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10 to Twins

By Jessica T

About this blog: I'm a late thirties mother of a ten-year-old and infant twins. My family moved to Menlo Park 6 years ago from Virginia - where I grew up, went to college, got married, had my first born, and got an MBA (in that order). I'm a manag...  (More)

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Wait! Wait! Don't renovate!

Uploaded: Feb 5, 2014
When we starting telling friends and family we were pregnant with the twins, in addition to getting recommendations for night nurses, we also got a plethora of housing questions:

"Were we moving?"

"Would we buy a larger house?"

"Were we renovating and adding on?"

A realtor even told a friend that yes, without any doubt, we would be in the market for a bigger house.

"No," we told inquiring minds. We were doing none of the above. You see, we call ourselves lucky (immensely lucky) to own a house in this real estate market. We bought our home when the market declined precipitously in fall 2009. Acquaintances tell us we timed an amazing investment. The truth was, it was the only house and the only moment in time when we could afford to buy.

I still remember the open house, swarming with anxious couples. They stood in the backyard and whispered about the home's proximity to the train and its uncertain future thanks to high speed rail. That didn't scare us. I loved hearing the train go by at night when I was a child. My husband's father dedicated his professional life to public transportation in California. And we would be the first to regularly travel south on a train to LA. Other prospective buyers stalked the lawn discussing where a second bathroom could be added.

Modest though it was, we bought our house because we loved it. It was not an investment. It was a home - a place for our family to live and love. Though the previous owners handed over architectural plans for a two-story renovation, they also left a lovable cat and conducted a new-age ceremony to "attract the right owners." My husband thinks I'm crazy, but I cherished a fertility talisman I found in the linen closet and hoped for years that the abundant children our home had sheltered before would be a harbinger of our own future. (And, gentle readers, it was!)

You see, our house is a small, 3 bedroom, 1 bath home that housed up to four children and 2 adults in a previous era. It could certainly accommodate our growing family. But there's another even more compelling reason for keeping our home modest..

Everyone is familiar with nightmare stories about renovations - unreliable contractors, inordinate delays, ballooning costs, and the discomforts and indignities of living in a construction zone. If the kids move out and the nest is empty, the house becomes a vacant shell of abundant beds and baths that continue to require cleaning even when they aren't in use. Thus, many older couples, having survived a renovation, are forced to downsize.

But what about the story my hairdresser recently told me? She has young twenty-something clients who have explained shamelessly that they'd prefer to live with their parents in Portola Valley where they have a master suite and pool than to move to San Francisco to live on their own in a (gasp!) small crummy apartment.

As my daughter and I struggle to share the mirror over the sink in our only bathroom when we are getting ready in the morning, I remind her why she needs to get used to it. (Her primping in teen age and mine in middle age are likely to get worse before they get better.) "This experience, will give you a great reason to move out when you are eighteen!" I declare.
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Posted by Mother of 4, a resident of Palo Verde School,
on Feb 5, 2014 at 9:54 pm

Love your story and wish you all the best. You may not feel the same when the twins are older, but you may be in a different position then in other ways.

I say stay where you and enjoy the benefits of close confinement. It will teach your children more lessons as they have to cooperate on using the bathroom, keeping their belongings in their own space and working out when they can each invite friends over. I suspect that they will be closer as adults from living so close as children. I read somewhere once that siblings that share a room end up as closer siblings when they have left home.

Just make sure that even if they share a room, they have their own space to call their own, their own box under the bed or empty drawer to keep keepsakes. A den in the backyard, shed, or garage space is a good idea for when they just need to have some space to think on their own (or for you to do likewise). Not sure if your twins are both the same gender, but make sure that they have their own clothes kept apart helps them to keep their identities. I find that a color code for towels in a bathroom rather than matching the décor works well so that everyone knows their own towel by the color and you can also put a few stitches of the same colored thread in things like underwear, socks, similar t shirts and jeans help in the separation of possessions and clothes.

Posted by Martin, a resident of Downtown North,
on Feb 6, 2014 at 9:07 am

Truly appreciate your perspective. Growing up as a family of 9, in a small midwestern farm house, I appreciate the efficiency and utilization of space. It also forces a sense of community/family, and not just a group of individuals.

Posted by peninsula resident, a resident of Menlo-Atherton High School,
on Feb 6, 2014 at 9:35 pm

My wife and I also bought a house in 2011 not far from Caltrain, and love the easy access to public transportation to dining, giants, the City and shark games. It's an asset, not a liability.

That said, we do want to expand our home. While I think a lot of people get more home than they need, I will say most older homes (esp. pre-wwII, like ours) are drastically short on storage space (closets, etc) and need expansion to meet modern needs. But we won't be adding bedrooms, bonus rooms, etc.

By the way, if you have any expectations about riding HSR to SoCal, you might want to lower them a bit since that's very unlikely to happen, at least with Prop 1a (which I consider a good thing).

Posted by palo alto parent, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis,
on Feb 8, 2014 at 10:35 am

Jessica - while I totally agree that you don\\\'t need to add space that you don\\\'t need, adding a bathroom or even a 1/2 bath would add way more value to your home than it would cost you to build. The biggest jump in home value is from a 1 bath home to more than one bath. You will also really appreciate it when you have two potty-training toddlers and a teenage daughter! Renovations don\\\'t have to be a disaster, we\\\'ve done many and if you choose your contractors well, they can actually be fun.

Posted by pippy2, a resident of Downtown North,
on Feb 8, 2014 at 6:28 pm

We were visiting a family friend that had just built and moved into a grand house w 4 or 5 bathrooms. My teenage
son exclaimed "we only have one, and it is not a problem at all". We are on top of each other, but for us it seems

Posted by Aileen, a resident of Cuesta Park,
on Feb 10, 2014 at 2:50 pm

Touche, Jessica!
I grew up in a 3 bedroom, 2 bath home with my parents and 4 of my 6 siblings. I won\\\'t say that it was palatial, but it was home, and I don\\\'t recall ever feeling like I \\\'needed\\\' anything bigger. Sure, it would have been nice to have some extra living space, but that was very much a want, not a need. I moved up to bigger, and then even bigger things, and finally realized that it\\\'s all just more to clean. I am an active Realtor in this area, and I\\\'m often surprised at just how much space people seem to \\\'need\\\'. We still live in a fairly modest 3/2, and I have no desire whatsoever to \\\'move up\\\'. Kudos to you to keeping your environmental footprint small :)

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