We’re in the market for a new house. Well, it doesn’t actually have to be new, just new to us. Our current house isn’t tiny, but our kids keep getting bigger, and our house does not.

Right now, we have something called a “starter house”.

Right now, we have something called a “starter house”. No one dies in a starter house (Thank God). A starter house is a small home with just enough bedrooms for all of the major genders, that a young couple buys when they need to get out of their one-bedroom apartment so they can stop putting guests on the living-room floor.

Sure, there are a lot of good things about our house. For example, there’s an outlet in the fireplace, which means that if we ever have to plug in a vacuum cleaner or something, there’s always a free outlet, if we’re willing to crawl in. Also, we get nice cross ventilation, even with the doors closed. And yes, several members of hatzolah already know where it is.

On top of that, we’re also close with our neighbors. Really close. The very first night that we slept in the house, we had the windows open, and we were woken up early in the morning by the sounds of our next-door neighbor washing her dishes, only we didn’t know that’s what it was, and we were lying there in a panic, thinking, “Who’s in our kitchen?” Our contractor still had our house key, so we were wondering if it was him, and why he’d be doing dishes.

So we’re looking for a house, the plan being that we’re going to sell our old house to pay for the new house, although God only knows where we’re going to live in between. We hope it all goes down on the same day.

And here’s something we learned so far: It turns out that a bigger house is going to cost more money than we can get for our little house. Maybe we should have thought of this back when we bought such a little house in the first place. We were just happy to get it because it was bigger than our apartment, which was two rooms, only one of which was a bedroom. The other room was our kitchen / living room / dining room / foyer / pantry / basement / family room / study / library / playroom / home office / multi-purpose / guest room. That room also had the one window, so in the bedroom, it was always night, which was not very helpful in waking up for work, although it was great for getting the kids to sleep. And yes, we had two kids in there. It was very cozy. And by cozy, I mean that you had to say “excuse me” a lot. The centerpiece of the apartment, left over from the previous tenants (and I’m pretty sure the people before them), was our bookshelf / toy closet / entertainment center / breakfront / supply cabinet, which had glass shelves that we broke on our very first day when I put my large-print Talmud on them. By the time we moved out, the apartment was so densely packed that when we finished unpacking in our current house (this took about a year), we found that the house was full. The stuff from our two-room apartment had filled up the entire house.

So we’ve been looking for houses. We made a list of what we want, we got an agent, and occasionally my wife asks her to show us a specific house. My wife is in charge of this project, because she has more things that she’s looking for, and also I think she’s afraid that I’m purposely going to buy a house that has things wrong with it, just so I can write about them.

The truth is, everyone makes a list of what they want. But in general, most people’s lists are really based on what they do and don’t have now. Our agent looks at it and says, “Who puts ‘coat closet’ on a list?”

We do. We’re sick of people seeing our coats. And we’d like to have somewhere to put a vacuum cleaner on the ground floor, considering that’s where our kids do most of their spilling. That we know of.

But the things that you have, you don’t think to ask for. For all we know, we’re going to end up moving into a house without bathrooms, or with no indoor kitchen, and when we ask, our agent will say, “Well, you didn’t mention it.”

(By the way, if you think there are no houses like that, you don’t know Passaic, New Jersey.)

The things you don’t have are what you ask for. When we were moving out of our apartment, our list said things like, “Living room, dining room, kitchen, office, guest room, and playroom should not all be the same room”, and “Entrance in front,” and “More than one bedroom,” and “Don’t have to cut through bedroom to get to the bathroom,” and “Windows in bedroom,” and “No upstairs neighbor with twin infants that loving paying with their twin Bumble Balls (which is a toy where you turn it on, and the people who live below you think the house is falling down).”

We’re taking our time. We know this house and its problems, and we don’t want to move into another house with a whole new set of problems right after we get out of this one. I’ve learned all the tricks of our current house, such as how to tell whether my kids’ bedroom light is on after their bedtimes based on the shadow arrangement at the top of the stairs, in case for some reason I’ve gone deaf and can’t tell because of the stomping and shrieking. I’ve learned that I can’t keep the bath mat flat AND get the bathroom door open, and that it’s easier to slam a door when the windows are open. I know that the light for the upstairs stairs works when either switched is flipped, but the one for the basement stairs works only when both are flipped. And I almost never bump my head on the way down to the basement anymore, unless I’m carrying something big and heavy.

But we can say we’re looking. You can ask us, “Why do you want the next house to be perfect?” It doesn’t have to be, but it’s a house. We don’t want to move, spend a year unpacking our stuff, and then realize that the house is not really better than what we have. It’s not like buying a pair of pants, where you can return it.

“Yeah, all my stuff doesn’t fit in the pockets.”

“Oh. Well, what was wrong with your old pants?”

“Too many windows.”