Bigger isn’t always better: Remembering to appreciate what I already have

Walking home from work today, I decided to take the long way. Most of the time, I choose the easy quarter-mile stroll downhill from the office to our happy half acre (or happy .62 acre, if you’d like to be precise). But to celebrate the first day of summer, I took the river-forest loop.

The river-forest loop is exactly what it sounds like: a series of quiet streets that wend along the east bank of the Willamette River, easing their way beneath stands of tall oak, fir, and pine. It’s three miles from our house down the river-forest road and back again. I choose this route when I need exercise or want to think. And, on days like today, I choose it to soak up the scenery.

As I walked, I looked at the trees and the river and the lake. I listened to the birds. I watched the squirrels go about their squirrely business. I nodded to the neighbors, and (strangely enough) I encountered three different loose dogs traipsing around unleashed, each of which was pleased to spend some time walking with me a ways.

After a while, I stopped looking at nature and started looking at the homes. The river-forest loop has some great houses. In fact, the side of the street next to the river is lined with what can only be described as mansions. The homes are stately and ornate, with beautiful, manicured lawns. (Rumor has it that one of these homes belongs to Will Vinton, of California Raisins fame.)

True story: I once found a bowling ball for sale at a garage sale at this house. It fit me perfectly and was just the right weight. I didn't buy it. To this day, I regret not buying that bowling ball.
Dream house? Or an example of potential lifestyle inflation?

I’ve looked at these homes before — and even have my favorite (which I’m dying to buy if it ever goes on the market) — but usually in just a cursory fashion. Today, I really looked at them. And as I looked, I began to covet.

“I want a house like that,” I thought as I passed the new house built from river rock and brick. “Or maybe one like that,” I mused while considering the next lot, which includes a tennis court.

I imagined what it would be like to live in homes like these, homes with arched double-door entries, vaulted ceilings, and wrap-around porches. How much would it cost? (And where would I get the money?) What would this new, wealthier J.D. be like? What would I do? How great would my life be?

But my imagination really took flight when I saw that one of the homes was for sale. I stopped at the top of the driveway to admire all of the gables, the fountain, and the three-car garage. I pictured the other side, which must sit right at the river’s edge. (The above cell-phone photo is of this house. It’s listed for $2.3 million, or almost ten times what we paid for our house.)

“Wow,” I thought. “If only I could afford a place like that!”

Yes, J.D. If only. And then what? Would that make you satisfied?

As I resumed my walk, my route led me back through normal neighborhoods: ranch houses and minivans and small city lots. Several folks were out working in their yards, just as I’ve been doing for the past few weeks. Like me, they’re trying to make their homes look as pretty as possible.

Suddenly it occurred to me that I didn’t need some fancy dream house. I already have one. I recalled the excitement that Kris and I felt when we first found our current place back in 2004. We thought it was perfect. Our hearts broke when we thought we’d lost the home by $500. And our spirits soared when the prospective buyers backed out. When we moved in, we were overwhelmed, but mostly in a good way. We thought this was our dream house.


Our home, which we call Rosings Park.

You know what? It is our dream house. And I have a great life already, even without a fountain or a riverfront view. Here it was, three in the afternoon on the first day of summer, and I was walking home from work. And here I was again, half an hour later, plopped on a park bench writing a blog post in a notebook while all around me kids played tennis and basketball. At home I’d grill some steaks and pet my cats and read a couple of comic books. What more could I ask for? (Well, besides for Kris not to be on the road for work, that is.)

I’m always urging others to appreciate what they have. When you feel that aching urge to keep up with the Joneses, when you wake up and realize you’ve begun to succumb to lifestyle inflation, it’s time to pause and take stock of what you have. When you slow down and really appreciate what you already own, you can often slake the thirst for something bigger and better. Maybe it’s time to take my own advice.

In my case, I reminded myself that although our house has been a little rough around the edges lately, that’s mostly because I haven’t had time to take care of the property like I ought to. After I’m through with my big yardwork push, and now that we’ve repaired the sewer line, and after we purge a little more Stuff, I’ll feel much better about our place again. We’ll have people over. We’ll laze in the afternoon sun. We’ll pick peas and berries from the garden.

I’m smart enough to realize that a $2.3 million dream home won’t make me any happier than where we live now. I think I’ll stay put.

196 comments

  1. Its always funny how lifestyle inflation can creep up. When I lived with my family, I thought a co-op would be the greatest thing since sliced bread. In the co-op, I just *had* to have a house with a yard. Now, the house with a yard is one of the nicer in my neighborhood, but is on the edge of a couple areas with fantastically huge houses with two story foyers and panoramic mountain views.

    It certainly has nothing to do with personal finance, but when I feel the lifestyle inflation creeping in, I remind myself of how much housework I already have! I couldn’t imagine taking care of one of those houses — I’d have to quit my job just to do it! (And that wouldn’t be very frugal at all)

    And by the way, J.D., your house is absolutely beautiful! (I love the second story patio!)

  2. About two years ago I had my dream house picked out in my neighborhood and quietly obsessed about it. This was when I was really into nice big houses. But I think I started to really think about reality and how I probably will never be comfortably afford these houses I were obsessed with & since then I’m more into nice, cute charming houses (Portland has a lot!). But ok if I was to win the lottery, I would jump right back into the big house obsession.

  3. J.D. to me, your house is HUGE! In Toronto a house that sized with a yard could easily be worth a million dollars. In fact, for what you paid for your house, here you might have been able to afford a tiny 500 sq. ft. condo. It’s all about perspective.

  4. A good rule of thumb is. Always buy houses according to your current necessities and not your ideal image. Which basically translates to: bu according to your needs, and not your ego.

  5. Um, if I was walking down your street and I saw your house, I’d think it was a mansion!

    It’s all perspective, I guess.

  6. Your house is beautiful! I’ve read all about your gardening adventures and home maintenance, but hadn’t seen a photo.

    You don’t want the mansion. I spent a couple of summers during HS doing deep cleaning, painting, etc. for a kind of “handy-man” company. The work mostly involved the few local mansions (regular folk did their own work). Those houses require so much upkeep to keep them looking so nice. At one point, a family bought one of the mansions (becoming “house poor”), and tried to do it themselves. Every spare minute was spent maintaining the place; they realized they couldn’t keep it up and sold the place (fortunately they broke even). The price tag is 2-3 million $, but do you have the upkeep money?

  7. In all seriousness JD – but your house is already huge.
    Where I live a house like, that with that much yard, would be worth between 1-1,5M€.
    It’s easy to feel good and satisfied with such a house (even without the price tag).
    Imagine living with your family in a 80 square meter appartment. Thats more about how alot of people live.

  8. Have to agree….you have a wonderful house JD. It looks well-loved in the photo and based on what I’ve read here it is. I get the point of your post…and I agree completely…but I would bet good money someone has driven past your place and wished they had a house like that. Keep up the good work!

  9. You have a BEAUTIFUL house! Much nicer than my own, but I don’t envy you the house – I do covet the .62 acres a teeny bit though (loud neighbors).

    Just think – one of those people that live in the mansions could have been home sick from work, watching you strolling around in the afternoon and envying your ability to do that in the middle of the day.

  10. While I concede that we have a large yard (which is the primary reason we bought this house), I don’t feel like the house itself is huge. It’s too big for just Kris and me, yes, but it’s only 1800 square feet, which seems rather average, especially by modern measures. Or maybe I’m just rationalizing. In any event, the fact that it’s too big for just the two of us should be yet another clue that I don’t need anything bigger, right?

    But I should remember that when I first saw the house (which is shown too its best advantage in that photo!), I too thought it was mansion-esque. I was in awe of it. Now that I’ve lived in the drafty old barn for six years, I’m more familiar with its flaws, of course, but it’s still a wonderful old house.

  11. Your house is my dream house. It is the style I absolutely love.

    However, I do know what you mean. Every Christmas we drive through this exclusive subdivision to look at the Christmas lights. The house there back up to a golf course and they are enormous. Like 15,000 – 20,000 square feet enormous. I know I am out of my league when the mailboxes in front of the house resemble mini-versions of the house.

    But, like you, I always come home and realize I have more than I already need already. This house is where my memories are.

  12. You know the story of the man who caught the fish that granted wishes? His wife first told him to wish for a cottage, then a row house, then a mansion, then a palace. Desire always escalates if you look outward rather than inward.

  13. @Meghan # 3

    I thought the exact same thing! I own a house (not a townhouse, but a real house) in King West in Toronto, and when I tell people they think I am so lucky to own a house in that area. It looks about half the size of JD’s! And I am pretty sure I paid double what he paid.

    It truly is all about perspective. I am usually pretty happy with what I have until I see that others have better. If we were just blind to everything around us, we would all be perfectly content.

  14. I agree with others, your house is a dream house. It has two features I would murder for. A porch and a balcony.

  15. JD: You’re comparing to US houses when you think your house isn’t huge. In a global comparison, your house is enormous! The average new house in the US may be larger than yours, at 2200 sq ft, but the average new home in the UK is only 815 sq ft.
    Not that I’m really complaining – I hate housework and currently live reasonably comfortably in a single student room which is under 150 sq ft (not including the shared kitchen and bathroom).

  16. We recently adopted a new puppy. The woman we bought the puppy from lives in a very depressed neighborhood–the kind that gets at least one visit the police every day, and this day was no exception. (They were 2 houses down.) The house was very small, looked like it hadn’t had any upkeep in decades, the screen door was falling off its hinges and had no screen, the carpet was filthy, the furniture was mismatched and missing some seat cushions, there was a window AC unit about to fall out of the window, all the trim had paint peeling off of it…if you wanted to take a picture as an example of a poor American, this would be the place to do it. I didn’t feel like the money we paid for the pup was too much–the woman obviously needed it. (I just hope she bought groceries for her kids with it.) When we left, I said, “Oh, my God, hon, we must be RICH!” He said, “Yeah, don’t ever let me hear you complain about our house again!” My house is the slums compared to your house, though.

  17. Average here is 80 square meters, the size of my house (which I find cozy enough) and half of yours. Perspective… 🙂

  18. This is one of many reasons it is so dangerous to compare oneself to others.

    As others have said, your house looks huge to me! My husband and I currently live in a one bedroom apartment with two cats…cozy to put it mildly. I am currently in grad school and renting an apartment works for our situation right now. When our situation changes, we’ll probably change our housing.

  19. You know, as I’ve gotten older, my perception of great houses has really changed. I used to look at big houses and dream of being in them. I especially wanted a big lot of land.

    Now that I’m a homeowner and we do just about everything to our house ourselves, I now look at those homes and say “wow..that’s a lot of lawn to mow”, “a lot of house to paint”, “a lot of beds to weed” “a lot of mulch to buy” “a lot of bushes to trim and fertilize” and that’s just the outside. Painting porches, by the way is torture. My mom had em and they take an eternity.

    At least with housing, the work involved in maintaining a larger home is a big enough deterrent for me to prevent the lifestyle inflation.

    Your home is amazing by the way.

  20. I think you have a very lovely house, J.D. But our own house is older (1925, brick Craftsman style) and so I can relate to the creeping frustration. We’ve been here for 7 years, and it seems that we’ve hit the most expensive point in the house’s life cycle: tuckpointing, removing K&T wiring, adding insulation. We have twin toddlers, which severely skews the time vs. money calculation, so we hired out most of this work. I’ve told my husband that the house feels like a third child. I love the character and many of the features of our home, which are actually really fantastic and cost-saving for raising small children (non-open floorplan = no baby gates!), but if we ever move, I’ll have a better idea of what a house’s age really means in terms of upkeep.

