multigenerational home

Hello reader,

When Al and I moved into this home, we intended on having 1-2 children. It didn’t take us long to have Bo, but her delivery was much worse than expected. Physically, I would not recover for a full year after her birth. My GovJob gave me more time off than required by allowing me to take off 6 months (they do not offer paid maternity leave, so this was without pay, though I had saved about $8k for this period of time). After 6 months, I came back to work half time and we paid my aunt to watch Bo. That first day it was heart-wrenching to leave her, but I knew she was in great hands.

After a few months, I knew I would need to return to work full time, and my aunt had different plans for work in the fall. I started looking at daycares, and was shocked by the terrible reviews. Though I did expect the high price. Because of her age, it would have been over $1,000/mo for her to go. Al asked me if I wanted his mom, my MIL, to move in temporarily to our house to watch Bo, before finding her own place nearby. My response was “Hell no!

Al had grown up with both sets of grandparents nearby and they had been instrumental to his young life and to his later success. At the time we were considering daycare, his mom was living with his sister to take care of her future children, but they had recently decided to remain childless. His sister and her husband were moving often at the time for work.

We decided to have my MIL come up to watch Bo while my aunt was on vacation. Increasingly frustrated and discouraged by the daycare search, we decided that this could be a trial run for watching baby. At this point, we had not yet talked to her about watching Bo full time. I didn’t want to say it until I felt comfortable with the idea. I was still nervous to leave Bo with anyone at this point (I’m pretty sure that up until this time, only my aunt had watched her).

The week went well! It felt good to have someone watch Bo because they loved her, not because of money. And it was wonderful to be able to get up and go to work without waking the baby up and shoving her into a car seat as she screamed to slow down and cuddle. It was amazing not to have to transport bottles and milk and just leave instructions. I definitely saw the benefits of having a grandma watch her.

When we made the offer for her to move up to watch Bo, she responded “YES!” before we could even get the question out.

A few weeks later, late July, my MIL drove up with her things. She got settled in one of our 4 rooms, and began watching baby. The original goal was to have her find a place nearby by September. Because she had no savings, a small amount of debt, and only Al’s late father’s Social Security, it would be up to us to find a place for her. And apartments were as expensive as daycare, or more.

I’ll be honest in saying that a permanent living situation scared me. I am a private person who sees my living space as a sanctuary. I didn’t want to censor or adjust much. Fortunately, my MIL fits into our living situation and family dynamics well. We’ve had our fair share of “figuring this all out”. It hasn’t been seamless. But ultimately we decided that her staying with us permanently is the best thing for everyone.

Having a multigenerational home allows us to share costs for things like food, heat, and home supplies. It allows us to be close and build a more solid family unit. We are fortunate that we bought a split-bedroom home (the master bedroom is on one side of the house, and the other bedrooms on the other) so that everyone has some privacy. I don’t feel like I’ve lost my sanctuary. In fact, there’s nothing better than going directly home (no stopping at daycare) to a well-rested child, an empty dishwasher, and a happy pup (he’s not alone all day).

Now, I feel very fortunate to have my MIL live with us. My peers are often shocked about this. I initially looked at it as “high risk, high reward”, and though there are challenges, the reward far outweighs the adjustments that we’ve made. Amongst our peers in this area, our living situation seems unusual. But the culture of siloed family units is historically unusual in itself.

Who comprises your cherished community (whether it be family, friends, coworkers)? How have you built and strengthened community?


lifestyle leap, lifestyle creep

As you now know, reader, we “upgraded” (in the classic sense of the word) from a small apartment to a house. Our apartment was 1bd/1ba, 690 sq.ft., and our house is 4bd/2.25ba, 2300 sq.ft. on a half acre. The change was drastic.

As soon as we moved into the house, things started breaking. The house was built in 2003, but looks like it was made with the cheapest materials that 1995 had to offer. Brass boob lights? Check. Beige carpet, walls, ceiling? Check. The house had been empty for almost 5 years, so within the first couple weeks of moving in, all rubber seals cracked. There’s nothing like coming home to the smell of burned plastic, which you soon realize is a result of a cheap, old water heater starting up again for the first time… and then completely failing. After a week or so, I wondered aloud if we could handle this much house.

The money we have spent on this house is astonishing, we’ve purchased a number of appliances, all landscaping had been so overgrown that we ultimately tore it all out and replaced it with new landscaping. The half acre of grass took almost 3 hours to mow with a push mower, so we bought a riding lawn mower. And more tools. And we have been renovating, as the house has outdated finishes, so walls came down, light fixtures have been replaced, curtains purchased and hung, and the list goes on.

In the apartment, we often biked to work, which was fantastic because we lived about 4 miles from work and could bike to work on a paved path. In the house, we live 8 miles from work. Our 40 minute round-trip ride now takes us 80 minutes round-trip. You can probably guess how often we bike with the increased distance, especially considering that life has infinitely more responsibilities. Like, almost never. This is still a hard one to swallow for us.

