I’m a very decisive shopper. I think that makes me a bad shopper in the eyes of advertisers and retailers: I walk in, or log on, with a clear idea of what I need, I look around until I find that item, I buy it and I leave. I’m not much of an impulse shopper, and I don’t try new things based on commercials or store layout. This also makes me a good shopper in the eyes of my wallet: I plan for what I’m going to buy, I pay for that, and I don’t have many surprises.
When I do go on an impulsive shopping spree, it’s usually at the grocery store. Just yesterday, I left home planning to spend maybe $75 on a handful of things… but once I got there, I thought about the week’s plans and didn’t want to have to go to the store again within a few days, so I filled the cart and came home with $250 worth of stuff. Wild and crazy, that’s me.
It doesn’t much matter what I’m shopping for; once I know what I’m looking for, I can tell within seconds whether I’m looking at it or not. There’s no dithering or doubt, no need to sleep on it or comparison-shop. This is all well and good when I’m shopping for a new pair of jeans, but I probably err on the side of confidence when it comes to things like a vehicle or a house. I just know, right away, whether we can make this work, and I’m ready to write the deposit check within moments.
Thus we spent the weekend thinking about new rentals. We’re so miserably cramped in this apartment, trying to cram five people into a two-bedroom, 1100-square-foot space. I like it here, and the kids don’t complain – even though it’s they that pay the biggest price, with three of them sharing a bedroom, an almost-teenage girl in with a first-grade boy and a baby – but the longer we stay here, the harder it is to keep that happy face in place. Isaac doesn’t sleep well, and I think a lot of this is due to the fact that I can’t let him fuss a little and self-soothe back to sleep: when he’s in the room with the kids, I don’t want him to wake them and impact their sleep for the night, and when he’s in our room, I don’t want him ruining Willem’s night of sleep. So I step in and plug his pacifier back in, or rub his back, or snuggle him, long before he really needs that attention. Instead of learning how to put himself back to sleep, he is learning to ramp up his fussing quickly, because he knows Mama will rescue him.
And then you have the living room, always knee-deep in baby toys, and the challenges in arranging for a quiet atmosphere to allow Emily and Jacob to do their homework. I actually have a non-closet room to store my craft supplies and yarn, in an unheated front room that serves as craft and book storage. So, for me, there’s more personal space in this house than I’ve had in previous homes. And it does have the things I need, the minimum requirements for a home: a dishwasher (some couples fight about money or child-rearing… Willem and I fight about dishes, and having a dishwasher is a key aspect of a strong, low-conflict marriage), space for a washer and dryer, doors that lock and a quiet, safe neighborhood. Thus it was a good choice when we had only a few days to find a new place to live, when we moved out of New Hampshire in 2009, and it worked for us through my recovery from all the surgeries and illnesses last year.
Honestly, living here – in a second-floor walk-up, eighteen steps from street level to living room – probably saved my life in March, because if I could have made it inside, I would have. And I was in so much pain, and so tired, that I would have just gone to bed, and very possibly would never have made it out again; the doctors made it clear that I was down to the wire, and waiting even another hour or two could have made the difference between surviving and succumbing to the massive infection. Instead, I sat there in the minivan, having been discharged from the Birthplace and assured that I was fine, I needed to just accept that childbirth is painful and I needed time to recover. And I cried, and I was terrified, and I just couldn’t handle those stairs. I simply could not make it from the car to the house, and so instead of going home and considering a trip to the ER if I was still in pain after a few hours, we turned around and brought me to the hospital within minutes of leaving the Birthplace, and the rest is history.
So it was the right place for us for a while, but now we’ve outgrown it. We thought about what we needed in another rental – because we do plan, eventually, to buy, but Willem is just about to start the observations for his dissertation, as well as still working full-time plus teaching an extra, online course. Taking on home ownership is just too much on top of that. I’m physically and mentally improving, really almost back to normal, whatever that means. This past weekend, I was able to entertain the kids, walk the big kids through the making of Valentine’s cards, do a week’s worth of laundry, and just function, no meltdowns or misery: it might not sound like much, but it was a big deal to me. It means I can confidently plan to continue to function at some baseline level, but taking on primary home-ownership would just be reaching too high, for now.
Willem found two homes for rent in Salem, both having at least three bedrooms and both open for immediate residency. We visited both this weekend, and either would work for us – though the second, with four bedrooms and the possibility of doing a rent-to-own sort of arrangement if we find that the house and the neighborhood really work well for us, is a better bet. So we put in applications for both, and could very well be signing on for a March 1 lease, with plans to move gradually through the month of March and vacate our current place by April 1.
Both times, I knew within minutes – before I’d seen the entire house, before I’d started thinking about who would sleep where and how we might make it our own – that we could make this work. Neither one is my dream home, but either could hold our family comfortably and safely until we’re ready to start looking for that dream home.
Maybe I should be more indecisive, at least when it comes to big expenditures like this. But I don’t know how… and as long as it feels like I thought it through ahead of time and am not being impulsive, then I’m comfortable with it.