We have only been living two months in our new house, and we have so far only paid one mortgage payment.
We know the math says that owning your home, especially in the short term, is not the cheapest option, nor is it the best place to put your investing capital. In January, it cost us about $300 more to own our home compared to the old place we were renting, and that was including the $400 we’re paying in extra interest because the first payment waits a extra month to kick in.
This is not a “owning your house is cheaper!” post. We know we are going to incur significant electrician and plumber bills in the coming months to do some necessary upgrades.
Then again, it isn’t really about owning your home either, since the changes we speak about can happen whether you own or rent your home. The real thing is, what is your comfort zone in terms of square meters/square footage of living area?
As a couple, Mr. Frugasaurus and myself started out with a 30 square meter (320 square feet), flat in London. It would have been a much more practical flat if the hallway wasn’t shaped like the “L” piece in tetris, and the bathroom wasn’t terribly long and narrow. But no matter the impractical layout, that flat was small for two people to live and work in.
Luckily, we were busy surviving at that point. Mr. Frugasaurus had his studies and I had my work, so we spent a significant amount of time outside the flat. But if we were more than a few days cooped up there together all day? We were quickly stepping on each others’ toes. Perhaps a warning sign that tiny living might not be for us?
Our second flat we found when we moved back to Norway after I got a four year contract to work there, where we upscaled to 50 square meters (540 square feet). It was a lovely place with a nice kitchen, breathtaking view which made the whole place feel bigger, and a living room more than twice the size of our London flat.
We tried to decorate it so that we had two work stations. I had a desk in the bedroom, but found it difficult to work there since a lot of my work was done in the early weekend mornings, while Mr. Frugasaurus was still asleep and not to keen on listening to the tap-tap-tap of keyboard rattles. Mr. Frugasaurus had his work station in the living room in a nice, comfy chair. Most days, we would both try to work in the living room – me in the couch and him in his chair. But it just wasn’t very efficient.
We also didn’t have a good dining room table, so we would wound up eating in the couch most of our meals, which made it too easy to turn that brainless box on and waste the rest of the evening after work.
In our most recent upsizing, we are enjoying a blasting 80 square meters (860 square feet) of primary living space, with additional square meters worth of storage. We have our bedroom, a decent sized guest bedroom, a living room a whooping three times the size of our old Trondheim flat and a room in the attic which we just call “kråkeslottet” or the crow’s castle/crow’s nest.
The latter is Mr. Frugasaurus’ office, and he loves it. Having ADHD, he is sensitive to interruptions, both in his line of sight and noises. Having his own room completely separated from our living quarters means his productivity has increased a lot, and he is happier because of it.
I have my desk set up in our large living room, in a nice little corner far away from our couch/screen area. The placement means that I can, and have, worked while Mr. Frugasaurus is having a rest and reading a book without either of us feeling distracted by the other. It has been amazing.
Where we previously felt like we only managed to work if we got up at the crack of dawn, we are now able to work at pretty much any time of day. I come home from work, we have dinner. Afterwards we might feel like working some more before calling it a night, so we knuckle down to it. It has been easier to be productive, and we have not been as prone to veg out in front of the stupid box as before. But when we do, it has been a conscious choice to relax with a movie, not the default state of most evenings.
I am afraid we are unable to quantify exactly how much our increase in productivity is worth per square meter of upsizing. Does it counter $200 more per month in costs? $400? We are not quite that anal about logging our work hours and quantifying our productivity.
All we know is that we feel happier because we find it easier to work, which means we are getting closer to our dream of entrepreneurial lean FI every week. This, alongside the boost in happiness has made the move worthwhile to us, even though it will cost more in pure cash.
After all, don’t we all accept the notion that in order to increase your revenue, you will have to invest and spend in your business? Our house, which are also our offices, represents this.
The upsizing presents a lot of other great options for increased income too. The most important probably being that we hope to try our hand at a bit of AirBnBing of our guest room once some upgrades have been made, and while friends and family aren’t visiting us and using it. We have no idea how much we could make from that, but anything helps towards covering the mortgage.
We also hope to try growing some food in our garden in the years to come. Obviously there is a lot of elbow grease involved in such a venture, so it would probably end up being a zero-sum game in terms of labor vs food produced. But I really want to become more self-sufficient, and learning to grow our own food is a major part of that for me.
Unquantifyably, we have also been reading more, having more meals together and generally enjoyed a higher level of happiness and satisfaction. Mr. Frugasaurus has just started reading out loud to me (Reaper man by Terry Pratchett at the moment) instead of watching the dumb box, which I must say is an excellent way to relax for an hour or so in the evening.
Do you have any other suggestions for ways which we might utilize our newfound space? What sort of ventures have you had success with? Or would you just like to share your own story of how improving and increasing your living space actually provided you both health and monetary advantages.
Downsizing is all the rage these days – but upsizing can have some distinct advantages too!