A little over a year ago, my husband and I downsized to a cute little 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom house just a half block from the beach.
When we moved in, we replaced nearly all of the electrical wiring and some of the windows, the carpeting in the master bedroom and one of the toilets. We painted every wall and ceiling, and we were a little dismayed to find out we needed a new roof.
We got a new roof.
We installed air conditioning, because despite what everyone says, you do need it at the beach. We remodeled our small kitchen to make it more useable and spacious, with white everything – cabinets, floors, countertops, walls. This is our empty nest, you see. A white kitchen is not a problem.
We installed shades on a wire on our patios, causing much curiosity and comments (mostly positive) from our neighbors and by people passing by on their way to the beach. On the weekends, my husband likes to sit out on the patio for hours at a time with our two dogs, reading a book, and I join him there, most of the time.
For the first 3 months that we lived here, nearly every day, there were people in my house—drilling, cutting, banging, hammering, moving, yelling, singing. Every one of them brought dirt and disarray, which they (usually) cleaned up. That’s what happens when you remodel. Despite all of that, despite not having a kitchen for three months, despite the mistakes that needed correcting, the money that we spent beyond our (haha) budget, the adjustments we’ve had to make to the noisy summer crowds, the constant dust (and always dirty car) that living near the beach brings, the flies that come with ocean proximity, the neighbors barely 8 feet away – despite all of that, we’ve been very happy here since the day we moved in. We haven’t regretted our decision for a minute.
Our house is about 80 years old and has been added on to twice. It started out as an 800-square-foot bungalow, probably a beach house for a family who lived further inland. Now it’s 1,500 square feet of coziness. Yes, the floors slope a bit, and some of the doors don’t quite close all the way. There’s woefully little storage space, which we prepared for by selling a lot of what we had in our former home of 24 years and renting a storage unit for the things we couldn’t bear to part with. The walls aren’t perfectly smooth, the bathrooms are on the (very) small side, the garage is for cars the size of go-carts and the gas fireplace doesn’t work – and probably never will. Our house is imperfect with history – just like we are.
We get some interesting questions from friends and acquaintances about our choice to completely change our lifestyle, moving from a spacious suburban home with a pool and lawn to a small home in a beach community with a definite urban flair.
“How’s the parking?” This is one of the first things people ask. The parking in our neighborhood is notoriously bad, but with one space in the back of our house and good luck, we’ve run into very few problems. Even if we did have trouble parking, it wouldn’t bother us. We’d just walk a little farther to get to our car.
“Where do you put everything?” It’s amazing how much less you need when you don’t have the room for it, or how creative you can be finding storage solutions when you need to. So far the only real problem is where to store the vacuum cleaner.
“Where will your kids sleep when they come home?” Because they’ve never lived here, our kids don’t consider this “home” in the way they did our former house. They both live in homes of their own—because they are adults. They don’t have a room to claim as their own, and we installed a wonderful Murphy bed where our daughter sleeps when she comes for a night or two. Our son lives 3 blocks away, so he doesn’t need to sleep here – and hopefully he never will. He misses the big, comfy couch in our former home’s family room, but otherwise everyone seems comfortable.
And the most surprising question of all:
“Where will your grandkids stay when they come to visit?”
There’s no hint of grandchildren anytime soon. In fact, I’d guess it’s going to be quite a few years before we have to consider where to put the portable crib and high chair for any little ones. My hope is that when my children have children of their own, they’ll have a guest room for us to stay in. When they do have families of their own, we’ll figure it out.
In the meantime, we have chosen not to live our empty nest lives awaiting the arrival of our children’s children.
Instead, we’ve decided to sit on the patio, or walk down the street to dinner, or take our dogs for a stroll along the beach. We’ve opted to create a home that, unlike our previous house, which was all about everyone else in our lives, is, for the most part, about us. We may not have the room for tons of people, but there’s room enough—more than enough—for two. And that’s what we love the most.
A version of this was previously published on Purple Clover.