seattle to chicago to seattle: finding a home for good

Last summer, I asked for advice on switching a living room with a dining room in a house I was renting in Chicago. I got some great responses, and I hope the people who now live in that house have taken that advice to heart, because just a few months after that post, my husband and I did something that shocked us (and quite a few of our friends, family members, and coworkers) but also made complete sense: I left my job, we packed everything up, and for the second time in six months, we moved cross-country. This time, we reversed the trip, moving back into the Seattle home we’d been unable to sell, and in the process finding home for good. It was a long, painful, and quite expensive (sigh) lesson. And here’s what we learned:

1) Listen to your gut. After we moved to Seattle from Ohio in late 2006, my husband and I had our issues with not being near family and longtime friends, not to mention the fact that it literally rained every single day the first month we were in town. But thanks to easy access to both fresh and salt water, mountains, and incredible forests (even within city limits), we said over and over, “I feel like we were meant to live here.” That’s something I should have carefully considered before I took a job in the Midwest again.

2) Don’t be afraid to change course. We are very, very lucky, and I know this. When we decided to leave Chicago, not only were my bosses incredibly understanding (One told me, “You have to be where it feeds your soul”), my husband was able to get his old job back in Seattle. But it was still a leap of faith. I didn’t have a job anymore (my department had been phased out in Seattle while I was away). We risked being viewed as incredible flakes for leaving in six months. But we ultimately decided that our mental health was worth whatever uncertainties we might face.

3) Know your costs of living — really, really know them. My move to Chicago came with a promotion, but even so, we ended up spending far more money than we were bringing in. It turned out to be very difficult to find a place to rent that would take two large dogs and include a yard, so we ended up spending $800 more a month than originally planned. Our Seattle house wasn’t feasible to rent out (we did our reseplace) but it also wasn’t selling. Of course, that eventually turned out to be a good thing, but it meant we spent six months paying both hefty rent and a hefty mortgage. On top of it all, my husband works in a very specialized field, so months of job seplaceing turned up nothing. It added up to a financial and emotional drain for which we hadn’t adequately prepared.

4) Distance is relative. We love and miss our families dearly (the bulk of whom live within about six hours of Chicago). However, it turned out that distance was, in fact, very relative. Weekends home ended up being exhausting, hours-long slogs across Indiana. We were living just far enough away that we were unable to convince anyone to make the drive to visit us — that may have happened eventually, but the point is, we were living closer to family, but we still weren’t really living near family.

5) Be realistic about what you want out of life. The Pacific Northwest isn’t for everyone. Summers are brilliantly sunny, but the gray season can last from November through May. But for us, proximity to incredible spots for hiking, whale-watching, and camping tips the balance, and we really can’t imagine being happier living anywhere else.

Chicago is a fantastic city — the downtown is just stunningly gorgeous. There is an endless supply of clubs, restaurants, incredible stores. A vibrant lakefront teems with people on summer weekends. All of which I adored during the many weekends I spent in Chicago in my 20s. These days, though, my husband and I like nothing better than to call it a night at 9 p.m., and we much prefer a solitary walk along a rocky shore on Vashon Island than living it up with a crowd covered in sunscreen. All of which to say: I am not knocking the city of Chicago; lots of folks just absolutely love it. But the truth was, we’d already found what was for us the perfect home. Seattle. It just took us two cross-country moves in six months to figure that out.


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would you try it? recycled denim insulation

We’ve been thinking about upping the insulation in our nearly 100-year old house. It’s not as drafty as you imagine, but in recent days if you mistakenly touch one of front bedroom walls, or step barefoot too close to the edge of the floor, you’re in for a shock. Burrrr. That baby is cold.

We hear a lot about spray foam insulation, and indeed have used it in our attic, but what about this? Recycled denim insulation! We heard about it via Uncrate and it has us investigating. Our green-focused neighbors recently had an energy audit done on their house. Would you get extra points for using recycled denim in your walls? Supposedly it features a natural fire retardant that also helps prevent mold and mildew. Called UltraTouch, it claims to be easy to use and install — no dangerous fibers here! It almost sounds sexy. I wonder if we could donate the skinny the jeans that no longer fit? For more information, visit Bonded Logic, and tell us: Would use recycled denim insulation in your house?

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ready for take off: mod new air enhancers

Here at Shelterrific, we’re always on the lookout for beautiful design solutions to traditionally ugly things, like humidifiers or water filters. When we spotted this futuristic air purifier at Designer Pages, we immediately fell in love. Made by AirMineral, this ingenious little device is called The Island, and it distributes a “a natural marine bio spray.” No, that’s not a fishy smell that gets squirted into your home, but rather a “mineral serum” that contains micro particles that help your body retain moisture and fight off toxins, reinforcing your whole immune system. We haven’t tested it so we can say whether that’s true or not, but anything looks this good and helps you breath smarter, cleaner air can’t be a bad thing, right? So new it’s not yet for sale online, but you can read more information about it at

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post off: what’s your new year’s home resolution? here are my five

So it’s January 7th yet and I haven’t really thought about resolutions yet. I thought I would use this post to carve out a few things that we have been talking about doing to our home this year. It’s so easy to forget all the things you casually toss off at dinner “We really should get a generator this year” or “What about in-wall insulation?” that having a starting list would really help.

Here are a few things that I would like to accomplish in our little dwelling in 2013.

1. Find a new way to display our kid’s artwork. As Isadora gets older, her masterpieces are becoming, well, more masterful! Right now we display the best of the best in her room, but there’s a bit too much in the mix there — what with photos of friends, local artwork and a rotating selection of posters on her closet door. (Yes, it’s starting already! Luckily we’re in the Magic Tree House phase and not a Justin Bieber one yet.) I like this wall that I spotted on It has a mix of frames, canvases and cut-outs.

2. Make our attic a fun place to hang out. We finished our attic off when we moved in two years ago and honestly we haven’t done much to it since then. It holds our old couch, a cast-off rug and bare white walls. Isadora loves playing up there even though it’s colorless, and it’d be great to start moving some of her toys upstairs.

3. Organize our kitchen. Our place usually looks pretty tidy — until you open a cabinet. Pots and pans are stacked haphazardly and the pantry is worse. We keep buying foods we don’t need because they’re buried. We’re wasting time and money and it’s got to stop!

4. Make our backyard livable for the dog and us. Last year we spent a lot of energy (and money) planting pretty things around the border of our yard. Then we got a dog. Now we have a bunch of mud holes where there used to be plants and the grass is a spotty, clover field mess. How to fix? I don’t know — rocks? But we gotta figure something out.

5. Be ready for the next Sandy. This one is probably at the top of the list. We had a real wake-up call in October when the storm hit our area. We were insanely lucky to not have any property damage to our house, but we realized how little supplies we had to live without power for a few days. We are stocking up on water, firewood, non-perishables and more. We have hired an electrician to help us get set up for a generator, and must get that done before July. That’s our goal.

I could go on, but I don’t want to over-commit and then feel guilty that I wasn’t able to keep my resolutions.

What about you? Do you have any New Year’s Resolutions for your home? Please share!

From our partners

hobbit houses: taking design tips from bilbo baggins

One of the many movies on our holiday watch list is Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit. We confess to being complete LOR junkies, and read the Tolkein novel until it was dogeared in our youths. Our dreams have been fueled by these images that we spotted over at Houzz, featuring Hobbit-like houses that bring the charm of the Shire to modern life. Architect Simon Dale constructed this home not as a tribute to Bilbo but more to enjoy a low impact way of life. A plastic sheet waterproofs the roof’s insulating layer of straw bales. Click through to Houzz to see more images of Hobbit-like houses.

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