Anxiety, Working Parent

The Shame Of Renting

All my life I’ve been told that renting is a mugs game. That renting is like taking a wadge of money and throwing it away every month. Just throwing it away to no end or purpose. I’ve been told that renting is a bad idea, it’s not ideal and it’s not what anyone with any sense would be doing. I’ve heard people that I know and love make off the cuff remarks like “well of course next door is rented out, so we never know what we could get…”

And so, for the last four years that we’ve been renting I’ve felt pretty shit about it.

In some ways of course, there are reasons why renting is far from ideal. We know this from sheer experience, we’ve had some horrendous landlords, we’ve picked properties out of urgent desperation that have turned out to be a disaster and we’ve moved more times than we’d care too. I now have a rule that I never buy new curtains for a place until we’ve been there for at least six months, in the hope that I don’t jinx us and our contract gets terminated early. But having been where we are for eighteen months now and loving it, I’m starting to feel less shame and more grateful about our renting circumstances.

The truth is we could never live where we live now, if we weren’t renting it. We live in an idealic little cottage in a little Kent village. It’s small but lovely and full of character, with a typical cottage garden and beams exposed throughout.  The living room has a huge inglenook fireplace which is beautiful and just bloody brilliant for the magic of Christmas. With the stockings hanging up and the snowy footprints I traced from the grate across the lounge floor. There is something really homely about living here, it all just fits right for us. Although I know my husband wishes the ceilings were a bit higher…

Then of course there is the village itself, which really is a lovely community. Especially now that Finley has started school and I’ve been on maternity leave, we’ve really started to discover it. There’s a library, shops, pubs, Doctors, Dentist and Pharmacy all within walking distance. There’s a local park, toddler and baby groups I can take Niamh to. The village has events throughout the year – Christmas ones and Summer ones. Plus the added bonus that Finley’s school friends and cousins are all just right here, living around the corner or chanced upon whilst we’re out grabbing milk. For him in particular, I don’t think it could get any better. And all that might sound trivial to some but it’s quality of life over quantity and that more than anything gives me peace of mind.

And all that might sound trivial to some but it’s quality of life over quantity and that more than anything gives me peace of mind.

The other less obvious benefit to the renting game is that anything that goes wrong is not our problem. Since we’ve been here we’ve had a brand new garden fence and washing machine as the previous were not fit for purpose. This winter the lock on the front door broke off in my husbands hand and all we had to do was call the landlord and 48 hours later it was fixed, free of charge. If anything in this house goes wrong at any point – the boiler, the guttering, whatever – we don’t have to pay for it. We will never have to find a couple of hundred quid for unforseen repairs. That really is a good feeling.

Honestly, we could never in a million years afford to buy a house like this. We could never in a million years afford a property in the centre of this village, or any village like it. And although it was circumstances beyond our control – rather than choice that led us to renting, that led us down this path. If I had known then what I know now, I would have made different choices. Choices based on quality of life rather than optimistic financial ignorance. We never had a leg up, like some of our generation. Like some of our friends and family that were given lump sums towards deposits from their parents or were given the opportunity to stay living at home for years on end in order to save. That wasn’t us and we took an option that was common place at the time but ill advised and quite frankly irresponsible. But we were so young and everyone said it was such a good idea that we believed it. And all it really did was back us into a corner for the best part of a decade, making our lives much harder than they needed to be.

After the stress and sleepless nights that have been the last four years of our lives, I have learnt one really important lesson. It’s the quality of your life that makes it, not what you own when you die. It’s not what you were able to accumulate in eighty years, not how many TV’s you have in your house or if you could buy the latest whatever. It’s not the house that you lived in, that someone else you don’t even know – will live in long after you are gone. The truth is and I know this is a bit morbid sorry… but we are all going to die. We are all just going to die in a relatively short space of time and working yourself to death, buying all the shit just to impress other people isn’t living. Living is being able to sleep at night again, it’s giving your kids great childhoods. Living is participating in life and accepting your lot.

It’s not what you were able to accumulate in eighty years, not how many TV’s you have in your house or if you could buy the latest whatever. It’s not the house that you lived in, that someone else you don’t even know – will live in long after you are gone.

