the smell of my desperation has become a stench

Where the heart is

During the many months that my last home was on the market I lived in a constant state of fear, a maddening limbo of not knowing if or when the house would sell, not knowing where I would be living in the months or years ahead. It’s a bit of a first-world problem to have, owning a house to sell, I understand this, but because I was doing it alone it will go down as one of the most stressful things I’ve ever lived through.

I never once looked at real estate listings because the the whole idea seemed masochistic when potential buyers would come and go without showing any interest. I told myself to wait until I’d gotten a solid offer, but when that finally happened, the buyers wanted a 30-day escrow. I quickly secured a loan, but when I started researching houses that would fit my needs I realized how impossible it would be to find something in four short weeks, something I would want to sink all that money into yet again.

My mother said we could live in her basement until I found what I needed, but that would mean living and sleeping in the same room as both girls and both dogs and commuting over 45 minutes to their schools in the morning. I’d have to pack up the dogs and my laptop and work at a dog-friendly coffee shop every day until school was out, then the 45-minute commute back to the basement. Although my mother was a saint to offer this, and I am so lucky to have this kind of option should everything go horribly wrong, it just wasn’t ideal. Plain and simple, I don’t think I could resist eating all of my stepfather’s bologna.

My mother says that what happened next is a result of all those times she put my name on the prayer list in the temple, and if that is true, thank you prayer list. Prayer list, you saved me and my girls from months of disgruntled living. You also saved my stepfather’s bologna.

About a week into escrow I was driving home after dropping Leta off at school when I saw a FOR RENT sign in the yard of a home about a half-mile from where I was living. From the outside the house looked like it was in good condition, so I jotted down the number and made a call to ask three questions that would determine whether or not I would ask the fourth:

1) How much is rent?

2) Is there a fenced-in backyard?

3) Do you allow pets?

The landlord answered yes to all three so I asked the fourth:

4) Where’s Waldo?

That afternoon she let me take a look at the place, and I brought Tyrant along so that he could give me his opinion. The layout was fine, there was a bedroom for Leta and a separate bedroom for Marlo, and there was space for the office. I wasn’t a fan of the paint colors, the wallpaper, the light fixtures, or the carpet, but the price was so affordable that none of that really mattered. Here was a viable option for me and the girls, one that suited our basic needs and would save my mother the hassle of housing her 37-year-old daughter.

Tyrant’s opinion? “Can you tell your mom to put my name on the prayer list?”


This would also allow me some time to get my bearings after months of living in a sort of suspended state, to figure out what I really wanted in a home instead of prematurely jumping at the first thing to catch my eye. This goes directly against how I normally make big decisions. I don’t like to lollygag or dawdle. My gut is very opinionated and often right, so when I see something I like I go after it. But when I’m dealing with the kind of money that goes into a down payment and a mortgage? Maybe it’s time to tell my gut to shut it.

So I signed a lease. And now I’m living in a home where if the dishwasher breaks, I don’t have to buy a new one. This feeling of freedom and relief after all those months of not knowing and now living in a space that someone else has to take care of should probably be illegal.

Also, the girls have settled in here so seamlessly, and that’s the most important component to all these very fortunate events falling into place. My girls feel at home.

I’ve been living here only a month, but I’ve already started to put together a list of things to look for when I decide to buy again, a list informed by all the things that I didn’t like about the houses I previously owned. You may be surprised to hear this, or maybe not, but the one thing that bothered me the most about the three houses I’ve owned is the size of the last one. One day I’m going to write a book about living in a very big house and I’ll call it “Very Big Unhappiness.”

Never have I wanted to simplify more than I do now, that’s what that last home taught me more than anything. And since I have some time to breath before signing my name to another 30-year mortgage, that’s what I plan to do.

Here are the make it or break it items:

– A fenced-in backyard for the dogs
– A dedicated space for my office
– A separate bedroom for both girls
– A garage
– Washer and dryer hookups
– A kitchen that does not need a total overhaul
– A working stove on which Ryan Gosling can make me pancakes made with almond flour

Here are the things that would be nice to have:

– A bathroom for the girls and a separate bathroom for me
– A bedroom for guests
– Lots of natural sunlight
– A patio
– A storage space where I could set up the dogs’ crates
– White walls
– Hardwood floors
– A dungeon

I’m really curious what you guys have learned from owning homes, or what you would look for if you were seeking to buy one. What are your must-haves? What has surprised you?


