Why we Decided to Sell our Red House

Yep, we’ve sold our house. And even though I loved that house (and who really knows that better than all of you who read this blog), it was a very carefully thought-out decision, and one I’m really happy about.

First things first: Don’t worry! We’ll still be blogging, and we’ll still be Red House West! RHW is more than a house color, it’s a design ethos (said with a clenched fist to the heart).
Second things second: This is a text-heavy post, without many photos. If that’s not your bag, come back next week for more regular content! But if you want a glimpse into one person’s process for making a big decision… read on.

A number of months ago Cameron and I held a summit; it took place on the Oregon Coast, and we were the only two delegates present. The purpose of the summit was to check in about our lives: do we like our jobs? Are we happy living in Eugene? Are our goals the same as they were when we married, or have they changed? Are the things we’re doing each day helping us meet those goals?

With big questions like that, it’s easy to talk in circles, so we used the book ‘Smart Choices, a Practical Guide to Making Better Life Decisions’ to help us sketch out an agenda. The book is exhaustive in its methods for decision-making, so we just pulled out three major pieces:

1.) Identify your problem statement
My problem statement: I don’t want to live an ordinary life. That’s might sound a little silly and a little vague, but what I mean is that I want to be able to afford to take interesting jobs that don’t pay much, or to drop everything (except Cameron) to move for an interesting opportunity or an experience.

Cameron’s problem statement: I want time to be creative and to make things. I don’t just want to work all day then do house maintenance.

2.) List your objectives

This was a really fun process! It is basically just a huge brainstorm of all the things we each want, without having to worry about logistics or whether they’re even possible or not. Our lists were long, but some of my objectives were traveling and writing more, and some of our mutual objectives were building our own house, living more simply, and making time and space for creativity.

3.) Identify alternatives

The idea is to come up with lots of different alternatives and then to map them against your problem statement and objectives to see how most of your goals/desires/needs can be met. We came up with lots of ideas (one was to bail on everything and live in a van!), but for us the main alternatives really came down to houses. Way back in 2001, while I was doing everything I could to avoid responsibility, Cameron was doing the opposite – buying a house.  We lived there together before buying the red house and then rented it out.  It’s actually been mentioned once already here on RHW; in my very first blog post ever, I described how we’d done some work on our previous home but felt like we were ‘polishing a turd.’

A glowing description of the house we now live in, right?

When we looked at that list of things we really want – to travel, to eventually build our own house – this was the really clear choice. I’ve never made a decision using anything but my gut before, and this process made it so clear! I definitely feel some longing for the loveliness of the red house, but all I have to do is think about all those objectives and that longing feels more like sweet nostalgia than like loss.

Living here (I need to stop calling it the turd, so it will be called the Ranch House until I (or you) think of something better) gives us more options in terms of paid work vs. creative pursuits and allows us to save towards building our own place. It’s quite a bit smaller than the red house, with a much smaller yard. It’s very easy to rent out, and very easy to maintain. We’re making plans for a big, extended trip abroad this fall. If you read my essay on Design Sponge, you know I’m a nomadic homebody, and this place gives me the chance to inhabit both of those worlds.

What does this mean for the blog? Lots of exciting possibility and so many projects! With the exception of the Chamber of Secrets, much of the work we did on the red house was decorating, not renovating. The bones of that house, with its plaster walls and charm-for-days, didn’t require a total overhaul. This house? It’s a 1978 ranch house and, well, it needs some work. Popcorn ceilings, builder grade everything, a super dated kitchen, and so much dark brown woodwork. Oy. It feels fun, though, to look at it through the lens of all the design knowledge I’ve gained while writing this blog. I have got some ideas.  And also some wallpaper.  But more on that another time.

In the coming weeks I’ll be sharing ‘before’ photos, even though they document some appalling decor choices made by Past Katie (super dark high-gloss paint on heavily textured walls? It’s a DON’T).  I can’t wait to work through our plans with you here on the blog!

the boys

Did you know cat pheromone diffusers are a thing? Ones that plug into your wall like a Glade air freshener? I didn’t either before this move, but they’re a life saver.

Thanks for reading along! How do you go about making big life changes?  I’d love to hear!

30 responses on “Why we Decided to Sell our Red House

  1. Emily

    Spare a thought for your British readers – first Brexit, and now Katie no longer lives in a Red House? As Bridget Jones put it, “The last remaining tiny bathmat of security has been pulled from under my feet.”

    On a serious note though… I am so happy for you, it sounds like you made the right decision, and looking forward to seeing your renovations in the, er, “Ranch House”!

    1. Katie Post author

      You prove once again that in the face of all adversity, British wit prevails! I’m so glad you read and comment on this blog 🙂 And don’t worry, I may have left the red house but I’m still in the EUgene.

  2. Nina

    Oh, I will miss your Red House, Katie! But I wish you and Cameron all the best in … That Seventies House??

    BTW, I don’t just come here for the pretty pictures. I always read every word you and Mera write. I can count on either learning something, being inspired or spitting tea all over my monitor. And who doesn’t love that?

    1. Katie Post author

      Thanks Nina, you’ve been an awesome part of this blog since its earliest days! I like ‘the Seventies house,’ but fear it’s too kind. More ‘Cusp of the Eighties,’ I’m afraid. Maybe the Transitional House – reflecting both personal and decadal change? We just can’t let ‘the Turd’ stick. So to speak.

