Pride of Ownership

I was driving out of a community a few weeks ago. I had just finished taking a lockbox off of one of my recently sold listings.   I came across a young man mowing his lawn.  Now, that in and of itself is not a big deal, right? Except this particular community charged homeowners, a monthly fee in which lawn mowing is included.  Looking around, it was obvious that the lawns hadn’t been mowed in quite a while. The grass in every direction was sorely in need of a cut – but the neighbors were content to wait for the paid-for lawn mowing to kick in.  Not John Wiser.   I was so impressed that he was mowing and trimming his own lawn that I stopped and asked his name.  To be fair, John said he enjoys lawn mowing.  He said the convenience of having it done for him was not a real selling point to the house.  But, still, none of his neighbors had seen the need to spruce up their lawns rather than waiting for the contracted service to show up.

 

I call this “pride of ownership”. Most often used in reference to homeownership, pride of ownership is a psychological benefit most often derived from owning a home rather than renting. It is reflected in well-maintained property. It is the knowledge that what I own is a reflection of me.  Right or wrong, most of us practice it every day.  It is making sure the house is clean when friends come over; it is making sure the leaves are raked and the gutters are clean.  It is the sense of satisfaction that comes with knowing that you have taken care of what has been entrusted to you.

 

Does it pay off?  Absolutely.  Realtors will often point out to their Buyers the small things that tell us a homeowner has likely taken care of the big things. Many times, it doesn’t cost that much.  Pride of ownership is shown in making a small repair before it becomes a big repair. It shows in cleanliness and order and when you’re ready to sell it assures the next homeowner that they can carry on your efforts in a well-maintained home.

The “Good” in Goodwill

Have you ever seen the pictures of a child in a third world country and wondered how that little boy got the Ohio State t-shirt he is wearing?  I mean, did he visit the OSU?  Did someone from Columbus visit him?  Is he a huge fan of the Buckeyes? Chances are none of the above.  Little did you know when you cleaned out your teenage son’s closet last summer your short trip to Goodwill was the beginning of a long trip for that t-shirt.

 

What happens to that stuff that travels from the trunk of your car to the waiting bin at Goodwill stores? Does Goodwill sell everything you bring to the big bins?   Actually, almost.

 

Goodwill’s corporate data says that an impressive 82% of what is dropped at a Goodwill Retail Stores ends up on their shelves or on-line and is sold.  Every item pulled from those cardboard boxes is touched and sorted by employees.  Wearable clothing (not stained, damaged, or mildewed) is hung on store racks for four weeks.  If it doesn’t sell it is sent to a Goodwill Outlet Store.  Yes.  While it sounds redundant there are Goodwill Outlet Stores.  (The Outlet Store in Columbus is at 2675 Brice Road, Suite B, 43232) Here, items are sold at “ridiculously low” prices, according to the employee to whom I spoke. All items are sold by the pound with prices varying depending on how much you buy.

 

Then what? What if the item still gets passed over at the ridiculously low prices?  Believe it or not there are still more people who want the clothing that was unwanted by you, left unsold by the customers of the Goodwill Retail and passed over at the Outlet Stores.  Items that survive are bundled in huge lots (“It looks like a huge tennis ball with the cover off,” said the Goodwill  employee)  and sent to auction where they are bought by vendors with intent to sell the garments overseas, re-purposing the fabric, or shredding the fabric for use as furniture stuffing or insulation. Charitable organizations who operate in third world countries often use these auctions to find cheap, usable clothing for their non-profits care centers in the countries they serve.

 

The big message in all of this is NOT to throw away old clothing either for convenience or because you think no one will want it. Experts say that 12 million tons of clean, good repair clothing a year are filling our landfills when they could be charitably, usefully, and gratefully received by others. Including that kid in Africa who ends up with your son’s t-shirt. Go Bucks.

 

This blog is written by Kathy Chiero.  Kathy is the Team Lead for The Kathy Chiero Group of Keller Williams Greater Columbus Realtors.  Thinking of Buying or Selling?  Find us www.OurOhioHome.com

 

How far would you go if your grandkids were at the other end?

