Why I Live in A Manufactured Home {and how I make it pretty}

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I never thought I would live in a manufactured home…..the cottage cheese walls, plastic sinks and countertops, and fake wood cabinets just did not fit my obsession with pretty homes pinned on my Pinterest board.

When I found out I was surprise pregnant my husband and I had just signed a year lease to a tiny (under 500sq ft) apartment in Seattle. I had scaled back my business to almost nothing in order to attend naturopathic doctor school and Ian had taken on a not-paid internship to complete his hours for his PhD in counseling psychology. We were planning on living on medical school loans.

So we had $0 income coming in….and the pee stick said “pregnant”.

After many focused discussions to get really clear on our values and family mission as a soon-to be-threesome, I sat down to my computer and opened zillow, the real estate website. They have this awesome tool to draw an area on a map where you would like to see houses available. So I drew a huge circle around Seattle….all the way up to Bellingham and the San Juan islands, down to around Portland (we did some circles in our home state of Cali but quickly realized that there was no way we could afford to live there…and even if we could we wouldn’t want the lifestyle it would take to earn the money to support ourselves there!).

I also specified in my zillow search that I wanted at least 2 acres of land and wanted all properties to be under $200k. Our budget was more like 150k, maybe, but hey a girl can dream.

As you can imagine with current real estate prices, our options were limited. Many of these areas, we had never been to before this search. We had no family or friends in these areas to give us a reason to move to one over the other. All we knew is we wanted to be settled and have a plan for income by the time the baby came in 9 months.

This is how we discovered our beloved gig harbor, a town about an hour south of Seattle, 20 minutes from Tacoma, and a day trips journey from the Olympic peninsula, vashon island, bainbridge island , and many other adventures. The town had a beautiful downtown along the harbor, several nearby state parks and beaches, as well as all the big stores and amenities you would need (there’s a Starbucks and target five minutes from my doorstep but also horses right next door!).

When we walked on our property, we knew we wanted it before we walked into the house. It had almost 6 acres of land, a long winding drive passing a huge old growth tree, and a little Apple orchard. There was also a little red vintage barn, a magical forest and tons of beautiful open meadow and sunlight. It was only 5-10 minutes from every store you could need as well as the cute historic harbor downtown and about 5 amazing state parks with beaches on the sound.

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And then we walked into the house….

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A manufactured double wide (yuck, cringe, a million negative stereotypes) with a bad paint job, green carpet that was filthy with smashed mud and food, bumpy walls that were literally brown with dirt and black in some places where the current owner’s many and large fish tanks had leaked and caused mold, green plastic countertops and the ugliest sinks and faucets covered in an inch of soap scum. Metal windows, rickety porch with half the railing missing, old old, old and dirty appliances. To top it off the counters were covered with dirty dishes, the bathroom floors were covered in little boys underwear and what appeared to be pee stains (a single dad with two pre-teen boys were renting the house), and two of the hollow bedroom doors appeared to have been punched in an angry rage leaving holes the size of a fist.

Somehow my beautiful-home-loving self saw right through it all. With visions of my little girl picking apples and playing make believe in the magic forest, I said bravely, “I can fix the house”. And we bought the property without a doubt.

I quit naturopath school and Ian quit his phd, and we were settled in our new home and entrepreneurial explorations a few months later. I remember after the whirlwind had settled, I sat at my kitchen table looking out at my apple orchard, my little girl kicking in my belly, thinking “whoa, three months ago my life was on a completely different trajectory. But this all feels so right.” There were so many things I thought I had to do before I could have this exact life and yet we made it all happen in 3 months without doing any of those steps I thought were necessary to do first. And the universe had made this huge bold transition go magically smooth.

It’s amazing what a difference it makes in your life when you buy a home for $125,000 rather than $400k, $600k or in my home state of California maybe even $million for a simple family home. Our mortgage including all our taxes and insurance is $700. That means that if we decide to we could barely bring in an income and be pretty ok.

Lower home expenses, gives space for life to happen, like a baby, or a sick relative, or getting a business off the ground. It gives us the choice to be at home together more as a family, or even rent out our place and travel for months at a time while covering our mortgage expenses. It gives us space to explore our passions and hobbies without needing to know they can support us right away.

Ian works as a master level counselor (who needs a PhD anyways?!) 2 days a week and I coach phone clients two days week supporting them in designing and creating their Revolutionary lives and businesses. The rest of the time we are together homesteading and parenting and playing in entreprenuership without financial pressure…gardening, building, creative projects, raising chickens and ducks, and learning as we go because we have no idea how to do any of this. We have many plans for other creative sources of income so we can continue to fund our homesteading dreams and i forsee us making 6 figures someday soon because it will flow naturally from the momentum building around us rather than compromising the life we want to live along the way.

But right now we are living the 5 Figure and Free Lifestyle, where we may not be making tons of income but we have tons of freedom to live by our values…..time together as a family, self sufficiency and sustainability, creativity and passion.  Yes, some more money might move some visions along more quickly, but those visions will happen over time regardless because we are creative and can make anything happen…..and there is nothing I need that I don’t have right now.

