On September 1st, 2016 I began renting my house. But I never moved in.
Dave moved in. I was traveling for work that day. He was here & had to be out of his old place by noon so he moved all his stuff in the morning. I landed at the Jetport around noon, rented a UHaul, and brought all my stuff down from storage.
While he offered some gestures of “We can change it if you want.” he had mostly already decided how things would be arranged. Some of it was obvious & logical – the cabinets closest to the oven had the food, the one closest to the sink had the glasses. His couch & 2 chairs were in the living room. My couch was destined for the 2nd bedroom which held his enormous TV & wouldn’t have room for much else.
Other things I didn’t notice until much later. The landlord had told us he might be able to swing getting a dishwasher for the house. I thought they planned to install it, so when I didn’t see one I assumed we were out of luck. Bummer, but it was never a guarantee. Somewhere along the way – months or maybe even a year later – noticed a small rollaway dishwasher in the basement, hidden under the stairs. It was covered in a layer of grime by then, so I assumed it was old & broken. Some relic property management didn’t bother removing. Come to find out, it was the dishwasher we’d requested. Before I arrived, Dave had decided that it made the kitchen “too crowded” and tucked it out of sight in the basement, never mentioning it.
One of the first things I did to the house when Dave moved out – aside from wrestling my couch around 3 tight corners to the living room – was bring that dishwasher upstairs. Without Dave’s “special” refundables trash can in the kitchen, there was plenty of room for the dishwasher. It was missing one small part, but $12 and a week later, I had a nice little machine doing my dirty work. And my water bill went down significantly (even when occupancy went back up to two).
Still, three years after Dave’s departure, there were ways I hadn’t fully moved in yet…
It’s funny how you can get so used to where a thing is that you don’t question it. In the past year, especially with all that pandemic indoor time, I spotted a few small things that I could make better. Hey, having the extra deep shelf on the bottom level works a lot better. Why do I always put those dishes away there when they fit better over here? And other little shifts that simply made the space work for me.
When I moved in 5 years ago, I was ending a year of being “nomadic” post-divorce. I’d bounced around 5 different times before I landed. But 2, 3, even 4 years later, I hadn’t really put down roots. Part of me was always ready to pack up and go. Whether that was finding a cheaper rental and – god forbid – a stretch of joblessness during the pandemic turning into moving back with the ‘rents, I just never really claimed this place as mine.
Until now. On January 6th, I signed the papers and played for keeps. I own this house.
I have a project wish list a mile long and high hopes that I can steadily pick things off. A new door here, some little fixes there, and a few BIG projects that will take a professional and some serious cash. The first big project will be siding – quoted and agreed upon around May but not scheduled until about December (sigh). And still, it took me until this August to really lay my claim.
Originally I had told myself the living room decor worked as-is. Spend money on the other stuff first. The old drapes, chosen to match Dave’s dark red orient rug, had felt insulating and private with their opaqueness. The red throw pillows, leftover from my marriage, had complemented the drapes. The dark neutral rug was a relic from my nomadic year and went with the other items well enough that I hadn’t bothered to spend money on a new one.
About the time of my birthday, thanks to some prodding by my friend Judi, I decided I wanted to really make the place feel like mine. I decided to take an immediate step in my plan to slowly transform the space.
What started as “just” a purchase of some new curtains snowballed into small but wonderful makeover. “You don’t know how dark it is until you see the light.” – That’s how it felt when I hung the new curtains. Like the room was sighing in relief and smiling for the first time.
Lighter pillows soon followed. Then finials. Then a tablecloth and door mats. And finally a rug.
While I still have a project list a mile long and many small things to do along the way, I can finally say … Welcome to my house.