The Writer’s Life: Downsizing to the $1,200 house by Eve Paludan #MondayBlogs
I actually live on what I make as a writer and an editor. It is not a fancy life by any means. However, I am happy and comfortable, even grateful. I live at this incredible level of comfort and security for the price of space rent and utilities, and, I am pretty sure this will be my last residence. After moving maybe thirty times in my life, almost every time by my own choice, I’m tired of the constant packing and unpacking. I’ve planted myself in Mesa, Arizona, and have shot down roots—my son lives eight miles away and my daughter, her husband and the grandkids live just seventy miles away.
After living in Los Angeles for several years, which I loved—because I could go to the beach every day if I wished—I am now living in an Arizona desert city where I lived years ago. It’s laid out in a nice grid with mountains for landmarks, so I won’t get too lost, even if I don’t have my phone with me. Mesa, a city of almost half a million, has the city-suburb life I like, without the kind of inner-city life that I don’t like. It’s not people on top of people, like in Los Angeles. I am more of a city girl than a country girl, but I don’t like sharing walls with neighbors. It was maybe my least favorite thing about apartment living. No one here is fighting for, or paying for, a parking spot at the place where they live. And an earthquake, while possible, isn’t so likely or so damaging here as it is in Southern California. And we have water to drink, something California is facing right now as its own resources deplete.
I’m kind of a minimalist, in a way. I don’t drink, smoke, or even own a television. My car is an older Camry that I bought for cash. I don’t drive a fancy car, nor do I want one. I have five pairs of shoes. And a few clothes that would easily fit in one big suitcase. I have less than 100 books now, mostly signed paperbacks from my friends or antique books.
I lived in Los Angeles for a while and spent maybe $35,000 on rent, which I now look back and see as ridiculous, though at the time, I don’t think it registered that I was setting myself up for increasing poverty that would take me years to recover from. I am still recovering from it and maybe in five years, I will have what I had before I went there. However, in retrospect, I wrote 13 books in one year in a 14’ x 20’ apartment—I got that $35,000 back several times over in the next couple of years. In the long run, though, I know when it is time to leave a place and start over. I have and will always have a strict rule for myself: Do not live above your means. When I can no longer live within my means in a place, I leave it.
I’m glad I lived in Los Angeles for several years. It gave me the chance to be a beach girl, and I loved it so much that it feels like an ache not to have the ocean down the street anymore. I fell in love with the West L.A. people and the culture and the places to go and things to do. I still love people there. A lot. I miss them. My friends. My clients. A special man I won’t ever forget. A neighborhood where I could walk 200 steps and be sitting in a Brazilian restaurant where someone would use a machete to give me a coconut to drink out of and then cut it up for me to take home and eat the meat later. Thai food on a stick. A cupcake bakery with an ATM. Huge libraries, amazing museums. Parks and botanical gardens galore. It was just too expensive to live there and costs went up every year. Every month, I threw away money on rent and stupid things like parking or city income tax. Not kidding. But I take away from Los Angeles, my memories, my photos, and the love for my people who know who they are.
Now, I’ve downsized to Arizona because it was financially necessary. I am doing okay. The months where I do not do okay on book sales, I ask people for more editing work and I get some. I’m not going to lie to you, though. These are very tough economic times for writers, as well as for many other people. I think the creative arts might be hit the worst by the downturn in the economy because we make consumer goods that are not necessities, but are entertainment—therefore, books are considered discretionary spending for consumers.
I specialize in writing Kindle books. I have paperback books, too, a few, but I sell thousands of times more Kindle books than I do paperbacks. And therein lies my method of living my dream.
I’ve moved more than thirty times in my life and I’m pretty tired of it. I have no plans to do it again. I found a place to hunker down, a good place, where I can live affordably and keep writing books until I die. That’s the dream and I am living it. I write books. People buy them. Amazon puts money in my bank account at the end of every month. I have a few wonderful, faithful and talented editing clients and am not looking for more because, truly, I have all the work I can handle.
The primary concern of a writer is to keep a roof over one’s head. I found my mobile home on the internet. In a senior park, which is gated, safe, quiet, for the most part. I have two orange trees in the back yard. I have a parking spot outside my kitchen door. I have two heated pools in which to swim. And a Jacuzzi.
My house is paid for (but I pay space rent), and my car is paid for. Those are two of the reasons that I can work as a fiction writer and editor. If I didn’t have my ducks lined up with a cheap place to live, and a running car with no payment, I wouldn’t be able to cast my dreams on the waters and write these books.
So, the $1,200 house is a doublewide mobile home with an Arizona room addition on it. It was advertised on the internet at http://mhvillage.com for $5,000. When I was in Los Angeles, I had my son check it out for me and he helped me a lot, fixing it up and making it safer and more comfortable. New toilets, new faucets, new sink, new bathroom countertop, new tub and shower–new tile, laid by a friend of his. Irrigation and plumbing fixes, roof repairs. My son was here for weeks working to make a home for me. How do you even thank someone for doing all of that for you?
So, after he checked it out for me, I drove to Mesa and saw it and four others. I offered $1,200 and they took my offer and put in a new hot water heater because my son made them do it. =) They ran a background check on me and a credit check because in order to keep the place safe for all, you have to do that these days. It has a long way to go before all of it is decorated the way I want it, but it is comfortable, safe and cheap. I love my back yard and the thousands of oranges that have come from the two trees and two seasons a year.
I paid cash for it and it’s mine, as long as I pay the space rent. Property taxes are super low because I don’t own the land: $123 a year. Someone else cleans the pools and maintains the common areas. There is a clubhouse with a fitness center and I haven’t taken advantage of it, but there are activities and classes and parties—all stuff that non-introverted people would enjoy. For me, the introvert, I am left alone, as I like it best, to write books, edit books, and contemplate the next story and the next. Until I die, I will write. I am really happy with my life. I wish everyone could be what they want to be. There is nothing like it, to be able to live your dream of building your lifework, day by day, page by page.
If you are thinking of downsizing, just be ready to do it on a shoestring…with lowered expectations, for some who are used to a fancier way to live. And yes, I hope you can edit, too. Or do taxes, or be a virtual assistant. Those are not bad ways to make a living either. If your house and car are paid for, that is a good way to start writing for a living. I can’t see how people do it with a mortgage payment and a car payment. I couldn’t make that work. My needs are pretty simple, though. I use about one tank of gas per month. I told you I was the exciting type.
This humble place that I have grown to love over the last year is where I make my book magic. Sometime this year, it will get a painting, inside and out. Now that the roof leaks are fixed, it’s ready for that project, thanks to my son. My life has been made infinitely more comfortable because he is here fixing things for me, and my daughter and her husband are near, too, and would do anything for me. A friend from Los Angeles gave me a ride back from Mesa so I could leave my car in my driveway and rent a moving truck. My ex even helped me unload my moving truck the day I moved in.
I am truly blessed with how it all came together. I hope to write books until I am dust. I’m planted in the desert. I don’t know if I will ever get back to the beach. My friends have invited me, but I have a life here and I am content. And I worry that maybe it would make me too sad to leave Los Angeles a second time, I’m not sure. My guest room has cots in it for the three grandkids when they visit, and my granddaughter staked the permanent claim to the room with a sign she posted: Kids’ Room.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for reading the books I write. It means everything to me that you love reading about my imaginary worlds.
Please check out my books if you get a chance: http://www.amazon.com/Eve-Paludan/e/B004VXHP6O/
What an amazing look into the nuts and bolts of writing for a living. Thank you.
Thanks, J.M.! =)