Last week, I wrote about how my wife and I sold our five-bedroom McMansion and are now renting a 40-year-old double-wide from a friend at a third of our former house payment.
I explained that we are drawing a line in our fiscal sand and declaring that we have more than enough things. We believe that it’s time to lighten our load for retirement, give back to society and leave behind the gluttonous and audaciousness of suburban materialism.
Reality is now testing our idealistic resolve.
For instance, while it’s a decent home, it’s a strong candidate for urban renewal. Unlike the surrounding homes wrapped with insulating wood, ours retains its original tin skin. Our air conditioner runs nearly 24/7 trying to cool the tin box, and I fear our electric bill will double while cooling only half the space of our previous home.
Large sections of the skirt are rusted over. Our thin plate windows are no match for the Sacramento heat — much less the barking Chihuahuas of my unemployed neighbors.
After three weeks of fruitless waiting for keyed access to our community pool, Mrs. Chaplain loses her cool. She slams the drooping and misaligned kitchen drawers and says, “These things don’t work! And neither does the dishwasher. When is your friend going to fix this stuff?”
I thought he was “our” friend, but hey, I get the picture, so I relay her message to our landlord. Then I grab my “honey-do list” and head out our un-lockable back door on a mission to find the hardware to fix drawers, hang curtains and position pictures on our panel walls.
At the local Stuff-Mart, I browse the aisles, keenly aware that I’m no longer part of the home-owning haves. I’m now an official “have-not.” I don’t own a home, so I won’t be buying much here. My landlord won’t reimburse improvements, so it’s not necessary to fill my cart with a dining room chandelier or a bas-relief garden fountain.
I return home where Becky and I start our non-reimbursable enhancements in the master bathroom. Becky’s job is to line the rickety cabinet shelves with contact paper and then unbox a standing toilet-paper dispenser.
While she’s busy with the paper-work, I step into the bathtub to install a new showerhead; I feel the thinning tub floor sink an inch beneath my feet. After finishing our repairs, I ask for privacy so I can initiate our toilet. A few minutes later, I frantically call for a plunger when the aging porcelain coughs up brown debris.
To cite an over-quoted Oz-ism – we really aren’t in Kansas anymore. We’ve crossed the proverbial tracks. I fully realize this the next morning when I chirp my car lock twice and startle a homeless man camping a few parking spots away.
I can’t help but think how the bearded young man resembles Sunday school depictions of Jesus as a homeless man healing the sick and helping the poor. A comparison Jesus himself made when he self-identified as “…the son of man who has no place to lay his head.”
We aren’t near homeless, we are only house-less. We live among the poor, but we aren’t even close to being poor. We can easily buy our way back into the suburbs. And maybe we will, but for now we will settle down for the journey, write about it, and strive to live content with what we have.