Monday, February 6, 2012


Ever do something you know is a bad idea in the long run but you do it anyway? Like, say, I dunno, window shopping for houses when you have one and aren't planning to purchase a new one.

The Boy and I have been going to open houses on and off for years when the mood strikes. I knew I was tempting fate, but what better idea to find examples of what looks good in my tiny house than to see others of the same size? Instead of lusting after these other houses, I've only felt grateful that I purchased the home I did.

Until yesterday.
I saw it on our walk: a two story, brick house with a two car garage. Something about the bit of the inside I could see from the curtain-less picture window made me twinge inside. I had to see inside this house, and what luck, there was an open house that very afternoon! As soon as I walked in the front door I knew. This house had the EXACT same layout as the house I grew up in. A house I  had hated when we moved into it because I didn't want to leave our home and my friends in the country, but loved by the time I graduated high school. A house I'd almost decided to buy from my mother when she finally moved on, but luckily didn't.  This house had the exact same hallway closet (a hallway closet people!) and overall layout. The kitchen was different, better really, and the laundry shoot wasn't dry-walled over. That hallway closet was just the beginning, in all there were four regular closets, two linen closets, built ins in the office and a storage closet lined with shelves in the basement. It had over 500 more square feet than min hus. It feels like a grownup house, I told the Boy. I was in love, love I say!

It didn't take long for me to develop a raging case of house lust, which only increased when I went home and found out thanks to a handy mortgage calculator that this house would only cost $40/month more than I currently pay now. $40!!
Alvhem via Pinterest
I started dreaming wildly. I could fix up min hus, sell it and buy my new dream house! Sure I'd take a bit of a loss on min hus, but undoubtedly they were doing so with the dream house, so that was practically a wash, wasn't it? And, sure, min hus would need a couple of grand in fixes before I could even put it on the market, but that was doable. Home insurance would go up, and utilities would be more expensive with 500 extra square feet, but how much more could that possibly be?  I began rationalizing like crazy. The current taxes on the dream house were the same as I was paying now. Yes, the dream house needed paint in every room, a bathroom reno (my head almost hit the ceiling in the shower, but we could rip that out!), some kitchen fixes, Manland II upgrades, landscaping, etc. I would certainly need some new furniture, if not lots of new furniture, but we wouldn't have to do that all at once. I thought you loved living small, the Boy asked. Well, yeah sorta. But maybe that was only because I didn't think I could afford something bigger. I certainly couldn't when I bought min hus.
from Pinterest
Would we really even use the extra space, he asked, we're kind of hermits. Of course we would, I enthused! We could easily have people to dinner in the dining room, or play games at a table, unlike now. And, ok, I never used the second bedroom when it was set up as an office, but if I made the third little bedroom in dream house a reading nook, then, by golly, I'd use it all the time.

By the time I was getting ready for bed I had remembered the added expense of closing costs, realtor fees, house inspection fees, etc. A thousand here, a thousand there adds up, not to mention how much longer it would take to pay the mortgage off on dream house. Was this really a smart move for me? Didn't I believe in only having as much house as you truly need? Didn't I want less debt, not more? Re-reading the housing section of The Heart of Simple Living: 7 Paths to a Better Life by Wanda Urbanska and asking myself the questions below helped me escape the few remaining tentacles of house lust.

Tips on avoiding new stuff lust:
  1. Avoid temptation. Don't go to the store to browse. Avoid malls like the plague (and thrift stores, and garage sales if those are your vices). And for heaven's sake, don't go to open houses. This is fine advice if it fits your life, but I would rather learn how to cope and stick to my goals despite temptation.
  2. Learn to cope with "gotta have it" syndrome. You know, I'm not going to stop going to open houses permanently any more than I'll be able to only set foot in Target for needed purchases and not browse the home aisles. Instead of practicing pure avoidance, I'd rather learn to be able to face temptation head-on and still walk away. Some ways to do this are below.
  3. Take a timeout. When caught in the grip of lust for something new, commit to walking away and giving yourself some time to cool off. Implement a 30-day waiting list for new purchases.
  4. Cross examine yourself. Before buying anything ask yourself if you really need it or really, really, really want it? Do you love this item? Can you really, truly afford it? Will you use it? Do you have space to store it? Does it meet the goals for your life right now? What about in a year? Five years (for really big purchases)?
How do you cope with temptation? Have you ever caught a case of raging house lust?


  1. You know, I actually do suffer from "house lust" now and then... but it's generally part of a larger fantasy involving the death of a long lost rich uncle, a large inheritance, solar panels, a greenhouse, and me suddenly morphing into a neat and tidy person.

    When I really look at it, I can see that it's less about the house and more about how I imagine I would be different in new surroundings. Of course the fantasies never involve things like fixing the furnace, having twice as much area to vacuum, paying for twice as much heat, living further away from everything, dealing with some obnoxious neighbor, etc, etc.

    The truth is that I LOVE my little house, and while the pretty picture of something bigger, or newer, or just somehow better is sometimes attractive, when I get down to brass tacks, it's generally a sign that there's some feeling that I'm avoiding, and focusing on a big shiny object - and all of the picture painting that goes along with it - just helps me to avoid the feeling.

    I also think that at various points along my frugal journey there were moments when all I felt was deprived. It was like I was experiencing all of the "giving up" but not yet reaping any of the rewards. During those times it's always helped to remind myself of all the ways my life is better because I do live frugally. Like, for example, the fact that I should have the mortgage paid off entirely by next year!

    Oh, and if you need another nudge, try calculating things like the date your current mortgage will be paid off vs the date a new mortgage would be paid, and ask how much those years of your life are worth. Or even better... calculate the total (principal and interest) that you have left to pay on the current house and compare it to the total you'd have to pay on a new one. Those sorts of numbers usually do it for me! :~)

  2. I love this post. My personality is just a wee bit obsessive, so if I see something I want, can be bad. I haven't experienced house lust yet because I simply can't afford anything in my area (400K for a condo? Sure...), but I do daydream about one of the Tumbleweed small houses.

    For my slightly obsessive temperament, avoiding temptation is probably the best advice. For this reason, I don't look at cats available for adoption and avoid thrift stores unless there's actually something I need. I think Cat's suggestions for getting some cold, hard numbers to avoid splurging are excellent, too.

  3. Don't forget the closing costs, moving expenses, down payment...all the fun stuff that shows up on the bill right before closing that didn't get factored in to the mortgage calculator!

    I'm having kitchen lust right now. We just bought a condo and I want to totally redo the kitchen, which would also undo our bank account balances completely.

    That's when my husband asked, "So we know what you don't like about the kitchen. Is there anything you DO like?" That helped me realize that I actually like what I have, and don't feel desperate to change nearly so much.

    I love your cute house as it is!

  4. Thanks for the support chicas. I had already given up the dream by the time I wrote this post and that still feels like the right decision. I think it was the nostalgia of the home I grew up in that was really tugging at the heartstrings. That and escaping a leak and some reno projects, but I hear ya about the extra costs and those were a big factor.

    Anti-Hoarder - You're sweet, but I'm dying for a kitchen and bathroom reno myself. We're talking seriously about starting on the kitchen, it needs a re-arrange so that I can fit a table in there. That would solve one big issue for me.


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