  21. I was viewing large houses myself the other day and had a thought: Sometimes I get creeped out in my own tiny house at night. I cannot imagine how creepy it is being in a big house (such as the one you show in the first picture) alone at night. Oof, I’ll take tiny and cozy any day.

  22. J.D. Your house is indeed lovely. I love the idea that you have named your house. Are you a fan of “Pride and Prejudice?” If I remember correctly, Darcy’s aunt’s estate was called Rosings. I spent much of our early years of marriage wishing for my own home. Due to my husband’s career choice, we live in a very nice home provided by the employer, but it doesn’t BELONG to us. I may never get to actually choose the house in which I live. I have had to learn to be content with my situation and not spend emotional energy wishing for other things. Great post.

  23. J.D.,
    Your house is fantastic looking, just the sort of thing my wife would love. I can understand the big house desires from time to time. We live in an older neighborhood with a nice little park behind us. On the other side of this park, a golf course and an upscale housing development has sprung up. I drive through there on the way home from work and there are a few that I could see us living in.

    Then I round the corner to our place, I usually get the contentment with what we have feeling again. We have no HOA to deal with, reasonable mortgage (we bought the house right) and really no keeping up with the Joneses over on the golf course.

    Of course, if we could ever find a great deal on a house with about 5 acres of land, we would probably have to do something about that!

  24. Instead of talking about how to get from point A to financial point B, this blog has turned into an apologetic how-not-to-want-to-do-any-better-than-I-am-now commentary on altruistic morality.

    I want the best possible life for myself and my family. Maybe that means a dream house, or maybe that means the freedom to travel any and everywhere, but maybe that means both. I’d be proud of my dream home if I had earned the means to own it.

    I don’t think contentment is much of a virtue — it’s more of a guise for mediocrity.

  25. Your house is gorgeous, and so different from many of the houses I have seen in Oregon.

    Speaking of Oregon, my parents live there (not very far from you, I think); I have pointed them at your gardening project postings. My dad just joined a bicycling club called the ‘Polk Peddlers’ which is just now forming. If you are interested (as part of your get fit), drop me a note!

  26. Your home is HUGE by the standards of most of the world’s people. I live alone in a cramped 590 square foot apartment with no garden, only a tiny balcony, and yet I regard myself as living in the lap of luxury, which I suppose I am for this part of the world (a major city in Asia). Normally an apartment of this size would be shared by a family of four or five, or even a three-generation family. A home and property such as yours can only be dreamed about by the majority of the people in this world. You don’t know how lucky you are J.D. Please don’t ever forget to count your blessings!

  27. Holy cow! Your house is beautiful! A gorgeous house like that on .62 acre–that’s my dream house. We can trade any time you feel the need to “simplify” into a smaller place.

  28. You’re right JD – you’ve got your dream house, and I’m glad you can come back around after your stroll to realize that. We all have different standards about what the right amount of space and amenities are for our families, and it’s always fascinating to read about different perspectives here.

    We’re living in our dream home too…we bought a 900sq ft condo in Chicago 8 years ago. It was affordable for us then, even more so now, and for 2 people it’s a fine amount of space. More importantly, Lake Michigan is our front yard, and that’s what makes it our dream home, even if I do miss the opportunity to have a garden.

  29. Funny, I did a double take as I thought the pic of your house was also of a “mansion.” 230k will buy you a 1br apartment around here.

    Right now I live in the most amazing apartment I’ve ever had, it’s a stand alone coach house with great neighbors in the main building and a shared yard where I have a huge vegetable garden and a big front porch. It’s 2 blocks from the El train and every one who comes over is amazed that such a place even exists.

    I still find myself searching on Zillow every now and then for the “perfect” place. I think it’s just part of human nature.

  30. Your house is so much more appealing to me than your dream home. It looks lived in and loved versus the other which seem to me a bit sterile. Your home is pretty much my dream house!

    Today’s post really resonated with me. I recently visited friends who are a few years younger and seem to have everything that I don’t – they own an adorable house, just had a baby, and still seem to be making landscaping and structural improvements. I left feeling very envious and anxious about our own situation. But then I found out that they’ve got their own struggles and worries. They’ve had to take out a second mortgage to make those repairs and the longer she is out on maternity leave, my friend is losing clients to a competitor, making their income a worry.

    After realizing this, I began to appreciate what we DO have. A wonderful marriage, an apartment in an absolutely beautiful city where we can walk to anything we need, a network of friends who are also downscaling – and I began to feel really blessed. A much nicer feeling than jealousy!

  31. When I see homes that size, all I can think of are the property taxes, the utility bills, the yardwork and the housework. Ugh. Let somebody else deal with that; I’m happy in my 840 square foot rental!

  32. Great story, J.D., and a real nice house too!

    Seems to me that the experience you described is a combination of two things: dreaming up new things to aspire for, and learning (more about) what you really want and need in life.

    It’s only healthy — or even vital — that we develop new dreams and goals every so often. The nice thing is that it’s totally OK not to pursue every dream. Even better, the thought process following these dreams that can really help you grow. When you try to figure out how to make any given dream a reality, you will notice that maybe that dream isn’t worth pursuing at all. Like those nice houses you saw, they could be something you already have in a slightly different form. Or they could simply turn out to be something that doesn’t get high enough on your list of priorities. Or they could come with strings that you really don’t want.

    So keep on dreaming (I’ll continue to do the same!) and you’ll live a happier life. You’ll get a real kick out making some of your dreams a reality (like you’ve already done!), and you’ll learn to know yourself (and your family) a lot better when working through the other dreams that won’t deserve to be fulfilled.

  33. There are some gorgeous houses around where I live in Michigan. Often I’ve thought that is a nice home…and then think about the maintenance. Shudder to think about the time and money on upkeep on these huge homes. I have a hard enough time on my own.

    Currently we live in a home much much too large for us which is almost 2,100 SqFt not including the full basement (previously we had ~1,200SqFt). Only myself, my wife and my 19 month old son live here…I wrote about why we moved in case anyone is interested.

  34. I love your house, J.D. I often look at gorgeous houses in older neighborhoods, but I honestly don’t sleep well in large houses, strange as it sounds, so I remind myself of that and let it pass!

  35. JD, your house is huge (and very pretty). I live in Toronto as another poster above and that house is outside of my ability to buy in the area I would like to live (6 figure earner here).

    1800 square feet is tons of room! Don’t succumb to McMansion syndrome. Your house has so much character and a gorgeous lot.

    ETA the one bedroom 720 square foot condo I live in now sells for $400k, and has condo fees about $800/month on top of that, as well as very high property taxes.

  36. When you mentioned the $2.3 million house, I scanned down and looked at the picture of the house.

    I thought, “Wow, that’s a nice house for $2.3”. (You have to understand I’m from SoCal.) Then you wrote that it was your house.

    It’s all in perception, isn’t it?

    One of my favorite joys is driving and looking at houses. When I saw your house it looked like heaven to me.

    PS. My wife just came in the office and I showed her the picture of your house. I told her it was for sale for $2.3. She said, “Wow, that’s pretty nice”.

  37. I have the opposite problem–I want to move into a smaller house! My husband thinks I’m insane. I just love cottages and cabins, and the cozy feel of them. Right now, with 3 kids in the house, it’s not really possible to downsize (I think our house is about 1200 sq. ft.) but once they’re grown and gone my dream is to move into a smaller place….easy to clean! And you can’t accumulate as much stuff if you have to be conscious of space.

  38. Great story, J.D., and a real nice house too! Seems to me that your experience is a combination of two things: dreaming up new things to aspire for, and learning (more about) what you really want and need in life.

    It’s only healthy — or even vital — that we develop new dreams and goals every so often. The nice thing is that it’s totally OK not to pursue every dream. Even better, the thought process following these dreams that can really help you grow. When you try to figure out how to make any given dream a reality, you will notice that maybe that dream isn’t worth pursuing at all. Like those nice houses you saw, they could be something you already have in a slightly different form. Or they could simply turn out to be something that doesn’t get high enough on your list of priorities. Or they could come with strings that you really don’t want.

    So keep on dreaming (I’ll continue to do the same!) and you’ll live a happier life. You’ll get a real kick out making some of your dreams a reality (like you’ve already done!), and you’ll learn to know yourself (and your family) a lot better when working through the other dreams that won’t deserve to be fulfilled.

    J.D.’s note: Stupid spamfilter. It trapped both of U.’s comments, and now they’re both here. But I’m not going to delete this one because it throws off all of our cross-referencing later on…

  39. House prices in our current town are much lower than in many other places in the US. When we moved here we discovered we could have afforded a McMansion here, as so many of the other folks who moved here from big cities chose to do. We don’t need all that house, but I sometimes feel defensive about choosing differently than so many others I work with.

    We bought a 1930s-era home about the size of JD’s, in a very quaint neighborhood with sidewalks and old trees, and we really like it. It’s spacious for our family of 3 plus pets.

    But when I walk around our beautiful neighborhood, I still find myself starting to admire the larger houses, or the more charming details on comparable houses. I think, hey, we could live there, with that big kitchen. Or over there, with that deep porch and that amazing back yard. Or there, with those fabulous windows and that pool.

    I guess we could buy just about any of those houses, but I try to remember:

    – our house is big enough, and plenty charming.
    – our neighbors are wonderful, and we’d miss them even if we just moved 2 streets over.
    – our mortgage is tiny, and will be paid off in 5 years or less.
    – there’s no such thing as House Charming. Every house has issues.

    If I let myself indulge in house envy, I’ll never be satisfied, even in a new “dream house.”

  40. Like the other commenters, I love your house JD.

    But as I sit here in my nice house in my nice suburban neighborhood, I think every extra 100 sq. ft = more time on cleaning, upkeep, decorating and organizing, not to mention furnishing, painting, etc. Every extra $1000 property value = extra property taxes, insurance, utilities. What would we do with the extra time? Are our lives about cleaning, decorating and maintaining a nice house (and the yard and garden) – or something else? I want a smaller house – and a bigger life!

  41. I couldn’t agree more. We traded in our 2600 sq ft, 5 br colonial for a 625 sq ft bungalow in our hometown 6 months ago. It was the best move we ever made.

  42. I was raised house-obsessed. My mother used to take us to tour open houses in the fancy neighborhoods as a Saturday activity (a little embarrassing to think of now, but way fun when I was a kid).

    That said, I have (anecdotally) observed that the closeness of a family correlates pretty well with with the closeness of their quarters. So when I settle down I want a small house.

  43. I recently bought a 1200 sqft house for my girlfriend and me to live in. Even that seems like a lot of space to me, as I lived in a 1000 sqft house throughout my youth in a family of five. I shared a room with my brother the whole time, with the size being about 60 sqft.

    I will say that sometimes the house now seems rather crowded because my girlfriend has so much Stuff. Trying to persuade her to purge some of it.

  44. OMG, I have never lived in a house with 1800 sf, not when I was one of six children and assorted pets, and not with my own family earning more than my dad could have imagined.

    Eight years ago this month, MrP and I bought our dream home… an old farmhouse on a large lot in a secluded neighborhood of an upscale town. Fabulous sunny yard, tons of room for the kids to play, incredibly fertile land for my flower garden.

