Room Enough for Two

Unlike the previous house, which was all about everyone else in our lives, our new home is mostly about ourselves

Three months ago, my husband and I downsized (our square footage, not our mortgage) to a cute little 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom house just a half block from the beach.

We've had to replace nearly all of the electrical wiring and some of the windows, the carpeting in the master bedroom and one of the toilets. We've painted every wall and ceiling, and we just found out we need a new roof.

We installed air conditioning, because despite what everyone says, you do need it at the beach. We've been remodeling our kitchen since we moved in 3 months ago, but we do have a refrigerator. I'm someone who doesn't love to cook and I can't wait to make my first meal here.

When I say "we," I don't mean my husband and me. We hired people to do all this work for us because we don't know how and, to be honest, didn't really want to, though we did talk about painting our master bedroom ourselves. That didn't happen.

So for 3 months, nearly every day, there have been people in my house—drilling, cutting, banging, hammering, moving, yelling, singing, bringing dirt and disarray. That's what happens when you remodel.

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We're living with the dust, the noise, the big gaping hole of a kitchen. It seems that nothing is going exactly as we had planned, but what ever does? We've been living among packed boxes and half-functioning rooms since we sold our previous home in April. Living like this has grown old and at times makes me extremely anxious—and yet, we are very happy.

Our house is about 80 years old and has been added on to twice. It started out as an 800-square-foot bungalow, probably a beach house for a family who lived further inland. Now it's 1,500 square feet of coziness. Yes, the floors slope a bit, and some of the doors don't quite close all the way. There's woefully little storage space, which we prepared for by selling a lot of what we had in our former home of 24 years and renting a storage unit for the things we couldn't bear to part with. The walls aren't perfectly smooth, the bathrooms are on the small side, the garage is for cars the size of go-carts and the gas fireplace doesn't work and probably never will.

Our neighbors houses are about 8 feet away from ours, and because we live at the beach, dust and moisture keep my car from ever staying clean for more than a few days. Despite all of the things that could be problems, we are mad about our new little house.

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We get some interesting questions from friends and acquaintances about our choice to completely change our lifestyle, moving from a spacious suburban home with a pool and lawn to a small home in a beach community with a definite urban flair.

"How's the parking?" This is one of the first things people ask. The parking in our neighborhood is notoriously bad, but with one space in the back of our house and good luck, we've run into very few problems. Even if we did have trouble parking, it wouldn't bother us. We'd just walk a little farther to get to our car.

"Where do you put everything?" It's amazing how much less you need when you don't have the room for it, or how creative you can be finding storage solutions when you need to. So far the only real problem is where to store the vacuum cleaner.

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"Where will your kids sleep when they come home?" Because they've never lived here, our kids don't consider this "home" in the way they did our former house. They both live in homes of their own—because they are adults. Our daughter lives nearby, so it's rare that she and our son are both here overnight at the same time. However, we found a wonderful sofa with a very comfortable, large blow-up queen-size mattress. And there's another sofa, too. Problem solved.

And the most surprising question of all:

"Where will your grandkids stay when they come to visit?"

There's no hint of grandchildren anytime soon. In fact, I'd guess it's going to be quite a few years before we have to consider where to put the portable crib and high chair for any little ones. In the meantime, we have chosen not to live our empty nest lives awaiting the arrival of our children's children. If and when they have families of their own, we'll figure it out.

Instead, we've decided to sit on the patio, or walk down the street to dinner, or take our dog for a stroll on the beach path. We've opted to create a home that, unlike our previous house, which was all about everyone else in our lives, is mostly about us. We may not have the room for tons of people, but there's room enough—more than enough—for two. And that's what we love the most.

Tags: Homeaging