Changing Houses

Ok… I’m finally ready to write about this.

 

We have changed houses.

Not moved. Because when I say “we’re moving” everybody tends to over-react.

This is me, with almost every other parent/friend at school:

“We’re moving…..”

“Oh my goodness!! Where to?!?”

“Just Gordondale.”

“oh.. oh good. That’s nice.”

When I say ‘changing houses’ FOR SOME REASON it is much better received.

So there it is. We changed houses.

 

Here’s the thing. We don’t ENJOY moving, even though I know our life choices make it appear that way. Rich and I will hit 10 years of marriage this June and we’ve lived in many different homes. 8 to be exact.

Not typical, I know.

Some moves were our choice, others weren’t. For the official record I would just like to chronicle our moves and why they happened. And then everyone will see once and for all… that… it makes sense….

1 – apartment in Washington DC = Summer 2007 – Fall 2007. Moved because Rich took a job in Chicago. And because I was a little whiner who didn’t like DC.

2 – apartment in Schaumburg = Fall 2007 – Fall 2008. 1 whole year! Moved because our year lease was up and we were expecting Harry, and wanted something “bigger.”

3 – townhouse in Palatine = Fall 2008 – Fall 2009. Moved because our landlord foreclosed. Waaa waaah.

4 – townhouse in Schaumburg = Fall 2009 – Fall 2010. Moved because our landlord foreclosed. What? Again? A different landlord? Yes. Double Waaa waaaaaaaaaaah.

5 – townhouse in Aurora = Fall 2010 – Spring 2013. 2.5 years! Moved because we decided to build a house

5.5 – Mom and Dad’s house 🙂 = I lived here for four months with the boys while our house was being built. Rich stayed with friends in Chicago and came home on the weekends.

6 – Oswego house = moved IN Fall of 2013, SOLD and moved out Summer of 2015 because we are insane. Didn’t quite make it 2 years.

6.5 – back at Mom and Dad’s for a month because our house sold too quickly.

7 – Stroud house = Fall 2015 – Spring 2017. Moved because of several reasons.

8 – Gordondale house! Spring 2017 – …………… ?

So… it doesn’t seem that bad when it’s all laid out and explained, right???

Right??

RIGHT?!?!

Right.

I’m glad we agree.

 

A lot of different factors lead us to the decision to move this time around.

Basically we were paying too much in rent.

Way too much.

Here’s the thing: we knew we were going to have to move in October regardless. Our landlord was wanting too much money from us.

Quick tip: if your landlord/rental management agency demands anything over a 3% raise on your rent after ONE YEAR, they are out of bounds. 3% is more than enough to cover fluctuations in the market.

Last summer, our landlord asked for a 15% raise in rent. IS THIS REAL LIFE?!?

We knew that was crazy but we didn’t know what else to do. As a GOOD tenant, you have a little bit of power, in that if you leave your landlord will incur costs and time in finding a new good tenant. The Stroud house is at the top of the market on size and quality alone. And it is completely furnished. We get all that. We were happy to have it. But, we were still paying alot lot lot. At the thought of moving last year, we wanted to vomit… so… we compromised on an 8% raise and re-signed for the year. We didn’t like it, I mean – we already paid ALOT.

This year, though, we’re more settled. Things have calmed down. WE have calmed down. “Changing houses” didn’t seem so bad.

WE KNEW, we just knew, that our landlord was going to ask us for more. We also knew that we were not willing to pay any more. So, we started looking around… and come to find out, prices had gone down and we now pay 500-800/month more than other comparable properties.

ahhh…… what now? NO.

Not cool.

So, we could either wait till October when our lease is up. Keep paying our super high rent and have more pressure to move by an October deadline, or we could start looking now… and possibly leave early.

Here’s the other thing: It’s relatively stupid to pay too much for rent. You don’t have to. That’s the wonderful thing about renting. If you don’t like it, YOU CAN LEAVE.

I recently found out I was paying too much for the hand soap that I like and I was like super mad about it. HAND SOAP.

I don’t like to spend unnecessary money. Not even a little. I don’t think anyone with four kids does. I’m a shop-arounder. I’m the queen-returner. And I’m super practical. I don’t like buying things that don’t serve a purpose. I have to convince myself to buy ‘decor’ items, with the argument that their purpose is to be ‘decor.’ I wear socks with holes in them and shirts with stains because they still work. Stuff like that.

I don’t consider myself to be cheap because I appreciate and see the value in spending money on the appropriate things when the time calls. But I will not pay more for something if I don’t have to.

I’ve got other things to spend that money on.

Horrendously over-paying for rent is not on my list of “appropriate” spending.

We crunched the numbers and decided that even after we incurred moving costs and possibly FURNISHED AN ENTIRE HOUSE, that we could still save money in the long run.

We called the rental management company, asked if we could get out of our lease. They said yes, and that was the turning point. We realized we were going to move.

Sooner rather than later.

And the hunt began.