  3. joyce

    Considering that I don’t personally know you, I am oddly nervous, but excited, about the change. Looking forward to what comes next.

    1. Katie Post author

      Thanks Joyce! Blogs are a funny, personal window into people’s lives, aren’t they? Now that the move is over I feel mostly excited – though admittedly a little nervous about my ability to prettify I house that has some aggressively unlovely qualities. 🙂

  4. Sarah

    My fiance and I just moved to Eugene, hoping to buy a home soon and I hear ya on the ranch homes with dated fixtures, popcorn ceilings, and paneling. They are everywhere here! I’m looking forward to seeing how you tackle your ranch home!

  5. andrea

    i’m full of glee. since i own a ranch turd it will be inspiring to see what you do! on the plus side: they’re easy to insulate.

    1. Katie Post author

      Ha! I actually thought about some of your previous comments when I wrote this post – I knew at least one other person would be happy about this move! And oy, the brown woodwork struggle is real.

  6. Carol Bryner

    Wow! This IS news. I admire the way you went about making this decision, and think you have done exactly the right thing at the right time in your lives. A friend once gave me great advice – “Have kids before you get too civilized.” And this could apply to so many things. Find a way to live the life you want before you get so settled in it becomes impossible. I’m so looking forward to future writing and news from you about your life and about “the turd.” (Sorry, but “turd” is ever so much more fun than “ranch.”) And, like Nina, I always read every wonderful word you write.

    1. Katie Post author

      Thanks dear Carol! It was hard to keep this news to myself over the last couple months, but I was scared of somehow jinxing the sale by making it public before it was done.
      Love that advice from your friend – thanks for sharing!

      And p.s. – If you’re not fond of ‘Ranch,’ then let’s turn our collective brainpower to finding a word more fun to say than ‘turd’ before this situation gets really dire!

  7. Katy Gilmore

    Hi Katie – think forward – it’s The Jewel (that’s what happens after the polishing, and you know you will make it true). Like everybody here I’m very excited for you (and for us as readers – that polishing is so much fun to read about). And I love it that you are planning a big trip to Europe! xo

  8. Lea

    Great news! As a resident of a charm deficient house of a similar age from which much knotty pine has been removed, I look forward to reading about your experiences making yourselves at home again in what may seem like a less naturally charismatic space.

  9. andrea

    since you mentioned the popcorn ceiling, and textured drywall, thought i would mention asbestos testing just-in-case. we had ours tested by mailing it to a lab in Washington (_after_ we sanded, oops!) and no problem.

  10. maureen williams

    I’m such a great techie that my first comment on your decision disappeared into cyber space, may be helping others too, or not. I salute your bravery. Go see what’s out there. More than 40 years ago, i was settled into the expected routine, getting engaged to my great boyfriend of 3 years. Was it all that great??? I needed the space of a year to travel with some friends. At that time it was a shocker. You Know who i am, Katie. If you and cameron can do it…go live in other countries for a while. And actually, i feel like an outlander in saying that the ‘american ranch house’ is actually a great floorplan. getting rid of popcorn ceilings is a must.

  11. jamala

    I commend you on your decision. Life is a funny thing, but we all must do things to make us happy (that’s the least we can do for ourselves). years ago when I pondered moving south I read the book “who moved my cheese” and that was book that helped me understand leaving my comfort zone. Turned out to be It was the best decision for my family. Enjoy your journey where life takes you always try to be happy. Life is too short to live with popcorn ceilings.. 🙂

  12. Gillianne

    I come here for the content — words, wit, Real People with Real Lives (that now may be less ordinary). And so few, if any, grammatical faux pas. 🙂 Reevaluations of the big things are valuable for periodic affirmations or course corrections, but they take guts, trust, and candor. You and Cameron appear to have all three and will almost certainly live more rewarding lives for being able to examine them. A similar thought process led us to Eugene and massive downsizing in retirement. No regrets. Am confident you two will have none as well for aforementioned reasons.

    Now… begone popcorn ceilings and a surfeit of dark wood. And have a splendiferous Big Trip this fall!

    1. Katie Post author

      Thanks dear Gillianne! So glad to hear you don’t find many errors (I might be guilty of occasionally going back to edit old posts; Mera & I are lucky to have each other as editors, but things still slip through the cracks sometimes). So glad you read and comment on this blog and I’m also glad you found Eugene, and I hope it’s continuing to feel like a good choice and like home!

  13. Christine

    Congrats! We had a similar situation years ago. We owned an old farmhouse and we poured our heart and soul into that place. After a few years, we realized that we wanted a different lifestyle and a different career path for my husband (one that wasn’t possible in that area). We put the house up for sale and moved on. It was tough, but totally worth it.

    I’m selfishly excited for your ranch house and to see what you do with it. We move into different housing every two years now, and the housing tends to be….well….turd-like. It’s hard to find examples of thoughtful decoration in houses lacking in architectural appeal.

    1. Katie Post author

      Wow, every two years? That must add all kinds of challenges to making a place feel like your own, but also some excitement for getting to frequently relocate and revamp. Welcome and thank you!

  14. Pippin Schupbach

    Gonna miss the red house, but I completely understand the decision to down size. My husband and I would like a smaller house but that needs to wait until he makes tenure at a Washington University. Every six months we sit down and discuss our goals which covers career, money, emotional, spiritual and physical. It’s one way we see if changes need to be made and how we go about doing that while supporting each other.

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