This post was sponsored by BHI. Explore the benefits of a newly built home.

  • Desiree Johnson

    2013/04/18 at 9:15 am

    CLOSETS! Make sure you have plenty of closets! My house we are in now does not even have a linen closet and it drives me nuts!

  • Heather Armstrong

    2013/04/18 at 9:19 am

    Ahh! Forgot that one! Adding it to the list now.

  • Ruthie

    2013/04/18 at 9:22 am

    Boy does that resonate with me. I am currently renting as well, coming out of a divorce and there is NOTHING as freeing as not having to worry about the dishwasher. or the leak. Or ANYTHING except for my own stuff. Its amazing. Went thru the downgrade as well. Its absolutely liberating. Garage and Windows are about my only thing. Lots and lots and LOTS of windows.

  • Living The Scream

    2013/04/18 at 9:22 am

    We are looking for houses right now and my husband and I both have a pretty simple list. a nice back yard is at the top! also more than one bathroom. Right now we have 4 daughters and only one bathroom it is driving me crazy!! So glad they are not teenagers.

  • Allyssa Wheaton-Rodriguez

    2013/04/18 at 9:23 am

    We currently have our house on the market, and I’m in the same sort of panic. It’s insane, except we don’t have family here, so I have no back-up plan if future buyers don’t let us rent the house back for a couple of months. On my list of must-haves: good schools all the way through high school (why we’re moving…our oldest starts kindergarten in Aug), at least 3 bdrms and 2 baths, fenced-in yard with enough green space for dogs to poop; would-be-nice: garage doors in back or on side, no carpet in living space (dogs/cats + allergies), younger than our current 1962 house with shit that doesn’t break all the time, a 4th bdrm or some sort of study area for a playroom/depository for toys and office, no wood paneling.

  • wonderfulchaos

    2013/04/18 at 9:27 am

    I love having a dining room with doors. I can set stuff up for a party and close the door until it starts, and not have to worry about what the cat is doing. I have a half bath and only one full bathroom, but it’s broken into two spaces with a door in between, so the two sinks are in one area and the tub and toilet are in the other, if you can’t get a place with two full baths, this is the next best thing.

  • jess

    2013/04/18 at 9:27 am

    this, coupled with a House*Tweaking post linked below, is why i’m looking to get a normal, right-sized home. my friends seem to be trying to outdo each other with BIGGER and MORE– i’ll beat them all and just go with BEST (thus, also, probably, CHEAPEST).

  • Tammy

    2013/04/18 at 9:29 am

    A coat closet, nice-sized bedroom closets, ventilation fan in the bathroom, and updated windows are on my would-be-nice list, after living in older homes for the last twenty years. A level yard with good drainage is an unsexy but essential item on the must-have list.

  • Fer

    2013/04/18 at 9:29 am

    OOOOOH, we just went through this, moving out of our 900-sq ft. sweet bungalow where husband and I, two daughters, a dog, cat and rabbit lived. I would have told you that a great backyard was a non-negotiable to me (our last one made up for the small size of our home, and we are avid gardeners and tree lovers), but the home we’re moving into now is on a canyon and has a huge deck in lieu of a backyard. I am excited about being in a quieter space on a quieter street with all that nature right outside, but I know I will miss our yard…we plan to do some terracing in the canyon so we can enjoy that space too. I too wanted a kitchen that only needed moderate updating, and we traded a kitchen whose cupboards needed painting (which we did, with great results–why did we wait so long?!) for another whose cupboards need painting (we won’t wait this time). We need a garage, not for cars but for our shizzle and bikes. I wanted two bathrooms pretty badly. And a living space separate from the living room if possible…we got all this and more (though I can catalog what we’ll miss from the old house), and I’m hoping the same for you, Heather!

  • GrumpyGirl

    2013/04/18 at 9:30 am

    As someone who just sold the old and purchased a new home in a span of 30 days, leaving us homeless for a week and living with my parents (with our infant, a dog, and a cat) an hour away from both of our jobs…. All I can say is ENJOY the down time! And when you do decide you are ready to look at the market, catch up on “Love it or List it.” That show totally helped me narrow down what is most important and what is fluff. And yoou get to make fun of other for their bad choices, so score.

  • jerseygirl

    2013/04/18 at 9:32 am

    Are washer and dryer hookups not standard in Utah homes? I think you should add the extra bathrooms as a must and the fence as a “nice to have” .. you could always add a fence. Not so easy to add bathrooms!