Last summer I visited Israel.  While driving through Arab communities I noticed an odd phenomena:  what looked like apartment buildings had occupied street-level dwellings and perhaps a completed second level, but often the third level was left uncompleted.  It looked like buildings were perpetually under construction.  I asked a local and was told that individual families owned the buildings. Mom and Dad lived on the street level. The oldest son, upon finding a bride, was “gifted” the second level.  And on up.  The uncompleted third level was waiting for son number two to get married, at which time the community joined together to finish the apartment.  Like a concrete barn-raising.  When the parents died, everyone moved down a flat, and on it went.  I was told it was unthinkable to “move away” for any reason. Generations had lived on land that was the possession of immeasurable value to the family.

 

An Arab patriarch would find the spread-out, long distance relationship with our adult children both baffling and sad.  Increasingly, Americans are feeling the same way. More and more grandparents are moving to stay close to their children and grandkids.

 

The decision to sell a loved and decades-owned home in a community where one is rooted and comfortable is a big one.  Culturally, it is a relatively new phenomena: generations past were Patriarchal/Matriarchal.  Mom and Dad were the center of a familial universe around which the younger generation circled and expanded — but not further than a return for Sunday dinner at Mom’s allowed.  Today’s young Mom and Dad are often the head of two income families with job opportunities time zones away.  Interstates and airports make “getting home” deceptively easy so that maintaining family relationships is a well-intended hope.  In reality, time flies, opportunities slip away, and months pass without more than a phone or video call.

 

Scott and Debbie Mullarkey saw the inevitable happening — perhaps with greater clarity because they had lived through the pain of distance with their own parents.  Debbie was an only child of a Youngstown, Ohio couple.  After attending Ball State in Indiana, she and Scott decided to move to Columbus – a convenient middle ground between Indiana friends and northeast Ohio family.   The 128 miles from Columbus to Akron was a manageable drive for decades of holidays and vacation visits.  But as her parents aged, Debbie became a long-distance caregiver.  Either she or Scott travelled every weekend to care for her parents, eventually moving them closer to their own home to alleviate the stress.  “I became everything to them” says Debbie.  “I was the decision maker; I was the cook and the house cleaner.” Full time care giving put a strain on Debbie’s job, marriage, and social life.  When the Mullarkey’s daughter Erin married Tony Kerins and moved to Indiana, Debbie saw the mirror of her past in the future “I didn’t want to put Erin through what I went through.”

 

And, of course, there were the grandkids.  Three hockey-playing boys, Aiden, Max and Chase.  “We were traveling every 10-14 days to see them,” says Debbie.  While these times were wonderful, it also reminded Debbie what they were missing.  “We regretted the time we missed. Sure, we could get there to see a game or an all-day tournament, but we were missing the small things, the day-to-day joy of watching them grow up.”

 

Even with the allure of being close to Tony and Erin and the boys, saying goodbye was hard. The Mullarkeys were deeply invested in their community.  They were Ohio State season ticket holders, community volunteers and very active in the local Senior Center.   Another consideration: did Tony and Erin want Grandma and Grandpa down the street?  “We sat down with our son-in-law and asked if this made him uncomfortable?” Said Debbie.  Open communication and established boundaries are essential. “We don’t talk to our daughter every day,” says Debbie. “We don’t interfere with their marriage.”

 

Debbie’s advice for grandparents missing the kids: Look for a community in which you would live even if they didn’t.  Find your life – you are not joining their life.  The Mullarkeys are again invested in their new community: they tutor at the local elementary school; she has joined a quilting group and they have an active social life in their Over-55 community.   “We moved in December and went to a New Year’s Eve Party in our neighborhood. You have to put yourself out there.”

 

It was definitely the right decision for the Mullarkeys.  Cheering for their favorite hockey players and Sunday dinners once a month are the new “normal.”  Debbie admits “We miss our Ohio friends, but this was definitely the right decision for us.”