    Five years ago we moved out of it. The home required far too much upkeep – half a day to mow the lawn, never mind the upkeep and upgrades that needed to be made to the old house.

    Instead we moved to a small Cape on a small lot in a town an hour closer to my office. (However, it cost quite a bit more than the home we sold.) Whenever I start to wish I lived in a big old mansion, I remember than now it takes me 2 hours to clean my house from top to bottom, and another hour to mow my whole lawn. Add that time to the 12 hours time I save commuting, and I got back a whole day each week. Plus my kids adore having tons of kids living close by. Well worth the poverty of space for my ego.

  45. JD

    You have a beautiful and huge house. You have a beautiful garden with lots of trees. To be frank for a moment I felt jealous.

    You have a better and luxurious living place than 99% of the world’s population. So of all the people living on this planet, you might be in the top 1%.

    So it is all about contentment my friend.

  46. I love your house J.D. and I’d rather have it than the big mansion. I’m sure you feel satisfaction, as do I, when a home improvement project is done. I bought a house with problems for the acre of land attached and for it being outside of one of those crowded neighborhoods. Every improvement, inside or out, makes me feel good. I think savoring those feelings keeps me out of the ego-driven hunt for bigger and better.

  47. I live in a townhouse, and I often find myself coveting a real house with an actual yard. I think I mainly want it because it would make me feel successful to have a nice, big house. I have to keep reminding myself that my 1800 square foot townhouse is more than enough space for me (I live alone), and I hate having to water what little yard I have. I am in a much better financial position because I bought a house that is well within my means than I would be if I bought a bigger house just to show off how much I could afford.

  48. Your yard is beautiful. I would hate to maintain it.

    I sometimes daydream and project forward to where we’d be in 20 years if we both keep working. DH is waiting on final work from his adviser then he will have an MSEE (Masters of Science in Electrical Engineering). He wants a PhD. I keep toying with the idea of an MSEE as well. All that is to say in 20 years we could have a LOT of earning potential. He talks about living in the nicest neighborhoods in town and I have the same thought as many here: I don’t want to maintain it. I also don’t want my kids to be spoiled and/or feel like they can’t keep up with their peers. I like having a larger house, especially since we have had family stay with us for extended periods and may again in the future (I don’t mind having kids underfoot, but I need space away from other adults) but when I admire other houses I often admire specific aspects: a property with privacy, well organized kitchen, finished deck, that kind of thing. You show a picture of a house with a fountain and I think “Who wants to take care of a fountain?” Much like I thought about your yard, lol.

    When I look at those $M houses I think more like your second question: What would my life be like if I had enough money to live in that house? Because I would never be house rich and cash poor. If I had a $2M house I would have a lot of equity and at least $1M in the bank (not including retirement). That’s the only way I would buy a house like that. Having that kind of money would be pretty cool so I’ll keep working on it.

  49. As nearly everyone else has said, I love your house JD. My house is about the same size on about the same size lot, except half the lot is a very steep slope. I too love gardening. My house isn’t quite as old, but it’s 60+.

    I don’t want a bigger house with more land. I really want the means to do anything to my house that it needs (new windows, a new roof sometime soon, a new sewer line). And I would really LIKE to be able to do what I want to it (new floors, new kitchen, etc.) I would like the time and funds to be able to strategically landscape our slope in a drought tolerant way.

    I’ve given a lot of thought to this. Our home was neglected for much longer than a few months while DH and I put each other through the tail end of school successively. And it always seemed like once we were done with school, we’d be able to do ‘whatever we wanted’ to the house. But we still have windows that let hot air and dust in, bare concrete floors because I’ve pulled up 1200+ sq feet of carpet with the grossest carpet pad ever. ETc. ETc.

    But I’m still very happy and very thankful. Because I know in the grand scheme, it IS a matter of perspective.

    Some of the wants and needs are hard to distinguish and negotiate with partners about though.

  50. I could be wrong, but I believe that the mean home size in America is 2100 square feet (I don’t know the standard deviation), which means at 1800 square feet, you’re living in a decent sized home.

  51. Your house is gorgeous! I have never owned a house but would certainly covet yours!!! I am about to move into my own house this week in Nashville, my husband and I having recently forsaken our condo (and harried lifestyle) in Chicago. I can’t wait!!!

  52. We were grad students for 5 years in an amazing little city. We loved it so much, but it was hard being in a cramped apt. The 4 of us lived in a 500 sq ft apt for 3 years and then moved to an 800 sq ft apt when we had another child.
    3 bedrooms, 1 bath, no washer and dryer for the 5 of us.

    When my husband graduated with his PHD we immediately bought a house in the city where his new job was, about 2000 miles away. We didn’t do a lot of research about the area and bought our home in 1 day upon visiting. We were so excited that we got a brand new home, 2600 sq. ft, 5 bedrooms, 3 baths, granite counter tops and we paid less than $150,000 for it due to the housing market drop. Good time to buy. But what we didn’t realize was the price was also due to the city we were buying in. Quite remote, not very good schools, nothing much to do in town expect Walmart and McDs, no sense of community at all. A very heavy bedroom community.

    My point is we finally have our huge house and though luckily we got a good deal and it isn’t breaking the bank on many days I would swap it for our old little apt. I really don’t like it here and so loved the college town we were in with so much to do and so much love for the community. A big house wasn’t the answer at all, but for some reason I definitely thought it was. At least I appreciate that the next move we make, the house itself will play a much smaller role in deciding where we end up.

  53. JD, you have an awesome home. Looking at that photo makes me want to move to Oregon. Here in Phoenix, AZ, I have a yard full of rocks and mesquite trees that have to be trimmed every six months even though they have thorns the size of my index finger on them.

    Anyway, I really like this post. Keep up the good work.

  54. While it is important to appreciate what you have, there is nothing wrong with dreaming or wanting something better.

    What if the owner of the 2.3M house “appreciates” what they have as well.

    It is all perspective.

    Here is something interesting. That first photo. That is my house. Really.

    And I appreciate what I have…and what sacrifices it took to get there.

  55. I will be living in Toronto in about a month and I cringe at the mortgage prices there. Don’t even get me started on the outrageous prices for shoebox condos.

    I could not believe the huge houses people can buy in certain parts of the US for 200-300k. Granted, you could buy a similar house for 300k in other parts of Canada, just not major cities like Toronto, Ottawa, or Vancouver.

    Lifestyle inflation can hit at any time. I was up late one night looking at houses on MLS. I felt like I was throwing away money on rent but then I remembered, there was no house I could purchase and have a mortgage of $440 a month including utils and laundry. Yeah, I’ll stick with renting for a while. 🙂

    Also, 1800 sq ft is plenty of space for two people. After living in 620 sq feet by myself, I realized I could have had a smaller bachelor apartment and saved myself $100 a month. In the end, you really only need space to sleep, eat, and work.

  56. It’s good to appreciate what you have, and to stay out of the trap of longing for something “better”. As so many of the comments illustrate, it’s all about perspective.

  57. Its good to live in the now and appreciate what you have. That being said, it looks as if you have a lot to appreciate. Congratulations. And when thinking about what to strive for next always remember to align it with your values.

  58. Nice pad JD!

    Our house is 1300 sq feet for 4 of us.

    I wouldn’t mind a bigger house, but it’s a tradeoff for the location (downtown Toronto). I’d rather keep the location and deal with the size of the house.

    Mike

  59. I once lived in a lovely heritage house on an idyllic tree lined street in my city. It all looked envious from the outside, but I was at a sad place in my life, because of mountains of unhappiness in other aspects–relationships, heavy debtload, lack of inner contentment and purpose, no time to do anything other than renos and yardwork. Today I am in a tiny rented apartment, working on being debt free (3 more years to go) and have never been more alive and content. Home is where you are happy. I was not ready to be happy in that house; maybe someone else might have been. I look forward to owning a home again in the future (don’t wish to rent forever) but only if it adds to my happiness and isn’t a distraction from the most important things that need working on.

    Love your site–am a daily reader.

  60. @ Troy, #56:

    Thanks for sharing; how funny that you read J.D.’s blog.

    They are beautiful houses! Congratulations to you both for your success!

    Where I live (East Coast suburb), the first house would go for about 4 mil (since it’s on the river) and J.D.’s would go for about $450,000+, easily.

  61. Lifestyle inflation and consumerism are the great American pastimes. It used to be baseball. Remember when people used to *play* baseball? My parents met on a recreational softball team. I played little league baseball. But now, do you play, or know anyone who does? Do you even own a bat or a mitt? Now people just buy baseball via premium cable packages, expensive hats and season tickets. It used to be about participation, but now it’s about ownership.

    Nearly every aspect of American culture has fallen into this hole, so it’s no surprise that we occasionally find ourselves starting to have these thoughts — “I should have a bigger/newer/nicer whatever”. There are entire industries (not the least of which is the television industry) focused entirely on encouraging this.

    We used to have hobbies that were about being able to *do* something. You were (for example) a photographer, and you bought a nicer camera when you’d exhausted the capabilities of your current one and found your own skill surpassing the equipment you were using. You got new equipment because the old equipment was no longer suitable for what you needed. Now people just go out and buy a $2,500 DSLR camera and leave it in automatic mode. They don’t really try to get good at it, because they’re no longer trying to take good pictures, which is what used to be a source of pride. Now they just want to be able to show off the camera itself. This is visibly true in so many cases. Lots of (not very good) photographers spend a lot more time showing off their cameras and their lenses than they do showing off their photos.

    Houses are exactly the same. Ever hear a realtor try to sell someone on “pride of ownership”? They’re actually using that as a selling point. You get to feel good because you own things. People used to buy a bigger house when they had their third child and a two-bedroom was getting cramped. Now couples with no children buy four-bedroom, 3,000 sq ft houses because, “look how nice it is, my friends will love it,” and because they actually *do* feel proud to own it, because advertising works.

    We’d be better off forgetting all about it and picking up a hobby that’s centered about developing a skill, like baseball, or photography, or art instead of falling back into the cultural status quo of buying things to earn satisfaction.

  62. I’m not sure if I consider your dilemma to be lifestyle inflation or keeping up with the joneses. Why do you feel you need a different home? What has changed in your life since you purchased it?

    It’s amazing how easily we get used to having more space. From the website: http://www.census.gov/const/C25Ann/sftotalmedavgsqft.pdf, it appears that the average sq. ft. of a newly constructed home in 2009 was 2,100 sq. ft. In 1973 it was 1,500.

    I live in 750 myself.

  63. JD–Currently my husband and I are raising 4 children in an 1800 square foot house, with a yard that backs up to a lake, aka large pond. Many times we have dreamt about moving into a bigger home, but then we wouldn’t be amidst memories of sharing rooms, building tents, swimming in the lake, and really, really awesome vacations!! Like you stated, it’s all about what you appreciate and value. We have every intention to raise our children in this house. You post is a healthy reminder of what I appreciate and value most, heading into the thick of summer. Thank you.

  64. PS – the estate in England used as Rosings Park in the Keira Knightly version of Pride & Prejudice is Burghley House in Stamford, England. It is 400 years old, has 115 rooms, and is on 300 acres. Personally, if I thought of my place that well, I’d never need for more!

