Posted by: David Stewart | January 7, 2015

Living well

I went running at 5:30 this morning and was amazed at how much traffic noise I could hear from the highway which is a mile and a half away. One of those days when the atmospheric conditions were perfect for it, I suppose.

Back when my wife and I were starting our family (1987), a local builder announced that the horse pasture above our neighborhood was going to be developed into a neighborhood of new houses.

Houses for horses? No, a suburban neighborhood of modest single-family homes. We knew the little house we were living in at the time would be pretty cramped if we added kids, and our quiet little street was going to become a major access route for the new neighborhood.

So we decided to buy one of those new pieces of property and build our own house.

A much older and wiser friend suggested that we should try to get as much house as we could reasonably afford, so we wouldn’t outgrow it. Now in those days, there was a simple measure for affordability: Would your mortgage payment plus other debt payments exceed some percentage of your monthly take-home pay. Simple!

Oregon vineyard

Flickr: davest

It’s now 28 years later. We’re still in the same house. We have been blessed to enjoy continuous employment and few financial disasters, for which I am exceedingly grateful. Very, very, very grateful!

But our children are now grown up and out of college. Should we consider downsizing? We no longer have a mortgage payment, so there wouldn’t be much of a monetary savings there.

I’ve been thinking about this lately because I have friends at work who have houses outside the city. For example, one associate has been telling me about his recent move to a house between Dundee and Newberg, smack in the middle of Oregon wine country. His commute to Hillsboro is about the same as mine is from Beaverton. And he gets a little more piece and quiet.

But there are some significant downsides:

  • We find ourselves in downtown Portland multiple times every week. Places like Newberg, Dundee and Dayton (where my sister used to live) are a full hour to drive to Portland, rather than the 20 minutes we enjoy today.
  • As a runner, training out in the country is doable, but I suspect a bit more dangerous, with fewer sidewalks around.
  • I kind of think we would see neighbors less. I’d like to engage more with our local community rather than be more isolated.
  • What about stuff like going to the gym or grocery store? Of course there are options even in the country, but I suspect it takes a bit more planning.
  • Quality of life for me is as much about the relationships I have with people as much as the house where I am living. I suspect that we would probably have to create a whole new web of relationships. Is that worth a little more peace and quiet?
  • I have this sneaky suspicion that I would be tempted to buy a more expensive place rather than actually downsize.

For the moment, I’m choosing to live well. For now, for me, this means being content with where we live and where we’re planted. I would like to believe we could move if we had to. Not now.

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