Friday, May 14, 2010

A Boarding House Mentality In A Transient Society

I have lived in a large Victorian house for nearly 20 years. I bought it as a handyman special, and invested both money and sweat equity into fixing it up into comfortable home over a two year period of time when I first purchased it.

Since the house had been used as a two-family home for many decades prior to my arrival, although built as a single family home in the early 1890's, I decided that for both economic reasons and space sharing reasons, it made sense to have people live on our third floor.

My first housemate moved in 18 years ago, and stayed until he purchased his own condo in a nearby town at the beginning of the year. My other housemate has been here 14 years, and has no plans to leave anytime soon. I guess the early to mid-1990's were a time when people could find a place to live, settle in and stay. And the idea of a 1 year commitment was almost taken for granted. Who WOULDN'T want that?

Having been thrown back into the market to find a new housemate, although greatly altered with 2010 values and norms, I am finding myself getting a whole new education about how people view living spaces and housemate situations. Over the past 4 months, I have tried to use Craig's list to find a housemate, since even a realtor told me that's what she would do if I asked for her to help me.

Craig's list has yielded many applicants, none appropriate! The range has been newly separating men and women who need my therapy services more than space in my home, and whose emotional and life instability would never allow the one-year commitment I am requiring. There have been contractors from other countries, with short-term assignments in Boston, graduate students from the US and abroad seeking 1 - 3 month spaces to live while doing a project, elders who realize they want to live with other people, but don't have the financial resources to pay even the very modest contribution I am requesting for "rent," single parents with one or more children in very financially unstable situations, and people whose job situations would blow your mind.

Only one or two of more than 50 prospects even seemed to remotely qualify for our housemate position. And even then, a job instability or relationship instability intercepted our efforts at talking about their moving in.

Today, a woman called me who has been looking for a housemate for over a year, with no success. She was divorced and wanted to keep her home in my town, and hang on to her furniture and worldly possessions. Sadly, the cost of maintaining her home is beyond her means, and she thought having a housemate would help make ends meet. Now, she is considering BECOMING the housemate in a household like mine.

It seems many people are living with a "boarding house" mentality, wanting a place to plop down or sleep amidst 60 - 80 hour work weeks, short-term assignment and breaking relationships. They would like the amenities of "home," but without the commitment necessary to maintain one.

While I respect how hard the times are, how many people are in dire predicaments, and how much instability many people live with every day, my house is a HOME, and I want to keep it that way.

I will keep searching until I find a nice person who is stable, well-matched and even relieved when I bring up the infamous "one year commitment." But, I truly never expected the journey to have these kinds of twists and turns!

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