The Other OTHER Use For a Bedroom

I live in a two-bedroom house. This is pretty much the smallest house that’s readily available, but I always considered the second bedroom a kind of burden to a single (as in number) person. I only NEED one bedroom, because I only need one bed. Why the extra room? What is one person supposed to do with it? And, is it really as big of a deal as I am making it out to be?

The pragmatic reason here is that most people who buy homes have or are planning to have a family, or at the very least would like to have an office or guest room. I don’t have (or plan to have) children, and the minimalist in me would be happy with a couch that doubles as a hide-a-bed to use when guests come over. I don’t entertain that often, and when I do it usually involves friends from college who would be happy sleeping on a couch anyway.

Single-bedroom houses don’t seem to be very common in the US (if anywhere). I guess the solution most people come up with is to buy a condo, but that’s out-of-the-question for me because I’m not living somewhere where I’m beholden to an HOA. Been there, done that. I also like having a garage for my projects, and, from my time living in a high-rise, I don’t like taking an elevator anytime I want to go outside.

All of that aside, though, I tend to regard the bedroom as a colossal waste in ANY modern living space. For a room that is only used for sleeping (well, maybe not JUST for sleeping), having an entire room devoted to something that you do in about 60 cubic feet of space seems needless. This is compounded by the fact that the master bedroom in a typical house is often one of the largest rooms there is. I’m not sure how this practice came about or why we continue to devote so much space to literally nothing.

But I’m always on the lookout for a solution to problems (largely imagined, I suppose), and since I don’t currently have the means of building a half-bedroom one-bathroom house, I think I stumbled upon a way to use my house that gets me the maximum amount of use out of the space.

First of all, my bedroom is in the smaller room. Like I said before, it’s crazy that the bedroom is expected to be the largest room in the house while getting (possibly) the least amount of use ( again, I’m considering sleeping ONLY…).

This works out in my house particularly well because the room in which my bed resides is in the back corner of the house, away from the road noise (and, to some extent, the noise from the international airport that’s just to the south of me).

Secondly, I keep nothing in this room besides the furniture. This includes clothes! That way, if anyone in the bed wakes up and wants to get dressed, use a computer, start soldering some wires, turn the lights on, get a towel to take a shower, etc, they can do so without waking any other sleeping person(s) in the bed with undue noise, light, or solder fumes.

Everything that would be in a bedroom closet is in the closet in the other “bedroom”. I’ve outfitted this room with a desk and futon (so it could potentially double as a true “spare” bedroom if needed; I’m not a savage or anything). This way it’s possible for me to work in the extra room while guests sleep comfortably in the actual bedroom.

As a bonus, the desk is situatied in front of the window so anyone sitting down to, say, write this blog post, has a beautiful view of the beautiful Florida cityscape in which I live.

So, if you too struggle with waking up your significant other, or your guests, or just want a good way to utelize that second bedroom, maybe consider something along these lines. I don’t know if you’ll realize the same results that I have, but it might be worth a shot!

Photo: My actual bedroom. Does it look like it belongs in Florida? 

Links for Saturday, 5/16/15!

If I find interesting things throughout the week, I’ll go ahead and share them! Other people sometimes have great things to say.

Let’s Chat About Simplifying by Joshua Fields Millburn, The Minimalists. For me, The Minimalists are the face of minimalism, and give the most concise and clear reasons for why minimalism is a good thing and how to work it into your life. Basically, identify which things add value to your life, even if those “things” aren’t things at all. Get rid of everything else. This radio interview is a great intro to minimalism if you haven’t heard of it before, but also gets into some nuanced views on the movement.

21 Surprising Statistics That Reveal How Much Stuff We Actually Own by Joshua Becker, Becoming Minimalist. I’m an engineer, and as such can really appreciate using numbers to drive a point home. Joshua points out 21 facts that show us exactly what is has been going on with our stuff.

Why I Gave Up a $95,000 Job to Move to the Caribbean and Scoop Ice Cream by Noelle Hancock, Esquire. Noelle explains that you don’t have to have a busy life crammed with a career and lots of stuff to live a happy life. After all, at that point, what are you living for? Noelle basically turned her entire life into the vacation she was always dreaming about in snowy New York, and seems to be the better for it.

Is Buying Better than Renting? by Mr. Frugalwoods, Frugalwoods. I recently did some research on my own blog post about home ownership, and this was one of the most objective takes on the issue I found. Which side do you find yourself on? Is it the side you want?

Bonus! What I’m listening to this week:

Photo: I went to Santa Cruz, California to surf a month ago. It’s beautiful!

I Own a House

Although I guess it would be a little more accurate to say that I own a very very small percentage of a house and the bank owns the rest. That is the state of my life for the foreseeable future, until I pay it off or sell it. But I’m convinced that, for me, this is the best option and is certainly preferrable to renting.

I’d like to point out that there’s no right way to live a minimalist life. Some minimalists rent. Others own. But my goal is to own a house free-and-clear as soon as possible, which will either allow me to pocket all of my paychecks and retire early or allow me freedom to take on another job and not have to worry about a potential reduction in salary. Maybe I could even be a full-time writer!

In West Palm Beach, a mortgage can have about the same monthly payment as renting an apartment, so for me that’s a no brainer. Better my money go to my own investments than disappear paying for the privilege of living in someone else’s.

