On the morning of Friday, 8 February, I wrote for my Facebook status:
Time for things to change for the better. Because I'm tired of things staying the same. xoLittle did I know how much change was to come.
The economy has made things challenging for many people. Myself included. The past four years have been a struggle due to being un- or underemployed during the majority of that time. In some ways, though, that has been a benefit to me. It's taught me many lessons, shown me what's truly important and made me focus on my priority: Happiness. You see, it's not a matter of looking for more clients or steadier work, but establishing a career and achieving a dream. I'm trying to raise money for two independent films, which takes up a great deal of time and energy, so part-time employment is a better fit for what I'm trying to accomplish. I need the flexibility being an independent contractor allows, and the additional free time to work on the films. Not only that, I am absolutely miserable chained to a desk, watching eight hours tick by. With that honest admission came a deep understanding: A lot had to change.
Because I wasn't necessarily going to be making more income, expenses had to be reduced. I called my cable company (and ended up saving $40 per month), my cell phone provider (saved another $10) and my health insurance (no luck there). With one credit card finally paid off, I was feeling pretty good about my progress. Then I got the annual notice that my rent was increasing. It was time to rethink my address, and possibly getting something smaller.
Every so often over the past year, I would check Craigslist to see what apartments were going for. I was hoping to find something that would save me significant rent. It would have to be significant because, deep down, I was reluctant to move, especially if it meant leaving my beloved Venice. But, if I was able to stay on the Westside, where much of my life and most of my clients are, I would be a grown-up about it and make that work. Each search was something of a disappointment, yielding only a few places that seemed suitable, but even those had rents that were still a little high. I mean, when a "bachelor" apartment goes for $975, it sort of makes the heart sink. So I stopped looking and focused on other things, like those films. But, for some reason on that Thursday night, I decided to take another look. And there it was. A studio apartment close by for only $895.
[Editor's Note: While it is gauche to talk about money, please excuse this impropriety. I believe it's important to be honest and share the details, specifically regarding this subject. I know that many of us are struggling with the choice to downsize, and money is the main reason for that. Thus, it needs to be mentioned here.]
It's was rather late at night when I saw the post, so I didn't bother calling the number to make an inquiry. I decided to wait until morning, enjoy a good night's sleep, a great workout then, over breakfast, I made the call. They asked if I could see it that day. We made arrangements to meet at 1:30 on 8 February.
You would pass it by, not realizing the sets of duplexes are there. The front units looked a little "industrial", like insurance offices from the 70s. But then, I walked down the little pathway that became a tiny courtyard. I walked down to the end of it, up three steps and into my new home. I spent all of three minutes in it before I said, "I'm interested. I really like this place."
Now, if you saw it as is, you would say, "What are you thinking?" It has a kitchen...with a dorm room refrigerator. The bathroom is decent sized -- shower only, no tub. And the closet? It's the size of my coat closet, which is currently stuffed with coats! But all I was thinking was that this change in residence would save me $350 in rent per month. Utilities are included, so the money I'd save there would go toward a much-needed storage unit. I took the application and faxed it over that evening. On Saturday morning, the manager called and asked me to come to their office to complete the process on Monday.
I took a deep breath, smiled and confirmed the meeting time...and then my heart started beating out of my chest. I was moving. Not only was I moving, I was downsizing. Not only was I downsizing, I was going from a 550 sq.ft. one-bedroom (that I've lived in for 15 years) to a 225 sq.ft. studio. And, not only that, I was going to have to spend a fair amount of money to do so because none of my furniture would fit in my new mint tin (I mean, in a cracker box, you still have some room). As I hung up the phone, it became clear that the change I demanded in the Facebook post was manifesting, and nothing would be the same.
"This is too much change for me," my darling friend texted. "I'm in shock, but happy for you." When I saw her on that Sunday she said, "This is really freaking me out. I mean, how are we going to walk to meet up for happy hour?" I assured her I had already thought about that, because, well, priorities. While my new home would be a mere mile away from my current abode (exactly one mile according to Google Maps -- not 0.98 or 1.1, but 1.0), I would catch the bus those few extra blocks (yes, you read that correctly), walk to her, and then get a cab home. "See," I smiled. "Nothing has to change."
But everything was.
From the moment I hung up the phone with the property manager, and after sending out a few texts to friends, I started planning. First, I needed to figure out a budget for my move. I spent the better part of the next 48-hours
By Monday morning, though, I was completely at peace. I drove to the manager's office with a smile on my face. We negotiated a move in date (20 February), which would mean a prorated rent for February. I called my landlord's office on my way back and gave my notice. I was 11 days shy of a 30-day notice and asked if that could be waived considering that I had lived there so long, and would be out by the 21st, giving them eight days to work on my unit and get it up for rent. I was told no and would have to pay a prorated rent for March.
This downsizing was starting to cost me a pretty penny.
And that's the irony! I see so many articles about downsizing, and images of these incredibly decorated studio apartments that clearly cost thousands of dollars to achieve. I don't have have money to spend in that manner. And, when you're downsizing, who does? That's why I wanted to chronicle this move and talk about the cost, strategy, missteps, successes and the real upside to downsizing. Over the next few weeks, I'll share the process and the pictures.
Last week was spent preparing. Saturday was the moving sale. Moving day is Wednesday, 20 February. Once this process started, I had nine days to get it altogether: pack, sort, sell and buy everything I need for my new home. And, yes, I am exhausted. But still smiling. Wish me luck.