 

This blog is written by Kathy Chiero.  The Kathy Chiero Group, Keller Williams Greater Columbus is the proud sponsor of DownSize Columbus and Central Ohio’s top real estate team. Find us at www.OurOhioHome.com.

Eulogy

Dave is dying.  He knows it. His family knows it.  His doctors have given him days to live.  The journey to this point has been long and the illness valiantly resisted.  There have been moments of optimism when he predicted grandkids bouncing on his knees.  But the sun has set on those days of hope and bravado.   About three months ago a friend of his organized a party for him.  “I don’t want to just eulogize Dave after he is gone,” she said.  “I want to tell him now. I want him to know how he changed my life.”  She gathered friends.  Hundreds of them.  They came from 12 states and further by Zoom.  They called it a “Tribute Party” and one-by-one friends of Dave stood and told him who he was.  They told stories that, while he remembered them, had new details and nuance coming from a different lens.  He heard stories that he didn’t remember, at least not the way they were told to him that day: casual conversations that resonated so deeply and profoundly that, here they were, being recounted to him decades later.  He was surprised and delighted, humbled and blessed.  It wasn’t depressing.  It wasn’t fatalistic.  Nobody was prematurely closing his coffin. They were simply admitting humanity. Death was imminent and Dave was loved, and words needed to be said.

 

Why don’t we eulogize in life more often?  I don’t mean that we track down our terminally ill friends, but why don’t we purposefully and frankly tell people we love what they mean to us, how their lives have changed our lives or how their unique personalities make our lives brighter?  Why does it take (and why do we love to be the recipient of) Facebook birthdays to reach out and brighten the life of a friend or loved one?  Because here is the truth: when we don’t speak those words to each other our own perverse insecurities fill in the blanks in our heads.  We know we make an impact but, in our minds, that impact is a car wreck. In truth, the impact may have been a needed gust of wind to move them into their life’s purpose or, at very least, a breeze to better their day.

 

I’m a card writer.  I have a cabinet full of greeting cards. My favorite category standing in the Hallmark aisle is “blank.”   Blank allows me to fill in the blanks.  To take a minute and jot down what I love about someone I love.  Then I put a stamp on it and mail it.   Ironically, it is the millennials in my life that love this most.  This group that lives by a 144-character rule and has little patience for a grammatically correct text loves the hand-written card.   One of my nieces once posted one of my cards on her Facebook page.  Not when she received it.  It was posted three years later when pulled it out of a camera bag she has safely tucked it in.  Why had she saved it all of these years?  Because words carry power and healing and life and blessing.  We all need that.

 

Once I went to a terminally ill friend and read my card to him. I looked him in the very eyes that within a few days would be forever closed.  Through tears in my own eyes I read to him.  Was it awkward?  Perhaps. But I choose awkward over regret.  This man had made an incredible impact on my life and I wasn’t going to let him die without knowing it.

 

I encourage you to eulogize your loved ones in life.  Take a moment to purposefully, and intentionally say “I love you. And here is why…”   When the time comes for a traditional eulogy you can sit quietly with the peace that comes from knowing that the now-deafened ears heard. While it’s true that “in the end” we want to know that our life was more than a sterile obituary of degrees, jobs and accomplishments, why do we have to wait until “the end” to give that gift to each other?

 

We all want legacy.  Legacy means that someone left behind carries a part of us.  It means that a person is or has or lives because we spoke, acted, or invested; someone is materially changed for the better because we existed, and our lives intersected.

 

House Call is a blog written by Kathy Chiero, Licensed Realtor and Team Leader of The Kathy Chiero Group of Keller Williams Greater Columbus. Find Kathy and her team at www.OurOhioHome.com

 

 

 

 

Flotsam, Jetsam and Loneliness

Did you know there is a difference between “flotsam” and “jetsam”?  While they are both maritime terms attached to shipwrecks, they have specific legal meanings.  Flotsam pertains to goods that are floating up to the surface of the water when a ship sits at the bottom of the sea. Jetsam refers to items intentionally thrown from a sinking ship to lighten the load.

