How my attitude toward homeownership has changed


I read back through one of my notebooks this morning while I was drinking my morning coffee, in my effort to stay away from social media. It’s a notebook I have to just jot things down as I think of them. More often it turns into to-do lists and appointment dates, but every once in awhile I write a few pages of whatever is on my mind.

At the beginning of this notebook was some writing from when we’d first moved into our house. I was amazed reading about how overwhelmed I felt at the time. I felt like everything was going wrong, I felt like everything needed to be done all at once, and I felt like I needed a bunch of stuff.

I wanted new things and nice things. I wanted things to not be broken. I wanted the new house to feel like it was my own, and not a hand-me-down filled with hand-me-downs. I had such high expectations for how my home should look.

It’s amazing how my attitude has changed so drastically in the past year. I now know that things will get done when they get done. And not everything is a dire emergency. Some things will just have to wait because we don’t have the money and other things come up that were not even planned. And whatever is in my house is not the source of joy or happiness.  Continue reading


The American Dream


It has been three months since Jim and I moved into our house. I would like to think that our lives have changed drastically. That somehow we are older, wiser, more experienced, more mature adults – but that’s not really true. I would have thought that owning a home would somehow cast us into the pot of people who seem to have “it” all together. Maybe we’d be qualified as a part of society who “knows what they’re doing.” Maybe somewhere, hidden in the legal jargon of the closing documents, there might have been invisible ink explaining how to own a home and somehow it would soak into our minds as we read through the papers and we’d suddenly know exactly what to do.

That didn’t happen. We are still the same people, we just have more space. We have the same stuff, except now it’s all in boxes that I’m afraid to unpack. We have the same furniture, except now it looks sad and old next to the pretty hardwood floors and bay window. We have the same jobs, but now we have a longer commute.

We are the same people we were before we moved, and we have no idea what we’re doing. Continue reading

Apartment Style – A Work in Progress



On Pinterest, “Home Decor” is one of my favorite categories to browse. I love seeing the perfectly put-together rooms and the features that no one would actually ever implement in their house, but they look fun to have (like a slide from your bedroom to the living room, or a trash chute that leads outside and puts the trash right into the garbage bin). I love dreaming about my own future house and imagining color-coordinated furniture or boldly painted walls. I picture myself, someday, having a home where things are new and perfect.

It’s fun to dream about this because right now, it is very difficult to actually accomplish. I suppose your first apartment is supposed to be crappy. It’s supposed to be a little run-down, a little worn around the edges, a little small and a little inconvenient. When I am older and living in a big house with a yard, I will remember this one bedroom apartment and I’ll appreciate everything that much more.

I’m okay with living here right now. I’ll accept that we have to wash every dish by hand and that the cupboards don’t have knobs and that the bathroom light switch is all the way over by the towel rack instead of right next to the door. It’s only two rooms, but it’s spacious enough and the carpets are surprisingly well-kept. It’s okay that all of our furniture either came from my parents or Jim’s parents, or Craigslist. But what I am struggling with is how to decorate. Continue reading

House hunters: Pittsburgh edition

In college, I led the search for a house for my roommates and I after our freshman year. We were determined to live off-campus as soon as we could, because that’s what the other girls on the swim team had done. We had few criteria–we wanted to be within walking distance to the pool and we each wanted our own bedroom. That was about all we looked for that first year.

And I learned my lesson. Continue reading

The True Meaning of Christmas Consumerism

treeI think the Christmas season starts earlier and earlier every year. Before you know it, the United States will turn into a larger version of Who-ville, celebrating and preparing for Christmas Day all year long. Bells will ring for the winners who max out their credit cards, and every day will feature a new item with a 90% mark-down price. No one will even bother to take their Christmas lights down and in fact, they’ll just build up their displays higher and brighter until everything just runs together and the world becomes one big neon light-emitting-diode.

But during the first week of December, Christmas seems so far away and the holiday season seems so long. You get a little tired of some of the songs on the radio because you start hearing them the day after Halloween. Children get to see Santa in malls and restaurants at least three or four times, and they have enough time in between visits to completely change their mind about what they want. And then all of a sudden Christmas Eve is upon you and you haven’t wrapped a thing. The actual holiday comes and goes so quickly but what is all this hustle and bustle that comes first?

I think most people would agree that today, Christmas Day, is a happy one. It’s a day for family to spend time together and appreciate each other, to celebrate traditions, to eat and be merry. Ideally. The massive consumerism that occurs for roughly five weeks prior to this day is just part of the package. It’s the preparation that is necessary to get us to this day where we can relax. The entire month of shopping, decorating, baking and preparation is really what makes the holiday season so joyous and festive. If it weren’t for all these weeks of hearing Jingle Bells over and over again, Christmas would be like any other holiday. Like Easter. Or Mother’s Day. Just one day. Who would want that? The question that should be asked is whether it’s worth it. Maybe it is, for some people.

When I was little, I counted my presents. What mattered was the number, not how awesome they were. Even though I had some that were pretty awesome. It was amazing, to come downstairs on Christmas morning and where once the floor under the tree was bare, now boxes were piled high. When you truly believed in Santa Claus, there is nothing more miraculous. When you’re that little, the consumerism means nothing. You don’t even know it exists.

