On my way home from the library yesterday, I passed the hardware store and exchanged a few words with the workers who were outside taking a break. When I continued on, it dawned on me that owning a house has had some odd impacts on my life, including this one. I had never before been on a first name basis with any hardware store employee. Nor has any hardware store employee ever known where I lived. One of the workers lives around the corner from me, but that’s just a coincidence. Mostly they know me because of deliveries they have made to my house.
I’m also on a first name basis with contractors and other laborers.
Those aren’t the only impacts on my life because of home ownership, they are just the ones that got me to thinking. Some of the changes to my life since moving here would be the same whether I owned or rented, such as a library within a few blocks, easy access to a grocery store, and nice neighbors. I tend to think the neighbors are a bit nicer to me because I own the house; after all, if I own, I am one of them and will be around for a long time if everything goes as planned. Also, I’ll take care of my property unlike most of the renters around here.
The most basic impact is a feeling of being at home. As long as Jeff and I were together, I always felt at home because as long as we were together, that was my home. After he died, I tried to find a sense of home in myself, and mostly succeeded. Oddly, until now, the feeling of being at home was strongest when I was camping in a national park because to a certain extent, the parks belong to me (to all of us), and when I paid my camping fee, that small plot of land was specifically mine for the nights I stayed there.
Almost as important as a feeling of being at home is peace of mind. For almost the entire decade after Jeff died, I was unsettled and uncertain. I often brooded about what I wanted, where I wanted to move, where I could afford to live, how to start over. That last point was a major one, because truly, how does one start their life from scratch? Well, I’ve done it — started my new life — so I don’t have to think about that anymore. Nor do I have to think about where to go because I’m here. And, since I’m working, I don’t have to worry how to pay for this new life.
Also, for the first time in a decade, I don’t think about what I have to get rid of. I got rid of a huge amount of stuff after Jeff died, and then again before I moved my things into storage after my father died, and yet again before I moved here. Even though the current philosophy seems to be that if you haven’t used something in a year, you should get rid of it, I don’t subscribe to that idea any more. I’ve gotten rid of so many things over the years I needed to repurchase, that as long as I have space, I might as well keep what I have. Obviously, as time goes on and I reach my expiration date, I’ll have to get rid of almost everything so no one will have the huge chore of sorting through my stuff when I’m gone, but until them, everything I own has a place. After the huge increase in possessions when I bought this house and furnished it as well as adding a garage, I’ve made no major additions to my possessions. Well, there are all the outside things I’m doing — the landscaping and plants and such — but those aren’t really possessions, they are simply additions to the property that will remain in place.
Having a permanent address is another benefit of owning my house since I won’t have to change the address until . . . well, until I have to because of age or whatever.
I’m sure there many other ways that home ownership has affected my life but they don’t come to mind at the moment. What does come to mind, however, is the thought — still so surprising to me — of how much I love owning my own home. I can feel it wrap around me like a well-worn and comfortable garment. Any place I’ve lived in the past was simply a place to park myself, but owning a house makes me feel as if I have a partner in life, as if the house and I are in this together. I take care of it, and so far, it has taken care of me.
And yes, I am exceedingly grateful for this blessing.
Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator
August 11, 2021 at 12:58 pm
Knowing that we own our home definitely gives us a sense of security and permanency. I could probably give up our house easily enough but it would be hard to give up our yard. We have put so much into it and it is truly our special place.
August 11, 2021 at 7:03 pm
I have a hunch I will feel the same way about my yard in a year or two.
August 11, 2021 at 1:35 pm
I did not like my house in AV, but I loved my back yard and miss it.
August 11, 2021 at 7:04 pm
My sister was the same way. She still misses her yard, and it’s been a couple of decades since she moved out of that house.