 

When I was 53, I went through a divorce.  A private shipwreck of sorts in which I saw the flotsam and jetsam of my life in vivid detail.  In one three-week period in 2013 I sold the family home, finalized the divorce, dropped one child off in college in Texas and a second in Ohio. I put my head down on a pillow in a rented condo feeling physically dizzy at the upheaval I had wrought.   While much of the detritus of a quarter century of marriage was jetsam — intentionally tossed to lighten my load; the flotsam is what lingered.  All those things which floated to the surface had to be dealt with.  One of those was loneliness.  Intense loneliness.

 

I remember watching the Titanic during this period and coming to the realization that if I were on a sinking ship there was no one who would usher me first into the lifeboat.  It was not a matter of being loved.  I knew I was loved by many people.  It was about being un-connected.  Even in a bad marriage a spouse is connected to a person with uniquely shared history, memories and, often, children.

 

I’ve thought of that period often as I sit alone in COVID-19 quarantine.  For many this forced isolation is the first time we have had to be alone.  And it’s hard.  Really hard.   Loneliness is a pandemic of its own.  It’s been around for centuries and you don’t need a surgical mask to hide it.   A “Hello! How are you? “here, a smiling emoji there; a happy hour smile, a group text meme all give the appearance of connection staving off the ever lurking loneliness.  Until a Governor’s Shelter in Place order forces us to disconnect and be alone.

 

In the months after my divorce I met Heather Dugan.  Heather was several months ahead of me on her divorce journey. She, too, found herself in a place of having to redefine who she was and acknowledging that no one was going to do it for her.  If loneliness was a bull – Heather grabbed it by the horns.  She recognized that she was going to face the bull or be plowed down by it.  Heather formed a group to intentionally connect women called “Cabernet Coaches.” They meet weekly at local restaurants to check in on each other and be the real friends in a virtual world.  “Loneliness is not predictable,” says Heather.  “We need to be available to each other the moment someone needs us.”

 

Heather has since written extensively about loneliness and our need for connection, her most recent book “The Friendship Upgrade.”  “We fill our lives with distractions,” says Heather. “When something like a shelter-in-place order happens, we are forced to spend time with ourselves.  This is scary and uncomfortable for many of us because we don’t know what we will find.”

 

Dugan notes that since the Corona Pandemic she has heard from people who are realizing that their social life depends on people they see at work.  “Without their coworkers their lives are very empty” she says.  What to do? Recognize you’re not alone and be proactive about filling the “people” gap in your lives.  Make phone calls.  “Texting is a poor substitute,” says Heather, “it doesn’t connect you like the spoken voice does.”   Volunteer.  A recent look at www.volunteermatch.org found dozens of opportunities to serve your community safely within COVID-19 guidelines.

 

Some good that may come out of this: “We’re going to be much more appreciative of the people around us,” says Heather.  “The more we can lean into this loneliness and make a good outcome, the better we will be for it when we can once again hug our friends.”

 

This blog is written by Kathy Chiero.  The Kathy Chiero Group, Keller Williams Greater Columbus is the proud sponsor of DownSize Columbus and Central Ohio’s top real estate team. Find us at www.OurOhioHome.com.

 

Heather Dugan’s Book “The Friendship Upgrade” is available on Amazon at the link below:

Why can’t I admit I’m lonely?

Did you know that Great Britain’s parliament has a Minister of Loneliness?  Well, not really.  They have a Minister of Sport and Civil Society.  Following the release of report which said that 20% of English citizens feel lonely most or all of the time, British Prime Minister Theresa May added addressing an epidemic of loneliness to the list of the responsibilities of this ministerial branch. Tracey Crouch leads the Ministry of Sport and Civil Society which caused the British Press to dub Crouch “The Minister of Loneliness”.

 

It may, on the surface, seem frivolous.  Why, in light of much more serious health challenges, would a nation devote money and resources to something that seems as “solve-able” as loneliness?  I mean…just pick up the phone and call someone, right?  First of all, the Brits are very much ahead of all of us.  There are very real social and economic costs to loneliness and isolation.  Researchers believe that the health impact of loneliness is more lethal than obesity or  smoking 15 cigarettes a day.  Lonely people are less productive people.  But researchers also admit that when doing surveys of the general public to assess the levels of loneliness that they don’t use the “L” word.  Why?

