'A house defines the very spirit of who we are'

JamieSeptember 18, 2011

That's the first line of a realtor's description of a nice house in a beautiful spot in the Indiana Dunes. (287260)

Up to this point in my life house choices have been limited by where I must live in order to get to work and what mortgage I can get. So there was always the sense of that I could get a house that was a few steps beyond my station in life. House buying was self-enhancement.

Folly or not, it was fun. I enjoyed moving to a more upscale neighborhood and restoring a wreck.

Now, we are semi-retired. I need to detach my spirit from the house identity thing.

Are you "one with your house"? Have you ever detached, and if so, how did you do it?

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My husband and I moved to a retirement community 3 years ago. I loved my previous house, but when we moved, I never looked back. Many people here in the community mourn the houses they had before moving here, but we never did.

We also had a cottage on the river that we sold last year. It was getting to be too much work for us. We had never gone back since we sold it but we drove there last week to see how high the river had crested. Thankfully, the house was not flooded because it sits high above the river, but the water was quite high.

We were disappointed, however, to see how overgrown the outside of the cottage was. I love to garden and had created gardens around the place. They were not taken care of by the new owners. So we were not sad about selling that house, either. We were reminded of why we had sold it!

    Bookmark   September 18, 2011 at 8:10PM
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Jamie, have you read "Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived In That House," by Meghan Daum? She chronicles her obsession with houses and all the psychological stuff that goes with it. It's much more than dreaming about stainless steel appliances and upscale neighborhoods. I read a review on this book (it just came out in paperback) and found it in the library. I loved it!

Anyway, I detached one time for a house. It was an amazing house that anyone else would have loved. But it wasn't me. And I hated it. I lasted there a year. Didn't even care about decorating it. That's always a sign.

I am also always limited by where the work is and especially what I can afford. What I'm crazy about is always, always, a hair out of my price range! How come? Maybe it's human nature to want more. I don't care if I have to buy a wreck again. All the moves I've made, I have learned that taking a rest by doing the sensible thing is not all it's cracked up to be and after a year or so, when I've caught my breath, I will long for what I really wanted. I'm going for the one that melts my butter.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2011 at 11:13PM
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I'll have to read that book because I can't find a house which makes me feel the way my previous house did. I regret selling it.

We are retired now and it was too much upkeep and we thought we could move on and downsize. We have been back and forth to Florida for 3 years looking and nothing we've seen has that 'feeling.'

Price is the limiting factor at this point although I do not find Florida architecture appealing. We are now looking at older homes which might offer more character and charm. This would require major work and expense and we are not sure we are up to it.

Our home has always been a place where we spend a lot of time. We work in our home, socialize there and it has to feel right. I just can't see us living in a house we can't identify with.


    Bookmark   September 19, 2011 at 12:14AM
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Love, that book sounds very intriguing...will have to look for it! Your post is so interesting, well-written and expressed. I appreciate your approach & outlook.

I've had a love/hate relationship with both houses I've owned, so while there has been attachment, the angst involved kept some detachment going for me too! There's always the nagging feeling that there's a place where I can relax more and just enjoy living in it. I wonder.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2011 at 8:39AM
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I've never been "one" with a house nor do I think a home defines my spirit. I'm limited mostly by my commute to work and money - and the kind of neighborhood I want for my children.

The house we just bought is lovely though. It has so many of the things we wanted. One of my weird feelings when buying it though was that it was "too good" for me. Time will tell if this house really isn't me or if I grow into it (or make it my own with decorating/landscaping).

I do get attached to houses though and am sentimental to leave -mostly due to the memories I made there. Although my first home bought when I was single was probably the most "me" - at that time.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2011 at 3:31PM
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I sometimes wish we hadn't sold my racy blue Austin Healey 3000. Then I remember how hard it was to keep it tuned, and that I couldn't easily get in and out of it anymore, and that what I miss isn't 'it', but 'me' -- when I was much younger!

"For every thing there is a season..."

    Bookmark   September 19, 2011 at 5:41PM
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Meghan Daum also has a website. I'll post the link.

Here is a link that might be useful: Meghan Daum

    Bookmark   September 19, 2011 at 9:37PM
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I put a hold on the book at the library web site yesterday
afternoon. It will be fun to get her west coast perspective. Yay!

I enjoyed listening to _House_, by Tracy Kidder, too.