  65. Living since 1981 in an 1104 sq ft house really makes me want your house! It is so beautiful! Even though, neither my hubby or I have alot of clothes we can’t store both of our clothes in our bedroom because we are not “blessed” with walk in closets. It is a tiny closet so I keep my clothes in my grown daughter’s old bedroom. We only have one bathroom- which really can be a pain at times-but then, when I begin to complain/whine, I remind myself to be thankful that I have enough clothes and that we even have indoor plumbing because many in the world don’t. So, you are right, it is how you look at it and there is always a bright side to what seems cloudy.

  66. Just back from the gym (105 pushups, 210 situps, biked 20 miles round trip). Didn’t expect so many comments on this post! I’ll have to read them all and respond.

    First up: Holly (#64), I’m not sure if Troy (#56) is being metaphorical or if that’s actually his house. It seems unlikely that a GRS reader would happen to live in that exact home, so I suspect that he’s speaking figuratively. However, we do know from past a past post that Troy has owned a lot of nice things, and sometimes he finds them disappointing (including his dream home). Troy’s posts are consistently thoughtful and make reference to the money he’s earned through hard work, so I have no reason to doubt him. I just find it unlikely that he’s my neighbor! 🙂

    Off to read the rest of the comments.

    [email protected]

  67. Oh, and to everyone who finally caught it this time, yes the Rosings Park reference is to Pride and Prejudice. When we moved in, this place had 120+ rose bushes and it seemed like an estate. We called it Rosings to be witty and literate.

  68. Your house is beautiful! I love older houses.
    We lived in a 2500 sq. ft. Arts & Crafts farmhouse built in 1937. It leaked when the rain came from certain directions. (The plural is intentional!) But I absolutely loved it! In 2008, it burned to the ground while we were on vacation, a total loss.
    We thought that might be a good time to downsize, but couldn’t find anything to meet that need. Instead we rebuilt using the same floorplan with some minor adjustments. For some reason, this new house feels huge. Right now the bedrooms are full because we are foster parents. But when that season is done, I wonder if it will be worth the upkeep.
    In the meantime, we both can enjoy the space we have while we have it. A lot of the things I worried about on the old house disappeared in one day. There are no guarantees and life changes.

  69. This is a perfect article for me, since I’m looking to buy a condo. For me, I’m going to be happy to afford a 1,000 square foot condo and that will seem like a dream since i’m currently living in a 500 square foot rented “studio.” Your house is just lovely and to me looks better than the first house you posted a picture of. I guess it is all relative. I could not afford either of the houses you posted, so I dont try to think about what that lifestyle would be like, since it is not a possibility and thus I will go on being happy with my future 1,000 foot condo 🙂

  70. What exactly is the appeal of the larger home? What is the dream? The blog is rooted in “getting rich” (eventually), but of course we’ve learned on our journey that money is not completely analogous to happiness.

    Houses serve a purpose. A place to sleep. Room for our Stuff. Somewhere to entertain and be entertained. How much of each of those do we need? We can have anything we want, but what about everything?

  71. 230K wouldn’t buy anything here in L.A. Not even a studio condo. Maybe, just maybe, you could find something on the far, dusty outskirts of our ridiculous megalopolis.

    DH and I like to look at houses when we’re out walking. But having watched a ton of HGTV (including Holmes on Homes – that one will give you nightmares) and read books like “How to Inspect a House,” we haven’t seen a single one that didn’t set off giant red flashing Caution signs.

    I would like .62 acre, but 1800 sf is too much. I would just fill it up with Stuff.
    🙂

  72. I know JD hates the book, but Rich Dad espouses buying a very small primary residence so your money can be used for other investment vehicles. My house is 1550 sq ft. It’s not a lot of space for me to keep cool and heat. I love having the ability to pay more on my mortgage or take trips rather than pay hefty utility bills and professional lawn maintenance.

  73. @Tyler

    I completely disagree. I know plenty of people who play sports and do active hobbies. Those that don’t or define themselves by their things are the exception, not the rule. I don’t have a $2500 camera, but I do have a nice camera with nice automatic settings that keep me from having to adjust all of the settings myself. Now I can take really nice pictures of my family and vacations without having to spend hours perfecting the skills. On the other hand I know people who have an interest and therefore spend a lot of time and money on the skills.

    I think instead we have turned into a society with a lot more disposable income and a lot of services and equipment has become relatively less expensive. I don’t think people 50 years ago necessarily wanted smaller houses, as much as that was all they could afford. If we roll back the clock 100 years the homeowner was a rare thing. If you owned a home you were rich. Now if you’re middle class and renting many people look at you sideways. The 30 year mortgage is a relatively new thing and has changed the financial landscape.

    I don’t think people are any more materialistic now than we have been throughout history. We simply have more opportunities to indulge. It’s the same with credit cards. Economic downturns like the Great Depression do scar people, but for most of history people have been better with credit because credit was difficult to get. I believe it was “David Copperfield” that had a character that was that time’s version of a payday loan.

    PLUS technology has changed. Once upon a time people lived in tiny one room homes because the only way to heat it was with an inefficient fire place. Even comparatively large multi-room houses didn’t get big because each room needed a heat source. With today’s technology it gets easier and cheaper to heat spaces, thus you wind up with larger spaces. Smaller places in Europe and metro areas are restricted by land prices. In flyover country they are limited by different resources: those to build, clean, and/or heat.

    In the end it all depends on what limits you. Because people will always aim for that limit. Our limitations are simply shifting.

  74. First, JD, your house would be on my list of dream homes

    Second Tyler K, I think you are absolutely on target. As a kid, we played baseball everyday in an empty field out in our country neighborhood. Some days we went fishing or go in town to the pool. My much older sister played on a couple of different softball teams and was in a bowling league in the off season. It is amazing today how many more sport fans there are today spending tons of money to be associated with a player or team and may have never played anything. Sports is a business today – not a pastime. Plus it is so much more expensive to for kids to play on teams since we have to have organized and scheduled play times. Even if only one parent works, where will your kids find players for the pick up game in the empty lot? I still long to get outside and play ball just like when I was a kid. It was the best time of my childhood.

    I do have hobbies where I create or participate in but I seem to be in a minority with many people I meet. Sorry, buying things is not a hobby that would be a collection.

  75. Great article! I recently heard the phrase lifestyle inflation on Budgets Are Sexy and here. I wrote my own article on it as well.

    I think it is a great idea to keep in mind and it’s something I can talk about with my wife that helps her to understand money like I do.

    Keep it up.

  76. Tyler,

    You are right to a large degree, most folks have become spectators or observers rather than participants in this rich pageant we call life. I am trying to get off my duff and be a do-er not a watcher.

    A dream home to me is one that is completely paid for.

  77. I can remember how when we bought our first townhome, how we thought our 1600 sq. foot home was huge, and things couldn’t get any better. Then the lifestyle creep started to happen and we decided we wanted a stand alone home – so we bought a nice new 2350 sq foot home.

    Now, once again we’re considering upgrading because we’ve started a family and want more room – and a fenced backyard.

    But this time I think we’re taking more into account that we don’t have to have a million dollar home or a huge place. We’ll find something that fits our budget, and that fits our list – but still stay within the price range we’re able to afford. No dreams of buying that beautiful lake home we have dreamed about. And we KNOW we can be happy without a home – our happiness comes from elsewhere – faith family and friends.

  78. So many great comments about the importance of keeping things in perspective! Thanks.

    Also, a quick note regarding the photo: This was taken for the real estate marketing effort, so it shows the place to its best advantage. In the photo, the yard has been trimmed, the roof has been replaced, and the house has been painted, so everything looks as beautiful as it can be. It’s great, yes, but don’t let the photo fool you. 🙂

    @SF_UK (#15)
    Oops. You’re right. It’s easy to get U.S.-centric sometimes! And remember, while I think our house isn’t huge in relation to our peers (it’s average sized), I do think it’s too big for Kris and me. After havign spent ten days on a small boat recently, I know that it doesn’t take much space to be happy!

    @objectiveGeek (#24)
    !!!!!!!!!!!!! — Maybe I should write more about my financial goals if you think this blog is all about self-denial. I guarantee you that I’m saving for and spending on plenty. I’m using my money to enjoy life. But it’s a constant battle to remind myself of my priorities so that I don’t spend too much on things that aren’t important. I may have to address your comment in a separate post…

    @Shara (#48)
    You should hear the whining lately from me about the size of our yard and the amount of maintenance! I’ve basically neglected my yardwork for the past three years, and it shows. That’s why I have a real-estate photo in this post instead of a snapshot of the place as it looks now.

    But I’ve resolved to spend the entire summer getting things back into shape. That’s one way to fight the urge for a new house, too. Just as I fought the urge for a new car by spending several years doing cosmetic upgrades to my old car, so too I can fight the urge for a new house by making this house the one I want to be in.

    @Tyler K (#66)
    Fantastic comment. And no snarkiness in it at all! Are you feeling okay? 🙂 And Shara’s follow-up in #79 is great, too.

    @Amanda (#78)
    I don’t hate Rich Dad, Poor Dad, I just think it’s a poor money manual for the average person. I’ve actually been thinking I should re-read it and post a review. I think it would generate a good discussion. Actually, maybe I should do a Trent-style multi-part book group discussion on it. That could be interesting. Thoughts?

  79. So how do you know when it’s ‘lifestyle inflation’ or just plain growing or improving? Hubby and I currently have an 860sqft condo (2br/1ba) and are saving for a down payment on a ‘real’ house. We have to rearrange furniture whenever we have people over for dinner or a weekend visit, have no lawn/yard/deck, bump into each other when we’re both in the kitchen, and have to coordinate using the bathroom in the morning. We could double our current living space and still have a smaller home than the average US home (as well as smaller than yours, J.D.) – but posts about lifestyle inflation sometimes make me feel guilty (or less money-conscious) for not being content with what we already have.

  80. Shara:
    I’m not trying to criticize anyone for having a nice automatic camera and using it to take automatic pictures simply. The people I’m criticizing (in this specific case) are taking the exact same pictures as you are (or perhaps, not as many of them), but they have a Canon 5D Mk II and $5,000 worth of L-series lenses. If you ask them about photography they’ll talk about their equipment and “nice glass” and F numbers and image stabilization, but they wont pull out a bunch of photos to show you. They’re in the hobby of collecting photo equipment more than they’re in the hobby of taking photos. The baseball example was supposed to illustrate something similar.

    And you might be right that this doesn’t reflect changing attitudes or the prioritization of materialism, but I doubt it. I think the reason that people have more disposable income now is because we work more hours for it (see the decline of the single income household). We do this because we feel like we *have to*, because it’s the only way to afford a 3,000 sq ft house and a 50-inch TV. It’s all driven by consumerism. You say that people now have more opportunities to indulge. The fact that we’ve chosen nearly universally to indulge in more work for more money for more things instead of more leisure time to practice other interests seems to support my observation.

    Where I think you might be right is in saying this isn’t a *new* phenomenon. Maybe we’ve always been this materialistic. Either way, we’ve used advancing technology to give ourselves bigger houses with efficient air conditioning and not only bigger TVs but one in every room. We’ve got faster cars and a phone for everyone instead of one per household. We could have gone in a different direction. We could have kept the small house with one TV. We could have worked less and afforded less and spent the extra time traveling to all our national parks, or bicycle touring the pacific coast with our children, or snorkeling in the Caribbean, or volunteering to help clean up oil spills. But we didn’t. We spent our time earning the money for a 3,000sq ft house with a TV in each bedroom, one in the living room, and one in the kitchen.

