How our family ended up living in my in-laws garage & why I highly recommend it

How our family ended up living in my in-laws garage & why I highly recommend it

My wife has been married to three men in seven years and yet she has never been divorced.

She married a young go-getter.  A young man who was in a hurry to get things done and get ahead.  He graduated from college in Indiana when he was 21 and moved to California the next day.  He loved his job, he was successful, he made a lot of money, and he spent a whole lot of money.

She then married a hip, young entrepreneur.  Her first husband wore business suits.  Her new husband wore designer jeans and trendy shirts.  He had big, audacious dreams.  He was ready to put it all on the line, and he did.

She then married a family man with a propensity to be a ski bum.  Her third husband is home most days with the kids.  Board shorts and t-shirts are his attire.  He has nicer clothes which he puts on when he has a meeting or has to go on a business trip.  His work is pieced together.  He has clients to serve but he’s not really tied down.  He loves to travel.  But not business trips.  He loves family travel.

I am of course all three men.  In seven years.


Monica and Husband Number 1

Monica and Husband Number 1


Occasionally people say something to me like, “Your wife must really love you with the roller coaster you’ve put her through.”

The people who say things like that mean well.  But I always feel bad.  Not for me.  I feel bad for my wife.  And maybe not for the reason you’re thinking.

I feel bad because I feel like they’re short-changing Monica.

Monica is as crazy as I am.  She’s just as much the adventurer as I am.

I’m not dragging her along on this crazy ride.

We’re in it together.

So how did our family end up living in my in-laws garage?

There’s a moment in our relationship that I will never forget.  Not as long as I live.  We’re sitting at home talking about what I’m about to do the next day.  The next day I’m meeting with my boss and telling him I’m quitting.

I say, “Should I do it?”

She says, “What do you mean?”

I say, “I mean, what if I can’t make the money we need?”

She says, “If it’s the money, quit.”

Did I mention at the time we had a 2-month-old baby?

Exit Husband Number 1.

Enter Husband Number 2.


Dad and son

Husband Number 2 with his boy


I won’t go into all the details here.  Maybe another day.  I’ll tell you the story if we ever end up around a campfire together.

I was putting together a deal to buy an existing business in our home of Santa Barbara.  I had a big vision for this place.  I worked on the deal for months and just when we were about to have a deal… in the 11th hour…. it went to another buyer.

The transition from Husband Number 2 to Husband Number 3 is more subtle.

In those months I was working on the deal in Santa Barbara we had burnt through all of our savings.  I’d built a good reputation though in my field and was able to piece together some consulting work.

As a consultant, I was not tied to any one location.  I occasionally had to jump on a plane or drive somewhere.  But I did not have an office I went to everyday or a boss that expected me to be at my desk on certain hours.

And it was at this time that our family really began to live a family travel lifestyle.

We rented out our home and drove across the country and back over the next six months.  We worked from the road.  Wherever we were, we were working.

But all did not go as planned.  If you’ll think back, while we were traveling our country was just at the beginning of the Great Recession.  And on the second day of our cross country road trip I lost one of my two regular clients.  Half my income.

Still we journeyed on.  By the time we got home six months later I’d lost the other client as well.  Uh, that was the other half of our income.

I’m a pretty resourceful guy.  We shifted some things around and I pieced together some work.  I was still doing some consulting, but there weren’t any contracts anymore.  Just a la carte work.

I remember just before we departed on our six-month cross-country road trip saying something to my wife like, “If this doesn’t work out–if my consulting business doesn’t stick and we’re not making the money we need–I can always just go back to the grind (like Husband Number 1) and we’ll have had an amazing year.”

But after three years I could not go back.

We now had two kids.  I was accustomed to spending a lot of time with them.  Travel had become a way of life for us.  I didn’t want to give up the leisurely mornings with the family or the freedom to travel whenever we wanted.  Work 50 weeks a year and get 2 weeks of vacation, if I’m lucky.

And this is where Husband Number 3 comes fully into the picture.


Dad Paddle Boarding with kids

Husband Number 3. Now 2 kids.


While I didn’t want to give up our freedom and flexibility, I also knew I needed to provide for my family.

I needed time.  I had an opportunity for work that would allow us to continue the lifestyle we’d come to love.  But the pay was residual in nature: meaning I would make very little money initially.  I mean very little.  But as I increased the number of clients I served my income would grow and the residual income would always be there, whether I was working or not.  Whether I was at home or in Thailand.

The business, by the way, is merchant services.  Forgive the shameless plug, but if you own a business that processes credit card transactions I’d love to count you among my clients.  My company also has gift and loyalty cards, handles payroll, and a whole lot more.  You can learn more HERE.

I also had other ideas I wanted to work on.  The income potential was real.  But it required time.  Because we had no money we had no time.

And that is how our family ended up living in my in-laws garage.

It was a long fall.

Once we’d come to grips with our situation though…

I was happy.

Because we had hope.

As Andy Dufresne taught us, “Hope is a good thing.  Maybe the best of things.  And no good thing ever dies.”

Andy had hope behind the walls of Shawshank Prison.

I had hope in my in-laws garage.

in laws

My bride and me with her parents. I think this photo was taken in the late Husband Number 1 Era.

For us the Great Recession has been a Great Re-Orientation.  Sitting in that garage we thought about what we wanted life to look like.




Less Debt.

Fewer obligations.

Less pressure.

We spent 6 months in that garage.  While we’re not out of debt, we made a lot of progress.  My income has increased.  It’s still really tight at times.  But we’re making it.

We’ve not arrived.  But we’re on our way.  We’re on the journey.

We have a home again.  But not in Santa Barbara.  Santa Barbara is one of the most expensive places in the world to live.  We chose another beautiful place to live–Lake Tahoe–and the cost of living here is substantially less.  And the skiing is a whole lot better.

This is the life we chose.

When people say to me, “Clark, you’re living the life.” …. I agree with them.

They see me at the beach on a Wednesday afternoon with my wife and kids.  They see us camping at the Redwoods one week and visiting our family in Santa Barbara a few weeks later.  They hear us talking about the upcoming travels we have scheduled later this month, and next month, and the next month.

I am living the life.  But this life also requires a great deal of work.  It requires a fanatical commitment.  It requires sacrifice.  Re-Orientation.

Sounds crazy, huh?  I recommend living in the in-laws garage.  At least for a while.

For me it was my in-laws garage.  I don’t know what it is for you.  What I do recommend is that you be willing to take drastic steps in order to figure out what you really want in life… and to go for it.


Husband Number 3. Happy Family.

I don’t have life figured out.

I am not a guru.

I’m on a journey.  I am trying to live very intentionally and trying to arrange my life so that it reflects what I value most.

If you’re on a similar journey I’d ask that you let me know so we can support one another.  You can like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter or RSS.  If I’m not yet following you in any of those communities let me know because honestly I feel a deeper connection to some of the people in those communities who I’ve never met than many people I see on a regular basis.

See you on the trail.


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