Saturday, June 28, 2008

Some Thoughts About Renting...

After having been a home owner for over 25 years, the prospect of rejoining the ranks of renters has my head spinning with ambivalence. Over the next couple weeks I will be moving out of my home of the last six years and into an old farm house my beloved and I have decided to rent. For a lot of different reasons this move makes total sense. We've thought it out and done the math. Logic says go for it, and things seem to be falling into place as we have found someone who wants our house if they can qualify for financing. Still, my emotions are in turmoil about what it will mean to me to go back to renting a home that is not mine.

We've bought houses in Ohio, Michigan, Washington, and Oregon. They were never ours outright, as we always carried substantial mortgages on each one, never living long enough in any one place to get anywhere close to payoff. Still, we bought into the notion of those places being "OURS" because we had total freedom to choose what we did with them. We've painted and wallpapered, knocked out walls and built on new structures. We've landscaped and added water features. We've grown gardens and marked door jams as records of how tall our kids were getting. We've made every house we had HOME by virtue of how we shaped it.

I read in a book on home decorating recently "It is a proven fact that the more we personally participate in something, the more meaningful it becomes. Peter and I painted the inside of our house together, for example, and discovered that when you scrape, sand, and caulk and then prime and paint a surface of wood, you become attached to it the way new parents do with their newborn: You bond together in creating and understanding and appreciation. You take pride in what you do because you know what went into it, and you also feel the exhilaration of shared accomplishments." (from Creating a Beautiful Home by Alexandra Stoddard).

Those words definitely ring true for me. From the beat-up old fixer upper that was the first house we bought together in Ohio that had the horrific colors, fractured plumbing and dead bat in the bathtub, to our current home with it's 100 year old bones and gorgeous light, the projects we've done together on every house have been times we have truly cherished.

Now that we will be living in a rented house with limited options for making changes, we'll have to find different ways to make it feel like home.

Beyond that, I've been giving much thought to what "security" is and how financial commitments to property have defined for me what it meant to be stable and safe.

I am excited by the prospect of having complete freedom to go anywhere we may choose to visit or live over the next 10 years without being tied to any one specific geography. I kind of like the idea of spending six months to a year in a few different places as we explore all over the country before landing to put down roots again. My Gypsy soul eagerly pulls out the maps and fantasizes about spending time in Appalachia or New England or some small beach town or bayou retreat. Now, my husband loves the familiar, so it is highly unlikely we'll get quite that adventurous. But we COULD, and that freedom very much appeals to me.

I like the idea of paring down our possessions and opening up possibilities. I've seen so many friends and family members have to relinquish treasured homes in their later years, either due to failing health or changed finances. I know that if we stayed in our big two story house that eventually we would face that same challenge. I'd much rather let it go now while the move can be entirely on our own terms and of our own choosing.

STILL...the American Dream of owning a home is something I have been deeply socialized to believe in. Somehow "just renting" feels/sounds less stable, less secure, less successful than owning our own home. Why is that? Would I be okay with NOT buying another house? Would I be willing to accept my status as renter as permanent rather than a temporary transition? I'm not sure, but I suspect not. Right now I have ants in my pants and value freedom more than security. But I suspect that eventually that will run its course and we'll find ourselves looking to buy a house again. So we will need to be smart about how we handle our budget to make sure that remains within our reach when the time comes.

For today, however, I don't have to think about buying another house. Today my only challenge is to get ready to move out of this one. A big part of that means deciding what things we keep and what things we get rid of. We're selling our big screen TV, our King sized sleep number bed, our sectional furniture with the double recliners and hide-a-bed, the futon, and a whole lot more. We've given away loads of stuff and no doubt will hand over more to friends and charities. Piece by piece we are letting go of things we have have treasured but no longer choose to keep for one reason or another. Some of the choices are easy and some have had their sting, but overall it really feels good to lighten our load.

I love this link to pictures of HOUSES AROUND THE WORLD. Whether my next house when we are ready to leave the farm will be a sweet little gem of luxury or something very basic and bare...HOW I live is more important than WHERE I live or what I own.

Our capitalist culture is so tangled up in the false believe that our STUFF defines our value.

There is a 20 minute video called The Story of Stuff that serves as a powerful reminder that recreational consumption has its pitfalls.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not entirely renouncing all love of shiny things, I'm not about to take on vows of poverty or willfully choose the life of the ascetics. I do NOT see stark living as being any way morally superior to abundance. But I DO believe my own relationship with the material world is long overdue for a bit of a shake up. I want to be more mindful of the footprint I leave on this planet. This move feels like exactly the right step in that direction.

My heart has done flip flops of being apprehensive, anxious, filled with forboding about what we've taken on. But mostly I feel at peace about the decision.

So I am ready to let go of my hold on what I've defined as SAFE and SECURE and STABLE - being surrounded by a great many material things and locked into our commitment of home ownership. I am ready to embrace a new season of living more simply in a place that will not be my own. What will it take for me to feel AT HOME there? I don't know yet. But I am ready to explore and find out.

1 comment:

Jen said...

What an interesting post. There is some social stigma I think, in certain circles about renting, but there is a definite romantic appeal in the idea of being able to just up and go if you feel like it.

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