- Channing Muller, 38, purchased a three-bedroom home in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in 2019.
- As she became disenchanted with life in Chattanooga, she started to prioritize homeownership less.
- Now she rents a two-bedroom apartment in Chicago and feels freer not having to upkeep a house alone.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Channing Muller, 38, who decided to sell her home in Tennessee and move into a smaller apartment in Chicago. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
In 2017, I moved from Washington, DC to Chattanooga, Tennessee. I had just gone through a bad breakup, and I thought the city would be the perfect change for me.
In 2019, I purchased a 1,765-square-foot, three-bedroom home for $275,000. My monthly mortgage was about $1,500. I wanted to slow down the pace of life and become more family oriented. But I eventually got to a point where I felt like I was outgrowing the city, and the things I wanted in life started to shift.
In October 2022, I flew to Chicago to run a marathon. I got to see so much of the city, I thought it was amazing. When I returned to Tennessee, my patience just kind of hit the roof — I knew I had to figure something else out.
I wanted to live in a more liberal state and in a bigger city. Chicago checked my boxes. It has all the things you want in a metropolitan city — activities and culture — but it’s more approachable than a place like New York.
In March 2023, I booked an Airbnb, packed up my dogs and cat, and drove to Chicago to test out the city for a month. At the end of the month, I flew back to Tennessee and listed my home for sale. I put a lot of my furniture into storage and donated other items.
I now live in a two-bedroom apartment in Chicago. My rent is $2,050 a month. Quite frankly, I love the idea of giving up responsibility. All I have to worry about are my pets, keeping my business running, and training for more marathons.
I realized I don’t need a big home or a lot of things to be happy
The reduced responsibility was a huge aspect of me wanting to become a renter again versus being a homeowner.
I realized that having more material possessions is not always a good thing. When I left Tennessee, I cleared out so much stuff from my home. I totally took the Marie Kondo approach — will any of this stuff really bring me joy? Am I going to want this in five years? No.
I knew that in Chicago, I didn’t want to buy a condo or a home. I just didn’t want the commitment. When it came to choosing an apartment, the only requirement I had was that it had two bedrooms because I run my business from my home. It also had to have enough space for my two big dogs.
I live in a 1,200-square-foot unit. My living room is really cozy and my bedroom is very comfortable. Once I learned how to arrange things appropriately, it made it feel very homey, even if it is smaller. As it turns out, I don’t need a ton of space. I need the right space and storage.
The building I chose is a walk up. I don’t mind taking three flights of stairs, and I also don’t mind that the laundry is shared in the basement. While those might be deal breakers for other people, it’s not for me.
Returning to renting has given me more peace
In Chattanooga, I thought I would be growing into that home, and it turns out I actually grew out of that.
Being a homeowner is a lot of work. You have to take care of the garden, be aware of the plumbing and pest control. After doing all of that on my own for so long, I just got really tired.
To me, the big benefit of being a renter is not having so much responsibility. I get to just pick up the phone and call somebody if something has gone wrong. I really get to focus on my business, making new friends, and training.
The shift in housing size has had an effect on the dogs and it’s affected my lifestyle. In Tennessee, I had a fence built around my backyard and no matter what the weather was like, I could open up my back door and they could go outside. Now I have to walk downstairs and take them out.
An additional transition I noticed with downsizing is that I used to entertain a lot and have big dinner parties. Now I can have one or two friends over in my living room. I won’t be doing dinner parties for a little while. It’s a shift I think I will miss, especially as the holidays start to roll around.
I think I will eventually become a homeowner again. I am a very big proponent of focusing on long-term wealth and long-term investments. I’ve owned a condo in Washington, DC, I’ve owned a three-bedroom house in Chattanooga, and each one of those was an absolutely wonderful investment.
I’m just not ready for it right now — but that could change.