My partner and I are in our 40s, and we just signed a new one-year lease on an apartment. This goes against everything we’ve every been taught or told.
We come from small town folk who have believed all of their lives that the major material measures of their success are their houses, their land, and their vehicles. It’s difficult to eschew all of those things and to still appear to them to be “accomplished”, or even “settled”.
We’ve both been homeowners in the past, for reasons both practical and conditioned. We were both previously married, and our now grown children were, of course, younger then. Admittedly, it was nice to have yards in which they could play.
Those days are behind us now, though. Our children no longer live with us full-time, and they’re no longer of the “playing in the yard age” (although my teenage son does still go outside to shoot hoops in the driveway at his mother’s house).
Still, the idea that we should own and live in a full-sized single family house at our age is so deeply embedded within us both that it feels nearly inescapable. Even if we didn’t feel it internally, we’d still hear it from nearly every friend and family member with whom we discuss our living conditions. It’s like some unwritten law that we all accept without question.
Except that my partner and I don’t anymore. We did consider it, though. We felt compelled to, even though we’re both perfectly happy living in (separate) apartments now. We’re thinkers, my partner and I, and we wanted to ensure that we made a conscious and purposeful decision, especially if we intended to go against what we had come to know as “the grain”.
We considered most conceivable living options, really. We looked at traditional single family houses, at townhouses and condominiums, at duplexes and rentals of every flavor. We considered buying a plot of land and constructing a new house, and we considered alternative spaces like tiny houses and shipping container homes.
Admittedly, we are not the most financially savvy people in the world. It’s not even as much that we couldn’t be as that we just don’t choose to be. As such, you may very well be able to quite reasonably tell us how anything other than leasing our new apartment is the better financial move. The ugly truth is that we don’t care, at least not enough.
Of the views in Green Bay, we love the ones from the higher floors of the riverside apartments the best. That just wasn’t something we were going to realistically be able to find in a home we could afford. It may seem silly to read here in type that the view became one of the primary priorities in our determination, but it seems completely legitimate at dawn while we’re watching the seagulls, the pelicans, and the occasional bald eagle soar over the water. It seems valuable at dusk when the sunset paints the waters of the Fox River in pastel pinks, purples, and oranges.
Nestled in among the apartment buildings and restaurants and boutiques of the downtown area, we feel comfortable and alive and included. We can hop up from the couch during a commercial to step out onto the balcony and watch patrons streaming out of the city theater after a show. We can walk out the lobby door on any given day directly into a parade or a farmers market or a free public yoga session.
Single homes offer space and a certain level of privacy and a sense of ownership, but we’ve reached the point at which those things no longer top our list of desires. We’re more interested now in avoiding the hassle of snow-covered driveways, lawns that need mowed, and hot water heater leaks. We don’t want to fear catastrophes like mold in our walls or a weakening foundation.
It seems more responsible to live in a smaller space. Plus, we’re talkers, we’re very close, and we’re of very similar minds on most things, so we rarely allow a wall between us that might stifle conversation.
The convenience of a downtown apartment allows us to maintain just one vehicle rather than requiring two for each of us to get to work. I’m no true eco-warrior, but I do embrace the opportunity to reduce my own carbon footprint when and where I can.
Apartment life just fits us better as individuals. We’re readers and writers who like to spend the morning in coffee shops and who don’t mind the sound of an occasional siren or an infrequent loud voice in the hallway. Mostly, we’re small and unassuming; we don’t need to showcase expansive lawns or pursue greater curb appeal.
We might be too young to settle into a retirement space, but we’re also old enough to know that we no longer want a lot of unused space that we spend more time cleaning and maintaining than making use of. We’ll get much more use from a 4th floor wrap around corner balcony now than we will from a formal dining room or finished basement.