  • Cat Schaff

    2013/04/18 at 9:34 am

    I absolutely cannot stand carpet…of any kind. I have two cats and a very large dog. While I have most of the walking space covered with jute rugs so the dog doesn’t ice skate across the floor; I will not rent a home with carpet and when I go to buy it will be the first thing to go. A fenced in backyard is also my MUST for the dog. I don’t have kids yet, but most of your must haves and wants are also on my list. My one indulgence is a big tub (although after seeing your ‘Texas Gallon Hat’ tub I’m more careful what I wish for. 🙂 Your new space is lovely by the way.

  • frogprof

    2013/04/18 at 9:34 am

    I’m renting a wonderful apartment EXCEPT for the kitchen which has no storage space to speak of. And I [the sibling who cooks the least] inherited all of my mom’s cookware and appliances and chafing dishes [?!?!] and … and have no place to put it. CABINETS. CABINETS. CABINETS.

  • erosenst

    2013/04/18 at 9:35 am

    We lived in a rental apartment after we sold our house (much more quickly than anticipated) but were waiting for the house we were building to be complete. From that, I once again learned how essential a lot of light is for me. Schools are a close second – we moved here because of the excellent school system and have never regretted that. Third is no mold issues – and no expensive foundation and/or roof issues that may lead to mold. I would include washer/dryer hookup and two bathrooms, but think it’s unlikely those would be hard to find.

    On the nice to have – a way for the dogs to use a dog door to the fenced in backyard – even if they (like our dogs) have to be confined to one room when we’re gone. We built our house with a mudroom in the back for exactly this reason. On the ‘closet’ thing – although they’re very (very) nice to have, there are often workable alternatives. If the room is big enough, they’re relatively easy to build in along a wall, and you can make a really cool design statement with the doors (or fabric, hung from ceiling rods) you use. There are also a number of relatively inexpensive storage solutions from places like Ikea if there’s room somewhere.

  • Judealou

    2013/04/18 at 9:36 am

    We moved a year ago after 22 years in 1 house and the things I wanted, having 2 college kids who are homing pigeons (with dogs), was very different from what I wanted when I was at your stage of life! We did get rid of a LOT of crap, though, as in filling a construction dumpster 2x plus numerous trips to Goodwill. Pretty embarrassing.
    Previously I was right where you are. Now I wanted, and got, a house with separate bed/bath for each kid, plus a guest room; a dedicated room for myself (crafts, sewing, etc.); big garage for cars, bikes, etc., and enough room in the basement for my husband’s massive model train layout hobby, book collection(s), etc.
    We used to have a fenced yard for the kids & dog; now we have a yard open to parkland, but we installed an invisible fence for the kids’ dogs and that works great.
    So, one would think we’d be downsizing, but instead we bought a bigger house and are embracing the idea the kids can land with us on college breaks or otherwise as necessary. However, if they start to abuse it I WILL change the locks and security code. Just sayin’.
    The dogs can stay, though. 🙂

  • Beth Morley

    2013/04/18 at 9:37 am

    I’m going to second the closets comment. With small children it is a necessity. I would also add a utility ROOM and not a utility CLOSET. With three kids I do so much laundry that I practically live in that room

  • Jeanette

    2013/04/18 at 9:37 am

    My absolute must have is a house that is FINISHED. We’ve been living in our half remodeled house for 2 years now and no matter how clean it is, it always seems like a mess. So when it’s an actual mess, part of me is like “why bother!” I would also REALLY like a play room. My toddlers share a bedroom, that really isn’t big enough for the two of them to begin with, but then the living room becomes their play room and I take you back to my comment about the mess. Definitely require a washer/dryer. I have a lot of “it would be nice”, but ultimately a finished house with room enough for my kids and their mess is a must. Congratulations on at least finding something temporary that you and the girls are comfortable in!

  • evebad

    2013/04/18 at 9:39 am

    I bought my current home by myself almost ten years ago. I understand the worry and angst (and I don’t have kids nor pets). At that time I needed a two family house because of the extra income the second apartment will bring. When I first saw this home ALL of my friends told me not to buy it. It needed a big renovation, but I could afford it and it was a two family in the neighborhood I wanted to live. Those were my needs then. It was the best investment decision I have ever made.

    If I ever moved again (doubtful) I would want a basement and parking space. In Park Slope Brooklyn, a house with a driveway is like a bathroom with fairies that clean you every time you use it. Yeah that rare or expensive.

