8: The Dream Home

8: The Dream Home

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Joy of Less


The Dream Home

Be grateful for the home you have, knowing that at this moment, all you have is all you need.

~Sarah Ban Breathnach

“Nobody’s ever home around here,” my friend said, looking around at the large and beautiful homes in her new neighborhood. She had just moved to an affluent area in our town and I had come to visit her.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Well, everybody’s working all the time. I guess they have to in order to be able to afford to live here,” she said, smiling.

I looked around at the palatial homes, all new, with perfectly manicured lawns and vast amounts of square footage. I began to think about how nice it would be to live in one of them. My mind began to race with questions….

Wouldn’t I feel better about myself if I lived here? Wouldn’t I be happier? I began to think about our budget and how we could possibly stretch it to cover the monthly mortgage payments. As I envisioned myself in this beautiful neighborhood, I realized I would also need a newer car and a nicer wardrobe to fit in.

Soon the pangs of discontentment began to stir within me. I began comparing these dream homes to my humble one and suddenly other things in my life needed an upgrade, too. My car was not quite good enough and my clothes were in desperate need of an update. By comparison, nothing I had was good enough.

My house, after all, had been built in the Brady Bunch era of the 1970s when Jimmy Carter was still president. It was located in the more affordable, working class part of town. It met all of my family’s needs, certainly, but it was paltry in comparison to the palaces lining this street.

But other questions nagged, too, forcing me to give my daydreams a reality check. If we lived here, would my husband’s work commute increase so that he would be home less? What other areas of our budget would have to be slashed in order to cover a bigger mortgage payment? How much longer would it take us to pay off the mortgage? Would we be borrowing against our future, making early retirement an impossible dream? Would our travel opportunities be drastically reduced because we would be putting all our money into a house we could barely afford?

Reality began to set in as I started to add up the actual cost of living in one of these so-called dream homes. Instead of thinking of all the ways my home and possessions were lacking in comparison, I began to think of all the advantages I had in staying where I was. Because I lived in a more affordable home we could comfortably live on one income and I could be a stay-at-home mom. We could afford a couple of vacations each year without going into debt. We could save a good portion of our income for retirement and investments because all our money wasn’t going to the mortgage payment.

I began to realize that there are different types of currency besides money and possessions. And that it didn’t make sense to work more to afford a lifestyle I would have less time to enjoy.

As I drove back that evening and the houses got smaller and grew older with each passing mile, I began to realize that I already had my dream home. One that enabled me to have freedom from loads of debt while still meeting all of my family’s needs. I didn’t need a certain zip code or amount of square footage to make me happy.

As I pulled into my driveway that night, I felt peace and gratitude for all that I had, all the things that can never be bought.

~Suzannah Kiper


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