 

HOUSE HUNTING in LONDON

(specifically Wimbledon)(specifically walking distance of Wimbledon Park Primary)

Being a family of six in the city is sometimes stressful. Searching for a house is one of those times. You have to decide what you’re willing to compromise on. What can we deal with? What are the deal breakers?

Side note on homes in London vs. the homes in America (in general): They are different. Set your expectations accordingly.

Now that the boys are all three in school and doing very well, we were basically not willing to budge on location. The agents kept asking us, “Can you do Croydon? Can you do Putney? Can you do central Wimbledon?”

Me “Are you dim.. I said walking distance to Wimbledon Park Primary. Three times already.”

– I didn’t really say that. But I certainly thought it…

We could move out of the area and save money. We could. Save alot.

We could move out of the area and get a big-giant-house. We could.

But we had time on our side, we weren’t desperate yet. We could prioritize NOT-uprooting-the-boys-from-school.

As we started looking around and touring properties, we realized one thing: we were going to have to go ahead and break our lease. We kinda thought we could have our cake and eat it too. Stay in our house and look for something new. But we began to realize that most properties that are up for rent are empty and not willing to wait for you to give your current landlord “60 days notice.”

“ah, yes, we like this house. can we move in in 3 months?”

…. doesn’t really seem to work that way.

If we weren’t willing to break the lease, we could potentially continue to see properties that we couldn’t jump on… all the way to October. We needed to be free to move in order to snag something that came up. The downside of this, of course, is that you could break your lease, not find anything, and then end up with literally no home.

We had to jump off the cliff, break the lease, and find a place to move on the fall down.

It may seem like a risky move when you have four kids, and it seems that way because IT IS THAT WAY.

It’s not like we didn’t think we would find something. We knew we would find SOMETHING. It was just a matter of which concession we would be willing to make. Will we have to walk really far? Five bedrooms is out of the question. There just aren’t any. We know for a fact that this 5 bedroom is SUPER RARE. We have to go down to four or even three bedrooms. Will it just have to be ‘not quite as nice’?

All that considered, we just did it. We decided to break the lease early and have some faith. We’ll find something. We will. We’ll find something.

After that there was drama. Most of which, I see no need to re-tell. The landlords tried to fight us on the lease break. We were IN THE RIGHT, legally. There was nothing to fight.

It got a smidge ugly. Lease-break-Gate, I think I’ll call it.

Like usual, we forged ahead.

We were scouring, SCOURING, for a new house in the square inch of land where we wanted to live.

We need to be walking distance from the school. So draw a little circle around the school.

Now – we need to have enough space (that’s a loose term).

So, knock out 90% of the available properties.

Also – we need it NOT to be a million dollars.

And – please-Lord-above could we get a dryer.

And – please-Almighty-Lord-above a downstairs toilet too.

And.. that leaves you with…………… 2 properties.

I know – I’m asking for too much.

But I’m just so tired everyday and I need a new house and I have 60 days. I’ll be a good little shepard, I promise. I have to potty train two toddlers, I really need a downstairs toilet.  Oh, and I need to do six people’s laundry and bedding….

Can I live with three bedrooms if the living space is big enough?

If I have to choose between having a dryer and having three bedrooms instead of four?

I THINK I MIGHT CHOOSE A DRYER….. What world do I live in?

It was honestly more stressful than our move over here, and it consumed our thoughts and time for the first three months of the year.

Then one day the clouds parted, and the sun shone. A new house came up.

A house for us.

A perfect house for us.

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  • 4 bedrooms
  • 2 min WALK TO SCHOOL, even closer than we used to be (which is also by the train, the bus, the grocery store, and the doctor)
  • 2.5 baths (including one on the ground floor!)
  • Laundry! Washer/Dryer combo machine. But, I’m NOT ABOUT to complain about anything.
  • spacious garden with shed!
  • beautiful and new throughout
  • great layout that could easily be Vivian-proofed
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The beautiful front door.
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The view from the entry way.
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Half Bath under the stairs.
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Kitchen from front.
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Kitchen from back.
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The cooker.
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The first thing to function in the new kitchen. Tea and coffee area.
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Living Room.
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Up the stairs…
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First Bath
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I just like this.
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Landing.
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Gonna be boys room.
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Gonna be Playroom/Guest room/extra Boy room
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Gonna be Viv’s Room.
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Another set of stairs.
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Third floor Master Bedroom.
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From the front of the room.
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The view out of the balcony doors. Hello everyone!
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And on the other side of the door, the Second full bath.

 

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Hidey holes for Dishwasher and Washer/Dryer Combo machine.
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Behind the doors. Pantry, Fridge, Freezer.

I jumped on it so fast. I think my fingers sizzled as I called the estate agent.

We viewed it, but I didn’t even need to. It was love-at-first-sight-on-RightMove. We met the new landlords. We like them. They like us. They’ve been in the house for 16 years, they recently renovated the kitchen and the loft. Basically they’re solid. The new rental management agency is solid too – they proved that to us through their very professional behavior through every turn of Lease-break-Gate, and followed that up with winning paperwork and lots of care and attention.

 

I love this house so much.