  • acm

    2013/04/18 at 9:42 am

    wait, there are houses without a washer/dryer hook-up? in civilization?!?

  • Danielle Black

    2013/04/18 at 9:42 am

    Our house is on the market to sell and we’ve been cleaning out. Even just minimizing our possessions has made a huge difference how I feel about going home and being there. I think I’d like to rent before we buy our next house as well. I want bigger bathrooms, an updated kitchen, good schools, drywall and land. Also, if it could be Denver or west, that’d be great. I’m done with living in Ohio.

  • ɯoɔ˙ɹǝƃƃolquǝʞoʇ

    2013/04/18 at 9:42 am

    I can hardly wait until my back deck is converted into a screened in porch. I’d like to screen in the front, but hubby, and a friend who’s judgement has never let me down, say naught. As for must haves:

    The kitchen has to have a door to the back yard and this must be the entrance we use most (opening to a mud room and then into a kitchen is fine) after you gone through back porch.

    I like the idea of a laundry/utility/pantry right off the kitchen.

    One bathroom is fine with me, but hubby swears by a full master bath and full second to everyone bath and I want a walk in shower in the master (or one bathroom if ever get my way).

    I like that the mail is delivered right through a slot into our house (Dogs go crazy, but what are you gonna do?”).

    Hardwood, real linoleum and/or tile floors (NO CARPET).

    Eat in kitchen (no dining room).

    Storm cellar of basement accessed through the house.

    Garage or carport (hubby says).

    Storage shed.

  • Rach

    2013/04/18 at 9:44 am

    We bought a foreclosed house as our first home. It was missing everything from the doorknobs and light fixtures to a working furnace and fridge. The house had been gutted while sitting vacant. We took that as a sign that it was perfect for us. It needed love and in this market with that price, we had plenty of love to give. After two years in the house and loving that we can change things on a whim because we own it and loving the memories we are creating with our kids, I would have to say I would want better neighbors. Sure our bathroom could be bigger and we are planning to add a master suite one day on the opposite side of the house than the kids but it is virtually impossible to enjoy all of the good things the house has to offer when you live next to assholes who think that band practice at midnight is a good idea.

  • Larkspur

    2013/04/18 at 9:50 am

    I am old, and when I was growing up, our family of five only ever lived in a house with just one bathroom. Again, this is first-world-problem stuff, but these days, I would hate sharing one bathroom. Ideally, Heather, you’d have a bathroom, the girls would have one, and there would be a guest bathroom as well – or at least a powder room. And the powder room should be conveniently located so that visitors don’t have to walk through bedrooms to get to it, and it should have a fan as well as a light, because then delicate sensitive people like me won’t get so self-conscious.

  • Jo

    2013/04/18 at 9:50 am

    Water pressure. And move sunlight up on the list to must have. Seriously.

  • GKAdams

    2013/04/18 at 9:51 am

    Yes, closet space! Only after I moved into my lakehouse in NH did I realize, “Where in the f**k are the closets?” I guess I was too smitten with everything else to notice.

  • Birdy

    2013/04/18 at 9:53 am

    I live in a teeny 1200 sq ft house and what I want most of all is MORE SPACE!! I have been “struggling” with house envy for a few years now. Yes, a silly struggle, but it is also not very healthy. I learned I needed to appreciate what I DO have and to make do with what I have until we can afford a new house. My husband is a “collector of things” (at last count he had ten collections, all not being enjoyed, taking up space). I have a touch of it as well, but I decided since we can’t get my bigger house NOW well why don’t I get rid of stuff to make our house SEEM bigger. I have been donating things to Salvation Army left and right. So in the SPACE I want in my house of dreams is a bigger kitchen (our house was built in 1980 and I guess they didn’t cook, ever), an office space with a door and storage, and a parlor (yes so old fashioned, but I want a place dedicated at all times to the Clean; where I can pretend with my guests that the rest of the house is neat and orderly and where I can escape the chaos of my kids). Lastly my big dream come true would be a school/craft room to house where learning and projects don’t have to be put away for dinner.

  • Kimberly Wydeen

    2013/04/18 at 9:54 am

    Maybe this is a regional thing (I live in the Midwest), but I adore ceiling fans. After an entire winter of a closed up house, it is nice to circulate some fresh air when I can finally open the windows. That being said, they are fairly easy to add to a room, so they would go on my “Nice to Have” list. By the way, I love these photos of how you are taking things from the old house and making them work in the rental.