What we are realizing is that when you work less you can actually spend a lot less. For us this is through growing our own food, cooking our own meals, not paying for babysitting or house cleaners or commuting or entertainment (our chickens are pretty entertaining already!). By not needing to live in a big city to have typical jobs, we save a lot on our mortgage since home prices are less when you get outside of urban centers. When we take a vacation or go back to California to visit family , we can pick the cheapest flights rather than what will work with our work schedule and I can even make money while on vacation by doing my client calls from anywhere. We live in an area where the schools are relatively good and we have time from not working to easily supplement our children’s education with travel, farm/entrepreneurship/trades exploration, and other modes of learning we value so we dont have to spend an arm and a leg for private school.

When we work less, we just don’t need as much income to feel like we have all we want and in fact I feel like I can live more of a “rich” lifestyle then I could when I made a lot but worked so much I never had time to actually live the life I was paying for.

I don’t think this concept of the 5 Figure and Free lifestyle is only possible for people who want to be homesteaders. I believe anyone with any values and desired lifestyle can get creative with their expenses and income and step outside of the norm of how people make and spend money in our society (read the book The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich for some creative non-homesteading examples!). It requires getting clear on your values so you can let go of societal ideas of success, or what you should spend money on, or what “good” parents do to support their family, and then designing your own unique criteria for where you spend your money and creative ways to make money that create space and time for the lifestyle you want to live.

Money actually doesn’t buy most of the things we really want. The question to ask yourself is what does get you what you really value? For us it was TIME. So in order to have more time we saw we had to work less. To work less you either need to make more in less time or spend less. It was important to us to do both so we had freedom from the financial pressure of having to make more right away.

For us, less expenses means more freedom. And when you are trying to create less expense, your home expense is usually one of the biggest places to get creative with lowering that monthly mortgage or rent.

So this is why we live in a manufactured home. Less expenses means more freedom.

At the same time, one of my other personal values that I am owning as part of my creative genius rather than thinking of it as “shallow materialism” is that I deeply value pretty things. Not expensive or new, just pretty. So I am figuring out how to transform a manufactured home into the beautiful spaces I crave and am loving how it challenges my creativity. When we bought our home, we immediately painted the interior walls, removed the dirty green carpet, and put in all new floors and it made a huge difference!

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We also renovated the master bathroom so big pregnant mama could pee and soak without being grossed out and little babe had a clean place to take her first bath. Yes I know in these pictures I am huge. We got this redo done 2 days before little Aza was born and still have a few drawer fronts under the sink we never put on the vanity a year later and we haven’t replaced the ugly light fixtures yet. Life with baby i guess, but I still love walking into my bathroom and love the wood framed mirror Ian made me….great way to upgrade the mirrors many cheaper homes have.

We also saved a bundle by using a dresser and vintage sink off craigslist instead of a vanity and getting faucets that were marked down 60% on Overstock or ebay or some place like that. I still do not know why vanities are so expensive nor why the faucet choices under $100 at home depot all look like plastic. For my guest bathroom, I found a beautiful sink faucet at a re-use store for only $25 and it is sooooo much prettier and unique then any of those expensive choices at home depot (Guest bathroom remodel coming this Fall/winter after the homestead harvest is done and we can turn our focus indoors again!)

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We also have many other manufactured home remodel plans like upgrading the cheap windows and hollow doors, putting in some french doors to our back patio, strategically painting the exterior and extending the deck to make it more “real home” like, and adding some shabby chic beadboard or wall panelling to cover the cottage cheese walls. We haven’t decided how big of a kitchen redo we will do but definitely something creative to cover up the green plastic countertops and cheap cabinets and appliances.

We have a lot of clever budget-friendly ideas that we will be doing over the next few years to make this manufactured home beautiful. Plus, hopefully we will also be renovating a vintage trailer, building a tiny home, and maybe even a farmhouse built out of a prefabricated barn which I already have fully designed on the back of napkins and other scrap paper. I look forward to sharing tips along the way so anyone who wants to get creative about lowering their home expenses can see the various possibilities…..and know that there is potential for those cottage cheese walls of a manufactured home to be featured in a home magazine spread if that is what they so desire 😉

And the ugly things I put up with in the transition like the green plastic (?) kitchen countertops is well worth the freedom and choice my family has by buying a cheap home….not to mention the truly blessed lifestyle we live homesteading on our beautiful little 6 acres of land that I never could have imagined us getting to inhabit just a few months after that day in the little apartment when the pee stick said “pregnant”.

This is why I live in a manufactured home….it may not be for everyone, but to me it really has meant freedom.

And all it takes to align with my other value of beautiful spaces is a little creativity on my part (which is another one of my values!). The hutch below was made from an old ugly wood dresser and cheap mismatched hutch. We added the burlap doors and painted shabby chic. The black chair was a $3 purchase from goodwill. We repainted it and reupholstered the seat to take it from old lady to French country. I found all the old little frames in antique shops and love making little vintage frame nooks to make the bathrooms feel cottage. Oh and fresh flowers picked from the yard make every room prettier….someday I want to have a whole flower farm!