When you’re young, it’s all about you. You ask for presents, people ask you what’s on your list, you open up everything with your name on it and determine if you’ve gotten everything you asked for. When you visit family, they ask you what you got and you proudly tell them. Sure, you might buy presents for siblings and parents, but your ultimate focus is still yourself. Maybe you become a little less selfish as you get older, but still, so many people focus on what they got for Christmas. Let me ask you something this year.

What did you give?

If we are all going to be so obsessed with sales and clearance racks and Black Friday and free shipping (which we obviously are), then it must be worth something. Because if it’s not, if we are all still as selfish as we were when we were children and counting our presents, then society is surely on a downward slope. And since I sincerely hope that’s not the case, I like to think that our shopping obsession means something. I like to think it means that we give.

This year, I gave my sister a brown leather jacket and a vegetarian cookbook. I gave my little brother new headphones. I gave my other brother a DVD because he’s hard to buy for and who doesn’t love a new movie to add to the collection? We gave our mom a keyboard for her iPad and my dad got a coupon for rock climbing. I gave my grandparents a digital picture frame filled with pictures of family memories and extra gigs for more to come.

On Christmas Day, it’s so tempting and easy to shout out everything you got, to tell your friends or neighbors how good Santa was to you. But this year, like every year, I was so excited to give these gifts to my family, and that’s more important than anything else.

And what was the ultimate lesson the Grinch learned?

“Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store. “Maybe Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”

The Door Only Swings One Way– But It’s Always Open

I never expected to move back home after college. I never thought I’d be allowed back. I used to quote my parents saying, “the door only swings one way.” Lucky for me, that door swung back open after I graduated.

It took two cars to bring home the belongings I hadn’t sold. I claimed a bed, a dresser, and a room. And I found myself settling back into the old routine. But one thing was different–both my brother and sister went away to school this time.

Being the oldest, it had been easy for me to leave home and go to college. At eighteen, I was the typical high school senior who is very ready to go away. I left my younger siblings and embarked on the new life that is college. I came home for holidays and summers; and whenever I came back we were all together again. I never saw a void because it was filled with classes and swimming and new friends and jobs.

But this year, it’s the middle children who are at school, leaving my brother and me here to fight over the cereal and shower time. I didn’t know the house could even get this quiet–until both my parents are working and Josh is at school. I didn’t realize that the dog actually rotates through every couch and every bed in the house when she thinks no one is home, but the second she hears the garage  door open she’s on the floor. I didn’t realize that with multiple vehicles, figuring out where to park, or who is parked in, would be a challenge. I didn’t realize that so many shows could be recorded on a DVR. And I didn’t realize how much my little brother had grown up without me.

We have this little unspoken ritual, Josh and I. Or maybe we have many, but it’s hard to notice all of them. He is tall, so he points the shower head out farther when he takes his showers at 6:30AM. I am short(er) so every day  at 8AM I have to point the shower head back down or it will leak all over the floor. The next morning, he points it back up. He uses his sink on his side of the bathroom. I use mine. If it wasn’t my mess, it was his. It may seem silly but it’s simple, consistent.

How easy it would have been, to only have one sibling, to be a family of four. That’s what I’m thinking until Thanksgiving break rolls around and the doorbell rings and my long-lost brother and sister are back. Lindsay’s clothes are all over the floor of my room, the music on Andy’s computer is blaring, and all is now right with the world.

I hadn’t seen the void when I was at school because it was filled with so many other things. Now that I’m home, I haven’t seen the void because it’s so big I can’t even see the edges. Family is often overlooked and under-appreciated. Family is loud and annoying and messy. There’s toothpaste all over the sink and my favorite cereal is gone the day after I open it. There is never enough gas in the tanks and every mile must be accounted for so that the right person can pay their share. My favorite socks look extremely similar to someone else’s socks so that I never have the truly correct match. Someone wants to watch one show on TV but someone else is recording something and someone else wants to watch this movie and despite the fact that there is more than one TV in the house, we all want to be in the same room. If someone is saving something in the fridge for later and there isn’t a note reading “Do Not Eat” on that container of leftovers, it will be eaten. And even if there is a note, there will probably be a few bites out of it anyway. If I want to go to bed at ten I can expect to be woken up when someone gets in at 2AM. If I want to sleep in, I should be prepared to be woken at dawn. We don’t sit down for dinner all at the same time. This is family and family is messy.

But this crazy family is back together for Thanksgiving and I suddenly remember what I’ve missed. My sister’s clothes scattered on my floor remind me that we can still share some shirts, even though she’s a few inches taller. The laundry was sorted wrong because all of the kids are home and my mom isn’t sure who has what anymore. My cereal gets eaten before I get any but at least it’s not getting stale. There are too many shows that we want to watch, but at least we can all fit together on the couches. We eat someone’s leftovers and when they’re mad, at least they’re there to get mad. And when we finally all sit down together for dinner, we notice. And we love it.

This is what Thanksgiving is for–for being together and giving thanks. For realizing that you already have everything you need. I would venture to guess that the number one thing people say they are thankful for is family. Easy to say, more difficult to explain.

My little brother is growing up and I’m grateful that I moved back home to be part of that. My family has always been important, but sometimes it takes seeing the void to realize the true value.

I am still very ready to move out and live on my own. I am ready for my own independence and I would be perfectly happy doing my own laundry and eating my own leftovers. But I’m thankful for my messy family and I’m glad this door is always open.