One the last day of January I was told that the woman that owns the home I’m renting wanted to move back into it by September 1st. I love this house so much. The homeowner built it herself. When I moved in, I felt like I had manifested my dream house. The rent was more than I wanted to pay, but it was still within my means. This house is warm, and cheerful and full of natural light with floor to ceiling windows and 10-foot ceilings. It had everything I always wanted in a home. I told myself (and the kids) when we moved in here we’d be able to stay “for a long time” because I was sick of moving from rental to rental. I really just wanted to find a place to stay for a few years while I grew my business and paid down my debt and saved to buy a house of my own.
My mistake was thinking a rental would be a forever home. It gave me a taste of something I had always wanted for myself: a beautiful home of my own. It was kind of them to give me so much advance notice about having to move, the rental market in this part of Maine is atrocious. There are not a lot of rentals to start with, and then starting in April/May a lot of the renters get turned out so the homeowners can rent to a much more lucrative “vacation rental” market. Homes that were overpriced monthly rentals to start with turn into impossible-to-afford weekly rentals for the people that live here year round.
The notice that I got in January felt like I had the rug pulled out from under my feet. Sure, I got 8 months notice, but it felt like I only had a couple months to find something before I was looking for a place to live alongside everyone else getting turned out of their rentals. Plus, while I could technically afford my monthly rent, it stretched my budget to the point that I didn’t have much left at the end of each month to save for a new first/last/deposit that could potentially end up being as much as $3,000.
I found myself angry and distraught and unmotivated to even look for a place. How could I save up to move in such a short amount of time. I kept trying to pep talk myself into thinking “it’s all alright, plenty of time, you’ve got this” but honestly, the pep talk actually left me feeling more and more angry at my situation. I stopped cleaning my house because “what was the point?” I realized I was headed towards some depression if I kept fighting myself over this. I wanted to believe that it would all be okay, but I wasn’t giving myself any room to just have my feelings and be upset. So the first night I had alone to myself after I got “the news” I put on my crappiest sweatpants, bought some junk food and plopped on the couch. I gave myself space to feel angry and hurt and miserable, I told myself “this isn’t fair” and “why does this keep happening to me?”. Towards the end of the night I started to forgive myself for thinking a rental could be a forever home, and I was able to go to sleep with a little peace in my heart.
The next morning I woke up feeling better and cleaned the house. After that I sat down and took a good hard look at my budget. I realized that while this current home met so many of my “wants”, what it really lacked was affordability. I could barely afford my rent each month. I wasn’t paying down my debt. I had no savings. And while it is big enough, the layout is honestly a little awkward. I started to change my thinking and realized this could actually be a blessing in disguise. So I went on craigslist and saved a search for rentals within my new budget and search area so I would get alerts as soon as something that met my criteria was listed. I didn’t have any idea how I would even be able to find something, but I tried to not stress over that part too much. I knew if the right place came along, I would find a way to get into it. I tried to just believe I would find a home within my now greatly reduced budget because I had shifted my priorities. Dave sat down with me one night and we wrote out a list of all the things I wanted to find in a new home, and I read that list to myself every day. I added some things, and took a couple things off.
And then this alert came through on craigslist. I read it and got excited but it seemed like the owner wanted someone with “handyman” skills and was willing to give an AMAZING deal on the rent in exchange for some work done around the building each month. I brushed it off and decided he would get flooded with potential renters way more qualified than me. I kind of forgot about it, but then he relisted it again a week later. Again I looked at quickly and said “that sure would be nice, but he’s not going to rent to a woman. He wants a handyMAN.” Another week goes by and the apartment gets relisted a third time. This time I thought “okay, maybe he’s not getting the kind of renter applicants that can do the work he wants. What the hell, I’ll just send a quick email and see if he has time to meet with me, what can it hurt?” So we meet up two days later and talk much longer than I was expecting to talk. The apartment is pretty rough around the edges, it’s not what I was used to living in, but compared to the yurt, it was luxurious. I reminded myself again that I was trying to economize because I had bigger goals than to live in a “pretty” house. I added myself to the pool of applicants even though I was $1,600 short for the move in costs. I walked away thinking “how will I make this work if he wants to rent to me?”
Three days later he called to let me know I was his preferred applicant if I wanted the apartment. I said yes, and worked out a payment schedule with him to get into the apartment. I had to sell the kids on the idea now. I know they love this house, but now we are locked in to move in a few weeks. It took me another week after agreeing to rent the new place to get boxes and start packing. It’s been a slow process because I really do love my pretty, spacious house and we are going to have to put a lot into storage in order to fit into our new apartment.
But writing is a type of therapy for me, and sitting here, writing and rereading what I went through in the last 6 weeks to make this happen is actually really helping me get excited to move. It really is a big step forward for us. There is a lot to get down, but I know I will make it happen one way or another. Dave is letting me store what we can’t take with us in his barn. We’ll be closer to the girls’ schools, we are going to be saving a lot of money that I’ll be able to pay off my debt with, and I promised them we’ll take a trip to Disney World next year, which will be a first for all three of us.
Sometimes what feels like a step backwards really is two steps forward if you look at it from the right angle. I think about where I was a year ago, and where I am today, and I can’t even fathom where my growth and these new opportunities that keep presenting themselves will take me in another year.