Nester Versus Nomad. Which Are You?

Snowfall has its silent beauty, but as March days breath deeper, the first rains of spring patter and tap the poetry of awakening.  The rhythmic rattle on the cellar bulkhead hypnotized me into a sleepy haze last night, and I dreamt of eddys and gushes and gurgles and whirlpools, but when I woke this morning at my sister’s house, the romance of thaw and melt drowned like the Wicked Witch of the West.  Streams cut gorges down the driveway, carrying away gravel and gutting a narrow bend down to axle-width.  Dirt roads are gullied, riverbanks ragged and schools shuttered.  In the basement, a laundry basket and litter box bob next to flower pots, scrap lumber and that last bottle of Chardonnay we were saving.  Worst of all, the furnace, hot water heater, washer, dryer and dehumidifier are Katrina’d under more than a foot of murky water.  Lucky for us there’s cordwood and a sump pump to rent.  But wouldn’t it be nice to just call the landlord?

My real estate obsession began in the mid-nineties as I fantasized about buying, renovating, and selling houses as a means to a financial end.  I audited the New York State realtor’s class and skipped certification because I didn’t want to sell houses as a vocation, I just wanted to understand the process and the legalities.  After years of renting, I finally bought a charming 1929 Arts & Crafts Bungalow with hand-milled kitchen cabinets, (now extinct) American Chestnut trim, and gorgeous hardwood floors on a corner lot.  What a feeling to own a little piece of the world!  It was all mine.  No downstairs neighbors, no sharing the driveway, no cheap remodels.

But you know the story…

When I finally sold it, almost 10 years later, I was glad to be rid of it:  shovelling the sidewalk, replacing the roof, painting the clapboard, cleaning the attic, spackling the plaster, replacing cracked windows, mowing the lawn, spring/fall cleanup, paying for insurance, fixing the plumbing…if you’ve owned property, then you know:  all mine means ALL mine.  Picking out Bee Balm Red to paint the library is fun, cleaning up the electrician’s mess is not.

Although a happy renter now, I can still imagine doing it again…shopping at Brimfield Antiques Market for treasures, finding just the right shade of Farrow and Ball, designing the Japanese bath I’ve always wanted.  I can picture an orchard of peach, plum and crabapple trees, rows of raspberry bushes and the long table set for 12 with handmade napkins and vases of wildflowers.  I see the writers and artists retreat in the renovated barn and a couple of guest cottages down a stone pathway.  However, visualizing your dream home is like visualizing your soulmate – we don’t conjure the hiccups and crashes, just the bear-skin rug in front of a wood-burning fireplace.

So I wonder…is it worth it?

As the coda of my hibernation approaches, I think of how I want to spend my money and my time.  Spring signals a new cycle, and I contemplate the lightness of living simply versus the responsibility of stewardship and maintenance.  Both have their merits and drawbacks.

Given your druthers, which would you prefer? To be or not to be – Lord of the Manor?

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  1. I think about owning my own place all the time. I dream about a small ranch house out on some property in the middle of nowhere where I can see the stars at night. Of course when I think about that, I am reminded of well water and propane heat and how expensive that can be. For now I rent, and I am happy with it, but if I was to ever have my own piece of the world it would definately be removed from the vast majority of that world. By the way, I have been to that Chateau in your picture.

    • Jess~
      fellow renter! I love the idea of a place out in the middle of nowhere 🙂
      Wow – you’ve been to that Chateau? Bet the view, and the wine, were spectacular!

  2. CAR

     /  7 March 2011

    I’ve always wanted to get into a relationship with a house – but I know I’d be co-dependent. I would love feeling so needed, but only for awhile and then I would resent the hell out of it. “Why do I have to fix you all the time?” “Why is our relationship defined by what’s wrong?” 🙂
    The house I want to own is the one I grew up in. I have always believed in the idea of Genius Loci and the spirit that lives in that house means it will always be my home. My psyche is inseparable from that place.

    • CAR~
      I laughed out loud! Thank you 😀
      I, too, have a connection to the old stone house I lived in, before my parents divorced. I don’t think I’d want to live there, but it looms…

      • CAR

         /  8 March 2011

        …glad you laughed – I’m always working on your sense of humor 😉

  3. Cara

     /  9 March 2011

    Thanks for making the flood in the basement sound less destructive than it was; and really now that the water and soggy cardboard are out and we’ve restored heat and hot water, it doesn’t seem all that bad after all. It does remind us that our home is filled with the objects that make life happier, but the basement tends to be filled with stuff we’re just not sure about. Seemingly too valuable to chuck just yet, but not anything you want in your daily life. I think we’re going to let the flood waters take away the last of the dented furniture from our single lives.

    • Cara~Sounds like our basements are like purgatory 🙂 But I think you’re right – cleaning them out (however that process is instigated) helps us to let go of what is no longer relevant.
      Glad to know I could reframe the disaster…

  4. vlb

     /  10 March 2011

    Um…. is the chateau the “manor” we could be Lord of? I think I would take ownership of the one in your photo…if given the wherewithal to pay the taxes on it, that is!

    • vlb~
      Well, hello stranger! I was just thinking of you 🙂
      Wouldn’t that chateau be a divine place to spend some time (and someone’s inheritance!)? xo

  5. i just went through the flooding thing in my house. hated it! but then, i look around my house, which i gut renovated. it really is a home. i know every square foot of it. truly. but i always fantasize about moving into a carefree apartment. if i could find one with thick, soundproof walls and big closets — within my price range, within manhattan (haha, dream on) — i would seriously consider it. hey thanks for this pre-spring season reflection!

    • Betty~Sorry to hear there was flooding for you, too. So not fun.
      When you find that great Manhattan apartment, the one that borders Central Park with the really big bathroom, let me know! Although I do harbor fantasies of a gut reno, on my terms – to get exactly what I want 🙂
      Thanks for swinging by…

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