One of the biggest drawbacks to renting your home is not having the freedom to make changes in order for it to represent your family’s personality. My husband and I have been renters since the almost six years we’ve been married. We have lived in three very different places and have struggled with not being able to make repairs, paint walls funky colors, start a garden, etc. Through these struggles, however, we’ve found ways for our home to represent who we are. I thoughgt I’d share in case you’re in the middle of these struggles.
Struggle #1: Repairs Needed – No railing on sometimes icy porch stairs, a leaky roof, a room-type carpet glued to the floor, bug infestations. These are just a few of the problems we’ve had with our rentals that required repair or maintenance but didn’t seem important enough to the landlords to take care of. There are ways to handle this. You can do the repairs yourself and ask for reimbursement, you can just take the cost of them, or you can find ways to get around them. Our landlords never reimbursed us for the bug fogger or the carpet, but it was worth it to us to have these things taken care of so we handled it ourselves – with permission, of course. If you have a major issue and the landlord won’t take it upon him/herself to make your home safe it’s important that you take matters into your own hands. We went for a whole year with a growing infestation of Black Mold on the walls, underneath the mattresses, along the windowsills, next to my baby’s bed! Our landlord told us to spray it down with bleach. We moved out the first chance we had.
Struggle #2: Making it feel like YOUR home – There are ways to personalize your home and give it your own home-y touch without painting walls, removing cabinet doors, etc. My favorite way is to create my own focal point of a room. I once had a huge collage framed in an old picture window frame (that got taken down because it was never tested for lead paint). You can also make your own curtains or drapes and have coordinated pillows, fabric squares on the wall, etc. Place plants about the place or blow up your favorite pictures – not just your formal pictures. We have a great picture from our wedding with my husband in a backwards cap and me in aviator sunglasses running underneath the arms of our friends that will (SOON!) be blown up to 11×14 and framed as the focal point of our living room. Remember, also, to keep it simple. The more things you add to your home, the more cluttered it can feel and own or rent, this is never a good thing.
Struggle #3: Neighbors – The politics of neighbors in a rental home are tricky. The people who have lived in your neighborhood before you may have preconceived notions about you and your family due to the experiences they’ve had with the other people that have lived in your home. Bring them cookies, anyway. You really shouldn’t have to be the person to introduce yourself first, but God calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves and this is how this gets done. Include a note (I just use index cards) with your name and telephone number – depending on the neighborhood – and let them know you’re there if they need you. When you see them say hello, smile, pet their dogs, whatever. You can’t feel safe in your home if you don’t know your neighbors – especially if they’re 10 inches away from you in the next apartment. (This goes for home owners, too.)
Struggle #4 – None or very little garden space – Man, this one makes me bummed. I see all the beautiful gardens all my blogging friends are planting this season and my hands just ache to plant, sow, water, and weed. In the home we’re at now, we have just enough yard for the dog to go potty. But we can create a lovely herb garden and keep healthy, toxin reducing plants in each room of the house. We also visit the local Farmer’s Market in the summer and fall – this gives us community that we would otherwise miss out on – plus it funds small business and family farming. The other sad part about renting on a year lease is knowing that what you plant this year will be enjoyed by someone else next year – always frustrating especially if you know you won’t be living there for longer than your lease. The best thing to do is look on the bright side – at least your nails still look pretty!
In the six years that we’ve been renting as a family every single day I have dreamed of owning my own house. I have the colors, the kitchen, the living room, the garden, the garage all laid out in my mind. I see my son and our dog running in the yard and I see me hanging up our clothes to dry on a hot summer afternoon with my husband diligently working in the garage or mowing the lawn. But I’ve learned that a house/apartment/duplex is only wood without my family. A home is not brick or wood, but the family that God houses you with.
How do you make your rental a home? Please share your thoughts, struggles, ideas!