(NOTE: The original post published on May 11, 2011 disappeared when Blogger was having issues...All I had left was the first rough draft. I've tried to recreate that finished post but frankly, I'm not sure how well I did that, since I can't recall the full post!)
Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home.
I don't suppose there's a woman alive who didn't spend a goodly portion of her childhood years dreaming of her own home. In fairness, I must add that I heard my boys talk of their planned first homes, so it's not an exclusively female thing. We all have our own ideals of what home will look like, feel like and be, drawn from many sources over our growing years. For myself that ideal translated to living here on this property where I felt safe and happy and carefree and loved all my childhood years, as it did for my brother and my cousin. This land was our haven. Granny's little house was nice enough, but it was the feeling being there evoked for us that created the ideal of home in our minds.
My first married home was a well laid out three bedroom manufactured home, not large but airy, and quite nice and my own. From there, the homes I lived in were increasingly less than ideal. A little rented four room with central hall 1900's home that was too near the railroad tracks heated only by wood with not one whit of insulation to keep out the cold or heat, to a former railroad foreman's house in ill repair on a huge city lot that we bought and never improved upon or kept up for the ten years we lived there, a hospital room for two months, a 1950's ranch home rental that Chance and I poured heart and soul into making a home even as it fell in around us, to our current much loved manufactured home on Granny's former farm, now divided amongst family members.
The house too near the railroad had a kitchen on the west side of the house where full sun hit from just after noon until late evening. Many a miserable meal was gotten in that lovely kitchen, which could do little to offset the sheer hell of being in an already overheated room trying to prepare a meal!
My third home could have been a lovely place but the lack of natural light in the living, dining and kitchen areas made it a gloomy place to dwell. And that gloom in the living room was hard to dispell with one tiny window and dark brown walls and deep chocolate carpet on the floor. Why we never bothered to buy one of those economy five gallon buckets of white paint and paint those walls I can't say. The ranch home had lots of windows and I liked that a great deal but the laundry room was outdoors and around the corner (what nut thought that one out?), and the way the rooms were laid out the possibility of getting a breeze stirring was slim unless we were in the midst of a hurricane.
By the time Chance and I were househunting for this home, we had a clear idea of what we wanted. As well we had a large family.
Finding a place to live is the first important step you will take in homemaking, so do all you can to choose as wisely as possible. Armed with a list of ideals and a hard and fast budget you should be able to find a place to live that suits you and your current needs.
First things first, okay? Determine what you can afford for rent or payments before you start to look. Although we were assured we could pay twice as much per month for a place, we'd lived with our budget long enough to know full well what we truly could afford. Considering how things went those first few years, it's a good thing we stuck to our planned budget and not the loan officer's idea of what we could afford.
Experts seem to agree that housing costs should not exceed more than 33% of your monthly budget. That figure includes rent/house payment, basic utilites (phone, electric, water, gas) and insurance. Your budget may be more or less depending upon your personal debt obligations. While many agents will tell you the 'average' cost of electricity and water for a home, it's well to ask the utility company before making a final decision on the home.
If you're renting, be sure to check the crime rate of the area where you're looking. It might be worthwhile to be a little further away from town if your only budgeted area is in an undesirable part of town. Be willing to compromise on the less important parts of your list of ideals. It would be the rare home indeed that was absolutely perfect and spot on budget as well.
Have a clear idea of what you can and can't do to improve a place. If you're a skilled handyman you might well negotiate a better price (or even an exchange of repairs for rent if you're not buying). A fixer upper might be the ideal home for you if you're assured of the time to tend to such matters. When the owner of the 1950's ranch discovered I'd paid to have the yard professionally cleaned up and hauled countless loads of discarded furniture and trash to the curb, she willingly agreed to allow further improvements to the property and repairs to the home in lieu of rent if I'd present her with the bill for service or receipt for materials bought. Some homeowners won't allow you to paint walls or change a lightbulb unless they come in to do it themselves, so find out what the landlord's expectations and preferences are before you sign a lease.
We factored in gasoline costs in our budget when we moved here. We knew it would cost more because, love it as we do, we're sort of in the middle of next to nowhere. It's not uncommon in our area to drive 30-50 miles to shop for furnishings, food, seek entertainment, etc.
Truthfully, all the faults and wonders of the homes we've lived in made the houses more or less ideal, but none of them made the house a HOME. Home is where you live. It's where you and the people who live with you, express their personality, seek haven from the world outside, feel loved and restored.
Creating that sense of home...That's what this series is about. Let's start with cleaning...