Monday, September 07, 2009

this too shall pass

Years ago, before we had children, I had a real home office.

In that office, I had a beautiful solid wood desk, bookshelf, and table. There was a desk lamp and a floor lamp and an assortment of art pieces, hanging on the wall. There was a fax machine, a telephone and a 20-inch, flat screen, computer monitor. There were assorted office supplies and files. There were miscellaneous reports and journals that I had published over the years.

Everything was neatly stowed away and organized.

Today, that home office is now the boys bedroom. What had been our guest room, with a solid cherry futon, end table and coffee table, is now the girls bedroom. Our home office has been reduced to a computer hutch in the family room that holds our computer, critical paperwork and mailing supplies.

Once our children were born, we moved all of our excess furniture and equipment in to Charlie's office. In addition to our furniture, we moved all of our old school supplies. Our textbooks from graduate school, research materials from our Masters Thesis, and assorted diplomas were boxed up and stored.

But last month, when Charlie was laid off and his office was closed, we realized that we would need to make a decision about what to do with all of our furniture and supplies, both work and school, that we had accumulated over the past 20 years. We would need to figure out a way, somehow, to assimilate everything in to our home. This past week, Charlie began the process of moving all of these items out of his office, which will be closed soon, and in to our garage.

When we returned from our vacation to South Carolina three weeks ago, I was already starting to feel overwhelmed with our small living space - rapidly growing children - and assortment of things that I'm not yet prepared to get rid of ... but have no place to store.

Children's bicycles, in addition to our bicycles. Strollers. Toddler toys. An oversized wagon. An antique school desk. An heirloom doll house that measures five feet long by two feet wide.

Now ... add to that ... the equivalent of two rooms worth of furniture and innumerable boxes filled with reports and documents that are critical to our careers. I just spent the past four hours, filling up three trash cans worth of things I'm prepared to get rid of, and filling the back of my husband's truck - to the brim - with items for Goodwill.

But what about the rest?

Do we sell these beautiful and well made items, that I adore, for a fraction of what we bought them for? (answer: no)

Do we store everything in a storage unit and shell out $100.00 a month for an undetermined amount of time until we can use them again? (answer: no)

Do we leave everything in the garage and do our best to ignore the fact that you can no longer see the ground? (answer: no)

Do we sell our house and move to a larger house, even though we have no idea how much longer our careers might keep us in San Diego? (answer: no)

Do we count our four little blessings and focus on the fact that we are healthy, have a roof over our heads, food in our refrigerator and air conditioning on a sweltering summer day? (answer: yes)

Do we tell ourselves that we don't know the answer - soon it will hopefully present itself - and until then, it's best to pour ourselves glasses of lemonade and lay on the lawn with our children deciphering characters in the clouds? (answer: most definitely yes)

At the moment, Charlie is online looking at larger homes in San Diego County. The average sticker price is $900,000.00. To me, it seems illogical to buy an almost one million dollar house when the future is so uncertain. Or, to even waste time looking at such a purchase.

I'm ready to keel over from uncertainty.

Work is crazy busy and I've got a backlog at least four weeks long worth of things to get caught up on, since our vacation and my two-week trial. The house is a disaster. Last night was the first time I had mopped the floor in six weeks. I'm doing my absolute best to get caught up on paperwork, errands and shopping. People are calling and asking us to call them back and by the time we get around to calling them back, two days have passed and they are angry.

We have no idea what we are doing. We know we want and/or need to move, but we have no idea where. We have no idea when or how. From all accounts, my job will be gone in a few years - unless I accept a new one and a transfer. But who knows where that transfer will be?

Charlie just started a new company and will be signing his first contracts next week. But we don't know if we want to remain in San Diego. We don't know if we want to sell our house and move or rent. We don't know if we will sell everything and travel around the country. We don't know if we will homeschool our children or send them to Kindergarten, next year. We don't know if it's possible, or likely, that we will move closer to family.

We don't know anything.

Except that dressing up and pretending you are an adult is sometimes a whole lot more fun than actually being one.


  1. I could have written this post. Maybe I should write our version at some point. We have both lost our jobs in less than two years. DH found another job (I'm working from home, or trying to), and he's been there a little over a year, and we'll find out next month if he's going to get laid off again, or just take another huge pay cut.

    The joys of being a journalist when the ship is sinking.

