To Keep or Not to Keep … Your House

A few months after my separation, I went to a conference. I struck up a conversation with a single divorced mother of one teen-aged boy. We began comparing our situations. She’d been divorced for four years, and I was going through divorce.

I told her I wanted to stay in my house, that I loved it and that I didn’t want to be punished for my husband’s desire to dismantle our life together. I’ll never forget that woman's advice: "Sell your house. It will become a millstone." She regretted staying in hers, she said, saying that on her teacher’s salary she could not afford its upkeep and that it was slowly rotting inside and out.

However, she and I came from different circumstances. As an administrator, I earned more than she did, for one. I do not have a child who is getting ready for college. And, most importantly, I own my house free and clear.

Even so it has been a struggle maintaining the house and finding painters, electricians, and plumbers as the need arises. My lifestyle altered drastically when Bob left, and I live on a fourth of the combined income we once enjoyed. I simply don’t have the skills to do more than minor repairs, and though I am handy with a paint brush, I don’t have much spare time to physically work on my house. My family urges me to move, saying a condo suits my needs much better, but I am not a condo type of girl.

I live within walking distance of the river and revel in the beauty of my house’s physical setting, the woods that surround me, the wildlife, and my quiet street. I live conveniently close to work and shopping. And my house is a bargain. I would be hard pressed to find a nice condo that costs less.

So, for the time being I’ll stay in my house. I have opened two of my bedrooms to Sudanese students-Lost Boys of the Sudan-who needed shelter and an affordable place to live. All I ask is that they pay a maintenance fee to cover their cost of heating, air conditioning, water, cable, phone, etc. Now my home is filled with life, and there's always someone to watch my dog when I work long hours or to help me with heavy work in the yard.

Each of us has to make decisions based on our individual circumstances. For that one woman, selling her house made sense. As you can see from this photo of my back yard, I'd be crazy to leave my tiny 1/2 acre paradise. Can you believe it is located a mere twenty minutes from downtown, and that's during rush hour. I think I’ll stay put for a few more years. I'm lucky, I realize, very lucky, but then, I'm also a firm believer that you make your own luck.

More on this topic later.


hisheulb said...

Vic - Another good one. I wonder if the house thing follows male-female lines. After a divorce, are guys more likely to be happy in an apartment/condo (I am) while women tend to want a house? - H

Vic's Still Standing said...

Mmm. That's an accurate statement in my instance, but I know some women who deliberately downsized, and others who were forced to sell the house. One man I know kept his house so that his children had a familiar place to go to when they spent their half weeks with him. I wonder if the nesting instinct has something to do with keeping kids in the same school district? In my instance, I have traveled and moved most of my life. I simply elected to stay put because I was tired of moving.

Plus I love my cozy place.