But, it’s not all bad. It turns out that we both get a lot of fulfillment from doing house projects ourselves. Al has some construction experience from when we was younger, so we rarely hire anyone to do anything in our house or yard (with few exceptions for things that are not worth our time, or are dangerous to do ourselves). As we redo the landscaping, we do it ourselves, digging out old roots, sifting the rocks out of the soil, planting baby trees and shrubs. We have been given some plants as gifts, and we made sure that our front yard is bee-friendly. We’ve built a huge dining table and a pavilion. At this point, working on our house is more of a hobby than a necessity.

And we still love biking. Our house is still on the same trail as the apartment was, but in a much quieter and safer location. Now that we have a toddler, and she likes being in the bike trailer, we have started to bike again with her! I love hearing “Mom! I’m in the bike trailer!” from behind me as I ride.

The house has filled up, too. After we got married in 2015, we got our dog Bear. Soon after that I got pregnant and we had our baby girl Bo in August of 2016. And then, when I needed to return to work full time, we made the decision to move Al’s mom in from out-of-state. That’s a whole different post for a whole new day, but the point is that the house filled up quickly. And those 3 rooms that we were not utilizing, are now full (..and yes, the dog uses the guest room. It’s basically his room).

So while I often long for the simplicity of the apartment, I cherish the adventures and experience that we’ve gained in the house. And as we’ve gained the tools and experience, things have gotten easier. But I truly believe that, when this house no longer serves us, we will downsize and once again cultivate a simple lifestyle. And when we do that, I won’t be focused so much on the future, but on the simplicity of the present.

So tell me, reader, how have major lifestyle changes affected the way you live? Maybe you moved to a new type of city, or maybe you’ve upgraded or downsized…? How has your perspective changed once you’ve gotten into a new situation?


the ladder & the GovJobs

Hi Readers!

I want to give a little background so that people have some context while reading this blog.

My husband and I met in 2010 in the Pacific Northwest, where we still live today. I had graduated from undergrad and my husband had gotten his first post-Masters career position in the town we now live (prior to us meeting). When we met I had just moved back to my hometown with my parents. I had tried for a year after graduating to get a career-oriented job in my college town, but I had only managed to get babysitting and barista jobs. But it was 2009-2010, and finding a job was a challenge, though I was extremely fortunate to graduate without student loans. That was the most valued gift I have ever been given.

When I met Al, he had a salary of about $50k/year at his GovJob, and about $35k of student loan debt. Our relationship was moving along, and about 6 months in, my mom got a fantastic job opportunity in her hometown, out of state. So, Al and I made the decision that I would move in to his 690 sq.ft. apartment. Immediately, with the money that I payed him for rent, he started saving. He was also paying toward the principal on his highest loans. He paid his car and his loans off in at an astonishing rate. I had gotten in a car accident, bought a used car, and paid it off in a couple years with the settlement money in addition to my regular payments.

After a couple years of dating and living together, he asked whether I’d like to focus on getting married or buying a house. Since we had some time before we wanted kids, I responded that I wanted to start with a house. By this time, we had no debt, and we started saving rapidly for a down payment. I also had some investments (around $10k) that were handed over to me. By this time, after a short stint in private industry, I also had acquired a GovJob.

After a year and a half of house hunting, and a a few turned-down offers in a complete sellers market, we finally purchased a foreclosure home for $340k in 2015. We put $72k down to avoid PMI, and that was every last cent we had. We made just under $100k that year.

And this, dear reader, was how we got into our house. Since buying our house, life has been a wild, fulfilling, and extremely expensive ride. Our house, and our lives, look drastically different than they did in our sub-700 sq.ft. apartment.

What type of living situations have you been in, reader? Did you make these decisions with intent? What types of decision-making processes did you go through to arrive where you are?



reduce, reuse, recycle, retire

Dear Reader,

Welcome to the club! My internet name is Mel, and the purpose of this blog is to document my family’s journey into intentional living, with an ultimate goal of early retirement thrown in there (but not too early, more on this later). Our family consists of my husband Al, our toddler Bo, my mother-in-law, and our dog Bear.

So, why “reduce, reuse, recycle, retire”? These four r’s sum up our plan to get where we want to be, in the manner that is important to us. But it’s not about recycling trash (though hey, that’s great!), it’s about:

  • Reducing spending, unnecessary consumer purchases, and waste;
  • Reusing items where we can and buying reusable items where it makes sense. This also includes giving away or selling items so that they don’t end up in the landfill;
  • Recycling what is no longer useful;
  • Retiring early by increasing our savings rate, while focusing our spending and energy on what is truly important to us.

We’ve been doing a lot of research, reading, and podcast-listening lately, which has started to subtly shift the trajectory of our lives. And while I am a late-adopter to some of these philosophies, my husband seems to be quite the natural for things that I find challenging (like frugality!). And although we are just starting to step off of the path we have been walking, my intent is to be authentic with this journey, the good and bad, and to find the path that fits.

Through this blog, I look forward to finding some like-minded people, who might be walking (or running) a similar path. People who are authentically sharing their successes and stumbles, tips and tricks! Drop a line and let me know who you are and how you’re living intentionally.