  • Brianna

    2013/04/18 at 9:56 am

    The “lots of light” is a must. I live on the side of a hill where the sun blazes in the morning, but there is almost no afternoon light. It’s depressing, my house is so dark! I also love taking pictures in my house without a flash and it’s so hard to do here except in the morning. By far my biggest complaint here. Wah wah wah.

  • Christine

    2013/04/18 at 9:56 am

    Gosh, your honesty is so refreshing. My husband and I have been attempting to sell our home for the past two years. Last week, it sold. There were a whole lot of emotions; sadness, anxiousness, all of the above. This week, we began the hunt for somewhere to live and renting seems like the best option to us (even though many we tell that to seem to think we are crazy). Everything you shared sounds just about perfect to me. Thank you for bringing me comfort while we work on our list. 😉

  • Robin Dearing

    2013/04/18 at 10:03 am

    I lived in charming, historic downtown Grand Junction, Co for 15 years. When we needed a bigger space we moved out of downtown to an area that has gorgeous views of the Colorado National Monument and the Bookcliffs. It changed my life. The air is made fresher by having something to look at other than my neighbors (who were lovely). We have three bathrooms, so no one has to share (except for me, I have to share with the only boy in the house, my husband). A view and numerous bathrooms, that’s what worked for us.

  • Jeanette McCarthy

    2013/04/18 at 10:04 am

    Neighborhood was of the utmost importance to us. You could always fix up the few things about a house that maybe missed the mark, but you can’t fix living on a “double yellow”. Or not having sidewalks for your kids to ride bikes on. So, #1 on our list was the neighborhood.

    Good luck in your search Heather! I just went through the Sell/Buy situation in July and know you will enjoy the new beginnings that are ahead of you.

  • Zoe Kingson

    2013/04/18 at 10:04 am

    My next must-have is sunlight and space to make a garden. The yard for the house I’m renting right now is HUGE, but it’s all completely shaded by giant pine trees, and I couldn’t grow a tomato to save my life. I need some sunlight in my yard and in my house.

  • JennyOH

    2013/04/18 at 10:08 am

    Counter space. We are renting a small house – a cottage, really – which I love for being so compact and cozy, but the kitchen feels very cramped, and the end result of not enough food storage space or pot/pan/gadget storage space is that lots of things – all the oils are out, some things like the coffee machine and mortar and pestle – have nowhere to be put away TO, so they stay on the counter. For someone who likes making breads and would love to have help from my three year old, this is a big disappointment. BUT it’s not only small houses/kitchens you have to watch out for. Our last apartment was in a Victorian with huge rooms and high ceilings, but the last kitchen update had been done by someone really, really dumb (is the only way I can explain how it happened). Ok, it’s a rental, they’re not going to go all out. But somehow they managed to cram the actual kitchen area into a corner so that it took up about a third of the room itself. It was baffling.

  • Norm Nelson

    2013/04/18 at 10:08 am

    Amen to this. Storage. Lordy. I’ve never lived in a house with enough sensible storage. My garage is … well let’s just say it’s not for cars.

  • Jancave

    2013/04/18 at 10:09 am

    These may be silly issues but I missed them when I purchased my home in a planned community. Look for really basic stuff. Is there sufficient electrical service in the house? I didn’t realize what ’60 amps’ meant when I bought the house and then thought it wouldn’t be a big deal to upgrade. It is now because the local authorities require everything be brought up to code so the whole house would have to be rewired. So I don’t have central air conditioning. A former owner had put on an addition including a family room and a third bedroom. For some reason they didn’t run the furnace lines into the third bedroom and it is heated by electric heaters attached to the walls. I didn’t think it was a big deal because I never expected to use the bedroom which, of course, means that’s exactly where I sleep now. And then to repeat, closets, closets, closets. My kitchen was built to serve as entryway, dining area, laundry and left little room for cabinets or counter space. Positive items were that the roof had been recently replace including the sheathing, they had put in all new duct work, the driveway was new. And I thought I would just be here a couple years and move on….it’s been 20.

    I had been driving 120 round trip each day back and forth to work. It took two years to sell the townhouse I owned 60 miles away. I think your choice to rent for a while is such a great idea. I was too wigged out and exhausted to make a good choice and could have benefited greatly from some time to be off the road and to think about what I wanted and where I wanted to live. Good luck to you!

