Why We Started Looking for a New Apartment
Last year, Mike and I decided that 2022 would be dedicated to renovating our house. The kitchen and bathrooms are all original from when the house was built in the 1980s and need to be redone. We’d finally be getting rid of the cat cabinet! But, over the summer, I found myself losing sleep as I struggled with how far I wanted to go with the renovation. Should this just be the most economical fix to upgrade? Or was this our forever home and my last opportunity to give myself the dream space I always wanted? And if that was the case, what did I really want?
The whole thing was weighing on my mind so much (I started to realize that no matter how much we spent, it would never be exactly what I wanted), I wrote a post about it. In the post, I wrote about how the completion of Mike’s pandemic gardening project made me realize that I needed to put love and money into the space we are already in, even if it isn’t perfect. I hit publish and read everyone’s comments. Then I went back and reread my own words.
In the introduction, I say this:
“When we bought our house seven years ago, I didn’t care that much about what it looked like. I didn’t have a vision for my ‘dream house,’ because I was invested in our life in Manhattan and would rather have spent the money on a bigger apartment. Actually, if I think back, my Barbie Dreamhouse was always the penthouse apartment, not the mansion. I imagined a sprawling loft with floor to ceiling arched windows in SOHO. Not a picket fence. But in order to survive the city, Mike said he needed a place to getaway on the weekends with space and a yard.”
That’s when it hit me. (I heard Carrie Bradshaw in my head when I wrote that.) The reason I was losing sleep on how to allocate our money with the house renovation is because I would much rather spend it on upgrading our apartment. The thing I always wanted! The house was fine! Upgrading the kitchen would be nice, but giving the kids their own bedrooms in the city and switching neighborhoods to one where more of our friends live would be LIFE CHANGING.
I discussed my thoughts with Mike. (That’s another thing the pandemic has done for me. I’ve always been the more flexible partner, but now I realize life is short and I need to fight for what I want.)
The first thing we talked about was the financial aspect. A few years ago, we had looked into upgrading to a three bedroom, but it was too pricey for us. But, since the pandemic, a few things have changed. 1) I gave up my office space. 2) We no longer have a full-time nanny. 3) Harlow switched to a school that costs us way less than before. 4) We’ve spent two years without spending money on travel, ubers or going out to eat. In other words, we are in a better financial position with more savings. Plus, I argued that now is the time to spend money on a bigger space, when both kids are living under our roof, and then we can downgrade later when they go to college.
The second thing we talked about was how much the girls would benefit from having their own bedrooms. Here are our current issues:
They have no privacy.
They are getting on each other’s nerves. Partly due to the fact that there is no escaping from each other.
They can’t have playdates without getting in the other person’s way. And they definitely can’t have sleepovers.
They don’t have a quiet place to do their homework with no distractions.
They don’t have a space to assert their individual needs and identities.
Their shared space is so filled with stuff, I have trouble teaching them how to clean up after themselves. They are constantly blaming the mess on each other, and I know with certain things— like making the bed in the upper bunk, hanging clothes on a closet rod they can’t reach and fitting folded sweatshirts into an overstuffed dresser, it’s just easier to do it myself. I can’t wait for the day when they are solely responsible for the upkeep of their own rooms.
In all honesty, Mazzy and Harlow were fine sharing a room up until last year. That’s when Mazzy started getting more homework. She likes to do it at her desk but can’t have Harlow in there as a distraction, which means Harlow isn’t allowed in their room from around 7-9pm. That’s the time when Harlow likes to FaceTime her friends, so she has started spending that time in the bathroom. She has a whole set up with the bathmat, a step stool and her iPad. She’ll bring toys and snacks in there, which is pretty disgusting, but I allow it, because I get that she wants her privacy while she chats with her friends.
At 9pm, it’s time for Harlow to go to bed, but Mazzy is almost always still doing her homework. It’s actually the point at which she is most focused and getting stuff done, but then Harlow and I storm in, shut her down, kick her out and make her finish in the living room. It happens every night, but it never goes over well. The living room is where Mike is usually watching television, so now he gets kicked to the bedroom. If I put Harlow to bed, Mazzy is doing homework in the living room and Mike is watching TV in the bedroom, where do I go if I want to take or make a phone call? Nowhere. I have stopped talking to people in the evening.
