On February 17th – in the middle of nine days without electricity due to a snowstorm – we asked our piling contractor to re-examine our house. We had some stabilization last fall, and I was worried that might indicate deeper problems.
For thirty minutes, the contractor explored the crawl space while I sat in the living room, anxious. When he finished, he came to tell me what he had found.
He said, “Look, my evaluation is the same as when you got me out of here three years ago. Your foundation is good. It does not fail. The house does not fall.”
I felt a wave of relief overwhelm me.
He continued, “However, I think you’d feel better if you were to reinforce one section of the foundation. It looks to me as if you see some slight expansion and contraction of the soil, which is causing your leveling problems. It would cost about $9,000 to fix that.”
That evening, when Kim and I gathered in our living room, dressed in coats and jackets and using flashlights to read, I confessed.
I said, “I want to move.” “I know we love this house and this yard, but it’s taking a toll on my mental health.”
“I know,” Kim said. “I know you have been struggling. Since we moved here, I have seen how you have become increasingly depressed and anxious. I will do whatever it takes to make you happy, but I think maybe you should give up on your dream of owning an old house.”
She’s right. I like old houses but my personality does not suit them. They stress me out. (My ex-wife and I owned an old house too – she still lives there – and it also caused me endless stress.)
Over the next two weeks, Kim and I spent several hours discussing our best course of action. Then, a month ago today, we made a decision: We would sell the house as soon as possible (to take advantage of the crazy Portland real estate market), and then rent a place for a while as we made a careful, calculated decision about where to live next.
Getting to work
March was a crazy outburst of activity. From the moment we decided to sell, Kim and I have been working almost nonstop to get the house ready for market.
- We’ve made nearly all of the fixes we know need to be made. We have a couple more scheduled. (And we are deferring to consolidate the basis. We will disclose this check and estimate to buyers and let them decide.)
- We rented a storage unit and methodically packed and moved our non-essential things. Plus, I moved out of my rented office space, and put all of those things in storage, too.
- While we’re packing, we try to do a deep cleaning in every corner of the house: scrubbing walls, washing windows, wiping cabinets, etc.
- We also clean the yard. During the four years we spent at this cottage, we piled up a variety of things—spare lumber, old fence boards, unearthed stones—that we piled into different piles. We clean up those piles.
Honestly, the house now looks better than we’ve ever owned it.
While we are preparing, we are torn. we Act Love this house and patio. The patio, in particular, is almost perfect for us. But there is absolutely no doubt that this house, for whatever reason, is causing me psychological distress. I can’t live here.
In fact, I spent the entire first half of March in a deep and dark place. I was filled with anxiety as I contemplated the house. Whenever disaster could occur, I would lose it: “What if the house doesn’t sell? What if the contractors we call find out more things are wrong? What if we can’t sell it for what we put it in?”
I was in a mess. And it had a negative impact on my relationship with Kim.
I find myself again
Fortunately, the past two weeks have been better, and for a variety of reasons.
First, the contractors who came out with them Not I found more problems with the house. In fact, they all say similar things: “Yes, this thing I’m fixing is a problem, but it’s not as bad as you think it is, and I don’t see anything else wrong.”
Second, I was trying to practice mindfulness. As new concerns emerge, acknowledge them and move on. “Oh, yeah, there I’m stressing the gutters again. But we fixed the problem at first and the contractor said there was nothing else wrong, so I’m just stressing there was nothing.”
Regarding this, I was asking myself, “What’s the worst that could happen?” We bought this place for $442,000. We spent another $150,000 or so on repairs and remodeling. (I’ll have an exact number by the end of the day.) Thus, the cost basis for this place is around $600,000.
“The land itself is easily $300,000,” I tell myself as I browse Zillow to see what other homes are selling. “With the house, we would have no problem getting $442K. And with all the upgrades we did, you should bring in $500,000. Maybe even $550,000. So even if I lose money on the house, I probably won’t lose much.” Basically, I do my best to talk about disaster.
Finally – and perhaps most importantly – just over two weeks ago I started taking my ADHD medication.
