8 Things I Learned From Being Homeless (for a summer…)
Before the summer began, my wife and I found a house we fell in love with. It was perfect, it had everything we ever wanted or needed in a home. It had beautiful open spaces for entertaining, a pool, a built-in outdoor kitchen, detached mother-in-law suite and was in a beautiful friendly neighborhood with bars, shopping and restaurants – all within walking distance.
We put in an offer and it was accepted. We were getting our dream home. We listed our current house and it sold very quickly. We would be moving in the first week of June while our kids were on summer break. We were beaming. We visualized the colors we would paint the walls, the decorations we would use, the new furniture we would buy, we even purchased beautiful modern wood flooring in advance. We took our kids to see it, took pictures outside and drove past it regularly. We even started frequenting the restaurants in the area.
Visualizing the end result? Done.
Imagining all of the details? Done.
Acting as if? Done.
No doubts, no fears. It was ours.
But then, it wasn’t. Through a series of mishaps including an appraisal on the home coming in way too low for the sellers to accept, we lost the house. We lost – what we thought was our dream home – a week before moving into it.
“Then there must be something better out there for you guys.” Everyone told us. We couldn’t imagine what that could possibly be.
We were broken-hearted, shocked and in disbelief.
My wife’s father and step-mother were compassionate and gracious to let us stay with them while we started the housesearch all over again. With no house to move in to, we loaded every room in our office to the ceiling with boxes and furniture, then packed a few suitcases with clothes for us and the kids and took them to my in-laws. Since most of the kids toys were boxed up, we bought them each Lego sets at least once a week to keep them occupied. This very well may be remembered by them as “The Summer of Lego”.
We scrambled to look at every home in the area that met our criteria and was still close to the kids school. Within two weeks, we must have seen 100 homes online and forty in person. There were times that we saw six or seven houses on the same day.
We eventually agreed on a house we saw that was on a golf course with a lake view, and after a few weeks began to let go of the pain of the lost dream house and allow excitement to build for the golf course home.
The unthinkable happened….. again.
Another series of mishaps including another low appraisal and sellers being unwilling to bend – and boom, we lost that house as well.
Again, everyone told us: “There must be something better for you guys out there.” Hearing this for a second time after living out of suitcases for nearly two months offered little to no comfort, even though we desperately wanted to believe it.
With heavy hearts and with an attitude at times that I’m less-than-proud-of, the search started over – again.
Maybe one of the hardest parts was being asked by our children why we don’t have our own place to live, as well as pointing out random apartments and communities as we drove past them saying “That one will do Daddy, we can just live there, can’t we?”
What happened next was amazing. We came across a house that is vastly more beautiful than any of the others, even the original “dream house” pails in comparison. As a matter of fact, it is like a conglomeration of all of the greatest features we saw in the many of the nicest homes on our search.
It is, dare I say, perfect?
We don’t yet have the keys, however many lessons were learned over this “homeless summer”.
And here they are:
1. We are not the sum of our “things”.
Not having any of your own space, and living daily without the personal belongings that make you comfortable is challenging. Think about it. The things on your bedside table, your routines. Eating, cooking, exercise. The art on your walls and not having to put clothes on to walk through the house or use the bathroom at 2 am. These things provide a sense of comfort. A sense of home.
After a few weeks I didn’t feel like myself. We can often allow ourselves to be defined by our things as they reflect our unique personalities. Who was I without my things?
Do they define us? For the first few weeks, I thought so – at least a little – but as more time passed living without all the things around that were uniquely “me” I realized they didn’t. I define me. I was me before “things” and I am me without them. I just am.
It took being without, to have a deeper understanding of what was within.
Which brings me to lesson number two.
2. We don’t really NEED that much ( in life).
I’ve more or less been wearing the same 5 or 6 shirts and 4 pairs of shorts for the entire summer, and you know what? I’m totally ok with it. For one thing, it makes getting dressed in the morning so much easier. You may not find choosing outfits stressful, but I do. I totally understand the thought processes of Albert Einstein and Steve jobs in this regard. What do we really need in life to be happy? What is of the utmost importance?
Although I strive for – and enjoy – abundance in my life, living with the bare minimum has been freeing.
3. Cleaning up after yourself/ Staying organized.
Although we all revel at the site of IKEA’s “600 square foot” home setups, ( How the heck did they get a whole house in there!) it’s a completely different story when you add people living there up in the mix. The spaces are indeed small, but ultimately look great and livable….unless you actually tried to live in them. That’s kind of what it’s been like with four people sharing one guest bathroom. There isn’t enough space on the counter for all of us to leave everything we need to get ready in the morning. We have had to adopt a policy of using something and immediately putting it away. Toothbrushes, hair dryer, gels, sprays, shavers, and makeup all need to be put back in their place after being used to allow the space for others. This has conditioned us – in a very short time – to constantly put things away and clean up after ourselves a little more than we would in our own home. A little organization never hurt anyone, right? We’re getting better at it by the minute.
4. Let go of resistance.
The resistance you feel when trying to control things you can’t ( like home appraisals and seller negotiations) bleeds into every other area of your life, and creates more blocks that keep other desires at bay. We learned this the hard way. For the first few weeks, we allowed many of the ups & downs and – eventually the loss of the house deal – to get to us.
Not going with the flow and feeling frustrated with things we couldn’t really control, bled over into our business and also into our relationship with each other. We fought more, nit-picked and got on each others nerves. All the time. Things weren’t much better at the office either. ( my wife and I work together)
Once we took a step back and realized how much resistance we had allowed ourselves to feel, we let it go. How? We decided to accept the things we could not change. Once we did this, something broke. A load was lifted. Things started flowing again. Well, they never really stopped flowing, we were just out of that flow, standing on the sidelines whining about it a bit. Ever been there? Business picked up, we found a more beautiful home and we started communicating better and getting along. Funny how that works. For the kids it may have been the summer of “Lego” but for us it was certainly the summer of “Let Go.”
5. There. Truly. Is. Something. Better. For. You.
Even though you may want to punch people in the face when they say that to you during your time of challenge or loss, it’s true. Sometimes we get to see it immediately – in Judaism we call it “Revealed Good” – and sometimes we don’t. Two house deals that fell through and living out of suitcases for an entire summer, has led us deepened relationships with friends and family as well as an amazing and beautiful home. One that is above and beyond our original dream. And hey, if we don’t end up getting it, you know what they say…..
6. You find out how loved and supported you really are.
At times of stress or challenge, friends and family have an opportunity to show you how much you mean to them. People came out of the woodwork and went above and beyond to help us, love us, support us and generally try to make our lives easier. Gifts of love came in all forms. A place to stay, cooking us dinner, inviting us to game nights, and sleepovers, to watching our kids and offering up their homes and garages to store our belongings. Through this process we have become closer to so many as well as gained a deeper understanding of what being a friend truly means, from our closest friends.
7. You get what you ask for. (but maybe not exactly how you want)
Before this summer, I had been asking/praying for more space and more peace. What I got – in the physical – seemed to be the opposite. But within the space that was created, also came the opportunity for me to go within myself to seek out what I needed. Asking for things ( especially qualities you desire) sometimes puts you in a position of having to create it within yourself.
8. Everything is an adventure.
We can turn anything into a (fun) adventure if we choose to see it that way. There was certainly a lot of ups and downs this summer, especially with our emotions. We had to get out of our comfort zones as well as the routines that many of us rely on for a little structure, stability and quite frankly, sanity.
Once we allowed ourselves to see all of the above was taking place, we were then able to view this summer – the summer of “Let Go” – as a beautiful and fun adventure.