FYI, I think it might be easier to get away with your kids sharing a room for longer, if you have a larger space with more places to go in general. I should also say, there is another family in our building with college-aged kids (a boy and a girl) who shared a room all throughout their childhood, in an apartment smaller than ours, so it can be done. I just don’t want to do it anymore.
The third thing Mike and I talked about was how much having more space would benefit the two of us. Yes, it would be great to spread out, especially since we both work from home now. The other big thing is having a better space to entertain. Since we had kids, our apartment has never been conducive to having people over. You know how you tend to put kids in a room to watch television so the adults can hang? Or maybe they go upstairs to go to bed? In our apartment, there is simply no separation for kids and adults. We have to be pretty close with another family to invite them over. And gatherings with more than one or two families are out of the question.
I also talked to Mike about the benefit of switching our neighborhood. Remember when I wrote the post about feeling a loss of community? After writing that piece, I realized three things:
When I moved to the city after college, I moved to the Upper East Side with all my college friends. Then we all started migrating downtown together. When I first started living in the East Village, I was surrounded by some of my best friends and co-workers. We got married and had babies here too. But since the kids started school, most people we know have either moved to the suburbs or moved to more family-friendly neighborhoods within the city, like Tribeca, the Upper West Side, Brooklyn Heights or Park Slope. We lost our community not by moving, but by staying still.
In the East Village, we are mainly surrounded by college kids and single twenty-somethings. Sometimes it’s great because we can get into any restaurant if we eat early enough or go to the supermarket on a Sunday morning and it’s practically empty. But when we visit our friends in other areas, the vibe is noticeably older, cleaner, calmer and more sophisticated. I always liked the dirtier, more chaotic aspects of the East Village, but I think I have finally outgrown it.
The pandemic has taught me that convenience can make a huge difference when solidifying friendships. Part of the reason we became so close with Lucy and Eric is because they had a summer house five minutes from ours. We would have been friends regardless, but it was the added convenience that helped turn that friendship into something really special. Because we sent Mazzy to a school on the West Side, we have lots of friends who live in Tribeca, the West Village and Chelsea. How different would it feel if those friends were also neighbors? With kids that my kids could get together with on their own? Or walk to and from school with? How great would it be to make a spontaneous plan with a nearby friend to grab a drink after work without it being a huge production? Or meet at the same neighborhood playground on the weekend? And then have the space to invite those friends over for dinner? Ahhh, to dream.
And lastly, and perhaps most importantly, I told Mike that I needed a change. I have lived in this same apartment for almost 20 years. I have had roommates here, gotten married, had kids, and started a successful business, but my surroundings have remained the same. This apartment and this neighborhood have served us well all these years, but we’ve got one life and it’s time to move on.
Yes, I get that we’ve got a great view (something Mike and I always say when the topic of moving comes up), but let’s not let that be the thing that traps us. We’ve had the view. We need a new experience.
Surprisingly, Mike understood all of my reasoning and agreed. So, that’s what we did. We put the house renovation on hold and started looking for a three bedroom in a new neighborhood instead. We’ve been looking since the beginning of September. And guess what? We found something.
Move in date is February 1st. Eeek!
I know people are going to have a lot of questions, particularly about the apartment hunt. Ask whatever you want in the comments below and I will answer what I can in a follow up post. I have kept everything private thus far because it’s highly competitive and I didn’t want to hurt our chances. We are also renting, so most places we toured were decorated homes. It didn’t feel right to document and post on social media, until we made it our own.
For those of you who don’t know, last week I started a “close friends group” on Instagram for paying subscribers, where I broke the news. I plan to answer the more private questions there, as well as share more about the new space, if you want to follow along. Of course, I’ll be sharing on my main feed too, but I’ll probably feel things out with the “close friends” first, initially. It’s a big decision and I’m feeling a little nervous about getting negative feedback. Plus, I want to be sensitive that the housing market is a beast right now and so many people are struggling to find what they want. We got really lucky.
More to come soon!
If you become a paying subscriber, you will get an email with instructions to join the “close friends” group on Instagram. Click below to begin!