Not everyone agrees with this though, and I’ve seen some fancy ways to calculate the difference between owning a house vs. renting, or fancy ways to calculate if you’d be better off renting vs. owning, but to me it just comes down to freedom. How do you see yourself being the most free, finances aside? If it’s owning a house without owing money to a bank, and living there with the security of knowing you’re debt-free, then taking a mortgage out and buying a house is for you. But if you feel more free not being tied down anywhere, and you want to move around a lot, then renting is the way to go.

The house I live in now is actually my second house, so I’m no stranger to home ownership. The major difference between the two is that the first house I bought to flip and make some money on (which enabled me to afford to buy the house I have now), and the house I live in now is exactly the one I want to live in, in a great neighborhood by the beach, and it’s in a city that I love. I could live here my whole life and be happy; I’m in walking distance of a great downtown scene and it’s easy to go surfing.

The last apartment I lived in wasn’t bad, either, but it didn’t suit me. It was a high rise in the center of downtown with a beautiful view of the city. Every time I sent rent to my landlords, though, I knew I would never see that money again. That was the driving factor behind owning a house again, because every time you make a house payment, you’re essentially putting that money in a bank account (your house) that you can get back eventually (by selling the house).

Although some of the money does disappear (taxes, insurance, repairs, etc), I get a lot more freedom. I have a garage that I can use to work on any of my projects, without having to take an elevator ride up to an apartment every time I forget a tool. I don’t have to struggle to fit my 9’4″ surfboard in the elevator when the surf’s up. I don’t have to schedule the elevator when I want to move furniture (I have a lot against elevators). I can do whatever I want with the property, which is great for me because I like having projects to work on and my house (built in 1949) is certainly something that’ll need work. Oh, and you can write your mortgage interest off on your taxes, too, so that’s a bonus.

The one downside of having a mortgage is that it is something that ties you down somewhere. So if you’re making this decision, make sure it’s a place that you’ll either want to live in for a while, or that the real estate market will favor you if you decide to sell it quickly.

I also make efforts to pay my house off faster than the 30-year mortgage suggests I should. By paying an extra principle payment a month (which is pretty cheap in the beginning of a mortgage) I’ll be able to cut the mortgage in half, saving about $50,000 in interest. Also, since I have mortgage insurance (it’s a common misconception that you have to have 20% to put down on a house) this strategy will save me about $5,000 in private mortgage insurance payments by allowing me to get rid of this insurance after five years instead of ten. I’ll probably try to get rid of this quicker if I can, though.

The bottom line here is that you can look for blog posts that will tell you that renting is better, or owning is better, and to be honest I think that everyone who writes one way or the other is just trying to justify the decision they’ve made. They both have perks, and it’s up to you to figure out what’s best for your life.

Photo: The backyard of my Key West-style house in West Palm Beach. I’m a big fan of the foliage. 

The Beginning

About a year ago I lived alone in a three-bedroom, two-bathroom house in a town in South Florida full of retirees. The house had a sunroom and a two-car garage. I needed the garage, I said, because I’m an engineer and I like building things, working on cars, and having large side projects. Immediately the house and the garage were full of… stuff. I had a piano and an electronic organ as a side project. I had two beds mostly because I had so many bedrooms. I had three or four stereos in various states of disrepair. I had two TVs, and one of them was in the bedroom. I had more video games than any girl would ever want to see in her date’s house (although most were in boxes). Shortly after I bought the house I took out a loan and bought a two seat convertible. Everything I had was interesting for a time, but after I stopped using it, it stuck around. Taking up space in my house and in my life.

There have been moments in my life that, looking back on them, make me think I should have come to this point before now. Like when my freshman roommate saw my extra computer monitor and big stereo and mentioned in passing that I seemed to have two of everything. Or when I spent $500 to trailer my old, weary car to my first job in Tennessee behind my nice truck that would have been just fine as my only vehicle.

The biggest kick in the pants, however, was the Christmas after I bought that first house. I flew up to Virginia to get the rest of my furniture and belongings from my parents’ basement and I rented a UHaul to drive it down to Florida. Something was nagging me at the back of my mind though, since I hadn’t had this stuff in a few years, why did I suddenly need it now? Was it worth the plane ticket and truck rental and fuel to bring it all to sit in my house with me? I already had a bed, clothes, stereo, and everything else I needed back in Florida. Did I need more stuff? But I quietly pushed these thoughts to the back of my mind, like I always had, and pretty soon I had a giant house that was full of everything I needed to be happy. Only I wasn’t.

I don’t remember how I stumbled across minimalism, but I do remember feeling very disconnected with my life a year ago, like I was watching a movie of someone else’s life. A lot of people have a defining moment that brought them to minimalism, but mine slowly crept up on me. A pretty drastic change occurred in my life as a result. I put almost everything I owned on craigslist and cleared over two thousand dollars in a few months. I started selling more valuable (and easily mailed) things on eBay. I sold my other car and put my house up for sale. Who needs three bedrooms to themselves, anyway? It was creeping me out at night.

My house sold and I moved to a smaller place a little further south in a city that I love. I have less things, but my life is more full than it’s ever been. I try to live more deliberately, and I actually finish projects that I start. I’m still working on paring down the excess, but I’m an engineer who still likes to work on cars and electronics and who occasionally lets things get out of hand. I’m a work in progress, though, just like everyone else. I’m hoping this blog will be somewhere that I can be accountable to myself, and maybe some others will get value out of the things that I learn.

Photo: My real, former garage. I actually parked my truck and car this way to make the picture look better, because at the time time I felt like I should have been proud of my accumulation of stuff. How much could I fit in there?