When I was diagnosed with ADHD in 2012, my therapist and doctor prescribed Vyvanse, a mild stimulant. I took things for a while, but stopped after a few days because I hated how I felt. While there is no doubt that it settles in my mind, Vyvanse makes me physical tension. My mind calms down, but my body is spinning like a spring for eight hours. So, I only use these things occasionally, when I use them I know I have to get things done.
Then Kim and I read this article on ADHD from our friend David Kane. David’s article could be about You areKim said. She was right. Everything he wrote was as if it came from my own mind and from my own experience.
At the same time, I read an article describing the relationship between ADHD and depression/anxiety. Suddenly everything clicked. “Holy shit,” I thought. “What if my depression and anxiety worsen — or even it causes – By ADHD? “
So, at Kim’s urging (and urging from my business partner, Tom), I started taking ADHD medication every day. I have been taking them every day for almost three weeks now. And you know what? Depression and anxiety are (mostly) gone. I’m serious. No, I don’t like the side effects from Vyvanse, but these side effects may be worth it when I consider the benefits.
I still notice various blemishes in the house, but they no longer drive me into a mental breakdown. Everything in my mind seems somehow more calm and orderly. My short-term memory has improved significantly. (Kim and Kris have long told me that I have a terrible short-term memory. I now see that this could be related to ADHD.)
Plus, as one might expect, Vyvanse keeps me focused. I am able to do the work as a normal person! I get up in the morning, take a pill, drink my coffee, and then tackle my to-do list, one task at a time. I don’t jump all over the place, I switch from one chore to another. I just pick one job and work on it until you’re done.
For example, I sat down to write this article about 45 minutes ago. I have been writing constantly without distraction throughout that period of time. More exciting (to me), I wrote this piece in line Instead of jumping all over the place from start to finish to middle to end to beginning to middle to end. I started at the beginning, I am now in the middle, and I am nearing the end. Writing like this is suggestive!
Our future is blurry.
Right now, Kim and I have no idea where we’ll be living in a month from now, let alone a year. But we are fine with that.
If all goes according to plan, our home will be ready for listing in about ten days. Like many other parts of the country, Portland has a low housing stock at the moment and homes are selling quickly–even exotic homes like ours. The place will very likely sell out its first market weekend.
Once we accept an offer and the house passes the inspection, we’ll look for a place to rent. (That’s the only thing making Kim nervous, by the way. She’s worried we won’t find a place that will take all our monsters: three cats and a dog.) While we rent, we’ll take our time looking for another place to live.
It’s possible to walk around the Portland area, perhaps in a small town far from the city. But it is also possible that we find ourselves settled on the southern coast of Oregon. Or maybe somewhere in Washington. Or maybe in Omaha. (I spend a lot of time browsing the houses in Zillow. You can get smoking deals in pretty houses in Omaha. Wouldn’t it be fun to live a few blocks from Warren Buffett?)
Yesterday, my friend Castle went out with her husband to pull out old fence panels. (Castle and Jim are artists. They turn old fence panels into gorgeous crafts they sell at the Saturday Market in Portland.) They told us about the place they bought a few years ago.
“We live about an hour north of Portland on the Washington side of the river,” Castle told us. “We have a few acres, which gives us a buffer between us and our neighbours. Plus, it gives us space for planting and gardening. We bought a manufactured home, but it’s great. It’s very nice and much cheaper.”
Kim’s eyes lit up. “Love the idea. I can live in a manufactured house,” she said. Then she looked at me. “I don’t know if JD could do that, though. grew up in one. He has no fond memories of it.”
I shook my shoulder. At this point, I wouldn’t rule anything out. I grew up in a troubled mobile home, it’s true, and I’ve long felt it was a stamp of how poor we are.
Since then, I have lived in an ordinary farm house. I have twice lived in quirky old houses with large yards. I spent fifteen months on the road in a motorhome. And for four years, I owned a penthouse overlooking the river. I realized that home is just a home. Right now, I feel like I can live just about anywhere – just not here.
This article highlights some of the psychological and emotional reasons to move. I’m working on another article that explores the financial side of the decision.