    We finally saved some money and put it towards repairs on *my* van three weeks ago. The night after the van went to the shop, one of our trees fell on my husband's car. $1,000 deductible, gone. $1,000 to get the tree cut down, gone. Any savings we may have had, very gone. Fabu.

    That's just the tip of the iceberg in our house. So this weekend, I started looking at jobs and houses in other states....again. I'm all for uprooting everything, moving to a bigger house and renting until the tides settle. Why do we need to be homeowners right now anyhow???

    And you're probably already aware what the money you'd get from selling your house would buy out here on the East Coast.....$900,000 is an unheard of number around here!!!

    Good luck with your decisions. These aren't the easy ones, are they?

  2. Mir: $900K for a house is unheard of for ME, anywhere. Charlie keeps telling me, "Yeah, but look how much space there is in these new homes!!" and I keep telling him, "Yeah, BUT, the first mortgage would CRUSH us completely."

    This uncertainty is so stressful.

    I don't know if I should go see a psychic - or a psychiatrist.

  3. My heart goes out to you in these uncertain times.
    900,000 dollars for a home is shocking but very realistic, even over here.
    Hey but, them kids are just adorable!!

  4. You've probably already thought of this- but what about building on a couple of rooms. Or turning the garage into another room?
    Good luck either way.

  5. Sounds like we are where you are right now the middle of Uncertainty. I think a lot of us as adults are in this place. I wish that we could all continue to pretend to be adults and not have to make these big decisions! At least we have some good company. Hang in there, you'll figure it out eventually!

  6. I know you love your furniture, but it is only just stuff. It is amazing how little you need to survive. It seems the more stuff you have, the more that goes wrong with it.
    The kids look so happy and it will not be long until they are fitting into those clothes. Aunt Grace just bought some shoes for Lisa's boy size 15---he is 14 years old and the shoes are too small.
    Any chance of Charlie opening up another office close by for the furniture and work he will be doing?
    Thinking of you,

  7. I agree with Mir. Consider Selling your house and renting a larger one.

  8. The first picture of your 2 is amazing. Your son looks just like Charlie and your daughter looks like you......uncanny.........cute kids.....

  9. "Except that dressing up and pretending you are an adult is sometimes a whole lot more fun than actually being one. "

    = SO TRUE

  10. How about renting a cheap monthly office suite and putting your stuff in there and having a place to go to during the day to ACTUALLY work? We have those suites at the end of our street and you can get a nice sized office room for $200 a month. Since commercial real estate has crashed, I bet you could find something and then your work won't take over your house.

  11. You may consider renting/subletting on office. Commercial real estate is going down the toilet. Rents are really low. In my office the 3 cpa's share the space but each person has their own office. You might be would allow for all the uncertainty you have...if you go to the old neighborhoods all of the houses are small... families have been raised in small spaces for a long time before us....
    or you could just rent a bigger house and rent out yours. Are you happy with your schools?

  12. have you thought about selling & then renting? i know it seems like you would be "throwing money away" but it seems like it could be a good option, while you wait to decide if you're staying in southern CA or relocating elsewhere.
    with real estate prices what they are, even if your house has devalued by a ton since you bought it, realistically how many years will you need to continue living there for the value to come back up? (5? 10? 15?). the point is, yes, you'll probably not get as much money as you would have gotten years ago, but you won't see that type of gain again for x number of years, and in the meanwhile, are you willing to stay put in an admittedly too small for your family space?

  13. Actually, when I said rent - I meant if we moved outside of CA > we would rent, OUR home, as opposed to sell it. I think it would be a very poor financial move to sell our house and rent another one in San Diego. Not only are we are accumulating equity in our home, we have a considerable tax break.

    As much as possible, I'd like to keep our house forever. In my opinion, there is no greater investment than property. Especially property in California!!

    As for renting an office space - I'd rather not commit to spending the money until we have some stability with Charlie's new venture. Although office space costs are down around here, it is UNHEARD of to get a space for $200/mo. Until then, I'll continue to work from our kitchen table > and my consultant's office(s) whenever possible.

    Thanks for the feedback. It's a good reality check.

  14. Move to Alaska and live with the Eskimo's! :)

  15. FYI, the neighborhood garage sale is coming up Sept 26. You'll be busy that day, of course, but maybe you have a neighbor who would sell your stuff for you? Alas, it would indeed be at a fraction of the items' original cost...