Survival is for suckers – it’s time to thrive

how to thrive

Have you ever asked someone how they’re doing and they say, “oh, I’m surviving”?  They may not be battling cancer or a financial meltdown, but just the very existence of their day-to-day is so boring and draining that they can’t come up with a better term than “barely functioning”.

It’s also something I hear from people who are in survival mode. Between work, family, lack of sleep and lack of life, they literally are just hanging on.

thrive in life

Here’s the problem with that M.O. It’s never typically a rough period that goes on for a few weeks because of a brutal project at work or a sick kid. It’s the kind of malaise that can linger for YEARS and end up becoming a life theme.

That’s a problem.

If this sounds like you, I don’t mean to add to your mounting problems by calling you out on your apathetic coping strategy. I’m also not suggesting that your life has to be puppies and rainbows 24/7. However, I am pointing out that if this sounds like you and you didn’t even notice it until this very moment, then there’s something you can do to change the trajectory to something a little more well, life affirming.

  • Address what’s sucking your soul. That could be your job, your negative Nelly friend or even your kids who are driving you nuts. I’m not suggesting you have to ditch your job or the people closest to you, but by knowing what’s draining your battery, you can make conscious choices to fix it.
  • Make an effort to change something. That could mean a babysitter, a new job or heck, maybe even a divorce. I don’t suggest that big sweeping decisions should be made without a lot of reflection, but what I am saying is that the longer you ignore what drains you, the longer your life will be as gratifying as a C-span binge. Who wants to live like that?
  • Add little boosts of personal joy that make you feel good. Watch a comedy show, listen to your favorite tunes, put a saying or quote up on your wall that inspires you. Moments of joy are rarely something that’s overly orchestrated and it doesn’t have to cost anything. Sometimes we’re just so in the weeds of our own lives that we forget that this journey is supposed to feel good. Personally, as someone who’s generally overthinks everything, I often have to remind myself to lighten up.

how to have a happy life

I can share from experience that I’ve made some pretty difficult decisions to change things that were fundamentally dragging me down and keeping me in a perpetual state of survival mode. Relationships (including a marriage), behaviors, jobs and a poor health condition were all taking the life right out of me. I had to find strength to say no to them (over the course of many years) and looking back, even though it was often hard or devastating in the moment, I’m now thriving in areas of my life because of those decisions. My life isn’t perfect but I’m doing way more than just surviving it.

I recall an old boss making a comment that I seemed to have a charmed life. That comment stuck with me because it implied that I was lucky to have a good life. He was partially right. I do have a good life, but it’s not by luck. It’s by choice. Some of those decisions were really hard, but I knew I’d be better off if I made the change and in every situation, that was right.

Change might be the right thing for you, too. If you’re just surviving and it’s been that way for a while, it’s time to push yourself out of your comfort zone. Start small to build confidence. For most people, feeling better physically can go a long way, so if you’re currently not working out or feeding yourself well, start there. If it’s a financial suck, it’s time to start making some hard decisions that will help you get out of the hole that your’e in.

If you’re struggling with your decision to change, remember this…

It’s okay to be stuck. Just don’ t pretend that it’s not your choice to stay there.

It’s okay to be stuck. Just don’ t pretend that it’s not your choice to stay there. Click To Tweet


Why You Don’t Want to Buy That Vacation Home.

downside of vacation home ownership

the cons of owning a second home

In the past, my husband and I owned a beautiful 3 bed, 3 bath lake house, 2 hours outside of LA. For the first couple of years we LOVED it and got a ton of use out of it. But it was at a high cost. Not only did we have to pay for the house and furnish it, there were also a lot of upfront costs for repairs and upgrades to make it truly our own. The investment was huge, but initially, the payoff was, too.

buying a vacation home

But after few years, our enjoyment of the house started to decline. Getting up on weekends was difficult, the area didn’t offer much to do outside of playing in the lake and it was a lot of work maintaining two homes. We were starting to feel the burden of owning a second home when we felt compelled to spend every vacation there to justify the cost. Then in 2013, we suffered a break in and it was never the same. We sold the house that summer at a $40K loss and never looked back.

While I don’t regret that experience, I’ll never take on the hassle of a 2nd home again. Now with AirBnb and VRBO, you can rent homes so easily and experience new places every time you go away. Also, you’re not responsible for replacing the roof, plowing the road in winter or preventing critters from making themselves at home in your walls.

The Cost of Ownership

vacation home buying

Our lake house cost about $4K per month including everything from mortgage and utilities to seasonal snow plowing. That works out to $132 a day per year.  When you consider we spent an average of 65 days a year there (including weekends and one or two full week stays), that means we were paying about $48K per year for the house, but only utilizing approximately $8,580 of that cost. Think of all the amazing vacations and getaways you could go on with a $48K annual budget!