 

I can admit I’m loud.  I can admit I’m overweight.  I can admit I’m exhausted, sick, angry, or addicted.  Why is it so hard to admit I’m lonely?  That’s a very pertinent question — especially in recent weeks where COVID-19 isolation has been mandated.  Why don’t we just pick up the phone and call someone?  Heather Dugan is the Author of “The Friendship Upgrade” a book born out of her own quest for real connection with others.  “Loneliness feels shameful, “ says Heather. “We see being separated from people as judgement on our likability.”

 

Loneliness unfairly equates to being unloved, unliked, and without social connection.  In an age of “every-day-is-a-Disney-day” promotion of our lives on social media, the lonely fear that by admitting they are NOT living in the Magic Kingdom they are also drawing a picture of themselves as unliked, unloved, or unworthy of both.  Dugan says that social media gives the illusion of being connected, but we are really not.  “It’s one-sided,” says Heather. “We are looking in on the lives of others but there is no connection, and that isolation only exacerbates our loneliness. We are trading real facial expression for emojis.”  If we only knew, really knew, the vast numbers of people who are just like us living in bouts of loneliness (yes, even the selfie-Mom with perfect kids who finds time to write the perfect blog) we might feel more comfortable being the first to raise our hands.

 

It’s also important to realize that human beings haven’t changed.  YOU are not “broken” because you are lonely.  Our DNA wires us for connection.  Past cultures “fed” that wiring with front porches, book clubs, bowling leagues and families who stayed in the same zip code.  Cultural changes move kids far away, put us in front of computers by day and Netflix by night. Many times our only “social” interaction is with the coworkers with whom we exchange a few pleasantries.

 

Next week in House Call I will touch on the “cure”!   It takes courage.  But you can do it!

 

This blog is written by Kathy Chiero.  The Kathy Chiero Group, Keller Williams Greater Columbus is the proud sponsor of DownSize Columbus and Central Ohio’s top real estate team. Find us at www.OurOhioHome.com.

 

Heather Dugan’s Book “The Friendship Upgrade” is available on Amazon at the link below:

 

The Prayer

I’m Kathy Chiero.  Usually I’m talking to river listeners about houses.  Today given the enormity of the challenge facing our nation, I want to pray.

Father I thank you first that you are God.  There is nothing we are facing as a people, a family, or a nation of which you are unaware.  With that knowledge I ask that you give divine wisdom, clarity, and direction to our government leaders; I pray that you give strength, patience, and protection to the medical and emergency professionals attending our sick.   I pray for physical healing of those afflicted and peace to their families. I pray that you give us the compassion to find the lonely and scared that we can be your arms to reach out to our neighbors.  Finally, I pray that this trying time be a reminder of the precious gift that life is, the limitations of our human abilities and the utter dependence we have on you.  In Jesus name I pray.

Amen.

How far would you go for your grandkids?

It’s a decision that no grandparent wants to make and in past generations did not have to make: do we move to be near the grandkids?  Our American past is one of almost communal generational living: adult kids didn’t move.  A hometown was home and Grandma was the stopover on the way home from school.  Today that stopover is often a flyover — jobs require moves to different states, divorce leaves a single parent needing assistance, the reasons vary but the end result is the grandkids are zip codes away.

It is one of my favorite episodes of “Everyone Loves Raymond.”  In this early episode Raymond and Debra are trying to decide where to buy a house.  Standing in front of an easel Ray has diagramed the exact circle of geographic range: a perfect balance between too close to Mom and Dad (they come over every day) and too far (we have to spend the night when we visit). The reason the episode is funny is that we’ve all been there, and it is, for many, very true.

