After my parents packed up and moved along to greener pastures—or more accurately, a one-level bungalow one town away—my partner and I decided to move into the darling, ramshackle, 1940s house in Ireland where I was raised. Yes, I chose to move back into my childhood home after my parents moved out—and though it was a dream-come-true to have a home of my own, it was also a more trying experience than I had expected. Here, the four biggest things I learned after moving into my parents’ home after they moved out.
1. “Quirks” are now “problems” (and they’re my problems).
Now that this house is my responsibility (and I have a partner who grew up in a well-maintained apartment in Paris), the things I took entirely for granted as a child are now major issues in my life. The first time the plumbing rattled shrilly to accommodate a flushing toilet, my partner’s comically horrified face was the first time I thought “Oh wow, that probably isn’t good.” Now the jammed kitchen window, the floorboards that creak all the way up the stairs, and the hollow spot in the kitchen floor are all things that need to go. What were once signs of “character” are now unlivable traits my partner and I need to fix.
2. Homeownership is very expensive.
We’ve spent a lot on regular grout and the fancy kind of paint with a silk finish. But that’s small fry when I consider the sad probability of needing to replace the windows in the near future. We also need to do something to the plumbing and possibly even rewire the entire house. When I first started tallying how much it would cost to do all these fixes, I got a little mad. My parents miraculously lived here without complaint for so many years, but now that we moved in, all of this is now imperative to fix right away. I’m slowly coming around to the idea that certain things are for dreaded “health and safety” and it’s perhaps no longer a good idea to put them on the long finger. (My partner has no intention of perishing in an electrical fire, boring man that he is).
I also realize that my parents probably knew about these needed-fixes, but just lived with them as they were planning to move in just a couple of years. So now my partner and I have to breathe and smile as we take that dent to our bank balance.
3. Heat is a luxury.
I think my parents must be secret millionaires because the house has never been warm since we moved in. Heat is so expensive! I look at the thermostat and have to hold myself in check. It wasn’t properly warm when we lived there en famille, but now it’s certifiably frozen. I keep turning the heat up, but the walls just suck the heat away. I can now confidently say my favorite space in the house is the fireplace because it’s warm and inexpensive.
Now I understand why my parents left so many space heaters for us. And even if I didn’t want to pay for adequate heating, I still have to fork over some cash for blankets, snuggies, fuel, and firewood.
4. It’s not the family home anymore—which can be tough, but also freeing.
My partner doesn’t have the sentimental attachment to the things that I undeniably do. Everything has a memory for me, so I’ll often fight tooth and nail over decisions that are otherwise easy for him to make. For example, there was a very beautiful brass owl-shaped knocker on our front door that’s older than I am. It’s a little bent, there’s something wrong with the screws, and it consistently falls down, but I never imagined taking it down. My partner, on the other hand, insisted we had to—there was a large chance it could fall on someone and break their foot (and we have no money left to be sued!) So the front door has a new knocker and the owl is in a drawer.
But largely I am happy that I have my partner there to open my eyes to change. Without that unbiased opinion, I wouldn’t have switched the front and back rooms to have an office, and I never would have knocked a wall down to combine the kitchen and dining room. I would have never considered other colors than the homely greige that’s been there forever. But these little nudges have expanded my perspective and allowed me to make changes. Now, I can look around and see my home—not my parents.