Saturday, January 9, 2016

18 Adults, 1 Child, 5 years, 1 Home

The title to this post is....18 Adults, 1 Child, 5 years....and that is exactly how many individuals I have shared space/house with over the course of the last five years (come March). That does not include the two dogs, two cats, and 6-9 chickens that I've had in this space, nor the additional small dog that I allowed to join us for a very short 6 weeks.

The overall breakdown is as follows:

2011-Spring 2012: Ex and I; fall-spring 2 friends lived w/ us
June-Dec 2012: I was solo in the house
Dec 2012-Nov 2013: 7 short term housemates; 1 guest dog
Dec 2013-Nov 2014: 1 repeat housemate (& baby grandma & kid), 1 long term housemate, 2 short term housemates
Dec 2014-Feb 2015: same long term housemate, 3 short term housemates, 1 repeat housemate, Reg D

A couple of my friends have joked that I should write a book about the experiences...because I've met a LOT of people and learned a ton about others and myself in the process.

Out of those 18 people, 2 were friends before they moved in, 3-6 became decent friends while they were here and I still actively am in contact/friends with 2-4 of those, and 1 was a romantic partner for a while. Two struggled with alcohol issues while they were here. One turned out to be a chain smoker who smoked in a chair on the property 2/3rds of the short time she was here. Two were given 30 days notice and asked to leave. One tried to retrain my dogs. One had issues with perpetually lying. Two ate other housemates food. One repeatedly hit on another housemate even though he was married and 2-3 actively hit on any/all of my single male friends (sometimes even including the men I was dating). One told me after moving in that she was not okay with any males ever staying in the home while she lived here...even in the guest room, even if he was married, even if there was no romantic notion whatsoever. The shortest stay was one month, the longest consecutive stay was 10 months, the longest total stay was one year, and the average length of stay for most was 2-4 months. Six were here on internships/fellowships, four had solid professional careers, 1 was exploring the business market in Portland, 1 was a fellow massage school student, and most were in transition in some form or another (either between travel/work, moving to Portland, moving out of Portland, or trying to live somewhere short term while figuring some long term options out).

I've always preferred short term housemates. Mainly because I'm a bit anal retentive :) I don't sleep well if people are up moving around or making noise. I like the kitchen & bathrooms to stay clean. I like things to look organized and generally operate in an "everything has its place" sort of existence. I can live with most things for a few months but once it starts to become a longer term situation, then my need to take back over starts coming out more. I'm not easy to live with long term if people do not operate in a similar fashion...thus it's better for them and for me if we co-exist in more of a transitional fashion.

Living with so many people I've also come to realize a few things:
1) People will ALWAYS present best foot forward. It's our human nature to do so. The longer I've been involved in the rental scene, I've come to operate by a 2/3 principle. 2/3 of what someone tells me generally tends to truly be how that individual operates. How we see & describe ourselves can be different from how we actually are...and this would go for myself as well more than likely. This also ties into #2.
2) Definitions of living standards differ. My idea of "clean" or "noisy" can be very different from someone else's standards. In my ads I always state that I'm a clean by appearances sort of person, but not a clean in terms of bleach or product sort of individual. I have had to explain to 1-2 people that clean also means that the bathtub does not have visible grime on it and no soap on the counters. If you're looking to rent, it's always a good idea to specify in writing whatever those standards of importance for you actually mean.
3) I'm always in awe of how some individuals are naturally not mindful. I found this to be true when I had to live in the dorms also. There are so many easy ways that people can do small things to make living with someone else easier, but frequently I've found that people do not recognize the ways that their actions can impact another.
4) People who are renting from another tend to somewhat expect to be taken care of. Out of those 18, only 1-2 actually bought their own cleaning supplies and routinely cleaned the rental room/bathroom & helped out consistently with other household duties. That same 1 person also contributed to baking supplies & spices, oil/butter, plastic containers/foil/baggies/paper towels, laundry soap, etc without being asked. Almost all the rest either never did or I had to ask them to purchase additional supplies.
5) People mean well but sometimes "when the cat is away the mice will play." I run a pretty utility mindful house--meaning I keep the heat low, turn off lights when I leave the room/home, and try to be mindful of water usage. I try to be upfront with housemates before they move in that I expect the same out of them. I also operate on a "I stay out of your personal stuff, please stay out of mine" manner. The times when I've traveled....that utility bill skyrockets however (as in higher than it's ever been both in summer & winter) and I've come home from countless runs/work days with the heat jacked higher than it needs to be (ie I'm sweating profusely). I've also had a scarf, a buddy's hat, and a pair of pants "disappear" as certain housemates were transitioning out. Additionally one of my dogs almost got out of her collar and ran into an oncoming car after a housemate continually loosened her collar even after she assured me she wouldn't do it again.... Rule of thumb: Most people don't communicate straight forwardly, don't want to deal with confrontation, & will agree to things even if they'll never put those things into practice.
6) When people are looking for somewhere to live, they don't always listen to everything you told them.....about your expectations, about your pets routines/needs, about the house and its natural quirks....Enough stated.

