Live like a rich person without being rich

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Living in NYC compresses everything. Not only is your personal space compressed, living over and under and moving among the seething, teeming hordes of city-livers, but less tangible things are also compressed – the speed of your career trajectory, or the length of time it takes you to develop social survival skills.

Something else that I’ve noticed is that the distance between rich and poor is extraordinarily compressed compared to other cities. Not in terms of income gaps, which are wider than anywhere else in the US, with the wealthiest of the wealthy living a dream existence, and the poorest of the poor rotting and reeking on the streets – but in terms of exposure and some level of understanding.

The distance between me and homelessness isn’t as far as I once imagined. It happens to many people, those without connections, family, a stroke of bad luck, bad health, a creeping addiction, a tinge of mental illness.

Similarly, the distance between me and the uber-wealthy isn’t as far as I once imagined. As my income has tripled since I moved here (though I am extraordinarily far from wealthy), I am beginning to understand the preferences of the rich, the choices that rich people make. From working hard in a hot, stinking city, I understand the need for a house in the Hamptons. From seeing other people in beautifully cut, crisp clothing, I understand the need for a luxurious wardrobe. From moving from a flimsy one-bedroom to a slightly more solid one-bedroom to a decent two-bedroom, each apartment a bit better than the last, I understand the need for centrally-located, luxurious accommodations.

I am sure I’ll never be disgustingly, excessively wealthy, but I do believe my income and place in life will continue to improve. It will require hard work and sacrifice of my personal time, and perhaps some portion of my happiness, but it is doable.

Selling your time and your body to the capitalist system is very odd to consider from a distance. The truly wealthy live off the production of the rest. The trust funders, the investors, the financiers – they are all in close proximity in NYC. Even if not directly, we work to support them daily.

I understand and accept the way things work here, however begrudgingly, though finding a loophole in the system to a life either filled with interesting and exciting work, artistic passion, a life of my own in some way, a life where I feel like I’m on the winning end, is my ultimate dream.

I don’t think it’s an impossible dream. Finding a way to create that amenable balance of things, or create a pleasant and enjoyable quality of life (I hesitate to use “lifestyle”), must be something I can accomplish. It absolutely must be.

So, as a starting point, I think I will find out what things would improve my quality of life, how much they cost, a budgeted aping of rich-people luxuries, but must be executed in a thoughtful and feeling-rich way – quality, not quantity.


A quick list of things I want to investigate in future posts in this series:

  • A second/vacation home (and necessarily, a way to spend long amounts of time there. I’m willing to compromise and work from home for some of it)
  • Vacations
    • Long weekends
    • Two weeks+
  • Culture: theater, arts, ballet, live music
  • Beautiful personal objects
  • Delicious food
  • Creating art
  • Part-time work or part-time work from home work at least
  • Independence
  • Society
  • More, as I think of them!
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Baby’s first bedroom!

We just moved into a two-bedroom apartment, right down the street from our old apartment. In contrast to my last, quite frenetic/neurotic post, we are doing well, and I am often very content, which is about as good as anyone can hope for :)

It has been a deep pleasure to create a bedroom for our very own Charlotte. I will be decorating it and organizing it more in the next few months, but my main objective will be to create a Montessori-inspired bedroom, with child-accessible everything, particularly as she grows into a toddler bed and becomes more independent.

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The empty room

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Homestyler design

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Current

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Muji shelves

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Rug from World Market

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I would like to add another, larger and more basic rug, a reading nook, more shelves with drawer inserts for her clothes, a small mirror, something pretty for the walls, and twinkly little fairy lights.

Spring is springing again, and spring is very lovely here. Can’t wait for the day when I can wear a little sundress out, and now that Charlotte is old enough to run around the playground, I can envision many beautiful days with her ahead. She is the joy of my life.

A and I are figuring out what we want, what we need from life. We are both creative people. We need to create more, better, more often. Neither of us are very happy in a 9-5 job though we appreciate the stability that comes with it. It’s time to grow.

Maybe it sounds silly, but I am taking an acting class at night, and A will take a screenwriting class. I like acting. A is a good writer. I want to write more, too.

