Living in Barbie's Dream House

A Script from Chicken Soup For Soul

The man who has no inner-life is a slave to his surroundings.
~Henri Frederic Amiel

The man who has no inner-life is a slave to his surroundings.
~Henri Frederic Amiel
Years before treading the murky waters of our dismal American economy, my husband and I challenged ourselves to seek the positive side of a simplified lifestyle. With eyes wide open we made a conscious choice to live within our means rather than kill ourselves living beyond them. Simplifying in many ways means doing without. For us the bottom line translates to a positive outcome though I must admit, it's not all sunshine and rainbows.
The house we've lived in for the past twenty years is a pretty good example of real estate with no bells or whistles. Most people refer to it as quaint, but frankly I've seen phone booths with more square footage than our living room. One or two things out of place in this small house and all of a sudden it looks as if I haven't done any housework since the Reagan Administration.
If you're trying to picture our humble abode, it's not exactly Barbie's Dream House. It's probably the same size, but I imagine Barbie has better plumbing. We don't let it bother us. I'm confident it's only through the Grace of God that we enjoy indoor plumbing in the first place. So what if it's not possible to take a shower and run the dishwasher at the same time without risking a scalded appendage or two? Maybe the guy who invented paper plates suffered from the same problem, and look what it did for him!
Our "Graceland" was built 140 years ago on ground originally used to stable horses. About 141 years ago the horses left town, and I know why. The draft that blows through our living room in the winter could knock a Clydesdale off its feet. I'm the only person I know who dresses according to the wind chill factor -- in the living room. As you might have guessed, I've amassed quite an extensive sweater collection, and there are days when I wear them all at the same time. If it's cold enough outside, I end up looking like the Michelin Man. But, it beats having to work sixty hours a week just to afford the mortgage payment on one of those houses with the newfangled, double-paned, insulated, energy-friendly windows I keep hearing about.
Over the past twenty years we have discovered what makes a house comfortable and it has nothing to do with acreage, inground pools, or multi-car garages. We have none of the above, unless you count the moat around the sump pump as an inground pool of water. Yet, people often remark about the cozy and inviting atmosphere that flourishes here. A home is comfortable and inviting when the occupants are relaxed and content. It's just that simple.
We don't watch our DVDs on a TV the size of a roadside billboard. Of course, we don't have a room large enough to accommodate one of those things anyway, but we do sit down together every night and relish each other's company over a home-cooked meal. Neither one of us is ever in a rush to get out the door to a second job.
On Sundays we savor a pot of coffee and the Sunday paper. We read it all afternoon if the mood strikes us. Well, the truth be told, it is a bit of a squeeze finding a spot on our downsized coffee table for the coffee pot and that big fat newspaper, especially if the idea of bagels and cream cheese enters the picture. Somehow we juggle things and make do.
We make no pretense of striving for the good life. We enjoy the good life every day.
Free from the financial burden of keeping up with everyone else allows us time for laughter and fun. I imagine it's not easy to relax by the pool when you are robbing Peter to pay the pool man.
The price paid in time alone (not to mention stress and aggravation) to support state-of-the-art home theaters, flashy cars, and overpriced real estate, along with countless other so-called amenities is staggering. Without a doubt it quells the occasional twinge of envy I have over the luxuries of others. Our luxury is having no worries about how to pay for big-ticket toys.
We spend a great deal of time at home, cramped quarters, drafty rooms and all. I don't mind a bit when we are snuggled together on the couch under a cozy afghan enjoying an old movie, or out on the side porch sipping iced tea and basking in the beauty of a summer sunset.
Oh, we occasionally grumble about how grand it would be if we could take a shower and run the dishwasher at the same time, but we get over it.
Especially when we consider that at the close of last year we made our final mortgage payment on this little house, many years in advance of the scheduled payoff date. I'm positive we were not expecting this outcome when we made our decision to live a simplified life. It just turned out to be one of the perks.

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