I sometimes get asked about how to write an ad or rent successfully to another. The truth is that I don't have any tried and true strategies. What I can say is that overtime my selection process got more fine tuned. I learned to write better ads, to wait & be more selective, to not compromise on house rules, and to read through the lines. This doesn't mean that in the last year or two I haven't looked forward to having certain individuals move out however, but it does mean that I've had better compatibility & success with matches over the last two years. For me the short term window truly has been best because in the case that you find someone who is good for short term but not for long term, then your time together is short anyway. There is always the potential to renegotiate together as the original timeline nears whether or not you or s/he would like that individual to stay. I've had some housemates completely surprise me in good ways too. One thing that I have not tended to do but would advocate actually doing, is to have some sort of established rental/sublet written agreement & a down payment established. At times I did call references and this is definitely a good practice as well. (Although let's get real, unless it's 2-5 years of prior rental reference that you require, no one is going to supply a "bad" personal reference to you...)

I can honestly also say that the individuals who I rented to during my short window on AirBnB also tended to be more established....but due to the nature of the site, many of those also had more of an expectation of being hosted. (And I also was very selective and communicated a lot with the people I rented to from there....). I'm contemplating doing super short term windows on AirBnB again this spring (ie 2 nights to 2 weeks) mainly for four reasons. 1) It truthfully does supplement my rent. 2) It's fun to meet new people. 3) Sometimes I feel bad having this large home and yet only having just me live here. Call it my environmental heart, but it's sort of a waste of total space...and the housing market in Portland can be challenging. 4) After using AirBnB for my own travel needs, I feel like giving back to other travelers.

Well...and then there's 5) if i DO travel again this summer for work...then I'm going to need to sublet the house for 1-2 months. (Note: this time payment upfront, down payment, rental agreement, AND references will be required.) Ideally I'm hopeful to sublet to a couple or small family, who is cat friendly (ie can feed the cat & give him the occasional lap to lay on), and who can pass the lawnmower over the lawn 1-2x a month. Hopefully if that is that case..the perfect match will present itself :)

All that being said...I'm incredibly have been able to share this space with so many individuals, to have shared time/stories/lives with each of them too, to have learned a lot in the process, to have a home that is flexible/changeable and yet constant, to have been humbled to share more than I always wanted to, to have to trust that His plan was bigger than mine, and to have landlords who have truly desired me to stay and supported/trusted me enough to allow me to continue to sublet spaces within what is truly their extended family's home.

March makes five years in this home, five full years back in Oregon, and the longest I've continually lived in the same house during my entire life. This house has seen my life go through enormous transitions. It's held my mutual tears & laughter, hosted numerous gatherings, warmed my heart & body, inspired decoration, benefited from kitchen dance parties, housed guests, watched the dogs mature & age, functioned as my nest/office/ground...but truthfully throughout these last five years its proved itself to be my HOME. What started out as a month by month rental agreement with the potential to only last six months and that every year I've questioned whether it would be better to move on elsewhere...this home has remained steadfast and grounded. In March (or potentially next month...even though it's slightly before I financially wanted but internally I'm oh so ready...), this house will truly return to be just (& the animals') home. What a five years it's witnessed, but what a steady blessing it's been and continues to be....

I'm grateful, so grateful, for my home.

(...and ironically, more than likely....I have no doubt that this space will probably get shared again sooner than I might imagine. :))


  1. Wow, that is a lot of people to have come through your house over the last 5 years! I have lived alone for the last, gosh, 11 years I think? So I don't know how I would be able to handle all of that turnover but I also understand that it's necessary for you to do that at times since you are in a bigger home and the renters are a way for you to make your house more affordable! I hope you can find good tenants to sublet to over the summer!

  2. WOW. You seriously could write a book. I can't believe some of the things that have happened to you while renting, that is pretty crazy. I can totally see why you would prefer shorter term stays. That's actually really smart because that way if they don't work out at least you aren't dealing with them for a long time. Especially since it's not like your renting out a separate property, it's your home that you actually live in! Of all the things you described above I think someone trying to retrain your dogs and loosening your dogs collar shocks me the most - wow. Some people!