According to a 2012 AARP study, the vast majority of American Seniors say it’s very important to be near their grandchildren.  However, thinking and doing are very different decisions.  Decades in one town breeds a familiarity that is hard to leave: you have your church, your friends, your favorite deli and your doctors.  Do you really want to start over?  For some, retirement doesn’t start until the grandkids are teens — can you afford to move?  And finally, there are some sage opinions that too close is too much — is it the right thing to do?

Experts say it is far from a simple decision.  Like going on a cruise, the idea is lovely.  For a week. Do you really want to live on the ship?   Things to consider:

  • Cost: The sale of a home, the purchase of another, moving expenses, re-settling expenses, rehiring expenses for those still working: the costs add up. Is it less expensive to plan regular trips to visit the adult kids and grandkids?
  • What do your kids want? Pay particular attention to the opinions of the unrelated spouse. Have they invited you to move closer?  What are the “ground rules” for this new proximity? All need to be frankly discussed.  For some it is a welcome third hand to help with the kids, for others too close for comfort.   The boundaries go both ways:  you don’t step on their private space and they don’t expect you to be the built-in babysitter.
  • Are you good at “re-homing” yourself? At your age can you get out again to make new friends, establish a new yoga group, or find a new church? If not, the danger is that your child’s family becomes the center of your existence putting unwanted pressure on both families.
  • How permanent is your adult kids’ job and location? How many times are you willing to move?
  • Are you somewhat independent by nature? You have never depended on your child for financial or social support. If this is the case, you will likely land on your feet in your new home.  If not, the stress of starting over may strain the relationship with your child.

Facing these issues head on with frank communication is the key to a peaceable and happy move that benefits both parties.

Next week: we talk to a grandparent who packed it all up and moved to be near the grandkids. This Blog is written by Kathy Chiero, Lead Agent for The Kathy Chiero Group.  We can’t make the decisions for you, but we can make the transition smooth!  Visit us a OurOhioHome.com

Could you “flip the whole damn ship” in your home?

I recently posed a question on my Facebook page: “Is it necessary for kids to have their own bedrooms?”  It could be expected that there are a variety of answers.  Adults speak out of their own experience and parents comment on what works for them.  One answer intrigued me.  Jennifer Wernert wrote “I’m 32 and a mom of 4. This year I downsized my family’s home from 5 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, 3400 square feet and a full finished basement to an 1100 square foot ranch with 3 bedrooms, 1 bath and no basement. “Now my boys have one room and my girls have their room.”  Jennifer went on to write that this decision was made purposefully: while her family had normal financial concerns, the mortgage was manageable, and her family enjoyed the large house and a wonderful neighborhood.  Her answer intrigued me. (“Who does that?!) I called to hear the details.  Here is Jennifer’s story:

Jennifer and her husband Dustin have four children ranging in age from 2 to 13.  When this story starts, they had three children, two boys and a one girl, which made workable what Jennifer described as a “very average” house of three bedrooms and two baths. The Wernerts were halfway through a five-year plan of home improvement.  Like many homeowners they had done renovations to the home so that it was just getting “like we liked it” said Jennifer.   In what can only be described as incredibly impulsive decision Jennifer saw a Facebook ad for a bigger home in a neighboring community.  She called her real estate agent and made arrangements to see it. With 2.5 years left on their five-year plan, Dustin balked, but eventually went along to see the larger house. While they didn’t get that home, they did get “the bug.”  Now it was Dustin intent on moving their family of 5 into a bigger home.

They found another home that Dustin loved, Jennifer liked-not-loved the home. It was, well, big.   The ceilings soared, the rooms were expansive, the walk-out basement finished.  The Wernerts doubled their square footage and their mortgage.  Within months Jennifer was pregnant and had made a career change to a newly licensed Realtor. A professional change that promised to be ultimately profitable was, in the short term, a struggle.   The mortgage became a burden, the work incessant, and the house that was big was now too big. Because Jennifer wasn’t crazy about the house to begin with “I fell out of love with it” she says.   “I needed to work harder and make more money.  I wasn’t a good Mom.  Instead of being present with my kids I was always telling them to go somewhere in this big house.  Go play.  Go watch TV”. There were arguments with Dustin.  The “feast or famine” nature of a Realtor’s career was a sore spot.  When it was “feast” they spent the money as fast as it was made.  When it was “famine” a not-so-subtle pressure to get a “real” job.