  • kayleymaybe

    2013/04/18 at 10:09 am

    We’re living in limbo right now – house on the market for about a month, and constant showings followed by rejections. This is all totally terrible and stressful, particularly with 2 kids and a dog. For us in looking for our next home, our biggest considerations are location-oriented: close to good schools, close(ish) to my parents, close to freeway for commute to work.

    I understand your decision to rent – we don’t want to have to either live with my parents or to rush into a new house. But man, having to pack and unpack an extra time….kinda damned if you do and damned if you don’t, right?

  • Necole Kell

    2013/04/18 at 10:13 am

    I want white walls, lots of molding, high ceilings, a kitchen that does not have laminate counter tops, and wood floors. Big closets because besides the Mr and I , we have three daughters. I would love a great outdoor space and a large backyard. Pretty much the house we are renting now, and hope to be able to buy in a couple of years. Fingers crossed.

  • Marcy

    2013/04/18 at 10:13 am

    I rented for seven years after my divorce and if I hadn’t remarried and needed more space, I’d still be renting. A friend of mine who’s a tax attorney said “A house isn’t an asset, it’s a liability until you sell it – and once you sell it you still need someplace to live!”

    I have enjoyed remodeling and decorating the new place but there’s no denying, especially in this economy, that a house isn’t a great investment and the costs of home ownership are high. I say rent as long as you like, it give you so many options!

  • Litenarata

    2013/04/18 at 10:13 am

    You know people in Third World countries have houses to sell too, right?

  • Jacquelyn

    2013/04/18 at 10:17 am

    What we call a “back hall” or what most refer to as a “mud room.” That would be a necessity for our next place as entering the house from the garage immediately into the kitchen is not ideal (especially in the winter months with boots,coats, hats, gloves ending up all over the kitchen floor!) Sounds crazy, but I most likely would not want to be on septic again but prefer to be back on sewer lines mainly because I miss my garbage disposal. :/

  • Shannon

    2013/04/18 at 10:18 am

    When we were looking for a house, I found that I was pickier about the location than the house itself (but still pretty picky about both– for the house itself: 1 story, built before 1970, yard with trees, under 2000 sqft, no carpet, absolutely NO to any house where the garage was the most prominent front facing feature– our realtor thought we were insane). We had really strict rules about how busy the road was that the house was located on. So, for instance, if friends couldn’t pull over and park on the road for a large gathering, then it was certainly too busy a road for our cats and potential future children. I also had to be able to walk around my neighborhood and ideally to somewhere else– a park, a store, something. We have one car, and I couldn’t bear the idea that I would be trapped in my own home unless I had access to a car. We’re still getting settled and making the interior feel like home, but I’m really glad we stuck with our guidelines and didn’t compromise on the features that were most important to us.

  • Farm2FargoMom

    2013/04/18 at 10:19 am

    Moved 13 times, have owned 3 homes. Do NOT. COMPROMISE. ON. THE. KITCHEN. Even if the rest of the house is awesome, but kitchen ‘needs work’…. umm, NO. If it’s too small/dark/galley-ish/poorly laid out? NO. It’s the place everyone ends up wanting to ‘hang out’ whether you’re into cooking or not. The kids throw down the backpacks there, drag out their books/homework, wanna roll with the dog, wanna talk about the day, it’s where assorted adults end up having discussions while multitasking (cooking, staring into the fridge, looking up stuff on the iPad, whatever)… if it’s a sucky kitchen, it cripples everything else that happens in the home, IMHO. The one home I had with the perfect kitchen, and the rest of the house was “meh”… everything just worked better for me & the kids, and the non-kitchen compromises just didn’t seem so astoundingly stressful as the homes I had with the kitchen FAILS. And kitchen fixes are super-disruptive especially if you have kids and pets. Avoid.

  • sarah

    2013/04/18 at 10:23 am

    I agree with so much of what is on your lists, as well as what others have written here. I’m currently living in the 2nd house I’ve owned, and both of my houses have had a lot of work put into them (by my husband and I). Over the years I’ve gotten so much pickier when it comes to what I want in a house–and not about things like high-end finishes. More about the space and ‘features,’ simply based on what I’ve learned about myself since buying my first house. For example, I like organization and like houses that make it easy for me to accomplish this (storage!), and my mood is so much better in a bright, wide-open space. Some of the things on my list include:
    – Lots of sunlight/natural light
    – Open spaces–if the house itself doesn’t have a (relatively) open floorplan I will end up knocking down walls
    – Plenty of storage space (we’re talking linen closets, hall closets, cabinets, etc.)
    – Some sort of mud room/entry space/well-organized landing strip where we can throw down our bags, keep our shoes by the door, and hang up coats/sweaters/etc. Not having this stuff organized or easily accessible when trying to get out the door with kids drives me insane!
    – A sizeable and/or well-laid out kitchen: we do most of our cooking/eating at home
    – Good outdoor space. With 2 boys and a husband who gardens we need this 🙂

    – A basement: deal-breaker if one isn’t present. I’m super paranoid about severe weather and tornadoes and like the peace of mind of having one.