    And sure, not everyone does this. Some people are more focused on their accomplishments via skill rather than via bank account. When you ask these people what they did last weekend, they’ll probably have a good story to tell, rather than “I went shopping” or whatever. All I’m saying is that shopping is amazingly prevalent. Enough so that calling it the great American pastime doesn’t seem like a stretch to me, even if a few people still play baseball.

    Edit: I should always refresh the page for new comments before posting something that took a long time to write. I started writing this post when Shara’s post (#79) was the last post on the topic (and it was actually number 66 at the time, before J.D. went and approved all the pending comments from earlier), and so I didn’t address any of the other follow-ups after that (like J.D.s comments).

  81. I can clearly see the deficiences of our house (especially as we are the ones fixing it up for the most part), so there will always be other homes I admire, and I do like to walk the neighborhood and compare and contrast.

    However I do have to say although it has been 11 years since we got our house, I still have a thrill walking up to “my” house, a house that my children call home, I can adopt a stray cat, paint the walls whatever color I want, hammer nails in the walls, put in a brick patio and raised beds in the backyard, read a book on the screened-in back porch, listen to the sound of my husband playing guitar in the attic, tuck my kids in at night. We bought a modest home so it has a modest mortgage with it (59K to go!). I’d much rather have the feeling of a (someday) paid for home that no one can kick me out of than living in the most lavish place depending on circumstances changing I’d be in fear of losing.

    Looking at what other people have (both more well off AND less well off) can clarify what is important to you.

  82. Thank you for this timely article. I was getting depressed having just moved into a small rental apartment after getting divorced. My ex-husband got the big house by the lagoon. But it reminded me that that lovely house became more stress than joy because of the financial burden. And now I am feeling a lot more free with not having to worry about a huge mortgage and maintaining a big house. My small apartment is just fine for me and my kids for right now. But one day, hopefully I’ll be able to have my own small house with a yard. But I never want to live beyond my means ever again.

    And just as everyone has said, your house is my dream home!!

  83. J.D. (re: #72) and All:

    I see. It was the “Really.” at the end of Troy’s post that made me think it ‘really’ was his house (even though I suspected that he was speaking metaphorically)!

    Love that you take the time to respond to the comments and to know your readers so well.

  84. @Tyler

    Yes but…

    I agree people often work more than they need to. But in historical perspective until recently a two income household wasn’t possible. One person was needed to keep the household running. The wife was doing laundry for hours every week, scrubbing clothing by hand and then engineering ways to hang it to dry rather than just dumping it in the machine with a cap of soap and then transferring it to the dryer. She was working in the garden and spent a couple weeks solid every year preserving food, not to mention the time it took to prepare before electric mixers, food processors, refrigerators and sliced bread. She sewed and darned and knitted for hours upon hours rather than spent a couple hours twice a year at the mall. They DID work far more than a full time job. And men were often working well over 8 hour days. They were in the fields, or if they were educated they were often at the beck and call of their employer for 12 hours per day six days per week. A woman wasn’t like today’s housewife. She was more like someone running a business from their home. Kids played in sight or helped.

    These days we choose to do those things to be frugal or because we enjoy them. Back then they did it because if they didn’t they lived in filth and didn’t eat.

    So what that someone decides to work and spend that money on stuff? I would think that you would be the first one to defend that decision. As I said, things like that weren’t AVAILABLE previously. Those that could afford it often were toying with silly stupid things or collecting useless things. Just before those people were *rich*. By historical standards we have the disposable income and leisure time of the rich of previous generations. Middle class people worked long hard hours and distinguished because they had a servant to carry their waste from the house rather than dump it out the window.

    By the way, the issue of credit and availability is an aside. I assume people can afford what they buy. But as I said the credit side of the modern age is so completely different as well that I don’t think it’s fair to compare.

  85. @Tyler: I’ve seen a similar phenomenon, but with musical instruments. I know several people who have a bunch of electric guitars and enough gear to outfit a studio, but they don’t practice. What’s the point of showing off your stuff if you can’t play? And no, the solution to sucky playing is NOT more gear.

  86. After more than 14 years, we are still in our ‘starter’ condo that we have outgrown (two adults, two kids, and a Golden Retriever). We will often house hunt and think about moving. My dear husband will usually say something like “I can see us in this house. You would even have a quiet space for your hobbies.” And all I can think is “And I can see us with huge utility bills and property taxes.” We may have the tiniest home among all our family and friends, but we also have the smallest house payment. Should something happen we could pick up a job at a grocery/discount/warehouse store and easily make the payment. Should that happen to our friends, it would be catastrophic. As Grandmother said we are old enough where our ‘wants’ won’t hurt us. Peace of mind is one of the best gifts you can give to yourself and family. Be content with what you have.

  87. JD,

    Your house is gorgeous! It is much nicer than the mansion you showed in your post. My advice, plant more trees!

  88. @Shara:
    “So what that someone decides to work and spend that money on stuff? I would think that you would be the first one to defend that decision.”

    Absolutely. You can. You’re entitled to do what you please with your own income. That doesn’t mean it’s not consumerism (and I don’t mean to imply that all consumerism is bad, either). All I’m saying is that consumerism is exceedingly popular as a pastime in the U.S.

    I think it’s worth examining our consumerism to see if it’s worthwhile, and to try to understand the reasons we participate in it. I don’t think you’re a bad person for collecting expensive guitars (to take Meg’s example), and you’re allowed to do that if you like. I just think that it’s worth considering that you may actually get more satisfaction out of having one guitar, and spending some time learning to play it really well. This also makes for much more interesting stories to share with your grandchildren (or music to play for them, or photos to show them).

    Over the past 150 years or so, advances in technology and production efficiency have have made it possible to meet our basic needs in far, far less time than it used to take. Instead of everyone working 12 hour days six days a week, we could make do with half of us working 6 hour days, five days a week. That would be enough to meet everyone’s basic needs of food, shelter, clothing, etc.

    What we do with the extra time is entirely up to us. A great many of us have elected to spend that time working anyway, so that we can afford to buy more things. All I’m trying to do is bring up some other options for consideration, because a lot of people don’t really think about it (there was a time when I didn’t). We are constantly exposed to all sorts of messages telling us that this is the only way to go — you see lots of ads telling you hundreds of different ways to spend your money, but very few telling you to take the afternoon off and go to the park. People don’t even consider the other options because no one mentions them. I’m mentioning them, that’s all.

  89. What a great and timely reminder as my husband and I close on our first home purchase tomorrow! We’ve rented together for 12 years and while I’m thrilled to be buying, I’ve already found myself looking at the defects in the home and wishing we could afford something nicer.

    I’m going to try to remember to ask myself “And then what? Will that make you satisfied?” and find my satisfaction in the Now.

    And now I wonder if my husband would be on board with naming our new place!

  90. JD, a few years ago (out of neccesity) I moved from a rented house into an apt. to cut my expenses and now I have come to LOVE my little apt. – it’s perfect for me – I look at your lovely house and the mansion you “coveted” and I can appreciate the beauty but I would’nt want either – my financial hardships of the past few years have been somewhat cathartic – it’s really taught me to appreciate what I have, and to grow where you’re planted. It amazes me to realize I now have less than I did years ago, but I’m actually happier because the stress of too much debt and no way out is finally being lifted.

  91. Forget “global comparisons” you’re house is HUGE in USA comparisons. Back in parts of the the Bay Area you are looking at anywhere between $2.5 million and tens of millions. The piece of property you have alone (aside from the house itself) is gold.

  92. LOL I find the caption amusing:
    “Dream house? Or an example of potential lifestyle inflation?”

    How bout an example of guaranteed lifestyle inflation? The yard on that monster alone! Oh my goodness! Not to mention all the furnishings, paint, repairs, upkeep. EEK!

    I think the “fantasy” of those large homes is what hooks us. Every time we see those homes we see perfection like TV shows and magazines show. But those homes require staffs to keep them in fantasy condition. And staffs take money.

    And then you drill down to the whole concept of what’s exactly the point of those big houses– it’s not much more than show and tell. I’d bet very very very few families require so much space. I live with three children in a 1500 sq foot home. It’s more than enough space and hard for me to maintain! Anything larger than my house freaks me out.

    Just wait until (if) you have little monsters running amok: “Ooooh we can trash 1800 square feet vs 1000 square feet! YES!” I digress… LOL

    @Courtney #85
    I think lifestyle inflation is a fact of life really, it’s just the extent of it that needs to be kept in check. For instance, a childless couple making the move to family of three instantly brings lifestyle inflation of some degree. You can keep it as minimal as possible or blow it to the stratoshpere. The same thing goes with moving from a condo to a single family house. It’s fine to want to live in a house, but you can control how much the move affects your lifestyle changes.

  93. BTW J.D. I’m curious. If you were to tell the story of the imagined people who live in that dream house, what would it be? I wonder if that has something to do with the attraction– the idea that home reflects master. Clearly something about that house tells you something positive of the fantasy owner that resonates in you.

  94. Hey JD & Holly

    Sorry, it is metaphorically. I live in MO.

    That being said, I am impressed with the link to the 2009 comment. I firmly believe what I wrote then, and now.

    The point is all types of people read this blog. Young, old, rich, poor.

    It is a great blog regardless. And don’t justify to yourself withholding of desire. That desire is what pushes you to accomplishments.

  95. Madeline – I do tend to think lifestyle inflation is a fact of life (most days anyways), but it seems like every PF blog presents it as something horrible to be avoided at all costs – succumbing to lifestyle inflation is just consumer-driven weakness. Hyperbole for effect, but you get my point 🙂

  96. JD, Please, don’t let me stop you from writing what you think is valuable. I just thought I’d point out that more and more of your posts (guest posts included) seem to be about how to get out of debt and eek out a simple existence with a frugal lifestyle.

    Of course having money for money’s sake is nearly pointless, but having money for what it represents (value, effort, innovation, hard work, success) and for what it provides (freedom, time, safety, opportunity — essentially life!) is the noblest of goals.

  97. Also for the record, we do hope to be a three-person family in about two years. Do we have to be even more cramped in our tiny condo before a move isn’t considered ‘lifestyle inflation’?

  98. ha JD your house is way too big for me. We have 1200 sqft and I would go smaller if hubby wasn’t such a pack rat. Also I would much prefer to never move again, and multiple storeys makes aging in place difficult (not that we have to worry about that for a while). And I have family in the area with bigger homes, so my lack of a dining room does not get in the way of large family dinners.
    We also have a large yard which I coveted for so long. However it turned out to be waaaay more work than I had bargained for. We have been so busy lately our grass is nearly a yard high, and weeds have taken over the front. Sometimes I look outside and just feel exhausted. Sometimes I look at listings for condos and rowhouses with tiny postage-stamp yards and feel envious. But instead of dwelling on that I have started working on making my yard into something we can manage, slowly one space at a time. I’ve also been planting trees which I love and could never leave – also making me appreciate that we did invest in this big yard, so I can plant trees for years before I run out of space. Our home is perfect, but it’s true that does not stop one from dreaming. We simply take our dreams and figure out how to have them where we are now.

  99. Wow, you need to come to the UK – your house would be upwards from £500k…I’m grateful just to find a rental with a garden that has a patch of grass for my little dogs to roll on and a landlord that won’t decide to sell the place before we’ve even been there for 6 months. :-p

  100. @ObjectiveGeek (#104)
    Ah. Well, the trend in frugality topics certainly isn’t intentional. It’s just part of the natural ebb and flow of the blog. For a long time, there wasn’t anything about frugality around here, and now there’s a lot. Maybe next month the unintentional theme will be banking. Or comic books. 🙂

  101. JD – beautiful home…really nice. I wonder if you envisioned this home before you bought it? Now, your dream home is a reality for you.