I want to spend more time with Charlotte. I took last Friday off for a mama-baby day and it was beautiful and fun and deeply satisfying. Walking through the neighborhood in the daytime was interesting. The sidewalks were full of toddlers in strollers, pushed by stay-at-home moms and nannies. The local music class was overflowing and the sounds of tambourines and maracas flooded down onto the street. The old people were out, doing their shopping, making googly eyes at the babies. The neighborhood shopkeepers were quietly going about their day. It reminded me of when I lived in Atlanta and worked at a company located in a nice suburb – I’d go out for lunch in the local village square, so to speak – a little shopping area with a small field and trees in the middle built next to a recent townhouse development. I’d sit in my car with my windows down, eating my lunch, enjoying a pretty day, and watch the stay-at-home moms with their babies out on blankets in the grass, and feel a strange envy of their seemingly-simple, suburban lives. I wonder if most mothers still stayed at home, which is sort of a fallacy considering it was only ever middle and upper-middle class mother who stayed at home, would I have chosen the same? It almost feels like a past life memory, me cooking in a kitchen with the windows wide open, pots of flowers and herbs and tomatoes out in the garden, kids running barefoot all around me, the dogs barking, my sister-in-law scrubbing the floor, her sister calling after one of the kids, or something like that. I guess this is all in some old Mediterranean village in my head. In reality, I don’t want to stay at home full-time, nor do I want to live with extended family, but I do feel that piece is strangely ajar or missing in some way. I miss Charlotte and feel strange leaving her with strangers and then largely blocking her out of my existence for close to ten hours a day, counting commute times.

I feel like it’s time to grow, and rebalance, and understand things and myself.

 

We looked for a new place to call home, we didn’t find it (pt. 1)

Early last year, I wrote about escapist fantasies of owning a country house in Spain. This year, A, our baby, and I were able to take our first vacation in two and a half years, and we decided to visit Portland, Maine.

I chose Portland for the proximity to NYC yet distance away from NYC crowds, the relaxing beaches, because we’d both been curious about what the rest of the northeast was like, because of Stephen King novels set in Maine, specifically that signature creepy-cozy vibe, because a few lifestyle bloggers (ok, one blogger, Soulemama, guilty pleasure) of whom I’ve been a longtime reader live near Portland, and:

Because it seemed like an affordable, pleasant, pretty place to live. No escapist fantasies necessary.

The Blissful, Domestic, All-American Dream

I could imagine a life with myself, A, our daughter and potential future kids, living in an old downtown Portland loft or a cozy little three-bedroom house, working at small companies in creative industries, maybe a little side business for extra cash. Our kids would be safe and provided for, in good public schools while we squirreled away money to help with college. We wouldn’t be wealthy but we wouldn’t feel the wolf breathing down our necks like we do in NYC. We’d be comfortable. We’d have a yard. A charming wood-burning stove. I’d have a lovely garden full of flowers and vegetables. I could go to the seashore when I needed a little nourishment of the soul to watch the roiling waters. I’d spend all winter knitting, baking, and roasting. I’d make a few friends with other moms with kids my kids’ ages. A would get three big dogs and write a lot while the kids and the dogs played outside.

A feasible dream. Very doable! If we wanted, we could probably fulfill this dream by the time baby girl started kindergarten, perfect timing.

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Fuel for the fire

In Brooklyn, we can sort of afford a one-bedroom apartment and daycare at the same time. Renting a two-bedroom would be barely doable. Actually buying a condo, much less a house, with more than one bedroom is a distant and unattainable dream.

With a few years’ scrimping and saving, at our current income level, we could reasonably put together a down payment of 10-20% for something in the $200-300K range. In Brooklyn, that would afford us a one-bedroom condo in a cheap neighborhood. In Portland, that would get us a whole house. And a really nice house, at that.

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8 Anderson Street – $279,000

East End, Portland. 5 bedroom, 1.5 bathroom – Up and coming neighborhood, beautiful and unique architecture, tons of space, so cheap. Yes, please.

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71 Gorham Road – $175,000

Scarborough, ME. 5 bedroom, 2 bathroom. Classic, beautiful, just a little creepy in a good way. Cheap. Fixer-upper, but worth it?

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33 Sawyer Street – $207,000

Back Cove, Portland. “The authenticity of yesteryear. Beauty infused w/color and creative collaboration of old and new-wood floors, tin ceiling, huge original windows w/old glass, tall ceilings and more. … When at home enjoy the screened porch and open front porch, perennial gardens, sit in the yard and listen to the wind rustle the leaves or sit by the firepit. Contentment, peace, and joy…guaranteed.” Totally doable, and that description…

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12 Green Street – $275,000

Gorham, ME. 6 bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms. Out in the country. Total creepy-cozy vibe, massive, and massively affordable.

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6 Quartermasters Diamond Cove Ct – $387,000

East End, Portland. 3 bedroom, 2.5 bathroom. A comparative splurge, but lofted ceilings, renovations, and gorgeous old industrial architecture make it covetable.