  • Kimberly

    2013/04/18 at 10:25 am

    We moved almost 2 years ago from a 3,000 sq foot house to a rental of 1600 sq ft. with 4 kids and a dog. we are about to sign our 3rd lease. It was so liberating to de-clutter all of the crap in the overabundance of space. Even with 6 people in the household, 3000 sq feet was enough for a whole village in the outskirts of Nairobi. Not only did it de-clutter my house, but my head and soul. So much so that I just did round two with the clutter. The relief of knowing that I don’t have to fix anything, or take care of my lawn is such a relief. However, my kitchen is white. White appliances, counters, cabinets and floor. Seriously? who does that? Its the worst thing about it.

  • Bitchy McSlappywine

    2013/04/18 at 10:27 am

    As my kids get older and move out, Big D and I are thinking about all of the things that we do NOT need in a house. With five kids, we NEEDED 4 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms but after they’re all gone, we will need MAYBE two bedrooms and some office space. I’m so with you on the simplifying thing … less clutter equals less stress.

  • Tonya

    2013/04/18 at 10:28 am

    We moved from a townhouse to a single family home for the first time. The thing we looked forward to having the most was a garage. A fenced-in backyard for an animal would be nice. Ours is fenced-in but low. I love my jetted tub. Walk-in closet good. Plenty of storage space in every room, even if we don’t have a lot of stuff. A kitchen with lots of storage space. Organized closets. A small sitting room for people who come to visit. Not some big, wasted living room. A guest bedroom. An exercise area. Landscaping that is low maintenance. I’m with you in that when it comes to size more is not more. The people who sold us this house had one kid. This house has three bedrooms. They moved because they wanted a bigger house. I don’t get it. This house is plenty big for a family of four. Bigger = more work. Simplicity/minimalism = peace and happiness.

  • cgw

    2013/04/18 at 10:32 am

    My husband, my daughter, and I live in a <1200 sq ft home. It has a "master" bedroom that does not have a bathroom attached ("master" in that it's the largest bedroom), and two small bedrooms. The house has only one small bathroom, a moderate sized living room and a separate cozy dining area filled with light, and a decent kitchen. We converted part of our 2 car tandem garage into a tumble room where the laundry is. We have a backyard as well. By most contemporary American standards our house is considered small. Would I like another bath? Yes. Would I like a dedicated studio space? Absolutely. But am I also happy with my house the way it is now? Yep. I totally get what you mean by large house doesn't equal happiness. My home isn't the most ideal place to hold family gatherings, but by and large, I love this abode, it's modest, it's lived in, and comfortable the way it is. It helps us to learn to live with less, to live truly with one another.

  • Kimberly Wydeen

    2013/04/18 at 10:34 am

    Agree with this completely. Also: kitchen remodels always seem to take longer than anybody expects. Plus, when the kitchen is in disarray, then cooking is virtually impossible and eating out gets old.

  • Robyn Hallonquist

    2013/04/18 at 10:41 am

    I totally agree about the sunlight. Especially given the too-long winters and tendency for depression. You gotta keep it bright!

  • issascrazyworld

    2013/04/18 at 10:41 am

    I find this funny, because two years after divorce and drowning in the debt of a house I couldn’t afford but fought to have in the seperation, I sold it in October. I’m a renter again, for the first time in my adult life. I kinda like being a renter. I signed a year lease, but I may stay another year or two. Best decision I’d made in a long time.

    Congrats on renting. It’s a nice little break actually. No taxes, no fixing things and if you have a great landlord its pretty easy.

    In my next house, I want all hardwood floors. I want new. I’ve never lived in a new house and I want one where every single scratch or mishap is because we did it. I want all of my kids to have separate bedrooms. I want a HUGE master tub and closet. Oh and a brand new pretty kitchen.

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Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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