Outgrowing the home — seriously?

I recently lost a second neighbor from my cul-de-sac to the utterly silly mythical belief that they had “outgrown the house.”  It kind of shakes me up because both of these homeowners were persons whom I considered fellow followers of the frugal lifestyle.  They drove old cars, performed their own home and yard maintenance, and, at times, seemed downright cheap in their lifestyles.  But one after the other, these families of four people each somehow convinced themselves that they just had to up and leave a neighborhood that they loved because “we’ve just outgrown the house.”

Let’s take a careful look at this nonsense with the goal of preventing you from taking this massive step backwards in your quest for financial independence.  As noted, each of these families had a total of four people living under their respective roofs.  Both lived in two story houses, and the last family had four – that’s right, four – bedrooms.  So that comes to one bedroom for each person, including the eleven and seven year old children.  Assuming the parents shared a bedroom (I’ve never asked), that actually leaves one unused bedroom to boot.  But regardless, there’s really no way anyone can say with a straight face that a family has “outgrown” a house when the ratio of bedrooms to residents is one to one.  Does anyone remember the good old days when kids actually shared a room?

To make matters worse, the most recent family to leave actually moved out before they had sold – or even listed – their house.   The home then sat vacant while they poured money into a variety of repairs and renovations that they had avoided investing in while they actually lived in the place.  They then got lucky and sold the house to a buyer, at a fire sale price, after six months of paying to maintain, insure, and own two dwellings.  It was enough to make any reasonably frugal person shake the head.

The problem, though, is far deeper.  When you really delve into the root cause of this foolish rationale for selling a home in a bad market, taking on a fresh, new, larger mortgage, incurring higher tax and insurance liabilities, and all of the other financial blows that this family incurred, you realize that the “we’ve outgrown the house” excuse is nothing more than the result of overconsumption and failure to maintain a disciplined, simple lifestyle.  Apparently, you see, these neighbors had simply acquired too much stuff to hold in their 2,300 square foot house with double door garage.

Wouldn’t a simpler solution have been to simply sell off some of those clothes that are busting out of the drawers and closets?  Or to toss some of those well-worn shoes that haven’t been worn in years?  Perhaps they could sell or donate the hundreds of books that line the walls, none of which have been read in a decade?  I bet those dinosaur computer monitors sitting in the garage could be dumped without notice.  And, after all of that, if they still found a lack of sufficient space, wouldn’t a storage shed in the backyard be a better step to take than to sell your home under bad financial circumstances and take on a bigger long-term loan?

The bottom line is that most families with no more than two children, and especially those with children within five to seven years of adulthood, should be looking forward to downsizing the house.  Think about it, and you will see that those kids will leave home before you know it, leaving you with a couple of vacant rooms.  At the same time, you will be drawing closer to retirement.  Wouldn’t it make more sense to sell the house in a good market, completely without pressure to sell at a loss, and then invest the capital gains while moving to a cheaper house with less space to heat and insure?  As an added bonus, downsizing forces a homeowner to purge the home, and the lifestyle, of those needless box loads of utter junk that do little more than add to the stress of life.

In the end, this is all another illustration of the need to think it through before you buy.  Please, adhere to this simple rule of frugal living.


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4 Responses to Outgrowing the home — seriously?

  1. what u suggest is sensible and the frugal thing to do;;; but i have come to realise that sometimes it might not be fun. i used to like spending just for the fun of it… and can remember it is a lot of fun. now i have become sensible but i sometimes wonder if i have lost something along the way… a sense of youth lost perhaps, as it is at the time of youth that one tend to spend with no thought of tomorrow.
    reading the post, i wonder whether they too feel the same way about you leaving. you are selling aren’t you to downsize. so maybe they realise that times are a changing and the neighbourhood is not like what it was… old friends are moving on… you, or rather the fact u are going to leave the neighbourhood; might have been the catalyst for them to move on too. and of course it may be they have been frugal just so they can save up to get a bigger house and that is what they have succeeded. they are getting a bigger house. a lot of people dont live a frugal life just because it is sensible to do so, and make it an end in itself. most are frugal in one aspect of their lives so that they can splash out and be extravagant and spendthrift on another.
    well that is my take on their behaviour, not so strange after all, wont you agree?

    • vster says:

      Thanks for the comment, but, no, that is not the reason for my neighbor’s move. I’ve never told anyone that I plan to move, and I actually have no imminent plans to do so. It is something I will consider perhaps in 10 years or so, but not before. Besides, these neighbors directly told us that the reason for the move was that they had “just outgrown the house.”

      No doubt, frugal living is less fun than spending money. It takes some discipline. But in the end, it makes for a better, more responsible, less stressful life.

  2. Pingback: The Evolution of a Frugal Mindset | Practical Frugal Living

  3. Ron says:

    There is another aspect to this which you may not have considered, and that is if one can actually afford the larger house, and maybe actually does need the larger space for what they want to do with their lives. I have been dreaming of a larger house for EIGHT YEARS. The 30+ year old 1200sq.ft. 2bd/2ba double wide trailer I live in has no garage, no fence, no deck, and no substantial resale value no matter what improvements I might make to it. The home just doesn’t work very well for a family of four, even a frugal one with no debt and very good, reliable income. The shed is crammed with tools and holiday boxes, keepsakes and whatnot. The house itself is chock full of furniture, toys, and all of the gadgets of modern living, but there are always issues. Try to find a decent, full-size refrigerator/freezer combo that fits in a 32.75″ wide opening without remodeling the entire kitchen to accommodate a wider opening for the fridge. Try to wash a comforter in a tiny laundry room that only fits a 32″ wide washer & dryer because they just won’t fit through the door (even if you remove it from the hinges). Try getting to work on time in the winter when your cars are permanently parked outside and you have to scrape frost off the windows every morning. Want to build an addition? Too bad: setbacks are too close on one side, septic too close on the other. Trust me, it is 100% absolutely possible to “outgrow” a house no matter HOW frugal you try to live.

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