And so it has come to this: The Wife and I are hoping to simplify our family life…by moving.
Before the children were around to complicate life decisions, The Wife and I bought a cute 940 square foot bungalow on the east side of Austin. It was everything we needed wrapped into a 70-year-old asbestos-shingle-sidinged box. For the record, asbestos shingle siding: DELICIOUS! Sure it was small, but it was within walking distance to coffee shops and amazing taco stands. We fully expected to live there at least until our family outgrew the house (which meant once we had two kids). Then the panhandler fights and the police presence started next door. We decided to move west to the near-suburbs where it would be quiet, calm, the house would be bigger and we could finally get our family started.
We were awestruck when we toured the house we’d eventually buy. It had vaulted ceilings. It had two living rooms. A massive master bedroom upstairs. A big kitchen. A garage! Sure, it needed some updating, but this place was a palace compared to our house that now seemed like a little shack on the east side. And to top it off, there were no panhandlers within at least two miles of the place. For those not in the know: When living in Austin, living two miles from panhandlers is like living 1,000 miles from panhandlers in other places.
But living in a large house has come at a cost. Not only did we fill this joint with a couple of kids, we filled it with a bunch of stuff, too. We are being overrun by clutter. We leave unopened junk mail on any counter space we can find. Toys litter nearly every room in the house. We bought extra furniture we don’t really need in an attempt to fill spaces that we rarely use. Surprisingly enough, the garage has stayed relatively neat, as I insist upon being able to park my Tahoe in there. Can’t have the paint fading on that bad boy and the moms at preschool pick-up thinking I’m some sort of monster who doesn’t take care of his belongings! Just kidding. The paint is good, but it’s never washed and the interior looks like the inside of my daughter’s stomach: a mixture of goldfish, milk, apple juice and french fries. … but I digress.
And so we are moving to a smaller house. The thought of being “crammed” into 1785 square feet with two kids and a 90-pound lab may seem crazy to some — you Texans, mostly — but we are hopeful it will force us live more simply. Ideally, we won’t pile as much crap onto the counters. Hopefully, toys will remain confined to the playroom. If we’re smart, we’ll let the move be an excuse to get rid of a bunch of bulky stuff we simply don’t need (anyone need a plethora of old baby toys?).
Another perk of our new home is the neighborhood. Before I get into that, I want to be fair to our soon-to-be-former neighborhood. It’s beautiful. It’s quiet. It’s family friendly. It’s everything we thought we wanted in a neighborhood, but living here has made us realize that we are city people, not suburb people. At least for now.
Our new neighborhood will help to simplify our lives. There is a park with a pool within walking distance. The elementary school our kids will attend is also within walking/biking distance. The streets, while not as picturesque as our current neighborhood’s streets, are flat and have low amounts of traffic — perfect for learning to ride a bike or playing street football or just going for a leisurely walk. It’s going to be good.
It would be bad form for me to suggest that you can’t live a simple and decluttered life in a large house or in the suburbs or wherever it is you live that you feel like I’ve personally attacked. The fact is, you can live a simplified life wherever you are. We could do it in our current home if we really tried — but we’d have to try hard because we’re obviously bad at it.
So here’s the deal, as you sit and watch America’s Got to Dance Like a Kardashian Teen Mom, think about the things around you that you really need. Make a list if you have to. Think about the stuff in your house you have and haven’t used in the past year. If you’ve used it, great! If you haven’t, why keep it? It’s cluttering up your house and your life.
Just don’t throw your children out. They may seem like clutter from time to time, but they’re probably worth keeping.