Let’s get some perspective. Rarely, if EVER EVER, does one “down-grade” or “down-size” into a property like this in London, of this Earth. And that’s probably the most telling of how much we were over-paying on Stroud. And why the whole mess was worth it.

Hands down – I can look at that list up there, and say that this is my favorite house we’ve lived in. Including the one we built. It’s smaller in size than the last two houses we’ve lived in, but it doesn’t matter because it just fits us really well. I’ve always wanted a house the was JUST big enough. Not too big, because I’m weird about unused space. Because every space must serve a PURPOSE… or two or three.

I like things simple. I’m the opposite of a hoarder. This house has room for all of my people, and room for all of the appropriate stuff and no more after that.

Happy.

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This move was very different from all of our other moves.

One, because we didn’t have any furniture or furnishings. We didn’t have the big stuff like beds or a table. But we also didn’t have a spoon or a trash can or a toilet brush. It was all just there in Stroud when we moved in. The only things we moved over here with were clothes, bedding, toys, and a few select kitchen items.

And Two – because it was just a few streets over.

And Three – because the leases overlapped and we had both houses for a month.

When we got the keys to the new house, we began measuring, planning, and ordering furniture. We wanted to try and have it mostly set up before moving the kids over. Deliveries came almost everyday. I ran around to different stores every other day and pieced the new kitchen together.

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And then, I started packing up our things at Stroud. The kids were on break from school. That meant I had mover helpers. I also have four strollers. I’m resourceful. Everyday, I’d load up the strollers with our STUFF and we’d push a load over.

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Theo made sure to always bring his potty seat!

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If you think I don’t know how ridiculous this is, you’d be wrong.

I do know.

And yet, I’m certainly not above this.

Why would I hire movers or rent a truck when it can easily be done this way?

Rich was like “All the neighbors probably see you guys and think ‘Oh that poor woman, her husband is too cheap to hire movers so he makes her move all of their things over one trip at a time. I see her walking loads over everyday, with the kids…. making them push strollers too!'”

I was like “I don’t care what anyone thinks!”

Plus, the kids had fun doing it.

Whatever.

I laughed on a lot of these trips… it was just as bananas as it looks. Papa (who was here to LITERALLY save us) started referring to it as our ‘urban migration.’

Perfect.

But you know what? Nobody ever even gave us a second look.

That’s London.

In the evenings Rich and I, and Papa, would take turns taking loads over and setting up and building furniture.

We initially thought that we would rent a van or truck or something for one weekend. But as the loads slowly went over and our things in Stroud diminished, I looked around and said to Rich “I think we can WALK our whole house over there.”

And he answered back “Ya, I think so too.”

And that’s what we did.

The biggest thing we had was Viv’s crib. Brought over in two trips by daddy, Papa, and the Sit N’ Stand stroller.

By Easter weekend, the kitchen was set up and most major furniture was in place. Our goal by Sunday was to bring over everything we needed for the kids to start sleeping there. Everything left at Stroud could continue to be brought over by the stroller caravan. So, we re-located the kids and all of their essentials. We left them at Gordondale with Papa and went back to start packing up everything that was left.

At this point one of our neighbors knocked on the door

“Um, I just saw Rich walking down the street carrying a television. Please let us take a car load over for you.”

Me “Oh no, really, we’re alright! We’re just walking things over a little at a time. We have another week or so. We’re doing ok!”

Her “No, really, we’re home all day – let us just take one load over. It’s not trouble at all.”

Me, “Well, ok…. maybe. I’ll see.. maybe, ya…? I’ll pack some more and let you know.”

Her “Please do.”

I hustled and packed up the rest of our things, and we knocked back on the neighbors door an hour later accepting their offer to help. It took not one car load, but a gracious two. And after that we were moved in!

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Settling in a new place is always more of a marathon than a sprint, especially with LIFE going on. I feel like we’ve done well, all things considered.

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The garden was an unexpected problem. It was filled with gravel and looked like this:

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Don’t get me wrong, the kids LOVED all the gravel. They knew immediately what to do with all of that. Trucks came out, the whole deal. But it only took a few minutes each time for the boys to start throwing and kicking and for Viv to start trying to eat them. So it shot up to the top of the to-do list. We laid down some weather proof tiles. On top of that we rolled on some artificial grass. We cleared the deck of furniture and pots, and trimmed all the scary hedges.

And, Ta Da! A usable outdoor space for us.

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Now that we have some furniture in place, this is how we are making this house work for us:

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Anyway….

That’s why we did it. How we did it. And where we stand now.

I mean, even as I write this, there are boxes of furniture still to be put together.

Still things to be sorted and put away. Still things to be made “perfect.”

“Decor” to buy….

My list is enormous.

But we’re in, we’re moved, we’re functional and then some. Most of all, we’re relieved we did it and we’re happy.

Onward!

 

 

 

 

 

6 thoughts on “Changing Houses

  1. Loved this! I look forward to your blog posts. I almost squealed when I saw this one. It was late and I was exhausted and barely awake, but I stumbled through it. I just reread it. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

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