    I believe if it’s something that you can dream up and desire, there’s a way to get it – house, car, relationship, etc. Now, I can’t say it’ll make you happy. That’s an inside job. 🙂

  102. @Courtney (#105)
    Some amount of lifestyle inflation is natural. Good, even. It’s good to want things, to want to improve your situation. The danger comes when you aren’t making conscious choices, when your lifestyle is increasing simply out of habit, or out of an unconscious desire to keep up with those around you. If you have a big family in a small house, moving someplace bigger isn’t lifestyle inflation — it’s a mental-health move!

  103. Here in NJ, we live in an area that is known to be somewhat affluent and wherever I go (outside my neighborhood), I see huge mansions and luxury vehicles. Whenever I’m tempted to lust over what I can’t have, I remember that there are people who would kill to live in my two bedroom townhouse 1/2 mile from the beach! As others have said, it’s all a matter of perspective.

  104. Given my dreams include early retirement and don’t include dusting…your beautiful home is definitely more of the dream one to me…

  105. I agree with @objectiveGeek (#24). The tone of this blog is becoming one of self-denial and apology. Whatever anyone wants or buys is considered wrong, excessive, etc. So, please, JD, write more about my financial goals so I can afford to be the consumer I want to be.

  106. I’ll get through this very thoughtful discussion later, after a nap. (note: avoid newark airport if you possibly can)

    But I wanted to add… we have a 3000 sq ft house. It is beautiful but too big. We haven’t finished furnishing it. It’s a pain to dust/vacuum cat hair. There’s a lot of space we just don’t use. Knowing what we know now, I think we would have gotten a smaller place. We do love the screened patio though.

    Far better to enjoy the positive externalities of other peoples’ beautiful houses– you don’t have to take care of their upkeep.

  107. I’ve always wanted a cute cottage or bungalow. They have so much character. Every time I look at those big houses I wonder about the maintenance costs, property taxes, time it takes to clean the whole house, all the Stuff to fill it up. Ugh.

  108. considering you said yourself that the house is a bit big for just you and kris i definitely think you dont need to be upgrading to a mansion. And like others mentioned, its not just the initial purchase price you have to think about. What about insurance, taxes, higher utility bills, higher maintanence costs. etc etc. all these things add up so its good to know that some people realize that keeping up with the joneses is a very easy way to become broke!

  109. @ Tyler

    Fair enough. I just take a different perspective of it. I think people have an emotional need to work. I don’t mean necessarily have a job, but to dedicate hours to something they find worthwhile. I totally agree with your point that that can be a hobby or volunteer opportunity if you earn enough money. But money is the simplest ‘proof’ that you did something of value because someone else appreciated it enough to pay you for it. And if we are in fact materialistic at heart, then there is never *enough* money. I think it takes a conscious thought to turn to nonprofit work and simpler lifestyle. We are like magpies, collecting things simply because they are shiny. We have to think to overcome this instinct.

    I think we’re in agreement about consuming for its own sake is sad and that people can spend their resources as they see fit. I just think as much as people complain about having to work, they really get something from it.

    Though technology has made life easier in many ways we feel the need to complicate it. It’s a phenomena that no matter how easy or hard your life is you will often experience the same levels of highs and lows. I think it’s programmed into us. If your life is hard a candy bar can totally make your day. If your life is easy a broken nail can ruin it.

  110. My girlfriend & I just visited Portland from NYC last week and–in a way–it inspired feelings in us that were kind of like the ones you had as you walked by those bigger houses.

    As we rode our borrowed bikes through town, whether it was big houses or small houses, we were regularly enthralled by all those things that feel like luxuries to New Yorkers like us. Things like, well… houses. With lawns. And probably more than 2 rooms inside them. Maybe even 2 bathrooms. It’s crazy how people live!

    Anyhow, it definitely got our minds racing with all sorts of ideas about how we should move asap so we could live the ‘good life’.

    Now that we’ve gotten back to NYC though–our hot, humid, but wonderful city–we had a similar realization to yours…that our funky little apartment is our dream ‘house’. For now.

    Anyhow, great post. I really enjoyed it (and, on a side note, am kind of wondering what comic books you’re reading… right now, I’m reading Hellboy)

  111. Great post J.D. I think it becomes very easy to look at what others have and began to dream. But as you stated, that dreaming can easily lead to coveting and cause us to be discontent with what we have.

    Thank you for this reminder!

  112. Where I’m sitting, your house looks like a dream house. Mansions are nice, but not being able to afford them does just make you miserable (if you covet them). I am glad you can appreciate what you’ve got – it looks good to me.

    Just a side note… it alarmed me a bit that you practically announced your home address. If someone was determined, they could find you. Can’t trust everyone on the internet…

  113. Love how practical you are with everything and seeing your thought process. So helpful.

  114. Just actually read one of your 36 “new” posts I’ve seen staring at me from inside my RSS reader since subscribing. I thought this feed and posts would be all about finance. Thanks for an enlightening read.

    Richness certainly isn’t (only) materialistic for sure. But it sure is a lot easier to purchase a new 1080i LCD TV then work on my character defects or try and change my perspective.

    It takes getting past that inner critique who responds to “money can’t buy happiness” with something about only rich people saying such things. But then experience is constantly reminding me different-then I start to truly believe it. Like at the age of 39 and getting a Happy Fathers day Grandpa card from my stepson’s 1.5 year old daughter. It’s amazing to think just a few years ago I was convinced I’d never have children in my life…

    Ah, sitting on a park bench writing while children are playing all around you. I agree, sounds like you’re pretty rich to me.

  115. J.D.–
    Thank you so much for this post. Your “Rosing Parks” reference over the years has always cracked me up. And now, it’s so nice to see the actual house and property. Gorgeous and reminds me very much of my favorite old house on a hill that my aunt owned years ago (3 attics–1 hidden!–awesome for a kid).

    I have always dreamed of owning my own home (and still do), but life’s choices have determined that for now, I rent. Luckily, I have a nice place– but even it sometimes requires my handywoman help. 🙂 Oh, and I’ve forgotten who posted this– but “house charming” is dead on clever (and fitting). Even newer McMansions have their issues too. Not all construction is equal.

    Finally, I am quite positive the bowling ball of your dreams will again come to you– just in a different way. 🙂

  116. Just to say, the McMansiony “dream house” you linked to looks really generic and ugly to me, and your “drafty old barn” looks gorgeous (even if I imagine it non-spiffed up ;). I personally don’t understand wanting to live in one of those “HGTV-approved” houses, they don’t have a drop of character or charm, and like everyone’s said, they’re way too big to maintain. I’ll take a small vintage kitchen and a converted attic bedroom any day over a mass-produced 3000+ sqft monster.

  117. Keeping up with the Joneses and house envy indeed. I envy your white house, Mr. Jones. Something like yours 3 miles outside downtown Denver where we are would fetch $800,000 or so. Price aside, it’s beautiful and “dreamy”. Enjoy.

  118. I’ll add a bit of a cautionary tale . . .

    In what seemed an obvious move, we upgraded to a significantly larger house with good schools in Wisconsin when we moved back from California with our two kids. (Could have gone nuts and bought a McMansion on a lake, but didn’t, thank goodness!)

    After a few years of Wisconsin heating, cooling, and property tax bills, we noticed that a lot of the rooms were seldom used or becoming closets for extra stuff; the kids even preferred sharing a bed. Naturally, the house was largely empty during our waking hours. So, we decided to buy and live in half of a duplex in the same neighborhood, and rent out the house. Honestly, the duplex flat is the same square footage we had in California, and it only feels “too small” when we have too much disorganized stuff!

    I’m not sure we would have the opportunities we have now if we hadn’t dialed back our lifestyle to what we needed instead of what we and everyone else expected us to do. I was laid off in February, and we’re considering buying a business that DH would manage, while I go to grad school and freelance.

    As the kids get older, we’ll want a bigger house, but because we’ll be buying “just in time”, we’ll have a better idea of how much more house we need, and what opportunities we’ll be trading for it.

  119. A profound topic – thanks J.D.

    Also timely on a personal note. We are considering moving from our 1400 sq. ft. paid for older home in a college town within walking distance to campus/work. Undoubtedly we will get a bigger place that is further out.

    Now I’m thinking about the increase in maintenance costs and the, probably inevitable, mortgage payment. We have been debt-free for 15 years.

    I don’t want to regret this decision. But the newer home with the dream kitchen calls.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing – this is precisely why I come here everyday.

  120. Oh my goodness, is that really your house? It’s to DIE for! You don’t have anything to envy those McMansion owners for, unless you really covet massive amounts of extra housework, yard work, repairs, insurance, and taxes.

  121. See, I see those homes and wonder 1-who’s going to clean it, 2- who’s going to take care of that lawn, 3- if it is right on the river, the insurance is probably astronomical. Maybe I’m too sensible to live in a fancy neighborhood.

  122. Who is going to clean a bigger house?
    Are you willing to spend extra cleaning time for a bigger house? That’s the question that i ask myself

  123. oh your house is so pretty. I’d far rather have that the the other big one you posted. I often feel kinda “nose pressed against the shop window” though, because I don’t own and don’t see doing so in the foreseeable (or distant!) future. So please please please keep posting about sewers and yardwork 😉

  124. I agree with all the people–your house is lovely!

    When I was looking at houses, I liked the smaller ones. As a friend pointed out to me, if I got a bigger house, I’d just get more stuff to fill it (we both deal with clutter issues). I looked on the fact that the bigger the house, the more I’d pay to heat and cool it. My house isn’t that big, but it’s about perfect for me (the only reason I want more room is because I have more than I should).

    I see the pretty houses on HGTV, and I realize I’d never actually appreciate/use them enough to make them worth it. My house is just fine for me. (Yeah, I’d like a bigger kitchen; there are RVs with bigger kitchens than mine. But I’ll deal with it.)

  125. well it seems you live in a mansion already-lol

    I have a complaint: I made a post on the forums and some of the people there were just rude, I asked the mods to delete my posts, but its like I didn’t expect the amount of rudeness that I got.

    All I asked was “how did you figure out how much was enough for you” and I don’t expect people to be monks, but I did expect them to be civil.

    Anyway am disappointed with the people on the forum :-/

  126. anyway I just asked that question because I was interested on how others came to realize how much was enough for them, what processes they went through, anyway, its nothing against you but I wish people on the GRS forums would be much more nicer and civil.

  127. I love your pretty and charming house. When I scrolled to it, I thought it was another one of the rich houses you were envious about! So you’ve already won.

  128. I think many people feel guilty about the things they possess when they should be content. If you’ve worked hard on something and have earned it then what you show to your friends or community is a display of the pride in your work ethic.

    In the past I helped my brother’s friend work on houses. I always liked the “smaller” homes more than the mansions. The people who lived in the smaller homes had an easier time showing off the beneficial characteristics of their homes.

    The people who owned mansions, while they were beautiful, had a much harder time showing off the smaller characteristics. They were too worried about the large home as a whole.

    I fault neither simply because it’s their choice to use the money they earned how they see fit.

    I would personally prefer a smaller home with a lot of land. My uncle owns a small cabin with a lot of land in northern Maine. While the cabin was small any path you chose to walk took you to a whole different destination and adventure.