Alternatives to Ownership

While the idea of owning a second home can sound romantic, the idea of maintaining two properties, packing, unpacking and packing again as well as cleaning two homes can take its toll. The vacation home market can also be very volatile and in a down market, it can take a long time to offload an unwanted property. If you have the hankering to have a getaway spot, run the numbers on the cost of ownership vs the cost of renting only when you need it. If you want something you can use over an extended period, consider renting a home for a season, which is the best way to concentrate your investment during prime time usability without having to carry the cost and burden of the home in the off season.

If that doesn’t suffice, I’ve also heard of several families sharing one vacation property where the cost of ownership and the burden of upkeep is shared among the owners. I love this idea, particularly for areas like Lake Tahoe where people come for different reasons. It’s a ski town in the winter (which I would never partake in), but it’s an awesome summer destination as well. How great would it be to have two families that prefer primary ownership based on the season?

don't buy a vacation home

Thinking about renting the house part-time to defray the cost?

This can be a reasonable strategy for defraying cost of ownership, but I wouldn’t buy a home on the assumption that your rental fees will cover your costs.  Here’s why:

  • You won’t have 100% occupancy consistently, so it’s hard to gauge what your returns will be month to month
  • You will inevitably run into hassles with renters.  We’ve had furniture destroyed,  garbage left in the house, noise complaints, oh and there was that time when someone left their crack pipe in our master bedroom.
  • You will not be close by when issues come up, so you’ll need to pay a property management company to deal with 2 am plumbing emergencies.
  • Your neighbors that don’t rent their properties will come to hate you for renting yours.  I promise you this.

Bottom line, before you think about buying a vacation home, consider if it would make more sense just to rent.  When you purchase a second home, you’re paying for 100% of the possible usage time, yet most people use their 2nd homes only 30% of the time or less.  That means you’re paying for something that’s not being capitalized on, at least 70% of the time.  Renting will not only reduce your out-of-pocket expenses, it will also save you tremendous complexity and hassle. If you’re hell bent on buying, try fractional ownership with another family to defray cost and maintenance while increasing overall utilization time.

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I Failed at Minimalism

becoming minimalist
Make your own sign posts and accept that the journey will take as long as it needs for you to fully arrive exactly where you want to be. Click To Tweet

I’m about to admit pure failure here.

I’ve been writing about my journey to minimalism for a while now. I have to say, the purging felt good. I enjoyed sharing pictures of all the belongings I pitched. I felt self-righteous about my new-found power to “just say no” to more stuff.


But then the Nordstrom Semi-annual Sale happened and I completely fell off the rails. To be fair, I was starting a new job, so I needed some new threads, but not to the extent that I went to.

That was my first indication that my minimalistic veins really didn’t run that deep.

Then there was the deep regret of ditching things that in retrospect, I wasn’t ready to part with. Books I now need to buy again. Important papers that got accidentally tossed out in the flurry of purging, like my naturalization certificate. How did I let that thing go?

I’m not suggesting that I won’t continue to lean toward less and live a simpler life, but what I’ve learned along the way is that rash, sudden decisions to purge can often be as detrimental as the impulsive nature to acquire.

I’ve come to believe that minimalism is more of a spectrum than a destination. It’s the active pursuit of less, but not for the sake purging, but for the goal of living with just enough. Nothing excessive, but comfortable and reasonable.

The Minimalists, two men who have inspired my journey to live with less, go pretty far into the spectrum. They advocate getting rid of things like university diplomas, family pictures and other things that you don’t truly love or use often. Now that I’ve gone there, I wish I had slowed down and consider what parting with those things really meant. Mostly, it’s books, pictures, and paperwork that I’m missing, but there are a few household items that I wish I still had as well.

I’ve spent a great deal of time and energy feeling conflicted about where I am on this journey. I realize that I’m very prone to driving hard to get to a destination, only to realize it’s not where I want to be. I’ve done the same with careers, weight loss, relationships, and travel. But it’s also made me realize that just because I want to have more than just a few treasured belongings that fit in a single suitcase, I can still identify with the overall goal to be mindful about spending. To be picky about what I acquire and to mindfully let things go when they’re no longer needed. I don’t need to be in such a big hurry to meet the criteria that define the modern day minimalist. Instead, I need to decide what that means for me, personally.

I suspect that’s a pretty good way for all of us to live. Make your own sign posts and accept that the journey will take as long as it needs for you to fully arrive exactly where you want to be.

Make your own sign posts and accept that the journey will take as long as it needs for you to fully arrive exactly where you want to be. Click To Tweet