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For several years now, I’ve been passionate about finding a way to spend more time at the beach. About five years ago, when that desire combined with a midlife need to have a place to which I could get away, I set about finding a way to do both.

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So it was that in October of 2011, we bought a tiny cottage — little more than a bungalow, really — in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina. At only 850 square feet, it was nowhere near as big as some apartments I’ve lived in. It had two bedrooms, one bathroom, no dining room. But it did have a deck and it was on “stilts,” surrounded by live oak trees. My daughter-in-law said it was sort of like a tree-house.

It was something of a “unique fixer-upper opportunity,” to borrow a term from Ghostbusters. No carpet. No refrigerator. The previous owner (who also happened to be our real estate agent) had swapped out the range for a crappy one and though there was a dishwasher, it was not hooked up and was located on the lower level of the house (which had been closed in and intended to be finished off as additional living space but never was).

So, the first order of business was to purchase carpeting and buy a refrigerator. We also purchased a bed. The bathroom needed painting and the kitchen sink fixtures needed replacing. We brought down some extra furniture from our primary residence and even managed to get the second bedroom set up as an office/guest room.

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The house was less than a mile from the beach and only about 300 yards from the bay. I was thrilled to have a weekend getaway place and I enjoyed the times when I was there alone.  Eventually I adopted a kitty named Bosley from a local shelter to keep me company.

We retreated to our beach house as often as we could. Since for many years I have worked 7 days a week, I was often toiling away. But I was at the beach!

I loved everything about it. I even enjoyed shopping at the Food Lion (only a half-mile away) that I had often complained about on our many vacations there. I would drive to public access areas and walk on the beach. It was a special treat to be there during the holidays and see the resort area lit up for Christmas.

Never one to be a “happy homemaker” — I am quite domestically challenged — I didn’t even mind doing the chores at my beach house, happily hand-washing dishes and taking out the trash, even cleaning the cat box (a chore I had permanently passed off to my husband when I was pregnant in 1985). The house was so small that I could plug in the vacuum cleaner in the hallway and vacuum the entire house.

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Alas, after about a year, we found that the bills were piling up and we simply couldn’t afford it anymore. Paying for electricity, water, and cable service at two homes began to add up, and between some needed dental work and our son’s upcoming wedding, we could no longer justify the expense. Add to that our consultations with half-a-dozen contractors about what it would take to complete the work on the lower level, and we decided it was time to move on.

So, as much as I loved my little beach house, once we’d made the decision to sell, I let it go and focused on the next adventure. We sold the house to a young couple just starting out, and I considered it a privilege to be able to help them cover the closing costs and take the next step in building their life together.

But ever since we turned over the keys, I have been on the hunt for the next home by the sea. I have dreams about it, I pore over real estate listings, and it’s never far from my thoughts. We know much better now how we need to prepare for the responsibility of handling two homes. It will happen soon!

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