    Others may hate the idea of living around nature but love how much space their actual home has to add furniture or decoration.

    To each their own.

  129. @nymoxie
    Can you point me to the forum thread? I don’t hang out in the forums much, so I’m not familiar with the culture there. My brother moderates them, as does JerichoHill (who also reads the blog), but Jericho is on vacation right now.

  130. I guess I’m amazed that your house is a real HOUSE – multiple rooms per person, yard, storage space, etc. – versus the condo I call a “house” (because I’m from the Midwest). But by my calculations you paid half of what we paid. There’s a good financial lesson there somewhere…

  131. p.s. A bigger house would be nice if we had a full live-in staff to take care of it… but then we’d have to live with other people, which would take some getting used to. The 2200 sq foot we’re renting is great for the 3 of us and the occasional guest.

  132. Your garden is beautiful!

    But to be honest…your house looks Victorian era and thus is probably a nightmare to maintain (sorry, I have encountered too many house maintenance issues myself lately!)

    Although many things appear relative, there seems to be true bedrock value in owning a home for many people. For me, it’s all about having a bit of space between me & my neighbors—that was the worst thing of living in apartments for so many years, living on top of everyone else and having to listen to them coughing on the other side of the wall etc. The second best? I enjoy working in my garden so, so much! Not something you can do in a tiny apartment in the city. Not at all.

    I also wonder what in the world my kids and I would do all winter if we just had a small apartment. The midwest winter practically demands a larger indoor space if you are going to survive it, especially with a couple kids around…

  133. JD: I emailed the mods about the problem, and they removed it because I asked them to. I did read the other threads and for the most part people seem to help each other, so maybe it was just one time?

    oh I made a request to delete my username on the forums, but I take back that request, I refuse to be run out of town just because two people didn’t like my post. I’d like to keep my username. I’m not going to be pushed out like they want me to. Sorry if I’m a little emotional about it, but it seemed like it was personal. :-/

    As I read through the other threads on the forums, it seems like for the most part most people are willing to help each other out so I like that. Anyway, sorry to get offtrack on the comment section.

    I think your house is beautiful, it looks like a gigantic mansion to me, even if you don’t think it is. It seems part of human nature to always want more, lol. I wonder if people who live in those huge mansions want to live in a palace or castle? Probably. lol.

    But if you think about it, throughout history kings, queens, and other royalty have had problems like everyone else and they lived in gorgeous castles and had the finest of everything. I’m not saying that all wealthy people are miserable because there are happy wealthy people who are nice people in the world.

    Anyway, you have a lovely home, your home looks very serene.

  134. I think that the concept of appreciating what you already have is the same as “living within your means”.

    The more you upgrade your “stuff” in life, the more it seems that you need.

    I am usually fine right where I am at in the “stuff” category.

  135. @92 Shara… actually your history facts aren’t quite right. Even poor households hired laundry women, precisely because it was so time-intensive. The one-person income is really an upper middle-class victorian ideal. Prior to that many women did work with the husband or even outside the home, depending on class, circumstances and society. My favorite is the division of labor among men and (married) women in the Dutch wool trade, which predates the first industrial revolution. Jan DeVries has an excellent book about it. Married women also drove the first industrial revolution in England– they did something called “putting out” work at home, which was how manufacturing worked before the assembly line (and, interestingly, is how some manufacturing works in China in modern day).

    The rise of the 2 income couple is exaggerated. Women as housewives without non-household production is a modern phenomenon, only the last 200 years and only in certain classes in certain countries.

  136. If I had to choose, I would choose your house. Give me a smaller house with character instead of a big formal mansion any day. Your house is pretty.

    As I get older I am becoming more and more aware of lifestyle inflation and while I don’t think it’s always a bad thing, I think simply being aware of it can have a very positive impact on your finances.

  137. Personally I like my simple life. I believe people automatically live at a lifestyle level where they are most comfortable. Some people work hard or get lucky, and can afford a mansion (or give that appearance at least), but I don’t envy them. By all means appreciate the beautiful homes and gardens but that doesn’t mean you have to own one. There’s so much social pressure to keep up with the Jones and I really respect people who can resist that pressure. I agree with JD’s message. It’s best to just make your own affordable home (however humble) comfortable and beautiful for you to live in, and just visit the posh neighbourhoods from time to time. That what I do

  138. Trying to talk my husband out of the 3000 sq ft “dream house” he loves into a tiny house.What a pain to keep up! I would like to sell the big house and half the land (9acres) and keep the other seven with the barn. Then a tiny house for actual living. I would be in heaven- even during tornado season Toto!

  139. Add me to the chorus of voices who think your house is lovely!

    Personally, I would love to own *any* house of my own, but poor financial decisions in my 20’s have hindered that so far. I will get there someday, but it feels very far away right now! And I live in a place where housing is not affordable (North Vancouver–the tiny, 60 year old house down the street sold for $750,000 last year…). However, the cost of living here is offset by the location; it is paradise, and I am happy even if I do live in a one-bedroom basement suite. 🙂

  140. so funny! Just yesterday I was walking on our towns trail and noticed a new house similar to the one pictured above! I was thinking gee, thats a pretty house, then realized just how massive it is and what a waste of money/space/resources, no single family would ever need that much space, it was particularly disturbing to see the large yard (3 to 4 acres large) perfectly mowed! coming from someone who has been having a hard time finding reasonably priced land in this town to actually USE, not just mow and stare at! ugh so wasteful…

  141. Lucky Americans with your affordable land prices and houses that look sane on occasion 😉

    Your house is very cutesy J.D., looks like a great place to raise a family.

    In London, a similarly sized place (with the same size of yard), would cost in the region of $1.2 *million*. Land prices are insane in the UK.

  142. Your home has character.The elegance stands out without saying” nouveau riche”.I have always been taught that taste is not what you have but in how you live.Living simply and below what more you can afford does not mean doing without.Two- thirds of the world’s population would see your home as that of a very wealthy man.It’s all in perspective!

  143. I agree with number 5, it is all about perspective. Plus just the cost of maintenance on a big Mansion, I really have no idea how to sustain it. Your house is really nice, I live in a condo unit, but me and my girlfriend is happy, because its a home not just a structure.

  144. Your house is my dream home. It’s huge. I live in Toronto and we paid $230 000 for a condo thats 517 sq ft. You would never be able to find a house of your size for that price. Not even if you moved to the outskirts. A house like yours, not even including the property size ’cause that’s a different story, will well run you over a million. You are very blessed.

  145. Your house looks very much like the dream house we’d like to build someday. No hurry, though. Our own little house (and little mortgage) keeps us pretty happy, too.

  146. This was nice and timely for us. We’re considering selling in the next 6 months to be closer to my husband’s work. We have been looking at all the pictures of nicer (more expensive) houses, but we would go from having 9 years left on the mortgage to 15-30 years. But do we really need that, especially after realizing how important financial security is to us (Husband was laid off and without work for 14 months, which was ok only because we are so frugal). This article was a nice reality check on what our true priorities are: financial security, good school districts, and shorter commute time so he can spend more time with the kiddos.

  147. Your house is beautiful JD! You do have a dream house… it’s interesting how so many idyllic paintings have little cozy cottages out by a river, or in the middle of a forest as their subject. Bigger doesn’t mean better. Bigger and more expensive is just harder to get… and thus somehow we convince ourselves that means it’s better.

    Love your house! The yard look wonderful.

  148. Funny, my first reaction when I saw the $2.3 million mansion was, “Boy, I sure wouldn’t want to have to clean that place.” That house wouldn’t just cost $2.3 million to buy; it’d also take a whole fleet of servants to maintain.

    I like the look of your house better, though I must say that if I was going to name my house after a celebrated fictional home, I wouldn’t choose Rosings Park. That never struck me as a happy home, and its inhabitants certainly weren’t the kind of people I’d like to emulate. I’d prefer someplace smaller and cheerier–Barton Cottage, perhaps.

  149. Many of my classmates have big houses. My mom is embarrassed to be asked to dinners but I tell her that we have big hearts and you can’t contain our love in the biggest house.

  150. You are soooooo right about how easy it is to become discontent with what you have. I find myself doing it with catalogs that come in the mail. I’ve got plenty of clothes and plenty of stuff and don’t want for anything…..until I start looking at catalogs and the perfectly put-together outfits and the perfectly and seasonally set tables and the perfectly decorated rooms. So….the catalogs are a once-in-a-while treat to look through. Most of them get tossed.

  151. Our home is 1750 sq.ft. but we don’t have your gorgeous lawn. We have a tiny front and back yard with a small patio. Maybe I’m a weirdo, but I love our house. Yours is way prettier and there are tons of mansion like homes in our area that are gorgeous, but our house belongs to us. Nothing trumps that in my opinion, lol. 🙂

    I think the key to appeciating what you have is to really enjoy it like you mentioned. I enjoy having friends over for movie night or sitting on my couch with my two dogs and watching re-runs of the X-Files. I REALLY enjoy sleeping on our Tempurpedic until whenever since my hubby was sweet enough to black out the windows with styrofoam. Lifestyle inflation creeps up on us once in a while, but just enjoying the basics helps me battle it back. 🙂

  152. I was away yesterday, and missed out on all this conversation! 🙂

    We have a 1350 sq ft. home, and what we are working towards ultimately is only a slight expansion. We want slightly more room for entertaining (kitchen & family room) and we want one more bathroom. I have zero desire to be in a large house–if I had that much money to spare, I’d prefer to go off and do stuff, rather than just sink it into rooms that have to be maintained and cleaned constantly.

  153. thank you for sharing your home – it looks wonderful & is great to see after reading your projects around it!

    I, too, live in a neighborhood that is similar to yours and in taking my three dogs on our daily walk, just two miles away, we also have a similar neighborhood (with views of the bay, some majestic, some historic – all expensive!) and I have never in the four years that I’ve been walking these neighborhoods, seen any of the owners of the mansions out enjoying their yards (bbq or using their beautiful decks or porches) or ever working on their home – in fact, I rarely see them at home … it’s always a bevy of workers (lawn, maintenance, painters, housekeepers, etc.) that are busy in & around these places. I have a home that I love, that I can afford with ease and that I enjoy a good hard days labor with at times (from washing windows to painting trim work or yard work). To me, I’d rather invest money into other things (education, experiences, vacations, etc.) or into people or social causes (my heart leads my giving and many times where I volunteer as well – things I couldn’t do time wise or money wise if I chose a mansion over my home).

  154. I sometimes cringe when I see these kinds of articles. What is so wrong with wanting 5 bedrooms you may never use? What is sooooo bad about wanting a bigger house? If you have diligently saved, and planned, and you can truly afford those nice-ities in life, why not reach for them? Why not buy them? My husband and I want a very large horse ranch some day, big beautiful barn, to put big pretty horses in. Is there any real practical reason for that? No. But realistically is there any real reason to live in a moderately priced subdivision in a 3/2 ranch with neighbors 5 feet from your side yard if you are miserable? I would prefer space, privacy like the top picture offered, and if I could afford to wake up and look out over the ocean or river, then I would do that too! Life is out there to experience so if you don’t set those goals or aspirations for things that are really important to you then what fun is there? Some people want the large house to fill with kids and grandkids, some people want a high rise condo on the beach in Miami because they enjoy that lifestyle. And if they can afford to do those things responsibly, then have at it! Dream and Dream big!