Jennifer began to see the effect on her kids. They rarely saw each other.  “With a house that big there is always space to go off on your own. They would disappear into their bedrooms.  We were losing the closeness we had as a family.”   For a while Dustin and Jennifer tried to fill the space between family members with “stuff.”  “Buy more stuff and throw it at the kids” she said. “I got to the place I was so unhappy with the direction my family was taking I was working more to spend more to work harder to spend more.” The isolation was not the picture of family life that Jennifer wanted. “I couldn’t stand how we lived a life filled with consumerism, excessive screen time and really everyone wishing they could be anywhere but home. The kids spent more time with their grandparents than they did with us, I worked as much as possible, Dustin liked to be in the house but wasn’t really present in the day to day happening of the household. All of us had turned to social media or friends from work/school for conversation.”

Around this time Jennifer began helping her brother renovate a small rental home he owned.  It was 3 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, 1100 square feet and no basement.  The more time she spent in the home the more she began entertaining the possibility of getting off the hamster wheel. “We could do this” she thought.  “We could sell the big house, pay off debt, and move into the small house.”  The option was a “hard no” for Dustin, remembers Jennifer.  The kids need their own bedrooms, we all need the space.  But Jennifer had been pushed to her limit and she was unwilling to compromise what she saw as the detrimental effect on her family. “To me I only had one choice, flip the whole damn ship and shake it. Hard! So, I did.” She said.

While they didn’t sell the large home (today it stands vacant, it’s future undetermined) they did move into the smaller home. The initial response to life in a relative shoebox was predictable and unpleasant. “We left pretty much everything behind” said Jennifer. “The toys, the clothes, the TVs, iPads, all of it. I didn’t even get internet for the first month or so. I worked off the hotspot on my phone and the kids had meltdowns.” However, over time Jennifer began to see a change. “The kids stopped crying and started playing with each other. They made up games, played hide and seek, colored pictures, my boys laid in bed late and talked and laughed, we started playing board games as a family and talking at the dinner table.”

Jennifer finds that it’s much easier to keep clean and organized. “Every space is utilized. Nothing is wasted” she says.  The Wernerts don’t buy, collect, or keep “stuff.” Jennifer notes that the peace of mind is worth the sacrifice.  In reflecting on the decision, Jennifer says “I think what was surprising and yet not really surprising at all was the amount of stuff that we left behind, and no-one seemed to miss. When we moved out all we took were the essentials.” Do they miss the big house? “We miss the neighborhood,” says Jennifer.  The Wernert kids had friends there but they are working to recreate that “village” in their new neighborhood.

While there are sacrifices: the “dance” of one bathroom for six people and no basement for storage are luxuries that are sometimes missed, Jennifer doesn’t regret the decision. “I don’t want to go back to a life of excess.  I don’t want to have to wince when I write the monthly mortgage check.”  Jennifer says that she never wants to get caught up again in the “American Dream.”  Jennifer says she is still living it, albeit redefined. “Living and doing life together is just all around more enjoyable now that we’re focused on each other and not on the stuff. As a society we all know and understand this concept but it’s so easy to drown in materialism before you even know you’re sinking. “

Does Every Child Need Their Own Bedroom?

There is a phenomenon that every Realtor has watched happen: a family with a perfectly respectable home decides they need to sell their house and buy another because the family has grown, and additional children means the need for an additional bedroom.  After all, every child needs their own room, right?   It’s the “American” in the “American Dream”.