August 11, 2021 at 4:33 pm
We began our married life while my hubby was in college, and we lived in rentals; later it was in church ‘manses’. One church didn’t have its own manse and, instead, paid us what was termed a ‘fair rental value’, so we could either rent something ourselves or apply the amount to mortgage payments. That began our venture into owning our own home and now even though my hubby is retired we have built enough equity to still be able to live in our own home on a small acreage. So in the financial sense there is the security of having our own place, but security is also there in the sense of the personal comfort you mention. I agree that’s tied into familiarity with it and with the neighbourhood. We love it here. As we’re getting older it’s taking more effort to maintain the property, though, and I expect we’ll eventually have to downsize. But even then I dearly hope our health and stamina will stay good enough that we can continue to live in our own small place, on our own terms. But who knows?! We occasionally give a bit of thought to what our future options might be, but on the whole we just continue enjoying our day to day existence. There’s a cougar roaming the neighbourhood these past couple weeks but nobody is particularly concerned about it. The neighbours all know about it … it’s given us something else in common to talk about. LOL.
August 11, 2021 at 7:06 pm
Sounds like a lovely place, even with the cougar! I too hope you’ll be able to stay in your own place or even a smaller place that’s your own. But yes, living day to day is a good way to live.
August 12, 2021 at 6:01 am
I’m kind of struggling with the home ownership thing these days. I’ve tried to make the house I’ve lived in for 30+ years a bit more “mine” and less “ours”, not least because the too-numerous reminders of her gone-ness weren’t helping get through the day. That upset one of my adult daughters, who apparently feels the house should become a sort museum dedicated to her late mother. So much so that she took the initiative to go into the house to rearrange some photos when I was away recently. When I suggested she not do that, she blew up and isn’t speaking to me. The other daughter told me to sell the house to remove the source of her sister’s discomfort.
Part of me agrees. Maybe I should do some post-Bob wandering – something like what you did. I’ve done enough traveling to know the grass isn’t greener anywhere else though, and I do like the house.
For the time being, it’s probably moot. Bob doesn’t seem quite done with us yet, so wandering about seems ill-advised in the short term. Maybe by spring things will look different.
August 12, 2021 at 6:26 am
Estragon Please keep the house if you like it it is a humble suggestion not an advice.
Sooner or later your daughters will leave and find them their own house.
One day they love to see their mothers house when they become mothers.
Only The time will tell the answer. Please keep it if you can.
August 12, 2021 at 9:46 am
Thanks for the suggestion, but to clarify, my daughters are in their mid-30s and haven’t lived at home for years. If they did, I’d take that into consideration before making it more mine. I live alone now, which is why I thought it would be ok to arrange the house as I see fit.
August 12, 2021 at 12:55 pm
Thank you I have misunderstood I thought that your daughter’s were young and depending on you. Pat’s suggestion was the best with very well understanding of you. Please take care and I wish you in good health.
August 12, 2021 at 7:32 am
From what I can tell, most of us have a spate of wandering (or at least a time when we desire to wander) and then we end up relocating. I tend to think the burden of memories, old habits, as well as a feeling of keeping up a shrine make us want to (need to?) have a place of our own that we can fill with new memories. Also, many of us want a smaller place that’s easier to handle as we grow older, especially for those of us — like me — who remain alone.
But whatever you do, if you don’t mind my offering a suggestion, do it because you want to, not because your daughters want you to do it. But of course, you know that.
August 12, 2021 at 10:02 am
You’re certainly right about a smaller place that’s easier to handle, and also about not doing anything just because my daughters want it so. They’ve both apparently decided not to have kids of their own, and it often seems as if they want to infantilize me instead.
I wonder if the need to wander is a way of creating the mental distance needed to actually make the decision to relocate?
August 12, 2021 at 12:56 pm
You’re point about needing to wander as a way of creating the mental distance to make a decision sounds right otherwise it’s exceedingly difficult to make the mental leap. I also seems to be a symptom of grief, a means of running as well as a means of assuaging the incredible outpouring of adrenaline that seems to continue way after the first year. The whole fight or flight thing. Not everyone is able to go on an epic adventure, but I do think most of us dream of such a thing to take us out of ourselves and into . . . something else.