Tuesday, August 18, 2009

What Do You Value?

People often express to me that they'd like to live close to where they work, but simply don't see it as a possibility. The only realistic living option, in their minds, are those far-flung subdivisions with the big houses and the grand lawns. The nicer houses close to their work are often too expensive they argue. The question I always ask them is: What do you value more? A big house or time and community?

Most people, if they answer honestly, put much more value on that big house. I've seen people buy their dream house in a distant suburb believing it to be better for their children, yet they spend three hours on the road each day and are so exhausted at night and on weekends, that time with their children is a chore. Ultimately, though often unconsciously, they're sacrificing a great deal for that big house, because it represents in their mind achievement of the American Dream.

My husband and I were certainly tempted by those spanking-new suburban houses and the developer incentives that went along with them. But when we calculated our car time and lawn-cutting time, we chose to go, for our first home, with a small townhouse in DelRay. From DelRay, we could take the Metro anywhere in the City, and later, we decided to start our business there, first in our basement and then later in an old building we renovated on Mt. Vernon Avenue. We still own this small place, and though we bought another house in a country community years later, we still stay in this small DelRay townhouse during the work week.

These were conscious choices, most of them made when we had almost no money. It wasn't easy. I remember spending many weekends looking at possible neighborhoods and so many run-down houses, the only thing we could afford inside the beltway. DelRay was a little rough around the edges at first, an old railroad community that had seen its heyday years before, but through the conscious focus of many people like us, it became truly vibrant again, a real place where children play on grassy lawns, where neighbors chat over the fence, and many walk to work. I think if we're all willing to do with a little less, we can consciously create a whole lot more.
Photo courtesy of hyperial

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