How to turn a vacation house into a home.
In our small suburban town we stood at the bus stop as the brisk wind rushed past us. I held tightly onto both of my children’s hands. I found I was squeezing their chubby little fingers a bit tighter this morning after receiving the call from the accident scene. Still, I couldn’t bring myself to loosen the grip. In the distance, the sound of the helicopter blades cutting through the February air was drawing closer. My youngest, just 5 at the time looked upward. Squinting, he asked “Mommy, who do you think that is for?” It was as if the small cyclone the chopper was creating would suck us up at any moment. As it passed directly overhead, only I knew where it was going. It was then that I decided if he was okay we would follow our hearts and raise our family on the island. I put both children on the bus, got in my car and chased after the sound of the sirens.
Our story has a happy ending. Three houses and just as many renovations later we have been living as full time residents in a town full of vacation houses. A city council candidate recently mentioned that his campaign would address the notion of bringing more families into town as year round residents. Why not enjoy the island all year long? It is not a tough sell in theory, but how do we make a vacation home into a full time residence. It is no secret that in comparison to the mainland there are size and cost differences. In addition, there is the realization that many of us will be living in what once was someone’s summer place. Many homes were and still are built to accommodate individuals for a week or two. Issues abound, older beach homes lack storage or the proper flow for entertaining, the typical layout of a newly built home only allows for one common living area, and the suburban finished basement does not exist anywhere on the island.
In our case, we were charged with the task of fitting eight years of items we had collected into a house that was a third of the size. As we began to pack and sort through our collection, we felt as if we were on the set of a hoarder’s episode. We amassed things because we could. Stored in the eaves of our attic, down in our dungeon like basement, and shoved into all the newly built closets we had added to our home were things we had collected. To purge our motto was: “If we never saw this again would we miss it or think about it?” If the answer was no then out to the curb it went. Slowly but surely we downsized our belongings, realizing that we would need to live quite differently in our new home in Ocean City.
We have met so many welcoming and interesting people in our short six years here. Many of them living unusually in their homes. Currently we own a multi- family unit, our first tenants set to move in this spring. Have we ever been landlords? Nope, but becoming one enables us to live in Mrs. Hoovers house where each morning we can watch the sun dance across the ocean from our bedroom. A unique situation, but we couldn’t be more excited. We have friends who have spread out into an entire duplex connected by a cousin’s staircase, friends living in a small cottage brimming at the seams, and friends living in the first floor of a house only to have new neighbors arrive each summer Saturday. We have met people living in and running a bed and breakfast, living in their small first floor apartment while they painstakingly rehab their 100 year old home, living in the extra quarters of their parent’s home, and some living in single family homes in neighborhoods where not many porch lights are lit in the off season. Each of us has one thing in common, we are living here quite content in our unconventional homes.
Would l love a room that could house all of the rogue shoes and coats sprawled about our family room floor? A basement to store my eclectic treasures? A huge walk in linen closet to store the overflow of blankets and pillows I keep on hand for weekend guests? Sure I would. No matter where we live we always wish for changes in our homes. Yet each morning after dropping my daughter off at school, I take the long way home. Turning onto Beach Road, I am in awe of the view from my passenger side window. The sun peaking up over the ocean, the dune grass blowing in the wind, no matter the weather, it is breathtaking. I wouldn’t trade that view for any of those wants. With the ability to telecommute, the airport close by for business travel, shopping at our fingertips online, as well as easy access to Center City we all make it work.
We traded in our lawn mower for our beach chairs, and we couldn’t be happier.
For information on downsizing, organization, or redesigning your space Maureen can be reached @ Maureen@ocnjdaily.com