Never had a really fancy little car, but I had a darling Miata. That car made people think I was still young! (when seen from a distance.) I'll never forget the double-take one guy did. The gymnastic forward roll I had to do to exit the vehicle probably did keep me a little younger.

I think the love/hate thing comes from cleaning the house. If somebody else kept it immaculate the hate might go away.

My memory of stuff I only had to do once -- like sanding the floors, no matter how bad it was at the time -- pales next to the memory of not having enough kitchen cabinets night after night.

Thanks everybody for the nice conversation.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 8:36AM
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I just bought a detached Colonial a year and a half ago. I've done a lot of work to it and have made it "mine", but it's not my dream house. I love the charm of Victorian style houses but at the age of 52 I'm not moving again until retirement. My Colonial isn't my dream, but it's home.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2011 at 2:23AM
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'A house defines the very spirit of who we are'.

No, it doesn't. A house might reflect the spirit of who we are, but that is either backward, or a marketing gimmick.

How is it a marketing ploy? Well, It's hinting that if we buy or do the 'right' thing, it'll make us better, richer, more attractive. Sort of like picking out a dog because it's fashionable. Yes, I suppose the 'right' house could feed a person's ego if it were fancy enough with the right amenities, and in the right spot. But if you have to buy a certain house to define yourself, that's sad.

For many reasons like the other posters have noted, it may not even reflect a person's spirit. One lives within monetary restraints, or lives where they don't want to for various reasons, usually involved with work.

That being said, there are occasions when someone connects with a house and there is an instant bond and one can feel as if they and their house are interconnected and it just fits.

The property in which I am living now fits that description. I knew the instant I lay eyes on it, it just called to me. Belonged to a fellow I had just started dating and when he drove me home for a dinner he was going to prepare, I was smitten. LOL with the house first, the fellow later.

It's not fancy, never was. It has been a work in progress since we married 25 years ago as our lives and the house's life mingled. I ended up quiting my job and starting up an agricultural business on the property. Over the years, I have replanted an orchard, put up structures, repaired the chicken coop and pulled out the cobble and restored. It's a monstrous old Federal and it's just the two of us here now and the grounds take a lot of upkeep. Never plan on downsizing and we'll keep it up as best we can and croak here one day I suppose.

We saved it from certain demolition and gave it a new life and it seems almost 'grateful'. Not fancy, but suits our simple life. It does reflect our spirit. But it didn't define it.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2011 at 6:01PM
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Jamie, I read that book House by Tracy Kidder, many years ago. Did you get Meghan Daum's book yet? Now I'm craving something else like that! Anybody have any suggestions? I can recommend some great "moving-to-the-country" books if anyone is interested in that.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2011 at 10:54PM
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I did read "Life Would be Perfect", and I liked it.

I don't know of any other house books, but you could always pick up Travels With Charlie for a sort of antidote to house books. I'd enjoy a recommendation on a moving to the country book. Or rewatch The Money Pit? Sorry I only have lame suggestions. I'm kind of glad to be almost done with the house procurement process for the present.

I drove a long way on a dark lonely road tonight and it made me realize that my move-to-the-country dreams are not tempting anymore. That's sad. I'll have to settle for reading about them.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2011 at 11:07PM
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I've owned 3 homes, all at different stages of life--childless, baby/toddler then the "big house we always dreamed of. We are now selling the big house and moving to a large condo. Each move was dictated by changes in our lifestyle. Each time we looked a t homes though, we looked for a connection to it. I can't imagine purchasing a home like a commodity. I've got to imagine myself living there with holidays, entertaining, etc. Some of the buyers who've come to my house just have a check list with which they evaluate the property. The ultimate buyer came in and fell in love. He could appreciate the architecture, the style and the loving care we took to stay true to the era.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2011 at 2:51AM
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NJAnnRose, it's much better if you feel a connection to it. Those are the houses that I loved the best, even if they weren't as "grand" as another one I had.

Jamie, you're going to love these:

Fifty Acres and a Poodle by Jeanne Marie Laskas
Man Bites Log by Max Alexander
Country Matters by Michael Korda
Population: 485 by Michael Perry

I am getting ready to start Around the House and in the Garden by Dominique Browning. I forgot I had it until I went to go look for some recommendations for you.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2011 at 12:06AM
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"A house defines the very spirit of who we are"

Not my spirit but the lifestyle we want at the moment. When it no longer fits the lifestyle we desire we change it.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2011 at 11:16PM
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