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Owning a Home: Tending to the Temporary

Greg E. Gifford, MA, PhD Student

ggifford@masters.edu

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As I prepare for my weekend, maintenance of the apartment looks like cleaning, vacuuming, or washing dishes–not really maintenance at all. At no point have I thought, “Wow, this door really should be upgraded” or “I need some new light fixtures for the bathrooms”. On the other hand, I take the time to ensure that the fixtures are clean and the light bulbs work and that is the extent of my manual labor in the house. Sometimes this is to my demise but most times to my benefit.

I do not suffer, praise God, from driving by other apartments and wondering where they bought those lovely curtains or how could I arrange my garden in a similar fashion to theirs. I have not thought, “it is about time to cut the grass or go through the annual de-weeding process to prepare for the Spring’s round of gardening.” In fact, the most thought that my house has upon me is whether or not it is clean and functioning. If those criteria are met I tend to mind other affairs.

Then in dawned on me, like a flash of robins-egg blue in a white living room. “I don’t spend my weekends working on the house. I don’t cut grass all Saturday, I don’t work on my kitchen project all weekend, I don’t stencil the shapes that match my kids age on their room walls all Sunday afternoon. WOOHOOO!”

As a homeowner (who has faithful tenants), I understand how quickly owning a home becomes not just a place you live in but a way a life you live out. It seems a drastic understatement to say that when you own a home there is always something that needs tending to. Whether it is externally imposed, like that leaky toilet, or internally imposed, like those “value adding” improvements you have in mind. Some task always lingers at the beginning of every Saturday (or Friday evening for the zealous).

Renters do not share that mindset. Especially renters who rent condos, town homes or apartments. They see everything from a much more simple, almost pragmatic mindset, “Is it broke?” To be honest, my walls have been white the past two years in my rented apartment and it has never bothered me. However, within months of living in my house I had to paint the walls because it felt “institutional”. Renters do not think, “You know if I added another bedroom I would have my own office”. Renters think, “Is it broke?” And if it is, “Did I break it?”

If someone is looking for an easy way to stay occupied with a temporary, time-evaporating and resource-expunging hobby – buy a house. You will find that you can never pay off the Lowe’s card. You will find that Michael’s always is selling cute decorations and that Hobby Lobby is full of great ideas. Worst of all, you will find that all of those hours and dollar bills are not worth as much as you hoped they would be and that you are like the rest of us who can not sell our homes to save our financial lives.

How could I keep people from focusing on eternal matters, hmmm. Let me send them the latest Home Depot catalog and tell them that working around the house can be both therapeutic and an investment in their home all at one time, “bingo”.

So how do we approach this dilemma? Do we all sell our houses to move to the nearest apartment complex? No. (If we sold now we would lose a bundle anyways.)

Below are some thought-provoking ideas to help you balance the responsibility to be a good steward and the temptation to be in Better Homes and Gardens Magazine:

  1. Recognize that life does not consist in the abundance of what you possess (Luke 12:15). This addresses the heart attitude of not being content with the things that you have, including the 1980’s light fixtures.
  2. Think how many hours you spend per week “working” around the house by cutting the grass, vacuuming the pool, edging the sidewalk and weeding the garden. Then ask yourself, “How else can I spend that time?”
  3. Set one project every quarter that you will start and fulfill. Invite your kids to participate (invite meaning kindly require their presence). Use it as a means of teaching and learning, both for you and your family. Projects around the house don’t have to divide households but can serve as a vehicle for teaching your kids hard work and technical skills.
  4. Resist the temptation to spend all your money “fixing-up” your house. Where a man’s treasure is, there will his heart be also.
  5. Don’t measure time in relation to household projects. If you do, there might be a problem.
  6. Learn that home improvement and investing are not synonymous. Many of us have learned this one the hard way.
  7. Recognize you will never think, “Wow, my kids will always have a legacy of this great yard that I have maintained for all these years. Look at that perfectly edged sidewalk, they will be so proud”. You will never wish you had spent more time dedicated to the house rather than time dedicated to those who live in it.
  8. Do not buy in to the fact that you work on the house to “stay busy”. There are missions, homeless children, single mothers and tutor-needing students in your neighborhood. In like of these opportunities installing a new sprinkler system to “stay busy” seems a little ridiculous.
  9. Realize that renters are not second class citizens. It is almost as if we believe that “renters” are those who do not qualify to buy a house, a perpetual college student as it were. On the contrary, renters are some of the most educated and capable people but live in a city where buying a house means they have struck the lottery to do so.

Lastly, see that owning a home leads us to get some false sense of permanency, which is a dangerous emotion in Christendom. We start to see things as here to stay, instead of like a vapor that appears for a little while. It is hard to yearn for heaven when we can’t stop counting the days until the new Jacuzzi tub is installed!

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"God may be looked upon in an absolute consideration, as he is in himself the best and most excellent being, wherein we behold the concurrence of all perfections, the most amiable and beauteous excellences, to an intellectual eye, that it can have an apprehension of." --John Howe, On Delighting in God
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