Let’s all get mansions in Boulder and be happy

By | July 31, 2017

I’ve been housesitting all over Colorado this summer. Mostly in Denver, not enough time in Boulder, and too much time in Arvada. I like trying on different lives. It helps me envision my ideal life by understanding what brings me joy in each place. How do you know what you’re trying to create for yourself if you don’t know the options?

Boulder

One of the places I house-sat in Boulder was the epitome of creature comforts. A big house two blocks from incredible hiking trails, a car I could use and the best dog anyone has ever had for company.

It’s easy to be happy when this is your scenery in your quest for 10,000 steps.

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Rex and I’s favorite spot on our daily hike.

A light breeze coming in occasionally as a reminder of the Universe’s love, precious Vitamin D, and a dog who can walk mostly off leash as a happy and eager walking buddy. And then you come home to a bright, clean, uncluttered and soothing place. The temperature never goes below 68 degrees and never goes above 75 degrees.  The lights dim automatically when you’ve decided to watch Stranger Things on Netflix (A cross between The X-Files and Goonies? You had me at The X-Files.) Outside, you write on the patio, read in the hammock, snack on the raspberry bushes and end each night in the hot tub staring at the stars in awe, grateful for your place in the universe.

It’s easy to be happy with these creature comforts and living here made me rethink my life a bit. The lure of luxury and easy happiness. Giant houses let you store your stuff without feeling cramped and cluttered. A weekly cleaning service and lawn service gives an undeniable freshness about the place. Cars are heart-wrenchingly convenient. And the view! Could you ever get tired of this view?

Rex knows how to pose.

I always think of myself as a city person, but I can’t deny how nourishing walking in nature is. I always think of myself as a cat person, but Rex has one of the best souls I’ve ever come across.

Luxury. I have enough money to be happy, but I don’t have enough money for this type of easy happiness. Boulder is expensive because there’s not much space. It’s a giant bubble walled in on the west by the mountains and on the east by mandatory open spaces.

It’s a happy bubble though. A very happy bubble.

Arvada

The other end of the spectrum for me was a house-sit in Arvada. Arvada is a suburb between Boulder and Denver. The place was sunny and the cat was affectionately scratchy, licking your armpit for as long as you would let her. There was a small lake nearby that satisfied my daily walks, but the happiness never came easily here.

Billie was a bit of a weirdo.

After having access to a car I could drive in Boulder, I started to understand again why everyone loves this method of transportation so much. They are so freaking convenient. Convenience on steroids. I didn’t have a car during my stint in Arvada and needed public transportation for Operation Enjoy the Crap Out of Denver. It always took well over an hour to see any of the friends I made in Denver or Boulder and the walking portions of my journey relied on rather obnoxious and large roads. The other options were a not-that-cheap Uber/Lyft or getting rides from kind friends. I totally get the appeal of a car in the suburbs. I don’t get the appeal of the suburbs.

During my first three months in Colorado, I went out every single day per the rules of Operation Enjoy save for twelve. Eight of those days came from my few weeks in Arvada. I found it so much easier to give in to the introversion and laziness in the suburbs.

I don’t think I’ve put enough stock in the value of beauty. It is much more pleasant to look out the window and see a garden or a mountain or a lake than a highway and a parking lot.

Denver

And then there was Denver, the city where I spent the majority of my time. A place that nestled into my heart. It’s easy to be happy here too. Easy to bike around. Easy to make friends. You can have chickens in your backyard and gorge on fresh eggs. It’s sunny and laid-back. Snow doesn’t stand a chance and quickly disappears. Nonexistent humidity and few mosquitoes are a lovely perk. It’s an undiscovered gem of a place that everyone is quickly discovering.

Chacha

It’s a big city, so it has everything and there’s always something to do. The place feels vibrant, optimistic and alive. I think it’s the sun. She shines 300 days a year, so I don’t feel the urge to go somewhere else looking for her.

*A happy note about housesitting: every single place I housesat for in Colorado has asked me to come back. The more housesits I do, the more people reach out based on referrals. The more houesits I do, the bigger a fan I become.

34 thoughts on “Let’s all get mansions in Boulder and be happy

  1. Louisa

    The older I get, the less interested I am in living in a car culture. In neither of the towns that my husband and I call home–Eureka, California and Guanajuato, Mexico, do my we drive much. We deliberately choose to live within walking or bicycling distance of shops, library, clinic, etc. it’s great and I love it.

    Reply
    1. Thriftygal Post author

      I used to feel that way. And I think I mostly still do. But, man, cars are easy. Clicking “car” on google maps vs walking or transit or bike is shocking.

      Reply
  2. Brian

    Looks like you have got things figured out for this stage of your life. Are you happy, for the most part?

    Reply
  3. Dan M

    Are all your house sitting connections from referrals and/or people you know? Any negatives on house sitting?

    Reply
    1. Thriftygal Post author

      Initially from the websites I joined and then referrals. I’m sure there are negatives. It gets old having to move around, I’m sure. It’s not as much fun to do short housesits.

