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