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.