      Reply
    1. Thriftygal Post author

      “A dog like Rex” is on my list of things I want when I’m settled down in one place again. 🙂

      Reply
  4. John Goetz

    Your observations on cities versus suburbs are right on point. We recently moved to Denver and live in the Heart of the City. It’s an amazing place to live, I think.

    Reply
  5. Britton

    This post has a lot to think about- especially since I grew up in Boulder. I know exactly the challenges you’re talking about regarding luxury… My parents live in a neighborhood full of (now) million dollar mansions, not because they bought one themselves, but because they moved to Boulder in 1970. My husband (well employed), myself (semi-“retired”, part-time employed, mom) and our two kids cannot even conceive of moving back to Boulder County because we could only afford a loft apartment, and only if we won the bidding war that’s likely to occur in the current market. Or we could move to the far suburbs and commute every day. With both of us working and the kids in after-school and summer care so we could afford suburban living and multiple vehicles. But, I can access trails from my parents house, and they’re close to busses, can get to airports easily, and can access wads of culture and consumer opportunities (restaurants! which are in short supply where I live) by jumping in the car and driving anywhere they need to. The appeal is there, and the attendant luxury makes it tempting. In my opinion, choosing to live lightly as you do does not coordinate with how Boulder works. It operates on money. It’s fun to visit and fantasize about but is untenable for the rest of us.

    Reply
      1. Britton

        I did realize my bitterness about how much Boulder has changed since I was growing up there in the 80s may have come through a bit in the above comment… And, Mr Money Mustache lives in Boulder County and looooooooves it (my husband and I lived in Longmont, too, but before we were awakened to ER and FI so we didn’t see the joys and benefits in quite the same way as MMM does now… and we both commuted away from town-in opposite directions!- because that’s where our jobs were at the time- ah! to have changed so much in the ensuing 15 years!) And, guilty confession- when I visited my parents in June, I did tell my husband that for the first time I could imagine actually relocating back to Boulder. Of course, we’d have to move into my parents’ rental townhouse, for which the rent is twice our current mortgage payment for less than 1/2 our current square footage… Sigh. The progressive atmosphere and open space (as long as you live near it) in Boulder is quite enviable! Thanks for all your insight and blog posts. I always enjoy them in my inbox!

        Reply
        1. Thriftygal Post author

          Ah, thanks. And I didn’t sense any bitterness. I’ve only been to Longmont once super super briefly (met MMM at The Roost for a drink with our mutual friend Z) and didn’t really see the appeal. It felt very suburban. I’m not surprised that the rent in Boulder would double your price and halve your space. If I were forced to choose, I’d choose Denver over Boulder.

          Reply
  6. Andrew

    I love all your posts about finding happiness, especially the fact that you are honest about things. I go back and forth all the time about living frugally versus living easy and spending freely. For the most part I’m very happy living frugally but I sometimes tie myself in knots trying to get around without using the car. You are correct that they are super convenient.

    Reply
    1. Thriftygal Post author

      I haven’t had a car in years, so it hasn’t been a consideration in my planning. I’m a little bit worse off psychologically with the re-realization of their convenience. I know what I’m missing!

      Reply
  7. Humpback

    There is a method of transportation between cars and walking. Two wheels … Fun and fast … Used to be all pedal power, but now you can get electric …

    Reply
    1. Thriftygal Post author

      I do love biking as well, but there is certainly more planning required than a car. And it takes a bit longer. I’m a bit ashamed by how much I used the car when I had access to it as opposed to the bike that I also had access to. :-/

      Reply
  8. Don

    I will be interesting to see how you view these Rocky Mountain communities in the other seasons of the year, Autumn rain and snow, Winter snow and Spring mud. It’s hard not to like Summer in the Alpine zone. I am sure you will be off in the tropics by then. Your endless vacation suits you well. I don’t see chef school or serious editing of your writing and book ideas anytime. I can’t wait to see the man that takes an interest in the focus of your life. He would be a study. Keep us posted with the latest voyages.

    Reply
    1. Thriftygal Post author

      The serious editing of my book is done. It’s so close to being ready for release.

      I also can’t wait to see the man that takes my focus. Hurry up, dude!

      Reply
      1. Lance

        I’m right here! I live in Denver so if you’re ever in town again let’s get a drink somewhere!

        Reply
  9. Jerri

    I used to house when I was younger and single. It’s an almost perfect gig. I got so booked I wondered if I could give up my apartment!

    Reply
    1. Thriftygal Post author

      I’ve been to Austin a couple of times and no, no plans to come back anytime soon. I’ll reach out if that changes! I think you may already be on my list of people and places though. 🙂

      Reply
  10. Laszlo

    I’ve always wondered what opulence is like, and your description of Boulder — happy bubble — seems to hit the mark. I like how you qualify ‘happy’ in this blog post, for instance, with the utility of the motor car. One of the great security gurus of our time, Bruce Schneier used as an example for the concept of externalities that when the car was invented no one foresaw that it would result in the proliferation of suburbs. I think writing about the suburban experience, via-a-vis economic theory, and making it in Chicago could good topic for you.

    Reply

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