I recently posed this question to my Facebook audience.  I’ll be honest.  I, personally, was leaning toward the “Americans are spoiled” reasoning.  There is no need for individual bedrooms, our grandparents raised our parents three-to-a-room, other cultures don’t have the luxury of private space, etc.  Several of my Facebook friends shared that opinion. Cindy said “Oh mercy!  We just stacked ‘em higher! They seem no worse for the experience.” Charlie commented: “5 kids, 2 parents, three bedrooms.  Be happy they have their own bed…”

Several weighed-in on their own experience growing up. Perhaps seen through the rose-colored glasses of nostalgia, many remembered the experience as overwhelmingly positive.  Some said they continued sharing the bedroom long after additional space made it unnecessary.  Erica said she shared a room with her twin sister until she was 15.  “We had two twin beds” said Erica “we would end up in the same bed.”   Corinna came from a family of nine children.  She shared a bedroom with her sister. “We fought, we schemed, we drew lines down the middle, we shared boyfriend tales, clothes, make up and stories of each other’s worlds. Today, Karen and I have special bond. When we travel together, we still share a room.”

The comments were also enlightening and helped me look at it from another perspective. Agnes grew up in a “Communist style” apartment in Romania.  Her children now have their own bedrooms which Agnes believes helps with their sleep schedules.  Genna says she and her brother were such total opposites in their personalities, she doesn’t know how they could have shared a room.  Scott said he was so different from his brother a shared bedroom was “constant battles” to the point that he often slept in the basement rather than face the fight upstairs.   Needless to say, Dad Scott is a huge proponent for separate bedrooms.

The luxury of individual bedrooms in America did not become widespread until the post-WW2 building boom introduced tract homes, often with individual “compartments” — as the rooms were called at the time.  Even today, individual bedrooms is not the “norm” in most cultures worldwide.  I remember driving a visiting Israeli around the suburbs I lived in.  It was his first visit to the United States. To Americans, the brick two-stories at which he was looking were middle class. They were not starter homes, but certainly not homes of affluence.  He asked if all of the structures were libraries or civic buildings.  “No,” I said, “they are houses.”  “For ONE family?” He asked in astonishment. Yep.  That would be our culture.

Forget the 1930s promise of “a chicken in every pot”, by the twenty-first century the sign of affluence was a bedroom for every child. According to the National Association of Home Builders, the average size of a home has gone from 1400 square feet in 1955 to 2600 square feet in 2018. This increase is partially attributed to the need for more bedrooms.  There are good reasons for having separate bedrooms for each child: privacy, sleep autonomy, creating good study habits, discipline in keeping a room clean — all of these legitimate benefits result from separate bedrooms.  But, says Dr. Joan DiFuria, Author of “Affluence Intelligence,” it also makes parents feel better.  It confirms their image as good providers and allows them to match the standard of their peers.  “No one wants to be the one family who can’t afford a home with bedrooms for each child.  There are subtle and not-so-subtle comparisons made even if they are not spoken”. Ouch.

The answer to the question about the need for separate bedrooms is there is no correct answer.  Dr James Crist, Clinical Psychologist in Woodbridge, Virginia and author of “Siblings: You’re Stuck With Each Other So Stick Together” says that it is a family decision: “there can be great benefits from same-sex children sharing a room not the least of which is a life-long bond which develops in close proximity.”  If a family is able to afford separate bedrooms the benefit is privacy and a child’s control over their own space and things.  However, says Dr. Crist, it shouldn’t be a decision made simply because affluence allows separate bedrooms. There is some baseline agreement: boys and girls should have separate bedrooms when they reach an age where modesty matters. Beyond that, says Dr. Crist, room-sharing has great benefits.  “First of all, it teaches them to share” he says. “This youngest generation is one of always having ‘my own things.’” Kids who share bedrooms tend to be better at negotiating and resolving conflict says Dr. Crist, “as long as Mom and Dad don’t do it for them.”  The important role of the parents becomes setting the age-appropriate boundaries and acting as a “consultant” to guide resolutions of the conflict when disagreements interfere with sleep or harmonious living.

Do you miss the happier days of shared bedrooms and a simpler life?  My guest in next week’s blog did.  And she did something about it.  Join me next week here in House Call.

House Call is a blog by Kathy Chiero, Team Leader of The Kathy Chiero Group at Keller Williams Greater Columbus.  Find Kathy at www.OurOhioHome.com