Life Update! Our latest Rental Reno for Passive Income

Hello, everyone!

It’s been over two months since I’ve even logged into my blog…crazy! But sometimes, when you’re juggling too many balls in the air, you have to decide which ones you need to let fall to the ground. And now it’s finally a time where I can pick them back up and begin a more balanced juggle.

I thought I’d update you on what’s been going on this winter, because it was a biggie! You may be following me for minimalism tips, but I also want this blog to have a strong focus on our journey towards financial independence as well and this project was definitely a part of this strategic plan.

In the heat of the holiday PR for my book, “Have Yourself a Minimalist Christmas,” we closed on an adorable-but-plain 1940s cottage on November 20. I picked up the keys from the title company, drove straight to Home Depot to load up on several gallons of white paint, headed immediately to the cottage, unlocked it and started painting. Within an hour of receiving the keys, I was in there painting. There was no time to lose!! I remember listening in to one of my first podcast interviews finally air while I put the first coat of paint on (and squirming because it’s so awkward to hear myself talk!).

Except for 4 days around Christmas, I continued to show up EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. from that point on. On the 72nd day, the cottage was ready for her photoshoot. And a few days after that, the first guests checked in! She’s up-and-running as an adorable vacation rental… and she’s kind of like an adult-sized doll house.

I wanted to share with you the Before-and-After photos and show you the results of all of our hard work over these past couple of months. My husband, Jeremy, and I work amazingly well as a renovation-team. We’d give Chip and Joanna Gaines a run for their money 😉 Speaking of money, we used most of ours to buy this cottage, so we were doing this reno on a very, very tight budget. While the changes may look drastic, the majority of it was ‘resurfacing’–paint, epoxy and other aesthetic changes. My husband is multi-talented and very skilled. He majored in engineering and is an auto mechanic with great electrical, plumbing and woodworking skills. So basically, anything I dreamed up, he could make happen for me.

Our biggest projects were to enclose the walkway from the kitchen to the garage and turn it into a screened-in porch. Jeremy had to replumb and rewire certain portions of the cottage. We had concrete poured and added a circular patio around a firepit in the backyard and a square deck for outdoor dining in the front yard. We replaced the yucky sliding doors with beautiful antique double French Doors that swing outward. We built a privacy fence on two sides of the house to make everything feel, well, private. We added a peninsula/island to the kitchen so it could house a dishwasher and add additional counter space and storage space. We converted the closet in the living room into a built-in TV center. And by “we,” I mean that I dreamed up what things should look like and Jeremy made them a reality. 😉 My main job was paint-paint-paint-paint and more paint. (Including painting all the bathroom tile with white epoxy…intense!)

And did I mention we did all of this with a 2- and 4-year old under our feet the entire time??

It was HARD. I won’t sugar coat it. This was a really hard feat and I felt like I was going to have a mental breakdown towards the end of it. Physically & mentally beat.

Why did we do this, you ask? Because we have been hard at work for six years to create enough passive income to achieve “FIRE” (Financial Independence, Retire Early). I’m writing a book about it and I’m excited to pick that project back up very soon. I’m also starting a podcast (called “Journey to Freedom”) that will explore this and minimalism as well. But in short, we first got completely debt-free and turned our first home into a long-term rental and got our first taste of passive income. Then we save, save, saved and got a beach condo, named “The Wave Home.” We renovated it and turned it into a short-term vacation rental, because the ROI is much higher on those than a long-term rental. Seeing how fantastically that did, we decided to do one more–this time was the cottage. In the meantime, we’ve diversified our portfolio into stocks as well and will further diversify with cryptocurrency.

The overarching picture is to create enough passive income and financial growth that we won’t have to work. Our personalities are the type that we know we always will work–so “retirement” will not be the image of sitting by the poolside with a cocktail or hugging the remote in a La-Z-Boy recliner. But what is exciting to us is the future ability to do work that excites us. To work for ourselves or to work for others if we feel so inclined. We won’t need the money, but any money we make will be like bonus points. Even though we are not technically financially independent at this very moment, we can already feel the weight lifted off of us because we are increasingly less dependent on a traditional paycheck. Currently, we absolutely need my husband’s job to help pay for this renovation and to continue saving so that we can hit our next financial goal (**so if you are from Jeremy’s work and you are reading this: No, he is not quitting. Yes, we need the money.**). But what I’m trying to say is that we have felt the freedom of not being deeply in debt and we have felt the freedom of no longer being paycheck-to-paycheck and can sense the freedom that will come when a paycheck is no longer an absolute necessity. And that is the goal–to lift that ten-ton weight off our shoulders so we can experience more autonomy and freedom in our lives. We’d love to be experiencing the world in our 40s and not having to wait till our 60s or 70s to finally catch a break. (I’m 33 now, if you’re wondering).

It’s taboo to talk about money. It’s even more taboo to talk about one day leaving a job when you currently need the job. It’s scary and awkward. I’m slowly becoming more comfortable with it and, eventually, I will “bare all” in a book and tell you exactly what this looked like financially and emotionally.

I wanted to write this post to give you a glimpse of where we are in this process and how me going silent for over two months was for a very big reason. This was a big step in our overarching strategy! And I’m very proud of us. We tackled a monster of a project and we can already seeing it *literally* pay off. We are no longer debt-free because of rental mortgages, but this is the “good debt” that any real estate investor that learns about leveraging would understand. We continue to stay out of retail/auto/school loan/credit card/consumer debt.

If you have questions, I would LOVE to hear them! I really do plan to shift my content increasingly more towards financial independence as we continue on this journey and I want to explore this in my new podcast. So if you have questions, please send them my way!

Oh! And minimalism? Minimalism certainly helped with this project because I would have been BURIED with household work if I hadn’t already significantly cut down on our items. I already felt buried with laundry and dishes as it was (you have to understand that these mud-loving kiddos have been practically living in three different houses this entire time…so I’ve been cleaning three households!). I can’t imagine being able to do this with the amount of crapola we owned a few years ago. It still feels like we own too much.

Also, we started accumulating items to furnish and decorate the cottage. There were a lot of items given to us by family and friends and even more that we found on the side of the road. After the cottage renovation was done, I had to declutter and let go of all of the excess we had picked up. I quickly noticed my old hoarding tendencies bubbling up (“But I could just put a coat of paint on this and then sell it on Marketplace…” “But this is still new and totally useable…” “But what if I need this someday…” “But what if we end up getting another rental…” etc. etc. etc.) I had to nip that in the bud and just set it on the curbside. These things accumulate and they do so quickly. (True story: I watched some episodes of “Hoarders” to help me let go of it all.)

So it all goes hand-in-hand, my friends. Minimalism, frugality, saving and investing, and eventually financial independence.

I hope you found this interesting, inspiring or informative! Drop me a comment to let me know your thoughts & questions! 🙂

Want to see more pics or interested in booking the cottage? Here is the AirBnB listing! The cottage is walking distance to historic downtown, the Lighthouse, the inlet, the Alligator Farm and the State Park!

Photos were taken by my friend Mary Bellavista with Bellavista Photography.

You can see more photos of the renovation on the cottage’s Insta: @inlet_cottage and on my personal Insta @megnordmann