After years of wondering whether to stay in the country or move into town, we put our house on the market and started looking. We realized that during our South American travels that we enjoyed being in towns and cities, and we enjoyed walking for logistics (food, etc.) and for entertainment. We also realized that having an idiosyncratic and occasionally unpredictable old house 8 miles outside town made it hard to rent out for 6 or 12 months at a time. Add to that high heating costs and lots of property to maintain, and it seemed that if we wanted to keep travelling out of the country, maybe there would be better places to live.
Six months later, it is still surreal for me to look around and realize that we have made the switch, and that the place we called home for 13 years, where Anna learned to walk, where Zeke was born, where Leticia and me and so many friends and family put in hours of sweat equity, is no longer ours. Hence, here is a comparison.
Old house is 8 or 9 miles from grocery stores, library, town park, restaurants, bars, and most amenities. New house is smack in the middle of Bloomsburg, where we went for all of that anyway.
Old house was a 15 minute drive or a 35 minute bike ride to work. New house is a 15 minute walk or a 7 minute bike ride to work.
Old house was 2400 square feet, on 9.259 acres. New house is 1400 square feet on 0.036 acres (the lot is 3 feet wider than the house.)
Old house had a short attic and a damp farmhouse basement, through which water occasionally ran. New house has a big (unfinished, uninsulated) attic and a dry basement.
Old house has a barn, a garage, an outhouse, and 3 other outbuildings. New house has none of these, nor room for any but the outhouse.
Old house has five bedrooms; new house has four, if you count the one that, if you put a double mattress in there, the door won’t close.
Old house and new house both have one bathroom, but old house has the outhouse and plenty of outdoor options.
Old house had plenty of room for soccer, a half mile running path, a ton of berry bushes, a few fruit trees, lots of woods, and bordered on state game lands. New house has two trees on the boundary, an elementary school playground a block away, and rail trail about half a mile away.
Old house had a lawn I could mow with a riding mower (and push for the edges) in 2.5 to 3 hours. New house has a lawn Zeke can mow (with the reel mower) in ten minutes.
Old house mountain views in all directions; new house has another house 3 feet east of it and views of other houses (and trees, I should add) in other directions.
Soup night at the old house usually brought 5 to 10 visitors; at our only soup night here so far, there were about 20.
Old house was expensive to heat, even when we didn’t heat the upstairs. New house has steam radiators, and…well, we will see. It should cost less than half what we paid before.
Old house was on a straight section of a country road where the speed limit was 40 but cars often went 60. New house is on an alley, where 2 cars can’t pass without using some sidewalk, and we can play soccer without frequent interruptions (like in Potosi).
Almost every surface of the old house was a reminder of the work we had done, and also of our shortcomings. Not every surface of the new house is exactly as we would choose, but it is fine for now.
Old house had beautiful wood floors (sanded and finished by us), new house may have them under the carpets.
Old house had a leak in the roof; new house doesn’t.
There are times when what we have given up seems incredible, but most of the time I am happy for the new reality. We were planning the Woolman Walk at the same time we were house-hunting, and this place originally seemed to have too little yard. The spirit of Woolman pushed us toward simplicity, and the lower maintenance needs of this house (and less time spent in a car) should free us to do other things.