Of course everyone’s ideal is different. I’m sure that living in a tiny cottage, in a little village in the middle of nowhere isn’t everyone’s idea of a great time. But for us it works. And the point is that I no longer feel that sense of shame when I tell people that we rent where we live, that we don’t own it and never will. When I think of where we’ve come from, and of how hard we’ve both worked (and still do) just to survive the last few years. The levels of stress and anxiety we’ve been through, I feel nothing but pride. Just pure pride that we’ve made it through and not killed each other in the process.

We could spend the next decade working our arses off and saving, saving, saving to buy a house. We could have not had a second child, in fact we could have not had the first… But the thing is, we’d wake up in our mid forties – the kids off to secondary school and beginning the journey into teenage-hood and ultimately there own lives and find we’ve missed it all. For what? A cardboard cut out house the same as everyone elses, that we’re tied to for the last twenty years of our lives until one of us pegs it. No thanks.

I’d rather have this – right now. I’d rather be in the moment and live it. Even if it does mean that we’re terrible, shameful renters.

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27 Comments

  1. When I first read this post a little while back, we were renting a caravan while looking for something better. I thought you house sounded like an absolute dream. Now we’ve just moved into a house ourselves, and I feel very fortunate, even though it is rented. No shame in renting xx

  2. We live in a rented house after being forced financially to sell our home 5 years ago. We were badly advised and it resulted in us having to sell our home, which didn’t in fact help! I find it really hard renting when all my friends have their own houses. It’s difficult not to feel the one who failed. The truth is we couldn’t afford to buy a house like the one we live in, and are very fortunate to have it. We chose family over material things and have 6 children and honestly, I wouldn’t change a thing.

  3. I wouldn’t feel ashamed, you have to do what is right for you and your family. It is expensive living now adays and your not alone, there are lot of people out there in the same boat X #bloggersbest

  4. This is a great post and I agree with so many of your outlooks on life. We rented a lovely little house pre-kids. Close to the station and town and our gym! Was perfect. Would have never afforded a bigger house in the area but it’s that pressure to buy sometimes. The most important thing is being happy and settled. Thanks for sharing with #bloggersbest x

  5. I am a renter as well as a landlord. We moved out of state and are renting until we build. We will put our house on the market in the spring. We have had that middle of the night call that the boiler broke. Shelled out money. But then we also called our landlord when our heating system died on the coldest night of the year. Glad we did not have to pay for that emergency bill! #bloggersbest

  6. I think attitudes will change as more and more people are renting now as they simply can’t afford to buy as houses are so expensive.

  7. As a nation, us Brits are more obsessed with owning our own homes than most other European nations – the stats bear this out. I’ve never really understood the stigma attached to renting. Yes, there are bad renters but there are bad home owners too. And there are downsides to buying a house too that people who sneer at renting often forget – paying a mortgage and home insurance, having to buy your own furniture and appliances, paying stamp duty, lawyer’s fees, maintenance, being responsible for everything that goes wrong etc etc. Not to mention having to save for a deposit in the first place. We bought our first house relatively early but it stretched us financially for a few years and it was a contributing factor to us waiting before starting a family. Swings and roundabouts. Owning a house certainly doesn’t make you a ‘better’ person somehow. #fortheloveofBLOG

  8. I don’t know why as a nation we are so obsessed with home ownership. In Germany I’ve heard it’s pretty standard that everybody just rents for life. There’s a lot to be said for having someone else worry about maintaining the house, home ownership can be so stressful #fortheloveofBLOG

  9. I don’t think there is any shame in renting. Hubster and I bought our first home just over 2 years ago. We have now spent the equivalent to 6 years of rent on it. Mortgages, maintenance, insurance, taxes, utilities, the bills never stop. I miss renting so much and would recommend everyone base buying on their needs versus what society tells them to do. We are not any happier in our home and we are much poorer. But everyone tells us in 30 years we’ll get it, once the mortgage pays off. Except I’ll be 65 years old and probably ready to move into a care home for the elderly. Great. #fortheloveofBLOG

  10. I couldn’t agree more with this! I don’t know why we are all so obsessed with owning in this country. We do own but came into the game VERY late after many many years of renting but only because it made sense for us at the time. I think given the way things are going in this country with property we need to have a rejig of attitudes! Thanks for linking up to #coolmumclub xx

  11. Your home and village sound idyllic. We rented for 7 years and used to get similar comments. Do whatever works for you!

