One of the greatest values that my parents instilled in me was the value of homeownership. This included both a financial value and a caretaker value. Our homes were always like that extra family member. We treated them with respect and care.
That lesson regarding homeownership was so ingrained, that my husband and I bought our first home in 1996. We were young and energetic and bought a 1901 bungalow that needed a lot of work. Room by room we transformed that house into a home that was perfect for the two of us. The home was split into two apartments and while we intended to rent the basement, we often found ourselves sharing our home with friends who needed a place to stay whether they could afford rent or not. Sure they paid rent once in awhile but what we really got out of it was years of sharing life with good friends.
As the years went by and kids were added, those 900 square feet began to feel constraining. Lets see, we had no closets. Rooms spilled into other rooms, they did not lead off of hallways. So, we had amazing space with 13-foot ceilings and hardly any walls to place furniture. This put a serious cramp in our ability to engage in the consumer culture. Clothing had to be kept at a minimum. No overstuffed couches would fit. IKEA had yet to come to Colorado. And once we added kids – the inability to house baby items put a serious cramp on our Babies R Us trips.
We learned to be very careful about not only what we brought into our home, but also in how we used the space in the home. By the time child two rolled around, we needed that extra space from the basement apartment. So, the basement kitchen became a nursery. Honestly, every nursery should have a kitchen sink – it was amazing!
Eventually, we left that little house. It was my first love and I miss it. However, it was time to move on. The neighborhood was crime ridden and my husband decided it was time for a garage of all things. So we moved to a slightly bigger home in an older neighborhood again. Initially, we felt seduced by the newer homes, with the walk in closets and jet tubs. But in the end, we knew that our hearts belonged to caring for an older home in an established neighborhood.
We have closets in most rooms but they are small. We have rooms connected by hallways and more space to cram more stuff. But, we carried our lessons with us. The small house lessons. Stuff – never makes you happy. Livable space that you feel comfortable in does.
When your life changes, don’t let your home constrict you. We are currently playing a game of musical rooms. Everyone is switching to a different room because our lifestyles have changed and it needs to happen. This is not the first time we have played musical rooms in this house. A few years ago when I decided to homeschool the dusty entertainment room and TV went out and a classroom came in. We allow our values to dictate the space rather than what is seen as conventional.
Our value for buying older homes in more urban neighborhoods has led us to appreciate how precious the space we have is. The playroom, dance room, and living room are all in the same space. What is important to us is filling that space with experiences and memories.
That small house that we loved taught us to let our lives and our own needs drive our decisions rather than the consumer lifestyle. Your home is not about the things you put in it but the life you live in it.
This blog was co-written with Lazlo Chesnavich Hunt.