  155. Let’s see….your house is huge and beautiful! And your yard? That kind of yard is at a premium in our area where lots are 1/4 acre, none of which are level. We are a family of 5 living in 1300 sq ft. We are in a smaller home for our area, but we make it work and we fit in it. Yes, perspective is what it’s all about!

  156. People should continually check themselves to make sure they don’t buy into lifestyle inflation.

    My husband and I are on the downsizing mode–we went from a 4 bedroom single family home 3 years ago to a 3 bedroom condo. But we stayed in the same price range buying into a nicer neighborhood.

    P.S. Your house looks beautiful and quite stately.

  157. Your house is beautiful. Many of us would have house envy looking at it. Every bit as good as the fictional Rosings Park.

  158. This is a great post. JD, I want to add something that’ll sound a little cheesy. In my favorite book, Anne of Green Gables, the heroine is an imaginative young orphan full of big dreams. She gets to spend a few nights at the house of a rich friend, and says this about it:

    “There are so many things in this room and all so splendid that there is no scope for imagination. That is one consolation when you are poor–there are so many more things you can imagine about.”

    Recently I was thinking about what kind of house I’d live in if I won the lottery…and I realized that I probably have more fun dreaming about it than I would living in it!

  159. @Nicole

    When I wrote it I was in “frontier” mode, thinking of women running a house without a community around to distribute labor. But later I thought of situations like your example as well as how city folks would buy bread from a bakery and veggies from the market rather than do it themselves, but the point still holds.

    Thanks for the backup material, it sounds really interesting. I am completely ignorant of the historical time and place you brought up.

  160. Some of the other commenters have mentioned this already, but a bigger house doesn’t just cost more to buy. It also costs more to maintain and has higher utility bills etc. Every time I think it would be nice to have a larger house I remember how cheap it is to live in our little 1100 square foot ranch.

  161. “When you slow down and really appreciate what you already own, you can often slake the thirst for something bigger and better.”

    This just made my day.

    I have been working on a crossword on and off all week, and one of the clues that’s been killing me is a 5-letter synonym for ‘quench’ with a ‘k’ as the 4th letter. Thank you!

    Oh, and it’s also great advice 🙂

  162. This conversation has had some really interesting feedback about the idea of frugality, and I realized that there is an important nuance to the concept that we often overlook in our day to day discussions of the concept here.

    Frugality is scalable.

    For a family with an annual cash flow of $50,000, frugality might be clipping coupons and buying a used car.

    For a single person with a $2M annual cash flow, frugality could well be maintaining a stable with ten four-legged money pits (sometimes called “horses”) instead of 20.

    We talk about frugality as if it is an end, but frugality can be a code word for security. Each of us lives with a different level of cushion around our lives – that cushion could be low expectations and needs or it could be strong family connections or a sense of independence and self-sufficiency.

    We make our decisions within context, and our conversations about frugality are so much the richer for it!

  163. In Jr. high school, I mentioned to a friend who lived on the swankiest street in the neighborhood that his house was great. It even had a second floor solarium. He said sure, the house was great, but his parents had mortgaged their lives to get it. This was evident to a young teenager!
    After the kids moved out, his parents moved from their centrally located show home to a less expensive town about 40 minutes away.

  164. I have noticed how often people mention the problem of cleaning a big house. We live in a 2800 sq ft home on half an acre just a few miles from JD. We have lived here for 30 years and now for the last three years I have indeed had to hire a housekeeper twice a week. The house and property are a lot of upkeep now that we are in our 50’s but I wouldnt trade it for something smaller in a million worlds. We use every square inch of it to the fullest! I homeschool my kids and run a tutoring business from the house. We dont have the problem with too much space, we have the problem of not having enough for everything we do in here! And yes, since this is a financial blog I will add that the place is paid off. No we are not in debt.

  165. My dream home is

    1) Paid off (obviously, otherwise it isn’t really mine, is it?)
    2) Can be fully cleaned in under 30 minutes.
    3) Has most/all things within easy reach; nothing ever gets lost.
    4) Can be repaired by the owner (me) without calling in an expert, plumbing, electrics, roof, walls, …
    5) Has no utility costs.
    6) Will not get flooded, snowed in, etc.
    7) Will be really hard to break into.
    8) Will not pretend to be anything that it isn’t (no fake bricks, etc.)

  166. I live in a one-bedroom apartment and love it. I’ve always wondered why people think they’d be happier if they have a larger house, larger car, larger everything. If I did, I’d be spending the rest of my life cleaning, not doing the things that make me feel truly fulfilled. What matters is the ability to say “enough”, live within one’s means, save enough, and understand that the quality of one’s life is determined by loved ones and other things not dependent on material tings. More stuff does not make life happier or meaningful.

  167. I have my little two bedroom ’50s house that I love – because it’s good enough, it’s nice enough, and gosh darn it, people like it! 🙂

  168. I like your blog and read it frequently. I have never posted a comm. before but felt the urge to do it because I was not sure if you were kidding or serious about this article.
    JD, you have my dream house and I am VERY jealous 🙂 Your house IS a mansion. A house like yours in our town would be worth more than 5 million euros!! Because were I live ground is something rare and expensive.
    But we have bought a very nice flat and hope to pay our morgage in 8 years. So I will keep reading your tips and advice. Thanks a lot.

  169. I can totally understand why this beautiful neighborhood caught your imagination, especially all those trees and birds. I can relate to seeing someone’s gorgeous yard and wanting to live there. But I remind myself that a) I’m not much of a gardener, and have just enough to do in my nice yard as it is; and b) I can still enjoy looking at this person’s yard without having to own it. I try to remind myself that I don’t have to possess or control something to enjoy it — a fleeting moment in a lovely setting can still be worthwhile.

  170. Good lord man! You really DID begin to loose all perspective there for a moment. LOOK AT YOUR HOME! After 21 years I sold my home last Fall. It was my dream home I helped design and build with my ex-husband. I bought him out when we divorced and took on monster debt. My current husband and I finally decided to sell our ‘dream house’ because it was financially irresponsible to keep hanging on to this dream. I miss my home. I miss the walls I helped erect, all of the stones I lovingly placed, the trees my husband spent months beautifying, the acres of wildflowers, the wildlife, the nooks and crannies where my son would find to play . . . . it broke my heart to leave. I am now living another dream I’ve had since childhood. I live on the coast with a view of the ocean, the bay and a quiet little harbor. I have neighbors next door and I walk the beach several times a week. I don’t own the home ~ first time I’ve rented in 35 years ~ but it’s a bright and sunny place perfect for the three of us.

    As it turns out my son, now 14, has decided to move with his dad to start his first year of high school. His dad lives one block from school. I’ve known this day would come for years now but it doesn’t make it any easier. He’s learning how to let go of the past and move forward into life. Saying goodbye has always been tuff for him but he did it with grace when he said goodbye to the only home he’d ever known. He’s been tolerant of our move but it’s not his dream ~ he’s discovering what his dream is.

    The most important thing I’ve learned from this move is that my values are firmly in place; Health, Family, Love and Connection. Security and certainty is still in there it’s just further down the list these days. And frankly that’s OK with me. I get to choose what’s important and I’ve made my choice.

    We’re looking to buy another house. We’re considering a ‘tiny house’. Well, it’s a fun idea but neither of us is really there yet, but we’re getting much closer. What I know is we don’t need 3,000 square feet and 5 1/2 acres to be happy. In fact, I am so freed up not having to maintain all of that it’s opened my eyes to the what I really want next.

    Enjoy what you have and if you don’t, make a change, it won’t kill you, really, it won’t.

  171. I must add . . . I lived in a 29 foot travel trailer for 4 years while building my 3,000 square foot house. Life was simple and beautiful in that little space. Less to clutter my mind and my life. I long for simplicity . . . .

  172. I too used to dream of living in a brand new, custom construction status ‘dream home’ …. until I lived in one. I would receive comments like, “That’s not a driveway – it’s a landing strip!” ($25K worth of concrete alone to pave that thing) or “Your horses have a better place to live than I do.” And so on. I discovered that once I’d achieved ‘The Dream’ I became BORED with it. I also discovered that the amount of money spent over the 6 years I lived there equated to 6 lost years of family memories because I couldn’t afford to do much else other than pay the hefty mortgage and maintenance costs once the financial crisis hit and I lost my job.

    Today, I live in just as big of a house but one that I bought at auction for a pittance. The house is a classic 1970s design, 34 years old and I LOVE it. So does everyone else who walks in the front door. It won’t be difficult to sell.

    My biggest regret is that I sacrificed 6 years of my kids’ youth for an albatross of a house that I grew to absolutely HATE. Owning that house changed nothing for me. It didn’t make me a better person (far from it) and it didn’t make me ‘better’ than anyone else even though it was a huge status symbol that was the envy of everyone who saw it. It was a money pit and a very expensive lesson in more ways than just one. It ain’t all red roses, green grass, and lace curtains!

  173. RMom ~ I appreciate your forthrightness! I live in an area where ‘status’ is huge and I have to admit, I liked having a big, beautiful house in an exclusive area; I liked the ‘status’. I didn’t know this about myself until I moved, and quite frankly, I’m embarrassed this now. I believe that big houses will soon be viewed in the same way ‘Hummers’ are today. I don’t fault anyone for going after what they want, in fact I celebrate people for pursuing their dreams. I just think that what the world needs right now are less material-focused dreams. Smaller houses mean less use of raw materials, more conscious structures, better use of land. Something to think about.

  174. Wanting more, bigger, better, newer, improved–that’s what built America. That’s what moved pioneers West. That’s what brought us out of caves. I’ve never cared for the status symbol of the big house in the gated neighborhood and the Mercedes or BMW (I drive a Prius and my house is 30 years old), but I don’t fault anyone for wanting that, and fewer material “wants” to me means Socialism and the end of the US as we know it. People wanting more causes growth. Less materialism causes stagnation.

  175. It’s all perspective I suppose. I see less as more. More free time to spend doing what I love with the people I love. More time to focus on things that I value. I want more out of life not more stuff in my life. My perspective is from someone in her second half of life who’s lived a lot of life and who is now on a path of simplicity and more fun!

    I encourage people to find out what truly makes them happy and to pursue that path. Reassess that path fairly regularly. You may find that what was important to you at 35 may not be at the top of your list at 55. My advice to my teenage son is to do what you’re passionate about and you’ll enjoy life. If having a big house is your passion go for it and have fun! How blessed we are to have such choices . . . .

  176. I’ll be 51 next month, my kids are grown–if you call college aged “grown”–and I’m ready to downsize to something easier to clean. But then, where would I put all of our stuff?? LOL!! I work in technology, so I’ll probably always want the latest gadget, but I could do with a smaller space to clean.

  177. I am so coveting your house. We lived on the West side of the state for years before moving to the East side but I have been nagging my husband to move back to Portland and find a house like yours/ with a little property.

  178. Yep, I talk a big talk but I have a 27″ iMac so I’m not such a hot shot in the techno downsizing department! Also, when we moved from our big house and acreage, we took my husbands work shed and bought a new storage container for all of our garage stuff. Simplifying is a process . . . . .

  179. Two ‘TED’ talks that I think speak well to this subject can both be found on Beth Terry’s blog; fakeplasticfish.com post date of June 29, 2010.

  180. wow! too me you and the owner of the mansion are rich, its hard to believe that house was a fixer-upper

  181. I personally don’t see much of a difference between your house and what you refer to as a mansion. It’s definitely perspective, JD.

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