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Appreciating 'home', wherever it is

Published February 27. 2010 09:00AM

There is no place like home.

We hear that said so often. I bet you've probably said it a few times yourself.

Sometimes we come home from a trip or vacation and we see our home through new eyes when we haven't been there for while. During our brief reentry to our home, we stop seeing the flaws. Instead, we simply appreciate the comfort of coming home to our familiar place.

My mother, who grew up with so little and consequentially appreciated everything, was fond of saying, "It doesn't matter if it's only a broom closet. If it's your home, it's comforting."

I believe that, of course.

But ever since I got married, the burning question has been: Where is home?

The problem is, Dave and I each own a house. The pitiful real estate market in Florida makes it foolish and most likely impossible to try selling a home.

Right now, there are so many foreclosures on the market going for only slightly more than a luxury car. While people can snap up those incredible bank-owned bargains, no one wants to pay the price for a regular home.

Renting out a second home also is filled with problems. Friends of mine rented out their newly remodeled home to a couple that seemed to be nice tenants. The renter burned the kitchen down to ashes, and then moved without paying the back rent she owned.

I hear so many horror stories that I decided never to rent my sweet cottage.

Our plan was to live in both homes. Dave and I have wonderful waterfront homes 35 minutes apart. And we have regular activities in both areas. So we decided to stay in my house when we have an activity here and to stay in his house when we had something doing there.

To make all that back and forth more doable, we tried to establish a schedule, staying the first part of the week in my house and in his home for the rest of the time.

"It will work," said our priest. "It will work because you will make it work. When all that back and forth grows old, you can come up with a different solution."

We are making it work but it is more than confusing. Before we can make final plans for anything, we have to ask, "Where are we staying that night?"

Our friends call it the most unconventional living arrangement. We call it "making do."

But then along came a tempting offer. A dear friend asked if I would be willing to rent my house for the month of March to friends of hers. "They are great folks and they will leave your home better than they found it," she promised.

So, here I am, clearing out my house to prepare for those monthly visitors. It's a lot harder task than I bargained for because of one simple reason: Too much stuff.

We never realize how much "stuff" we own until we try to pare it down or eliminate it entirely. I did so much paring down when I moved from Pennsylvania because I only took what would fit in my car and my friend Lenny's van. It was painful to part with things I wanted to save, but it had to be done.

Actually, it was a freeing experience. To be freed of clutter, junk, and even nice possessions makes life simpler. Do it once and you never have to do it again. Or, so I thought.


Here I am, only living in my house for three years and every corner is crammed with stuff. Every cabinet is filled to overflowing. It's taken me three boxes alone to empty out the things in my big bathroom vanity.

When Murphy wrote his famous Murphy's laws, I'm sure he included one that said. "If there is a space, we will fill it."

My husband certainly has done that. Living alone for years, he was able to spread his belongings all over the house. He, too, filled every inch of available space.

Now that I'm moving in with him, at least for the month, he has to clear away his things to make room for mine.

All I can say is thank goodness we are doing this in stages. I am taking things to his house for the month... a month's worth of clothes and shoes, along with what I will need there - three cameras, my bike and kayaking stuff, all my files for filing income tax, recipe books, checkbooks, a few books to read, my jewelry box, the computer I need for work, a desk for the computer... the list keeps growing.

This week is also the week we are moving our 8,000 pound-boat to Dave's dock. He jokes that the stuff I am moving into his house weighs more than the boat.

But we are both absolutely ecstatic that we will be able to stay in his house for a month without going back and forth to mine. If seasonal rentals work out, that might be an answer for my house, at least for the three winter months we call "the season."

We have no idea how we will solve our two-home dilemma on a permanent basis. But I have complete faith that a solution will come along.

Meanwhile, I'm ordering a plaque for Dave's house that expresses our sentiments: "It doesn't matter where you go in life or where you live… It's who you have beside you."

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