A New Stage of Life: Downsizing and Moving

A fraction of the stuff I purged.

During 2016 I purged a ton (really, a real ton!) of stuff from our Montclair, NJ home of more than 18 years. I was preparing to enter a new stage of life. I downsized in terms of stuff and square footage, but I’m not 100% ready to retire/relocate full time to South Carolina, which is where my husband Mike and I decided we’d retire. Besides, Mike hasn’t retired yet. And our son returned to college in 2016, which means he’s a poor student living at home with us for the next couple of years. Our daughter bought her own northern NJ nest nearby. So what about me?

Cue a life in which Mike and I sold our gorgeous single-family home and now split our lives and time between a NJ-based apartment and a home in South Carolina. Talk about a new stage of life!

Living in Northern NJ presents its challenges. We are a densely populated state with mostly old and often crumbling infrastructure here in Essex County. Our housing stock, at least the apartment buildings, are mostly old and, well, used.

Pia, my car, loves her garage parking space!

Finding an apartment to move into that suited our particular set of “must haves” was a challenge: We needed space to park three cars, we needed to be near the train to NYC, and Mike insisted he would only move into a brand new apartment, one that wasn’t “used.” Seriously. I loved watching Mike explain to friends that he wouldn’t move into a “used” apartment. Some people thought he was joking. After all, how many new apartment complexes are being built around here? Other people gave me the side eye, checking to see if it was really me who required “unused.”

I was charged with finding Mike’s unicorn. But try as I might I couldn’t find an apartment in Montclair that offered 3 parking spots. It doesn’t exist. And brand new? Well, the one apartment building in Montclair that’s brand new has very small apartments (a king-sized bed covers the entire floor space in the master bedroom.) And it is very, very expensive. Like I-put-my-foot-down expensive.

Mike, recognizing that he might be forced to live in a “used” apartment if he didn’t help with the search, jumped in at that point and found three apartment buildings in the neighboring town of Bloomfield that met our need for nearby trains to NYC and his requirement of “new,” but only one offered the opportunity for three parking spots.

The only problem? The 3-car complex was fully rented when we started our search, and the new building being built there wouldn’t be completed in time to meet our move-in date. And the listing agent doesn’t keep a waiting list because potential renters practically hammer his door in trying to score one of the apartments. I stared at my husband, waiting to see what he had to say about the situation.

“The buildings themselves are only a year old, which means that basically only one other person/family has lived there prior to us. I think I can do that,” he said. After I viewed the on-line virtual tour and saw how very nice the apartments are, I was ready to move there too.

I would LOVE a balcony, but it wasn’t meant to be.

We called. And we called. And an apartment came available. It was smaller than we wanted, but it had a balcony, which made me very happy. And the woman who lived there had never fully moved in so Mike was particularly pumped about how “unused” the apartment was. Plot spoiler: After we relaxed “knowing” we had a place to live, the person who was breaking her lease (which meant we could get her apartment) changed her mind. We lost that apartment.

Time was getting short. We were getting tense. Then Mike called and learned a larger apartment was coming vacant — almost 1600 square feet — but it didn’t have a balcony. I sucked it up and rushed over to view it. Two young women had lived in it for a year. The good part was that it is brightly lit and a corner unit, which meant we would only have neighbors on one side and above us. The bathrooms were large and the closets were plentiful and also large. On the downside, although easily remedied with some good old-fashioned elbow grease, the woodwork was covered in inch-high dust, the bedroom window ledges were lined with empty wine and liquor bottles, and the bathrooms were plain disgusting. I loved it! We signed a one-year lease that same day.

We have settled in.

And here we are six months later.

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