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How Attached Are You to the Homes of Your Past?

Is it unusual not to feel any particular attachment to, say, the house you grew up in? Maybe it’s because we moved so frequently and the houses we were in seldom belonged to the family, but I can’t say I feel any particular attachment to the houses, apartments, and neighborhoods of my past. I can look back fondly on some of the places I’ve lived as an adult, but it’s not like I ever stayed long enough to put down roots. Now that I own a house – or slightly over 20% of a house, I guess – my plan is to stay put barring any amazing job offers across the country or natural disasters. Which means my children will spend their entire childhoods in this one wee house, in this one suburban coastal neighborhood.

Will my daughter and my future children feel a strong attachment to our house and our town, our beach and our neighbors, looking back fondly once they’ve moved away?

Out with the old?

I don’t even know if their memories will be accurate. As with all things, I can imagine that there’s a tendency to view the past through rose colored glasses, so a house that was falling apart becomes charming and an apartment that was cold and drafty becomes full of character and quirks. I can already feel myself doing just that with the apartment in Brooklyn that was in a hub of gang activity and surrounded by who knows what else. The finish on the floor was flaking off and would give me splinters. There were critters. But the view from my windows and the fire escape was amazing and there was a shop nearby that made the most amazing fresh doughnuts and another shop that sold fried chicken sandwiches on sweet buns for a buck. It was hell and it was heavenly, both, and I’d never want to go back to it.

Tell me about some of the homes of your past… do any of them still tug at your heartstrings and make you feel wistful?

Dreaming of an Ocean View

It’s my birthday today, and I’ve decided that for the big 3-0 what I’d really like is an ocean view. Unfortunately, an ocean view will add oodles of cash to the cost of a house, which means we’re stuck living within walking distance of the sea. Woe is us, right? That doesn’t mean I can’t dream of an ocean view…

ocean view cottage

I’m not picky or anything; something like this will do quite nicely, thank you.

beach house

Perhaps with an exterior rather like this? Something where I can walk out my front door and smell the sea air or even walk directly into the ocean.

beach house interiors

And an interior like this would not be remiss! Though as I said, I’m not picky at all. (via)

Hint, hint!

A Downturn Can Be Your Upturn

If you can put up with a lot and invest yourself in your neighborhood, buying in an economically depressed area can mean getting more bang for your home-buying buck. An article in the NYT profiles economically hard-hit Flint, Michigan’s Carriage Town neighborhood, which has its issues, but is for all intents and purposes on the upswing. Once the area with the highest crime rate in the city in the 80s, it has benefited from the presence of urban homesteaders and people with a talent for renovating the many Victorian-era houses still standing on its streets.

Economic Downturn

That’s good news for buyers looking for a deal, though like I said it takes a certain degree of commitment to live in Carriage Town.

Ms. Caudell, 31, a horticulturalist, has focused her search on Carriage Town, the neighborhood where she leases a blue two-story house with pink and purple trim that she shares with three friends, paying $300 a month for her rent and utilities. Ms. Caudell hopes to find a home that won’t cost more than $50,000, including renovation expenses.

No more than fifty thousand? Makes me wish I hadn’t been so picky when it came to deciding where to live!

Economic Downturn

Then again, the new Carriage Town is still recovering from a lengthy downturn, which means that those with the fortitude to find the perfect (read: renovation-ready) home have to fend off speculators, cope with more than a few abandoned houses, and accept that code-enforcement isn’t a priority because the money just isn’t there. That said better days are obviously on the horizon for Carriage Town, as more and more dedicated neighborhood fixtures are making it their life’s work to take back the area’s former glory.

Inspiring, no?

Is Your House Making You Fat?

Studies show that while homeowners aren’t any more or less happy than renters, they experience more negative feelings related to their domiciles. And if that wasn’t bad enough, it turns out that female homeowners weigh more than female renters.

Researchers discovered homeowners, on average, outweighed renters by 12 pounds. In addition to excess weight, female homeowners were also carrying around more aggravation, making less time for leisure, and were less likely to spend time with friends.

Apparently the researchers controlled for age, as it would seem logical to assume that homeowners are on average older than renters and people tend to put on weight as they ride the chronology train into the future.

fat house
Fat House by Erwin Wurm (2003)

Alas, age has nothing to do with it. Researchers speculate that homeowners spend less time doing things like socializing with friends, walking, and playing sports because they are too busy fixing roofs, installing new wainscoting, and walking the aisles of Home Depot looking for deals on pedestal sinks for that half-bath they plan to install one of these days.

The findings present a chicken-or-the-egg question for social scientists, who are unsure if home ownership causes these patterns or if people prone to less sociability, less interest in leisure activities and higher stress are simply more attracted to owning homes.

Full disclosure: I am a female homeowner. I may be carrying around an extra pound or two, but not necessarily twelve. That said, I walk every day. And I wasn’t all that social to begin with. But this smacks to me of one of those “correlation does not imply causation” situations.

pirates are cool

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors? Nah…

I have a good but casual relationship with many of my neighbors, especially since having a baby. Nothing encourages crossing the street or popping around the fence more readily than a fresh-out-of-the-womb infant! We chat about the weather and gardening and the baby, of course. We wave hello if we are in our cars. We occasionally lend one another implements like wheel barrows, and once, my neighbor Paul even took pity on our snowblower-less butts and plowed our driveway! And yet, there’s a closeness lacking that might be nice to have. If I needed a cup of sugar, I’d drive to the Stop & Shop rather than knock on a neighbor’s door.

bad neighbors

With that in mind, I was intrigued by a post over at The Simple Dollar that explained how one could set up a simple neighborhood cooperative.

Household equipment Why not share a lawnmower with your neighbor? How about a snowblower? One great model for this exists in our neighborhood, where one person owns a snowblower and provides fuel for it, but is not in good enough physical shape to operate it. Thus, one of her neighbors actually operates the snowblower, using it to blow the snow out of both driveways (and often doing a large swath of the block’s entire sidewalk as well).

Gardening If two or three neighbors all have gardens, why not specialize the gardens and freely share the produce? This allows one family to focus specifically on a crop or two, making garden maintenance easier for all of the people involved. You can even carry this to the level of canning and/or freezing, agreeing to swap prepared garden products with neighbors.

There are other ideas in the post, though I’m not sure how readily I’d leave my baby with a neighbor or share cooking duties on a weekly basis. I would like to get to know my neighbors, however, as previous to this, I’ve been living in apartments for years and years. This was in the cheapest possible sections of Brooklyn, so there was a lot more wall banging and language barriers than friendly interaction. Now I’m curious to know how well you are acquainted with your neighbors.