I’ve been listening to the audio book version of blogger Erin Loechner‘s book, Chasing Slow, over the past week, and it has been giving me so much food for thought as Tim and I have decided to make some big shifts in how we do this whole life thing. But the quote from the book that stopped me dead in my tracks and made light bulbs really start glowing in my brain came in chapter 23 when she reminds herself to “keep slowing down. You’ve got a race to lose.”
Yes, sister! You’ve nailed it! If THIS is what the race is all about (more stuff, more bills, more stress, more time spent taking care of/cleaning stuff, more anxiety, more time chasing more, less time with family, less time living life) then sign me up to LOSE!!!
We are making some pretty intentional choices to remove sources of stress from our lives this year. For example, we just finished selling a house we bought at the height of our stupidity and the height of the housing bubble, and despite having moved away in 2010, have clung to in the hopes of not losing our shirts at the point of sale (spoiler alert: we still lost our shirts…just over 10 stressful years that were a constant yet survivable bleed. How I wish we would have just ripped off the band-aid in the first place!). But as I write this, that chapter is officially closed, and we are relishing in our new freedom from the chains of that house.
We’ve also decided to home school our kids, in a move that has surprised and delighted us all, because until a few weeks ago, it was not even something we had considered as an option for our ongoing dilemma of how to carve out a quality education for our girls without having to sacrifice our ability to save for retirement, for their college expenses, and for a house to one day own in Chattanooga. Once we realized all the things we were giving up in exchange for a “good” k-12 education for our girls, we decided to just scrap everything and go for it ourselves. One more massive chain around our necks was broken with that decision, and we once again made a downward gear shift.
I think one interesting thing I’ve noticed about choosing to let go of the pursuit of “more” is that our society, generally speaking, is not super thrilled with this move, so thick skin is important. Just yesterday we had a phone conversation with a mortgage officer about our pre-approval to buy a home (one that is half the size of the home we just sold but that we can most definitely afford without stressing out over) and we found ourselves being asked if we’d like to be pre-approved for a larger amount than we requested (“because you could be”), discouraged to put as much money down as we had planned (“no need to put down 1/3 of the housing cost when 20 percent will do just fine!”) and we were also encouraged to consider the 30 year mortgage instead of the 15 year mortgage (“lower monthly payments and you can still pay extra each month and pay it off in 15 years if you want”). The lady was very nice, and she was simply doing her job, but the burden was on us to choose to be aggressive with our debt and to buy well within our means. Even 9 years after the housing market suffered hugely, and the banks had to lick their wounds from over-extending and mortgages were no longer so easy to get, even now it still seems reasonable to many to take a lower monthly payment over a longer period of time and to buy as much as the bank will lend you and to put down as little as you can. It is still conventional wisdom that these choices will actually make your life easier.
So we have to stay really strong in our mindset to seek out less, because the world will keep shouting in our ears that more is the key to happiness, and that more gets you further along the path to the finish line. But I’m finally starting to figure out that this is one race I’d much rather lose.
I hope you’ll stick around with me as I share about our journey to massively de-clutter our 1,300 square foot home (a lovely amount of space for a family of 4 if its only contents are things we truly love), our adventures together as we turn our city into our classroom, and our pursuit of freedom from debt. We’re getting off the race track and trying something new, and we’ve never been so excited to lose because we’re already getting glimpses of what we’re about to start winning.