While we have spent the last few years blogging about home design, there has been a multitude of moving pieces behind the scenes. Every move, flip, and renovation has been a piece in the puzzle toward grander plans. While God took us in MANY different directions, it was all calculated, with one goal in mind: freedom. We've been hesitant to share our financial goals as they are immensely personal and rather "taboo" in the blogging world. We don't ever want anyone to compare their situation to ours, or anyone else's, in a negative way. In addition, of course, we always fear judgement. Anytime we "put ourselves out there," we fear that friends and strangers will judge us for being "too this" or "too that." While sharing your life on the internet is not for everyone, it is something we choose to do. We have made many friends on this platform, have learned from others, and have loved the creative avenues we have embarked on due to this blog!
We also want to preface with the fact that while we know nothing comes without determination, hard work, and a willingness to live unconventionally; we also know we have been blessed and privileged to have the opportunities that we have been afforded.
Let's back up to 2014 (6 years ago, briefly after Ty and I met). We were dating and living separately. Ty was teaching ESL and I was a designer at a high end tile boutique. Our paychecks were hardly covering our expenses. I have a screenshot of $2.01 in the bank account at the end of the month, which was typical. Ty usually had about $25 left after his first year teacher paychecks.
I landed a better paying job just before we got married, moved back to Michigan, and built our first house. By this juncture, we had amassed over $100,000 of debt. We had two car loans, a mountain of student debt, and a small amount of credit card debt (we opened a 15 month no APR credit card to complete one of our renovations - we paid this off before the APR took effect). We had terrible spending habits. I had a closet overflowing with cheap, fast fashion. Ty had a closet overflowing with brand name pieces. We spent aimlessly, hardly saved, and placed too much value on material items. On this platform, we like to share the good stuff AND the bad stuff.
In 2016, we watched the Minimalism documentary on Netflix (read more about that here). It changed everything. A few short months later, we had gotten rid of over half of our things and sold our brand new house to downsize to the EGR condo. We had built our first home and made some money when it sold. We used that money, along with our equity, to buy and renovate the EGR condo. Mind you, we did not know what we were getting ourselves into when we bought that condo! We were complete renovation novices. It was a stressful project with many obstacles! Finally relieved to be finished, we told our family and friends we were going to stay in that condo for 5 years. We truly loved it (our favorite location of everywhere we have lived!)
A few months later, someone on Instagram asked to buy the condo. We said no, but it got us thinking. We knew we were sitting on a lot of equity due to the extensive renovation. That summer, we went on a 6,000 mile cross country roadtrip (Montana, Washington State, Oregon, Utah, Colorado). Each trip, Ty and I, basking in feelings of freedom, learn more about ourselves and each other. Many conversations sprung up over 6,000 miles on the open road. Mainly, we discussed how to harness that feeling of "freedom."
Those conversations lead us to define our own definition of the "American Dream." Society has taught us to chase bigger and better, serving a life long sentence in the "rat race." We decided we wouldn't accept being slaves to a large mortgage, credit cards, or a 9-5 cubicle job.
Shortly after returning home from our trip, we bought the Ada house (read about that here). While this home was far larger than the condo, and on an acre of land, it was a move in the right direction, financially. The condo had high monthly dues and taxes, so we were spending a lot of money each month that did not add to our equity. Further, we were putting over $1,000/month on student loans that were diminishing slowly (like, BARELY) due to interest rates.
So, we sold the EGR condo. It was the best financial move we made as it enabled us to pay off our student loans entirely. Ty was also able to sell his older car (for which he had a loan) and buy a newer one with cash. We were "debt free" aside from our mortgage. $117,000 debt was gone. We almost instantly felt free!!!
Along with “flipping,” we were working hard to establish other avenues of income, typically working 70 hours/week. For years, Ty and I both had full time day jobs. Ty taught ESL 7-4, while I was an outside sales rep 9-5 covering half of the state of Michigan. Our real estate business took up another chunk of the week. The remaining hours were spent renovating, maintaining the blog, full time school, and building rental properties.
Then in the summer of 2019, we embarked on another cross country road trip. We drove from Michigan to California, exploring highway 1 from San Diego to San Francisco (recreating our honeymoon). As road trips do, it changed us radically. Again. While we were immensely thankful for the position we were in, we dreamt of a more radical life, one without limitations. We dreamt of a life with less stress and more time. On the way home from California, we stopped at Publik coffee in Salt Lake City. Ty turned his computer to face me, showing me a 725 square foot condo in Grand Rapids. "Let's sell the Ada house and buy this."
Sell the Ada house? The one we just spent months renovating? The one where we pictured Christmas morning with kids opening gifts in from the large living room window? The one with the acre of woods and aggressive ivy that we just painstakingly landscaped with our own bare hands? (Who remembers that project?)
As you know, we bought the 725 sf condo. At ages 25 and 30, when you are suppose to be chasing "bigger and better," we traded in the perfect suburban home to buy something literally less than 1/4 of its cost. It's unglamorous and far less" instagram-worthy" than the mid century haven in the woods.
Why? Because no mortgage = freedom. It means traveling, trying out a new career, buying investment properties, procuring an Aribnb, saving. Ultimately, it enables us to give our TIME more freely to things and people we care about.
This extremist, minimalist adventure in the condo is not forever. We plan to utilize this unique time to save money with plans to buy or build a family home....and by "family home," we don't mean society's picturesque white picket fence colonial. We are referring to our version of a family home, however unconventional that might be!
There you go...the spark notes version of our story. One of our 2020 goals is to write a book that details this entire journey, which Ty began writing this past Fall. We have so much more to share, and can't wait to put it into the universe!
We have been inspired to share after reading these blog posts from The Grit and Polish, Yellow Brick Home, and Jenna Kutcher.
Next? We’d like to remain proactive, continuing to pursue multiple avenues of income, but in a healthier way that preserves mental energy. We’d like to settle into our careers, streamlining our efforts to create greater success in one area rather than running in 100 different directions. We’d also like to pursue our long term dream of accumulating Airbnb’s!
We are so excited that you are on this journey with us! Thanks for following along!
Hannah & Tyler
We are a home renovation and real estate duo currently sharing the renovation of our Holland cottage, along with flips and new builds. We created this blog as a resource for our readers, helping home owners, travelers, and future friends to learn how to renovate efficiently, and affordably!