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I know I have a long way to go to get my house featured in a “Designer Manufactured Home Renovation” spread in Home Garden magazine but with all the natural beauty around me, when I am craving pretty things all I have to do is step outside and feel grateful for the magical experiences our choices have allowed my baby to experience this first year of her life and long into the future….picking apples, raising chickens, growing veggies, playing with sticks, exploring forests, pointing at birds, laying in the grass looking at clouds, collecting rocks at beaches, and watching the sun set.

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With all the focus and time spent on making money in order to live the life you want, and all the entrepreneur programs out there touting promises of making 6 and 7 figures, I often think about how for me it’s not about making more money. It’s figuring out how spending less could actually allow me to create the lifestyle I want because it takes the pressure off making more money and allows me to spend that time doing the work in the world that I love doing (rather than feeling pressure to make my business all about making money) and living by my values.

Finding creative ways to spend less without compromising my values has allowed me to step off (somewhat) that crazed parenting hamster wheel that seems difficult to escape in modern day era of both parents working 9-5.

Is a BOLD real estate move for you?

Take a moment to think about, given your unique circumstances and values, what would it do for you and your family if your monthly mortgage or rent was only $700 (or less!)? Because a bold real estate decision has helped us personally find more freedom, I wanted to get your own brains churning about if this might shake things up for you guys too, if it would allow you to live in alignment with YOUR values, and how possible it might for you. Like I said before, this is not the bold move for everyone, but I encourage everyone to think about what THEIR BOLD MOVE IS to get more in alignment with how they want to live, reduce financial stress, and have for more time for living.

See the possibility, not the roadblocks. See through the actual or metaphorical “green plastic countertops”. Get creative.

Just as an example, here are a few houses I saw in my area that are cheap and have land (copy and paste the links into your browser or do your own zillow search to start playing with ideas!):

Easy ferry commute to seattle from Vashon Island:

http://www.zillow.com/homes/for_sale/48685850_zpid/0-200000_price/0-727_mp/50000-_lot/47.618661,-122.182388,47.086488,-123.43895_rect/9_zm/bcecb553feX1-CRux6hgbzuuzsd_14jgf3_crid/

A little more rural:

http://www.zillow.com/homes/for_sale/house,condo,apartment_duplex,mobile,townhouse_type/2102984430_zpid/0-200000_price/0-727_mp/50000-_lot/47.618661,-122.182388,47.086488,-123.43895_rect/9_zm/bcecb553feX1-CRux6hgbzuuzsd_14jgf3_crid/

http://www.zillow.com/homes/for_sale/house,condo,apartment_duplex,mobile,townhouse_type/2103731222_zpid/0-200000_price/0-727_mp/50000-_lot/47.618661,-122.182388,47.086488,-123.43895_rect/9_zm/2_p/bcecb553feX1-CRux6hgbzuuzsd_14jgf3_crid/

Got a big family? This one has 5 bedrooms: http://www.zillow.com/homes/for_sale/house,condo,apartment_duplex,mobile,townhouse_type/49149998_zpid/0-200000_price/0-727_mp/50000-_lot/47.618661,-122.182388,47.086488,-123.43895_rect/9_zm/2_p/bcecb553feX1-CRux6hgbzuuzsd_14jgf3_crid/

Oh and here are some websites with listings of awesome properties around the world, some of which are business opportunities, if you are looking for more of an international adventure for yourself or your family:

Sustainable Properties – great for homesteading or sustainable biz ventures

Retreat centers for sale

Oh and if you are more interested in ideas beyond manufactured homes as a way to reduce living costs and bring financial flexibility and freedom….

Here’s a list of tiny home building companies: http://tinyhousecommunity.com/builders.htm

Here’s a spot to buy or rent tiny homes: http://tinyhouselistings.com/

Also consider that there are some amazing green prefab/modular home builders these days that offer designer houses of all styles and sizes delivered to your doorstep. These aren’t the modulars of past generations….there are some beautiful designs these days!

Or one idea we have for our future home is designing our own “barn home” after getting a barn shell from a company like this: www.barnpros.com

Or if you cant afford any of these options, how else can you be creative with your living situation to bring more financial freedom to your life…..rent out a room of your house to take the pressure off the monthly mortgage or rent? Renovate a little trailer and park it on a friend or families land? Live in another country or cheaper area of the US? Let go of the mortgage/rent all together and travel the world? Live on a boat?

What are your ideas that might work for you to reduce your housing-related expenses and give you some breathing room in your finances to explore the life you want to be creating and living?

 

Maybe this isn’t the kind of bold move you want or you aren’t sure where to even begin to make your vision happen. If you want to brainstorm ideas of what YOUR bold move is to bring more freedom to you and your family, and strategize around how to make it all possible, I’d love to offer a free Revolutionary Life and Business design conversation to you. You can schedule here.

Love to hear your comments, questions, and thoughts about the 5 Figure and Free lifestyle concept…..any stories you have for how you are thinking outside the box about expenses to bring more freedom to your life……or any ideas you have for making a manufactured home beautiful!

Boldly standing for your HAPPINESS,

Tessa

signature pic - Aza

 

 

 

 

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