Downsizing: How This Diva Moved From a House to a Trailer
But being a busy wife, mother, businesswoman and moonlighting writer kept my mind occupied and my calendar full. So one pleasant Friday afternoon, while I was putting away the dry dishes from that morning's champagne brunch with my writer girlfriends, my husband came home from work and dropped a bombshell.
"We need to downsize," he said.
I must have looked at him quizzically. "Downsize what?"
He whipped out several sheets of paper and placed them on the dining room table. He pointed to the top house-for-sale listing, a big house with sprawling acreage. "This is a great deal," he said.
"That doesn't look like downsizing."
"Look at the price."
One-hundred-and-fifty-nine-thousand dollars! Before I could ask, what's the catch? I saw that the home was in Arkansas.
"Why do you want to move to Arkansas?" I asked.
"The value of our house has dropped further," he replied.
He had previously mentioned that our house was upside down. But we agreed to hang on for the eventual upswing. We had spent months trying to work with our bank. But our loan was sold to a different bank, which was then was bought by another bank, which was unyielding. Refinancing to lower our monthly mortgage payments was out of the question with them. Instead, they employed yet another agency to strong-arm us into compliance with their new, higher monthly payments.
"How much value has it lost?"
"About $300,000. I know you love this house but I'll find you another nice one," he promised.
"I don't want to leave this area. Find us something here," I said.
My husband mumbled something about the area being too expensive. He was certain he could find a bargain elsewhere. But I didn't want to live elsewhere. My family and friends were here. My writing and filmmaking connections were here. My volunteer activities were here. Wasn't it enough that I was leaving my home?
And I knew I would miss this house. It was modest for the exclusive, upmarket city we lived in, but I made it into the nicest place I had ever occupied. Spanish style touches were everywhere: wrought iron, vibrant colors, dark woods, tile floors and original pieces of art on every wall.
The exception was the large family room I converted into a movie room. A 65-inch HD television took center stage. I proudly displayed all my Hollywood memorabilia: movie posters, film reels, Oscar trophies, my vast DVD collection, red carpet and much more. The parties we held there were raved about for months. Friends emailed to ensure they were on the guest list. Academy Award nights were planned far in advance: champagne, games, movie-themed prizes and lots of food. The house was perfect for entertaining: from the enormous backyard with patio, barbeque, lawns and swimming pool, to the large living, dining and kitchen areas. Even the front yard had been in the limelight for fun Easter egg hunts.
Over the coming weeks, my husband continued the house search. He did indeed find bargains elsewhere. There was only one local option: a mobile home in a trailer park. I couldn't believe he was even considering it. But being a team player I wanted to show my flexibility and willingness to downsize. So far, all I had said to him was no. No to Arkansas. No to Arizona. No to Texas.
He drove me over to the neighboring city to have a look.
I held in my disgust. The wretched carpet and wood paneling, not to mention the 70s fixtures, draperies and appliances, turned me off. The home smelled bad. It was small with tiny closets in the tiny bedrooms.
"We can spend a little to update it," my husband said.
"We'd have to spend a lot," I said. "And I don't like the industrial location. The trailer park itself is ugly."
He didn't reply, but I knew he wasn't happy with me. Once outside we saw another for sale sign and we looked at that unit too.
"I don't see us living here," I said. The rooms were depressing little square boxes. We left the trailer park feeling disappointed. Maybe we couldn't afford to stay local. My heart sank.
Meanwhile, the bank's goons were sending increasingly threatening letters. Our time was running out.
A couple of ultra-low offers on townhouses were rejected and I began wondering if I should host another bash for one last hoorah before we had to leave our beautiful party house.
My dear husband never gave up on trying to keep me in the city I loved. One day, he came home excited to show me another flyer.
"It's in a different trailer park right here in town."
With much skepticism, I barely glanced at the flyer. But the beautiful interior photos caught my eye.
"I scoped it out first. I think you'll like it," he said, smiling.
I realized I hadn't seen him smile like that in a long time. "Okay. Let's have a look."
As he drove, my husband warned me about some elements in the listing. "We have to meet the park managers and be interviewed by the park owners. They all have to approve us before we're accepted to live there."
I laughed. "We have to be accepted to move into a trailer park?"
"It's a really nice park," he said.
He wasn't exaggerating. I grew excited once we entered the park that I never knew existed.
My first impression of the trailer was that it looked like a regular house. In fact, unlike the first trailer park we visited, all the trailers looked just like houses. They had nice front yards, porches and shrubbery. They looked cared for.
Once inside, I fell in love. Yes, the home was smaller than where we lived, but it had an open floor plan and it had character. We could still host parties!
"We'll have to get rid of most of our furniture," I said.
"Your TV will fit in here," my husband said. Bless him for being willing to squeeze in a TV that was much too large for the space.
The spacious closets and the modern kitchen had the same storage as our current house. It even had a small backyard. It was totally doable for us.
"Let's make an offer," I said. "A real offer. Not a low offer that will annoy the sellers."
My husband started the paperwork that day. Everything went well until the day of the interview. Before the deal could be finalized, we had to pass muster.
My husband started off on bad footing.
"We really like this trailer park," he said.
I saw everyone in the room squirm and I squeezed his hand.
"It's a mobile home park. Not a trailer park," the owner said.
The rest of the interview went well, even though my husband used the "trailer" word a few more times, causing others to correct him.
Two days later, we got word. They liked us and wanted us to become part of their community.
We both felt relief. But I also felt joy and excitement. This was an adventure I had never before experienced. I let my husband know my gratitude that he tried so hard to find us a suitable place to get a fresh start.
"I would have gone to Arkansas," I said. "But this is so much better."
The economy may have kicked our butts but we're still together. We may have lost our house but we're still surrounded by our loved ones.
I'm looking forward to downsizing, to de-cluttering and moving on. We're going from 1,800 square feet to 800 square feet. From cocktail parties to potlucks. From a three-car garage to a parking space. What will life be like? Can I still be a diva if I live in a trailer park? I guess I'll find out.
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