Adapting in place

Home4I’ve lived in the same apartment for eight years, ever since I first moved here for grad school. I defended my master’s thesis the day before my doctoral program started and I needed a place to live.  Since I didn’t know if I’d pass, I didn’t want to sign for anything ahead of time.  The management company here held this apartment for me for two weeks before my defense date.  Happily, I passed, took a quick tour the day of the program orientation, signed the lease, and moved in a mattress and a microwave. I lucked out a bit; I knew nothing about the apartment or the area, but I wound up with a place with inexpensive rent, walkable grocery stores, and four major bus routes with stops right outside my door.  I’ve been here ever since, and three years ago J. moved in with me.

Recently, we’ve been presented with the opportunity to move into a new place.  Friends have just bought their first house, and they thought we might like their current rental. We’ve been talking about moving for awhile now, both so we can get a place that’s really ours (since J. moved into my apartment) and one that’s somewhat nicer.  This seemed like a real possibility.  But ultimately, after a good deal of thought and deliberation, we’ve decided to stay where we are, at least for now.

The potential new place would has some clear advantages.  It has more rooms and more space.  We’d be moving from a one bedroom apartment to what is essentially a semi-detached house, with two stories and a basement.  The layout is good, with a living and dining room and three small bedrooms, so we’d have room for office space and for guests.  The basement could make for a good workshop and possibly even serve as a cold cellar for food storage, which is very appealing.

There were challenges, though, as there always are.  First was the cost.  We’d be looking at an extra $200 in rent per month, plus additional utilities, such as water and gas for the furnace. Based on what we were told, this would increase our utility costs by at least another $50 a month, and probably more in the $75 to $100 range.  Plus, on top of the increased monthly cost we’d have moving costs to deal with and, with more space, we’d likely need some additional furniture.  Given that I have an unfilled course for next year that’s still up in the air, extra expenses are not ideal right now.

Second was the fact that I’m applying for jobs, and taking on a new lease would mean committing to a year in the new place starting in October.  This would be a problem if we needed to move (and the hope is very much that we will).  I don’t want to keep putting our lives on hold due to a new job that may or may not come, but the idea of locking ourselves into a new lease now feels undesirable.

Third was the location.  It’s in a lovely neighbourhood, on a shady street with older homes, but it’s less practical for someone without a car than where we are now.  Buses are harder to get to, and it would require two buses to get to work, drastically increasing my travel time and making night classes a good deal more difficult.  Also, there are no grocery stores in walking distance.  Although increased storage space would mean we could stock up more than we currently do, it would still be a hassle to get to groceries in the first place, or to anything else that we might need.  Furthermore, a garden would be out of the question.

As I was considering the possibility of moving, I also pondered whether a move would mesh with the ideas of voluntary simplicity and voluntary poverty that I’ve been giving a lot of thought to recently.  Spending more on where we live could make our financial situation more precarious.  Moving will likely complicate rather than simplify my routines.  Taking on a place with more space will not only not force me to reevaluate what I choose to buy and hold onto, but might drive even more consumption.  None of these changes seems to fit all that well with the life that I’m working towards.

I have to say that it was tempting.  Heck, part of me still wants it, especially the basement storage space and possible cold cellar.  But there are trade offs.  Important tradeoffs.  At the same time, when I actually think about it, I remember that our current apartment isn’t really so terrible.  It’s affordable, stays dry, keeps out most of the cold, and when I’m not actively practicing for my eventual appearance on Hoarders: Urban Homestead Edition, it has enough room for the two of us and our things. We’ll still probably move at some point, for any number of reasons, but for now I’m seeing this as an exercise in adaptation and contentment. Rather than trying to solve whatever relatively minor problems we think we have through a significant lifestyle change, we’ll figure out how to make what we have work for us as best it can.

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