictated. 

3 and 4—Our priorities, in order of importance, were: more time together, moving out of the DC area, financial relief, living in a more walkable neighborhood, and access to free public services (library, park, etc.). 

5—It turned out that, at the time, moving out of the DC area was not possible. That was a big disappointment. To ameliorate that disappointment, we were incredibly committed (rigid?) on meeting our other priorities. 

6—Find a reasonable-sized and priced 2 bedroom unit in an apartment community with a pool located within walking distance to some free public services and a grocery store. 

7—We’ve been in our place for 1.5 years and have mostly hit the mark. Our space is just right for the 3 of us (although white apartment walls do drive me nuts!), we have a pool, and can walk to a park, library, and grocery store. As an added bonus, we are closer to school and many friends.   

So, what do I miss? The only thing I really miss is dining space. We really enjoy having friends over for dinner and other get togethers. With our current place, we almost always ended up having “living room picnics” instead of eating at a table. I did not realize that would be something I would miss, but I really do!  But, at least I have a new priority for next time! 

Trust me, slowing down is not always appropriate and it does not always work (if you read our blog long enough, I’m sure you’ll learn about many of those situations).  However, making a slow, comfy decision, even one that does not achieve all of the desired result, can give you the confidence and peace of mind of trying your best to find your comfy.  

POST SCRIPT:  This is a lesson still being learned as evidenced by a recent trip to Trader Joe's.  Our list:  cucumber, bell peppers, celery, and two dips.  We did get those things along with 3 boxes of cookies and a cake.  SLOW DOWN, we did not (until after our sugar crash, of course)!