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