  12. Hi Sarah, I love this. Where we live it’s quite normal to rent and we have been doing so since we have lived here. When Greece first got into trouble homeowners were taxed terribly, which was totally wrong, but it wasn’t something we had to worry about. Renting may not be for everyone, but it certainly has its benefits. If we had the money I would love to buy this little house, but that’s never going to happen, so, for now, we are happy renting.

    xx

  13. As a fellow renter, I can totally relate. I’d love to own a house some day, but the fact is that it seems unlikely we’ll ever have enough saved for a deposit. But maybe that’s okay. We’re able to spend our money on holidays and experiences that make us happy rather than paying to fix the leak in our bathroom, and there’s something to be said for that. #fortheloveofBLOG

  14. We rented for many years and I felt like you did for a time. We had some pretty shocking landlords and I have moved more times than I care to count. I think as long as you are happy and providing a roof over your head you have every reason to be proud of yourself #MMBC

  15. I love that you have such a lovely happy home, it doesn’t matter if it’s owned or rented, you are happy. I am in a similar situation, I am renting a five bedroomed two story house with a price tag I’d never ever be able to afford. It’s a long term contract and the only way they can make me move is if I don’t pay the rent or they want to knock the house down (which is unlikely as they only built it four years ago, and we moved straight in.)

  16. I can so see how renters in the UK can be made to feel like 2nd class citizens – hangover of Thatcher’s Britain and all that – when most European countries have renting as the norm and they think we are mad for wanting the responsibility of homeownership etc. It sounds like ultimately renting has worked out for you at the mo and that is all that matters. Your place sounds lovely – I may have to pick your brains about the Kent countryside one day – s-e London is fab at the mo, but you never know…. 🙂 #thesatsesh xx

  17. I could have written this too (but substitute lovely-sounding cottage for 3-bed semi in the suburbs). There’s no way we could buy and our quality of life would be rubbish if we even could. No, we don’t have the asset of a property to fall back on if ever we need, but hey ho, them’s the breaks. We shameful renters must stick together!

  18. This is a brilliant post- there is so much shame associated with not living up to some ‘ideal’ life. It sounds like you have got a great balance with your family; nothing at all shameful about that. #thesatsesh

  19. […] night I managed to get some blog work done. My post about renting where we live had been  picked up by Mumsnet the day before – which was nice to see. I’ve been […]

  20. Love this! I dont rent myself, but have done (plenty) in the past, and I support young people into finding somewhere to rent themselves. I must try and dig this up when people want to read something about the positives of renting.

  21. The first few sentences really struck a chord with me – I grew up being told exactly the same. We were able to buy a small place 14 years ago – we’d really struggle to get on the property ladder these days. You’really absolutely right, though – there are benefits of renting (as I’ve reminded myself when we’ve needed urgent repairs to our place) and quality of life is massively important. I think the culture may be shifting away from owning your own place as house prices go up, and in other parts of the world most people rent anyway x

  22. Definitely! I’m renting in a busy city centre location at the moment. People always tell me I’m “throwing money away every month”, but a house that’s affordable in comparison is a 45 minute commute in traffic every morning when my husband already works long hours, away from the hospital I need on a regular basis and away from family. For now, I am quite happy renting and having a higher quality of life where I am. #MMBC

  23. Allegra says:

    Yes! Please could you come and tell my parents all this 😉 We’re renting a lovely house ten minutes from my kids’ school with a garden and awesome neighbours but apparently it would be better if we bought a tiny terrace on the other (just about affordable) side of town where we know no-one….

  24. I don’t think renting is anything to be ashamed of. You can pay less on a mortgage but then you have all the hassle of repairs etc. You can also move easier when you rent! #MMBC

  25. It sounds like our situations are very similar, I could have written all of the above. Well said. I still would love that forever house though.

  26. Hear, hear. No need to be ashamed, you are providing a lovely home for your family and paying your pay, who can ask for more than that? Mich x

  27. We rent and the amount of repairs we’ve had over the last year we couldn’t have afforded to pay for ourselves plus the boiler checks and emergency plumber when we had a burst pipe under the bath. There is no shame in renting. #MMBC

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